Child of Mine: A story of embryo donation

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mom. I started babysitting when I was just 9 years old and continued to do so through college. I have always loved children and “borrowed” my friends’ children on a regular basis. When I was in my mid-20s, I would often say that if I got to be 35, wasn’t married, and had no prospects for marriage, I was going to go to a sperm bank and use a turkey baster. Fast forward 10 years: Me, at age 35, not married and not involved with anyone. And so my journey to a child began.

Fast forward another 2 years. I had moved back to my hometown so I could be near my family, bought a house, lost weight, and was on the brink of my first donor insemination. I was beyond excited!! The morning of my insemination, I took a picture of myself, my dog, and the tank that held the sperm and labeled it as my first family photo. Little did I know that disappointment lay ahead.

After three negative natural cycles, I proceeded to Clomid, which yielded three more negative cycles. During the final one, I had some testing done and found that my chance of conceiving a child with my own eggs was less than 4 percent. To say I was devastated is an understatement. After two days of crying, I made an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist who confirmed the news and also felt there was a good chance that I had endometriosis. A laparoscopy confirmed and corrected the problem.

But now I was re-energized. I was sure that I would conceive after going through all that. After three failed cycles of injectible fertility medications, I couldn’t take anymore. I had been in counseling after getting the news of my elevated FSH but had stopped after the laparoscopy. After the third failed injectible cycle, I called the counselor again and she saw me right away. She prescribed an antidepressant medication. I didn’t want to take it, but I could barely get out of bed in the morning and knew that I had to do something.

I attended an all-day adoption seminar put on by a local RESOLVE chapter. One session was on “donor embryo”—it changed my life. Couples that have embryos left over from an IVF cycle have the option to donate those embryos (depending on the clinic) to another couple or single person who wishes to experience pregnancy and birth. The cost is much less than a donor egg/donor sperm cycle. I found a clinic that had donated embryos available and sent in my application.

I had a phone consultation with one of the physicians and waited for the list of embryos to arrive. The list tells you how many embryos are available from a particular couple, whether there was a third party involved, and some basic information (height, weight, hair color, eye color, profession, and ethnic background) about the man and woman who created the embryos. When the list arrived, I made my choices and then waited to hear if they would be donated to me.

The phone call came in about two weeks. I had been given 10 embryos from three different couples! In my haste to become a mom, I decided that I wanted them all. After discussing my decision with my counselor, I decided it would be preferable if all of the embryos came from one couple. This way, I would have at least some basic medical information for my child. I let the clinic know my decision and waited for the next list to arrive.

During that time, I did some intense grieving over the loss of a biological child. My counselor was helpful and supportive. I spent the majority of my sessions with her in tears. It was the only place I felt I could truly let go and just cry. I also did some artwork at that time to express how I was feeling. The new list of embryos arrived and I, again, made my choices and waited for the phone call. Luck was on my side and I was offered 9 embryos….all from the same couple! I accepted them and was planning on having them transferred as soon as possible.

Just prior to having my transfer, I met with my counselor and told her that I wanted to have some sort of ritual to let go of the dream of a biological child an open myself up to whatever soul was to come to me. She thought it was a great idea and said that she would be happy to be a part of it. I planned the ritual, made a program, and asked my pastor and a close friend to be there. I set up a little altar, lit a candle, and had 9 balloons to release as a representation of the nine times that I had tried to conceive. My therapist read a letter I had written to “the child of my dreams,” and the others spoke and read some special things that they had chosen. The service was very healing for me.

Five days later, 4 of the 9 embryos (those that survived the thaw) I had chosen were transferred into me. An incredible sense of peace came over me at that point, and I considered myself pregnant until proven otherwise. Nine days later, my blood test confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant. I was elated!!

I now watch my beautiful daughter and am in awe of the miracle that she is. It’s hard to believe that I grieved so intensely over the loss of a biological connection. She couldn’t be anymore mine. The resemblance between her and my mom (when my mom was young) is uncanny. I just know that she is the child who was waiting for me all along. I am incredibly grateful every day for the couple that enabled me to have this incredible gift in my life.


11 thoughts on “Child of Mine: A story of embryo donation”

  1. Wow -such a wonderful story. Just saw it now (December!) as I was googling embryo donation. I am so happy for you. I think what you did with the ritual is absolutely fabulous. I too was 39 and figuring I would never have my own child. So I started the process of IVF (tests only) to become a SMC (hopefully with my eggs but did not know).

