Victoria is one of my clients and I’m looking forward to photographing her family along with their latest addition later this year. Here she shares her story of egg donation…
Back in 2010 I gave birth to my daughter, despite an easy pregnancy it wasn’t the blissful birth experience I had hoped for so in 2012 a homebirth was planned for my son – this was the blissful birth experience I longed for, it was like a revelation so soon afterwards I decided to train as a Doula and take on Derby Homebirth support group so I could support women in having the most positive pregnancy and birth experience possible.
These roles opened my eyes in a different way. Not all women have it easy, not all couples can conceive as easily as we did. Despite having a rough first birth I realised I had taken conception for granted. Beautiful healthy friends just couldn’t have babies. Women so perfect for motherhood just couldn’t conceive. There isn’t even always a ‘reasonable explanation’ some couples just can’t.
I wanted to tell the world about my wonderful pregnancy and birth experiences but for some it was like rubbing salt in the wound so I decided to do something else.
My gut reaction was that I wanted to be a surrogate – carry and birth a baby for a women who can’t, often via insemination or IVF – I explored companies like www.surrogacyUK.org but as time went on my own 2 children became curious of the world and my husband and I decided the emotional impact on them (seeing mummy being pregnant but it not being a brother or sister for them) would be too much. My husband told me he would struggle lying next to me at night feeling a baby move inside me that wasn’t ours. I had to consider their feelings too.
So I decided to contact Care Fertility based in Nottingham. www.carefertility.com They said I sounded like a perfect Altruistic egg donor (often many ladies going the procedures such as IVF have the option to share any eggs harvested which can in some companies make treatment more affordable and make the procedure more worth while but an altruistic donor goes through the procedure with absolutely no personal gain and had no personal fertility concerns or reason to go through the procedure.) I fitted the bill, I was under 35years old with no health or fertility issues so I was invited for a scan to check how fertile I was.
On that first scan I was gutted when I was told I was riddled with ovarian cysts. I saw my Dr who removed the Mirena Coil which ‘could have been’ the cause. I waited months and months and several scans with the NHS later I was given the ‘all clear’.
So the following year I returned hopeful to Care Fertility who where delighted to scan me again and find 18 healthy active follicles, they predicted a harvest of around 15-18 eggs and I had to wait for them to match me up with an anonymous recipient. I had to fill in lots of information about my physical and emotional characteristics whilst remaining anonymous which the couple receiving eggs look through to see if they believe I am a suitable donor. They try and match up skin, hair, eye colour, build etc between the recipient and the donor.
I went through counselling sessions provided by Care and it helped me deal with the emotional impact that on a biological level I would be helping to create one or more other babies who would carry my DNA. The law states that those children can, if they wish, find their ‘biological mother’ when they are 18 or older so the donation isn’t a one time deal it can have lasting consequences. How would I feel in 18 or more years if someone contacted me. How would my children feel. Again on a biological level they would kind of have half sisters or brothers. The counselling helps you understand all this and come to terms with it and you can opt out of the procedure at ANY point if it becomes too much. I had appointments with the consultants who would care for me through the procedure. They helped me understand how it all worked and the risks involved. Hyper stimulated ovaries is one of the biggest risks and can be very serious and compromise future fertility.
I was happy with the support and I waited to hear when I had been matched with a recipient. I soon got a call and I was delighted. I had to take the combined pill for 3 months to get my cycle synchronised with the recipients, and on starting my third period I had to ring care and get the ball rolling. On day 5 I had another scan and started a series of injections that stimulate your follicles into each releasing an egg, (so normally in a women’s cycle only one follicle is stimulated and only 1 egg released at ovulation but the medication stimulates ALL of your follicles so as many eggs as possible are matured ready to be harvested).
Initially I had to return to care every other day to be scanned to see how my ovaries and follicles where doing. They altered the medications and dose, which I had to self inject at home, accordingly. As the days went by I could feel my follicles become swollen and had to be scanned daily. By day 12 I felt, and looked, like I had a rugby ball in my stomach. By day 13 I couldn’t stand up straight, it hurt, but I kept reminding myself how much it would help another couple. I was hormonal and pre-menstrual on an epic scale and spent much of those few days wanting to quit and questioning why I was going through it. The harvesting of the eggs had to be timed so precisely so I ploughed on. I became nervous of my ovaries exploding, that’s what it felt like.
Finally I got told I was ‘ready’ and the harvesting operation was scheduled for the next morning. I went in with my husband for support (and because she can’t drive or be alone for 24 hours afterwards), on arriving everything was explained clearly and I was taken to theatre quickly where I was put under very heavy sedation. The procedure was carried out and the next thing I remember was being presented with a huge bunch of flowers in recovery by the nurses as a thank you. As I came round I wanted to know how it had all gone so the doctor came to speak to me. He told me not to be disappointed, but I was sad to hear that they had only been able to collect two good quality eggs and one poor one. I was absolutely gutted. They explained that my body was either approaching an early change or had not responded to the treatment well. I was told that it only took one egg to make a baby and I must remain positive. So I went home to recover. It took nothing more than paracetamol to overcome the afterpains of the operation but I was worried it was all for nothing. All I could do was sit and wait to hear if the operation had been a success for the recipient and the weeks to come if she had fallen pregnant.
It felt like forever but after 12 weeks I was rang by Care and they explained that the recipient was pregnant and healthy and was being referred back to midwife led care. I was delighted, I had done my job I had helped another woman become pregnant, and what that nurse told me that it only takes one egg was true. Care explained they would contact me in the 6 to 7 months to let me know about the outcome of the pregnancy. I took this time to absorb The whole experience. Through this time I had highs and lows, I hoped that the baby born would be healthy, I wondered if it would look like me, I was sad that I hadn’t been able to help more than one lady with my eggs due to the low harvest.
I waited. . .
. . . And then on one summer morning in 2015 I got a call to say that my eggs had produced not one but two healthy baby boys. Both of my high quality eggs have been implanted to the recipient and both had taken.
18 months later as I write this I still have tears of joy thinking about what we – me, the recipient and the remarkable staff at Care – achieved.
I was still concerned about whether my own fertility was low, perhaps I was approaching the change, so my husband and I decided to try for baby number three. We expected it to take months or maybe not even happen at all. . .
But in July 2015 – only 4 weeks after finding out about the twins I found out I was pregnant. I was delighted, but it left just one more question that still lingers for me . . . Does my experience prove that mother nature can’t be fooled after all??!!