Thursday, 27 March 2014

The long overdue donor egg post

I don't quite know how to explain what's been going on with me lately.  First off, I'll be totally honest and say that I have not felt AT ALL like blogging.  Or reading blogs.  Or commenting.  I've been checking my reader every day, of course, and chiming in when there's drama and I want to offer congratulations or support, but overall I've been a pretty shitty blog friend.  For some reason, blogging has felt like work lately.  I find myself thinking, "I should write something" instead of "I want to write something", and it's not supposed to be that way.  At least it never was before.

This is also the exact same attitude I've had towards starting our donor egg process, which is worrying to me.  Shouldn't I be thinking "I really want to figure out this donor egg thing" and not "Welp, I guess I should start looking into this donor egg thing"?  Obviously, this ambivalence and ennui is all connected somehow.  I usually pride myself on being pretty self-aware, but I honestly can't figure this one out.  It's not that I don't want to have a baby anymore...I just feel like I don't want to have to go through all this work to have one.  To those of you that have made the transition to donor eggs before: did you go through this?  Is this normal?  Or, as I wondered in the past, do I just not want it bad enough?

Despite all of this, I've slowly managed to do my research and talk to a bunch of people and figure out our options.  Here they are:

1.  Donor egg at a US clinic.  My clinic has recommended one clinic that they've worked with a few times in the past.  But it ain't cheap.  There are a number of options that could reduce our cost, including sharing a donor with one or two other couples, but the cheapest we're looking at is $17,000 for a single cycle or $35,000 for a guaranteed program, which promises a live birth within six fresh cycles or our money back.  Nice, but yowza.

2.  Frozen donor egg in Canada.  My clinic has recently partnered with a frozen donor egg bank in the US, and is now able to bring frozen eggs to Canada for local patients.  I'm not sure how this gets around the legalities I mentioned in a previous post, but it's even more expensive than the US option ($19,000 for a single cycle, $44,000 for the assured refund program).  That's OK though.  We can live in a cardboard box, right?  

 
3.  Donor egg in Europe.  I don't know if we would ever have seriously considered this except for the fact that we know a couple who did it.  They've given us a ton of information that's really reassured us, and quite frankly it's the only option that we can actually afford without cleaning out our savings and putting ourselves into serious debt.  Prices are pretty steady at around $7,000 per cycle, with a number of clinics offering various guarantees such as a third cycle free if you're not pregnant after the first two.  Plus, there's the bonus of having a week's vacation in Europe.  In the end, it really wasn't much of a competition.  If we're gonna do this, it's gonna be in the Czech Republic.

Get used to this joke.  I have a feeling I'll be using it a lot.

Deciding on the Czech Republic wasn't all about finances, though.  As I alluded to in my last post, there were two major issues regarding donor egg in general that I had to work through mentally before we could really proceed.  If you'd asked me a few months ago what I thought about these topics I would have told you they didn't matter, and yet I surprisingly found myself dwelling on them a lot.

The first is donor anonymityBy law, Czech donors are anonymous.  We would be told her age, hair colour, eye colour, height, weight, and education level, but that's it.  The clinic will attempt to match my appearance as closely as possible if I want, but neither we nor our child will ever be able to find out who the donor is.  On one level, I like this.  There's no potential complicating factor down the line of another mom on the scene.  And I'm sure part of the reason the Czech Republic has a booming donor egg business is because the donors don't have to worry about some Canadian kid tracking them down 18 years later.  But I have seriously wondered if this is fair to the child, to not know anything about one whole half of your heritage.  Will he or she always wonder about this part of their identity, or feel incomplete?  I might feel better about things if I could be assured that we'd have twins or the chance for a full-blood sibling down the road, since at least then they'd have each other.  Unfortunately there's no way around this (even in many US clinics, I've learned), so an anonymous donor is just something that I'm going to have to get used to unless we can find a way to afford another option.

The second issue that's been nagging at me is the general idea of "fertility tourism".  God, I hate that term.  It implies that there's something fun and frivolous about needing to ask a woman in a foreign country to give sell you eggs so that you'll be able to have a child, which is something the majority of the human population can do without even thinking about it.  There are more than a few academics who have even compared the phenomenon of fertility tourism to sex tourism, which infuriates me on a number of levels.  Not the least of which is the fact that one of them involves travelling to a foreign country to take advantage of lax laws and corrupt law enforcement to have illegal sex with people you shouldn't, like sex slaves and minor children, and the other one FUCKING DOESN'T.