    I'm now 45, and have a 4 year old biolobigal son from a brief relationship just as I was starting the IVF process – but the guy split well before my son was born (a good thing). I feel very blessed to have him of course. Ever since, however, I've struggled with whether or not to try to have another child. I know at 45 my eggs are not an option, and from all I've read, embryo donation (not adoption) would be my best option.

    Anyway, that's my story. I'm in Alexandria Virginia so if you are nearby let me know! All the best to you and your beautiful daughter.


  2. I am the mom of a wonderful 8 month old through embryo donation. I totally agree with Anonymous @August 7, 2010 9:38 PM, embryo adoption is a misnomer. Legally, there is no such thing. "Embryo Adoption Agencies" are often religious based orgs, and are not open to single women, gay and lesbian couples, or women past a certain age. Adoption is a term that, IMO, should ONLY be used with regard to a living child. An embryo is not a child. It took 7 donated embryos to get me pregnant with my daughter.

    Okay, enough of the rant. It's an incredible option. I knew I couldn't afford donor egg. And in my mid 40s, my ovaries just laughed at the high doses of stimulating hormones I injected. My donor found me through my blog! We wrote our own contract, and she even flew to my city for just a day to attend my baby shower. My girl doesn't look a thing like me (well, maybe the chubby thighs!), but she is my daughter in EVERY sense of the word. She is my miracle.

  3. Married couples are not the only sources of donated embryos. I donated my left over embryos to another SMC. I know two other SMC moms who, when they knew that they were complete with their family-building, have done the same, donated to other SMCs. We all share very special bonds with the families who have been started as the result of our donations (all donations resulted in live, health births). There is a yahoo group for SMCs interested in donor embryo that you can find if you join SMC.

  4. I read this blog and felt so hopeful knowing that there is someone else out there in my situation. I am 35 and was told several years ago the I had POF. Being single it is hard to go through this alone fearing that couples donating there embryos would only want a married couple to donate their eggs to. Recently I have decided to dig a little deeper in the process so I can have my biggest dream to come true and become a mom. I would love to hear more success stories.

  5. Just to be clear – embryo adoption is different that embryo donation. Some people choose to donate their embryos – in this situation the donor(s) give the embryos to the potential parent. This is a very inexpensive way to receive embryos and usually the only costs involved are the costs of drawing up a legal donation contract (less than $1K). Sometimes doctor's offices have embryos that have been donated to the medical practice – and they are made available to any couple that chooses them for a fee that covers the cost of storing the embryos (sometimes a couple K).

    Embryo adoption is where the donor(s) put their embryos up for adoption and expect the potential parent to do a home study (or pass some other criteria) and pay hefty fees for their embryos.

    Personally, I think embryo adoption is an awful practice – the embryos may not even result in a child and the recipient will have gone through all of this stuff and paid all this money when they don't know if the embryos will even survive the thaw in order to be transplanted into the recipient. Just my .02.

    I did donor egg, unsuccessfully due to an immune issue where I kept miscarrying. I considered donor embryo and think it is a great option – but for me I couldn't spend any more money (after trying with my eggs and donor eggs) on something that may or may not work. I'm now on an adoption waiting list.

  6. It’s hard to believe that I grieved so intensely over the loss of a biological connection. She couldn't be anymore mine.

    I see I agree with the previous commenter—-powerful words to those of us a few steps behind you and still grieving.

    May I ask what your FSH level was that yielded a 4% likelihood?

    Thank you for your story.

  7. What a wonderful and beautiful story. These two sentences were particularly powerful: "It’s hard to believe that I grieved so intensely over the loss of a biological connection. She couldn’t be anymore mine."

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Sara, there are resources! Join SMC (if you haven't already) and we have members who have gone through this journey (from thinking, to deciding, to trying to conceive or adopt, to motherhood) who will help you every step of the way. To join, to to Hope to see you there soon!
    Jane Mattes
    Director, SMC

  9. I love this! Would like more information on how to go about initiating this process for myself. Wish there were resources attached to the blog … I have not tried to conceive on my own but I am keenly aware of the difficulties that might occur given my "advanced age" (I am 44) and am also aware that IVF with a younger person's eggs has a much greater chance of success. Adoption is my first choice, but I would also like to experience pregnancy and childbirth for myself. Would love to further research this option …

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