A week ago, my period arrived 4-5 days early for the second month running — an alarming luteal phase of just eight days. This time, though, I felt like it was a very early loss. But, sadly, I was relieved. Only a day or two after I ovulated we learned that the genetics lab would expect “the majority, possibly all embryos to be abnormal” and I was worried that I might, in fact, be pregnant and miscarry again.
When I saw a massive drop in temperature at 5dpo, suggesting implantation, I was quietly terrified. When my period arrived, I didn’t experience the usual feelings of disappointment. I felt relieved. My period was the heaviest it’s been since my miscarriage, and I kept passing large clots. Physically, it felt similar to my miscarriage. Emotionally, I was grateful. I understood what was happening. My problem is not getting pregnant — miscarrying over and over and over again is.
Is this to be my life for the next two years or however long it takes to grow accustomed to the idea of using another woman’s genes? How much money will be wasted? How many miscarriages are you prepared to live through again? And if you did overcome the practically insurmountable hurdles of a) retrieving enough eggs, b) fertilizing enough mature eggs, and c) getting even one normal embryo, and did get pregnant, could you enjoy your pregnancy after all that stress? Could you relax knowing that at 16 weeks your amniocentesis might still give you devastating news? And how are you supposed to start all over again then, emotionally and financially depleted? And how much time will have been wasted? How many more pregnancy announcements can you live through, dammit? And when you have tried and failed, how will moving to donor eggs feel like a choice then?
But I couldn’t get past the thought that DH and I wouldn’t have a genetic child together if we used another woman’s eggs. Until I learned that there is a big difference between a genetic child and a biological child:
In a donor egg pregnancy, the pregnant woman’s womb is the environment. It is her genes, not the donor’s, that determine the expression of the donor-egg-baby’s genes. A donor-egg-baby gets her genes from the donor; she gets the ‘instructions’ on the expression of those genes from the woman who carries her to term. … The child who is born would have been a physically… [and] emotionally different person if carried by his genetic mother.
In horse breeding for example, it’s not uncommon to implant a pony embryo into the womb of a horse. The foals that result are different from normal ponies. They’re bigger. These animals’ genotype – their genes – are the same as a pony’s, but their phenotype – what their genes actually look like in the living animal – is different.
Source: Parents Via Egg Donation
As I would later explain to members of our family, Trying with my eggs almost guarantees failure. Using donor eggs almost guarantees success — if not at first, then eventually. And we’ll have the option of a sibling in a couple of years…
But it’s not easy, coming to terms with this. I’ve always loved breaking down people’s features to see what bits they inherited from whom. I am a real mixture of my parents, a living photographic morph:
|Hands & Feet
|Love of Food
|Love of Music
It’s not even like I care about passing on my genes to someone else. I’ve been told they’re not that great anyway. But it saddens to know I’ll never have the experience of seeing what our genetic combination looks like. In a donor-egg-child, I will recognise the parts that come from DH and his family… but there will be traits, features, talents that we will deduce come from our egg donor, “Nellie,” and her family.
I hold on to the knowledge that traits like humour are not genetically inherited. I remind myself that my biology will also influence how Nellie’s genes are expressed. I’m 6’1″, but Nellie is 5’7″, and DH is 5’8″– but like the ponies in the example above, perhaps I will have tall children anyway.
Besides, when we are dead and gone, it won’t be our eye colour or our nose or height that people remember, is it? (Okay, people will probably remember that I am very tall, but I hope they will primarily remember me for my personality and deeds, and not what I look like.)
I quietly wrestled with this internal conflict for 36 hours before announcing to DH that I thought donor eggs was the best way to proceed. It had to come from me, you see. I watched as my husband took a deep breath and softly said, I think you’re right…
Slowly, quietly, we have shared our momentous decision with only a few of our closest friends and family who have given us their most emphatic and empathic support. We have explained that we are going to be honest with our children about their genetic origins, we’re not going to be open with the world at large. People can be unintentionally cruel, and we are already protective of our as-yet-to-be-conceived children. (Should you and I know each other from before I started writing this blog, on behalf of my future child/ren, I appeal to your conscience to keep this most private information to yourself and thank you for your discretion.)
I squeezed my eyes shut and saw my hand releasing a balloon against a dark sky filled with clouds and stars.
And so I let go of my genetic child.