That said, I take their point that unless properly regulated, fertility tourism risks falling down a slippery slope leading to donor exploitation and general social inequality between those who can afford to pay for such services and those who provide the means to do so.  I started to get really hung up on the idea that I would become a (comparatively speaking) rich white Western woman who would be taking advantage of someone who needs to sell parts of her body to make ends meet.  Now, I'm not all rainbows and unicorn farts.  I know that anyone donating eggs anonymously is likely at least partially in it for the money.  But I'd like to think it's an informed decision on her part, fuelled by the extra warm fuzzy feeling she gets from helping someone, rather than an act of financial desperation.  

Unfortunately, without meeting the donor this is something I'll never know.  But the results of this study make me feel a little better.  There's also the fact that the Czech Republic is a European Union country, and as such is subject to pretty rigorous health and human rights legislation (as opposed to places like the Ukraine and Russia, neither of which is someplace I'm eager to visit right now).  Most clinics won't promise you more than 6 to 8 eggs per donor, leading me to believe that they're genuinely looking out for the health of the donors as opposed to overstimulating them for the benefit of the recipient.  They also have limits on how many times donors can donate, although whether those are respected are anyone's guess.  It comes down to needing to have a little bit of faith in the system, and a little bit of selfishness.  If I want to have a baby, this is the only way it's going to happen.  Either I'm OK with that or I'm not.  And I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out which it is.  I'm still not sure I know the answer.

In the meantime, I finally started researching Czech clinics.  There are plenty, so narrowing them down took a lot of reading and, quite frankly, the list got put to the side a lot.  After coming home from a long day at the office, the last thing I felt like doing was researching and emailing clinics.  It wasn't until this week (I'm out east on vacation, visiting my family) that I finally took the time to email the ones we've chosen as final contenders.  We'll pretty quickly have to make a final decision.  I just wish I didn't feel so damn ambivalent and disconnected from it all.  

So, there you have it.  My donor egg brain dump.  If any of you are even still reading!  It's a lot, which probably at least partially explains why it's taken so long for me to put it into words.  I feel like I should reward you for sticking with it.  I offer you this happy baby elephant.  Enjoy!

Little trunksters make everything better!

27 comments:

  1. I used my sister as a donor so I cant really compare apples to oranges. Having a relate donor made the whole acceptance thing WAYYY easier. I will say that I wish I done an IVF cycle abroad, its one of my regrets, because I deeply feel that we didn't get anything from all the money we spent. If we had gone abroad we would have had a cool trip to show for things (we were going to try Turkey).

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  2. Don't feel guilty at all about being an absent blogger (although confession time, I was hoping you would identify the reference for my post entitled 'sometimes you have to roll a hard six') The research sounds exhausting, but your work is impressive. I like the Czech joke, too.

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    1. Sadly, my inner nerd failed me on that one. I had to look it up!

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  3. Wow- so many decisions.... I can see how you just don't feel like doing all the research. Don't you wish someone could just tell you what to do? I'll be thinking of you and know you will make the best next step forward for you! XO

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  4. I really understand the ambivalence. I'm normally a research freak, but following our failed IVF cycle, I've really been struggling to find the desire to research next steps. It's so daunting to even imagine researching CCRM, and donor eggs, and donor embryos, and adoption... even just on a surface level to decide between them all. But I don't think it means you or I don't want it, it's just a overwhelming process, and after so many failures, it's hard to find enough energy and hope to move on.

    I like this plan though. Hoping you'll feel better once you decide on a clinic.

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    1. Thanks Amanda. It really helps to know that I'm not crazy for feeling this way!

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  5. Is the U.S. clinic you've looked at Shady Grove?

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    1. Yep. I've heard really good things but holy crap is it expensive!

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  6. Wow that is a lot of information and boy have you done your homework on this subject. I hope with all my heart that you find the right path for you and I also hope this becomes easier on setting things up for DE if you go that route.

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  7. All this research sounds overwhelming. No wonder you've been ambivalent about diving in. But it sounds like you've tackled a big chunk of it and have been able to make some important decisions. That has to feel pretty good. Best of luck on narrowing it down!

    And by the way, I'm a bit jealous because I've always wanted to go to Prague. You've got quite an adventure ahead of you!

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  8. I can't imagine everything that's swirling around your head with all the information you're researched lately, I can totally understand why you haven't had the itch to blog. I know you'll settle on an option that feels right in your heart, just don't push yourself to make that decision too quickly. I'm rooting for you guys, no matter what decision you make <3

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  9. Sometimes taking a step back from blogging is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. I'm glad for the update though.

    Obviously, the issues surrounding anonymous donors and fertility tourism are very personal. How I felt about it is obviously not going to be the same as you feel, but if you ever want to email or call me to chat about it I'd be happy to!

