Donor Eggs and Infertility: New Book Examines the Process

Alicia-Young-Author-photo-254x300I recently had the pleasure of reading the book Two Eggs, Two Kids by Alicia Young. (She’s also written a book called The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Grace, and it’s on my To Be Read list!) With much compassion and intelligence, she writes about her experience donating eggs twice to couples experiencing infertility. (My full review is on Goodreads.)

Alicia began her career as a television journalist in Australia, covering local, national, and international news. She’s lived and worked all over the globe and has covered major world events. Now an award-winning author of multiple books, Alicia spoke with me recently about infertility, egg donation, and her book.

Tegan: Alicia, you demonstrate such incredible sensitivity and empathy for people dealing with infertility–thank you for that! How did your understanding and perceptions of infertility evolve through the process of donating your eggs?
Alicia: Thank you! That means a lot to me. As we went through the process, the practicalities were pretty much what I was expecting: the physical and psychological screening unfolded as it was explained. The real “take-away” for me was emotional.  I was touched and inspired by the sheer resilience of the individuals and couples I met along the way—both to comes to terms with infertility itself, and then to draw on a deep well of inner strength to soldier on, month after month and year after year. Angela captured it beautifully: she and Steve felt they were working only to pay the medical bills, yet they felt propelled to keep their options open. They would not be dissuaded on their way to parenthood.

Tegan: As you correctly point out in your book, egg donation is a major decision that warrants a great deal of thought. As you moved through the process two times, did you ever have second thoughts? Why or why not?
Alicia: No, no second thoughts at all. And I think that’s because we talked it through thoroughly, researched and read up and in short, made sure all our questions were answered. This helped to demystify each step. Also, Angela and Steve gave us many chances to opt out, in the event either of us wanted to reconsider, but we both remained comfortable with donation. And of course, when I see Rachael and Sam and the joy they bring to so many, my heart melts. (Tegan’s note: Rachael and Sam are the two children who were born using Alicia’s donated eggs.)

Tegan: I really appreciated how you included the males’ perspective in your book. You share the thoughts and reactions of your husband and the husbands of the women who received the eggs. What message do you want men whose wives may be considering receiving a donor egg to take away from your book?
Alicia: That they count! That their feelings, opinions and concerns deserve equal weight in making any decision to use a donor, or in choosing one donor candidate over another. No one intends to do it, but so often the support and sympathy tilts heavily toward the woman. Yet the man also has his day punctuated by the peaks and troughs of tests, the limbo of waiting for results—and grieving in his own way.

Tegan: Rachael is the child who was born from your first egg donation, and she’s now a teenager. In what ways has the openness about how she came into the world helped shape her identity and sense of self?
Alicia: Rachael tells me that because she knew from a young age that we shared a special connection, there was no big revelation; it was just part of who she was. She happily “owns” the story of how she came to be, and has grown up seeing it not only acknowledged, but celebrated. We openly talk about our resemblance, and our mannerisms. The donation has settled into the background—a resource to be tapped if needed, otherwise not an everyday focus.

Tegan: Finally, what’s the most important message you have for women who are thinking about donating their eggs?
Alicia: Please: take it seriously but wear it lightly. Know your expectations, and how realistic they are, whether in regard to the process itself, any potential side effects, and your motivation. Whether compensated or not, a donation needs to have healthy boundaries. It’s not an IOU to cash in one day if you ever need a kidney, a job or bail money (only joking).

Top image via Flickr by NathanF

Photo of Alicia Young courtesy of savvylife.net

Infertility Club: What No One Tells You About Membership

fistIt’s simple. The first rule of Infertility Club is there is no Infertility Club. At least, that’s how it seems when you first find yourself with a wastebasket full of negative pregnancy tests. You can’t imagine anyone else is going through what you’re experiencing. But of course, you’re not alone. If you don’t have an infertility support group in your community, there are plenty of online resources available to you. Here are some of the things I wish I’d known when I first began doing battle with infertility years ago.

1. Get comfortable with what happens to your body when you visit the doctor. Whether the procedure is diagnostic or to help you get pregnant, it’s going to involve multiple people getting friendly, ahem, with your body. Remind yourself they do this for a living, and seeing your body isn’t going to horrify or amuse them.

2. Take care of yourself. Commit to improving your body through healthier eating and exercise. Don’t go to extremes, but if you’ve been wanting to drop ten pounds, let your pregnancy quest help motivate you. Taking care of yourself also means treating yourself. Once in a while, splurge on a banana split after dinner. Get a pedicure. Go away with your spouse for a weekend. Do the kinds of things that will be challenging after you become a parent.

pregnancy test13. You’re going to spend a lot of money on pregnancy tests. You’ll have your favorite brand. (My favorite was First Response, which I think of as the Cadillac of pregnancy tests thanks to its large price tag. I preferred this brand because it was reputed to give the earliest positive results). Here’s some advice: learn to love the dollar store pregnancy tests. Otherwise, you’ll be broke as a joke.

4. Other women who are going through infertility are just as crazy as you are. They’re peeing on sticks, breaking apart the plastic test cases to look at the strip itself, and weeping when their period arrives three days later than normal. Because this month, they knew–KNEW–they were pregnant. Find a sisterhood of women who are going through this torture, too. You don’t have to go through it alone.

5. You’ll experience every pregnancy symptom, often multiple symptoms, even when you aren’t pregnant. When we were trying to conceive, I had nausea, fatigue, lower back pain, “implantation pain,” and more around the time my period was supposed to show up. The symptoms would start, I’d get excited and start doing pregnancy tests, and then my period would arrive. Just be prepared for these symptoms and the fact that they make this roller coaster ride even more intense.

feet6. People won’t get it. Except for people who have experienced infertility (not being able to conceive after one year of unprotected sex), friends and family won’t understand how you feel. With hearts full of love, they’ll say the most awful things: “Just relax,” “Stop trying and it will happen,” “Adopt and THEN you’ll get pregnant,” “Have you tried this (herb, medication, thing I read about in Cosmo last week)?” Be patient, but remember you are in control of your personal information. These comments don’t require you to launch into an explanation or description of how your journey’s progressing. Sometimes, you will want to educate them by responding in an informative manner. Other times, you may choose to just smile and nod.

7. You may never know why you can’t conceive. Before we began trying to conceive, I thought it was fairly straightforward to diagnosis the cause of infertility. Run some tests here, take some blood there. Poof! You know the problem and can tackle it. Alas… if only it were that simple. We never found out conclusively what caused our infertility. Endometriosis is the likely cause, but plenty of women with endo get pregnant, even if it takes several years. I, however, did not.

8. Your idea of happily ever after is going to evolve. At the beginning, you have a very specific idea of what you want the outcome of your journey to be. However, it’s possible that a medical diagnosis may push you down a path you hadn’t previously considered such as egg donation, surrogacy, or adoption. It’s also possible that you may come to a point when you decide you’re finished with this struggle and choose to live child free, or child full as Justine Froelker so beautifully calls it. The point is this: the best happy endings are the unexpected ones. If we don’t learn to let go of our own specific visions of happily ever after, we may be destined to a lifetime of misery, of never measuring up. But if we’re open, we may find ourselves embracing a life that’s even more beautiful than the one we first imagined for ourselves.

What are some of the things you wish you’d known when you started out on your infertility journey?

Top image via Flickr by vidrio

Pregnancy test image via Flickr by http://www.homejobsbymom.com

Feet image via Flickr by gabi_menashe