    We did an anonymous donor cycle in Mexico (when after egg retrieval hubby's counts were the worst they'd ever been and the clinic suggested to ICSI with half donor & half hubby) which ultimately didn't work. During my 2ww I struggled a lot with the same questions you are wondering now about donor anonymity and ultimately decided that while it was certainly not an ideal situation, (but for us infertiles, the way we get pregnant is never ideal, is it?) but it was the cards we'd been dealt and all we could do was teach the baby about his/her genetic heritage and be the best parents we could be. Thinking about all the adopted children in the world who also do not have a link with either of their bio parents, or know the story surrounding why they were placed for adoption, but still lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives made me feel a lot better about our decision to move forward with an anonymous donor.

    I feel like I could say a lot more but I'll leave it at that for now. Please don't hesitate to write me if you ever want to chat! I hope you are enjoying being home and soaking up the positive energy of the ocean :)

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  10. You certainly compiled a lot of information for someone who doesn't feel like doing any research. Wow. It sounds like you picked a great option. I love Prague! Maybe a vacation to go along with all of this will help with the stress of it all? Our former neighbors went to Germany to do IVF because it was cheaper. I spent 6 months working in Berlin just after we got an infertility diagnosis. If I knew what we were headed for and all the costs, I would have done IVF there as well. I had no idea at the time. Anyway, glad you are making progress and I think it is perfectly normal the way you are feeling. It's overwhelming and so unfair that we have to do all this work just to have a baby. It's hard to get excited about it.

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  11. ARAMIS!!! I'm so glad you're back. "Czech yourself before you wreck yourself!" I love everything about that phrase:-) I'm proud of you for being so brave and informative. Wow! Despite your claims of slacking in the research department, I certainly learned a lot. Being that I'm black and my husband is white, it may be hard for us to "Czech ourselves," but you certainly showed me there are a lot of options out there worth exploring. Now excuse me as I look for a second and third job:-)

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    1. Yeah, I have no idea how much of a black population there is in the Czech Republic, but I imagine it can't be large...in fact, one of the clinics I was researching specifically noted on their website that they had no black or asian donors available. But I know that there are a few other popular DE destinations where that would probably be less of an issue (I'm thinking Spain and South Africa, possibly others). Might be worth looking into.

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  12. I feel like blogging should be your space to vent if and when you feel like it. For me it's like an online diary. I think your little corner of cyber space should serve you, and if it helps other people in the process then great, but it's not the primary goal...for me anyways.

    You have done a ton of research! I am impressed! It is not easy to figure all of this out, especially when dealing with different countries. It sounds like you are well on your way to getting things worked out.

    I totally get feeling ambivalent about the whole egg donor thing. For me, I really needed a break after something (everything) failed, but I never let myself because everything takes so freaking long, and I felt like my clock was beginning to tick faster and louder. I think it's one of the shittiest parts of infertility. The grief and loss keeps piling up before you've had a chance to fully process the last batch that you got. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Even if it's ambivalence towards DE or this blog. You've been through so much and it hasn't been very long.

    But ... PS) I'm happy you're back.

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  13. That is a lot of research, especially considering you're not really feeling like it! Honestly, it blows my mind that the European option is so much cheaper. On the anonymity front, with the speed that sequencing has advanced, I'm not so sure this can actually be guaranteed... maybe in 30 years we'll all have our genomes sequenced, and then your kid can find out who's egg it was. (Not sure if that is a comforting thought, but I think it's entirely possible.)
    Thinking of you while you work on that final decision.
    Also, the baby elephant is adorable.

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    1. You know, I hadn't thought about that. I find that oddly comforting, although I'm sure there's a lot of donors that wouldn't be happy with it.

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  14. Ugh, just looking at that Shady Grove number makes me cringe. Having full blood siblings is pretty important to me, too. With DS there's a lot more of it, but I don't know what we'll do if it comes down to DE + DS. Maybe just worry about that along with everything else? You've done a good bit of research, and I that you for that. I think one of the things about moving on to DE is that you can buy yourself from time. You're not racing against the clock as your eggs continue to degenerate. So if you're not feeling it, you should at least take a few months to, I don't know, enjoy spring and summer after this long, crappy winter.

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  15. Canadian Girl Here as Well....

    Knowing what I know now...I would have to say seriously consider SG. Rather than going overseas. We went the similar route that you are thinking and so have many I know. There were many failures and mistakes made, more money spent and more heartache. There are also some good stories.

    After a totally busted cycle that cost us 2x as much as quoted and two trips out of country. We finally had success at SG (2 times, 1 fresh, 1 FET, both live births) and I attribute it to their intense screening of their donors.
    We got 5 eggs, 5 fert, 5 on day 5!!!! Transferred 2 = pregnant with twins (lost one at 8.5 weeks due to SCH). Baby Girl born.
    On day 6 they froze 1 embryo and discarded the other 2.
    FET of last embryo = baby girl sleeping upstairs!

    Donor Egg unfortunately is not the golden ticket all the time. So you need to really sit back and look at it with business eyes. If someone is willing to offer you a money back guarantee for a live baby...? They HAVE to know what they are doing. And if they don't you pull out get your money back and move onto a different route.

    Our donor is anonymous as well but I have 27 pages of medical information and a picture of her before the age of 12. And I like that. It was just enough information for me.

    I was were you are emotionally. It is unfair. We shouldn't have to do all of this. But it is what it is, unfortunately. I'm sorry you are feeling low right now. It is overwhelming. Because either way it is a lot of money. And the emotional investment is also very high. It all can be too much sometimes. You go at the pace you need to. You will make your decision when you are comfortable with it.

    Thinking of you. All my best!

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    1. Thanks for this info. Do you mind me asking where you went overseas for your DE cycle? Feel free to email me if you like at infertilesmurf at gmail. A lot of the Czech clinics that I have been looking at also have guarantees, although they are slightly different (usually if not pregnant after 2 cycles then you get the 3rd free). The biggest problem for us is that we could only really afford a single cycle at SG, then we'd have to call it quits...there's absolutely no way we can afford to do their guaranteed program. Maybe I should start buying lottery tickets!

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  16. Yeah, I do remember my first post on DE, writing something about how the info I'd been gathering was bubbling like a cauldron in the corner and I couldn't bring myself to write the dang post...It IS a lot of work, and we've already worked and researched so much already. I wouldn't read too much into it.

    Don't know if I've mentioned this yet or not but I lived in Prague for a year! Is that where you would be going? If Homolka Hospital is involved, I taught English to neurosurgeons there. (: It's a fantastic city and country and there's no shame in getting some amazing life experiences out of all of this. It's like enjoying the valium you get to take before a scratch biopsy---take the pleasure where you can find it in all this.

    Thanks for the baby elephant! And the this is my crib meme, which made me snort. Good luck moving ahead.
    ~theunexpectedtrip

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  17. Just saw this. Anyhow, no worries about not commenting. And second, you're doing a great job doing research. I haven't wanted to think about anything IVF after my chemical. I just can't bring myself to doing that. Do I still want a baby? Heck yeah. But I am just not ready. When you're not ready, you're not ready. I'm glad that you sound like semi-ready for it. It's very interesting for me to read your research. The cost in the Czech Republic sounds very alluring, as compared to what it costs for donor cycles here in the US. Although, I can't help but think how in the world I am going to get a donor there since I am not white? It's not an option for me. But glad that it's an option for you. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I may come knocking on your door for advice in the future. Missed seeing your posts. :)

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  18. So much to think about! Using donor egg sounds so straightforward until it actually becomes the next step, and then it feels anything but straightforward. We planned to go the donor egg route before Things Happened, and your thoughts and ambiguous feelings sound familiar. Incidentally, we'd planned to buy vitrified eggs via US bank (only option we'd seriously considered). Finding a volunteer donor was very unlikely, and a fresh cycle at the US clinic was extremely expensive (though technically doable). Didn't look at the option of European clinic. I'm interested to hear about what you decide - though I also understand not wanting to talk about it.

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  19. Geez, you've definitely compiled an amazing amount of research for not feeling like doing it! Glad you're back though. I came home from a weekend spent with my best friend and her 6 week old kid. I thought it would make me want a baby even more, but I was sort of surprised at how ambivalent I feel right now. Like, yes I still really want one, but I'm just not feeling like doing the work required to obtain a kid (which really sucks that actual "work" is required).

    Good luck with your tough decisions coming up. We're cheering for you and wishing you the best!

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  20. It's a lot to deal with, and it's totally normal to be overwhelmed. Even ART close to home is overwhelming... so yeah, throw in the international thing, and it's enough to make you wanna take a nap (that's my personal go-to coping mechanism).

    Before we found the clinical trial, Eric and I were in the early stages of talking about going for IVF in the Czech Republic after seeing an episode of House Hunters where the couple had just gotten back from a successful cycle. Even with travel worked in, it was cheaper than doing it here. Crazy, right?

    Good luck on the researching and deciding. And never feel bad about taking a break from blogging/commenting. We all do it. (Hence my late, late comment).

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  21. Going down the road of using a donor is such a tough decision to make. Even though I had my sister as a known donor, I still looked into the possibility of using an anonymous donor. We weren't sure if using my sister as our donor would make for future very awkward family moments. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case. I don't blame you for dragging your heals. It's a lot to take in. Sounds like you are on a good path though. You might feel a little disconnect right now, but I gaurantee that if you are successful and get a baby (or two) out of it, you will be so in love with that little one, it won't matter. Thinking of you Aramis!

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I'm needy and your comments validate me. Help a sister out!