I know this update is long overdue. So much has happened since I last wrote about this. In order to keep the integrity of the whole experience, I will keep everything in one post instead of two. Please bear with me as this post will be ultra long.
I am Chinese and 5’8″. My criteria for a donor had been: 1) 5’6″ to 5’9″, 2) at least part Chinese. I have since relaxed my requirement because of the limited availability of donors. The height requirement has been lowered a few times. It went to 5’5″ and then 5’4″. I had been standing firm at 5’4″. We would prefer an in-house donor with my clinic because 1) the donors have been screened and are all good to go and 2) the cost is lower without the agency fee and other fees.
The last time I wrote about egg donation was April 7th. At that time, I was still not quite ready to contact the donor coordinator at my clinic. However, I suddenly felt an urge to get things moving on Thursday April 9th. I emailed the donor coordinator the next morning, letting her know that we were ready to move forward with a donor egg cycle. I specifically asked about three donors in whom we were interested.
Donor 1 is half Chinese half other asian. She is only 3 inches shorter than I am. Here is her stellar cycle history:
Cycle 1: 18 eggs retrieved, 15 fertilized, 1 transferred, 7 frozen embryos, live birth.
Cycle 2: 18 eggs retrieved, 10 fertilized, 1 transferred, 5 frozen embryos, positive pregnancy.
Cycle 3 (cryo cycle): 18 eggs were retrieved and split into 2 cycles of 9 eggs. The first recipient received 9 eggs, 7 fertilized, 2 transferred, and 4 frozen embryos. The recipient is currently pregnant.
Cycle 4: 17 eggs were retrieved, 12 fertilized, 2 transferred, and 3 frozen embryos . The recipient is currently pregnant.
I liked this donor. I wasn’t in love with her as the answers to her questions on the profile were okay. She is only 21. Full asian. However, she is not available for a fresh cycle. There is a second batch of seven eggs left from the previous frozen egg cycle. And she has committed to doing another frozen egg cycle in which her eggs will be frozen in batches for future use. I asked Bob if he would consider using her 7 frozen eggs since her previous frozen egg cycle yielded excellent results (pregnancy and four frozen embryos). However, Bob wants to give me the best chance of pregnancy and still believes that a fresh cycle will allow us to do that. I tried asking the donor coordinator if we could sync the cycle when this donor donates again so we can get half of the fresh eggs instead of the frozen eggs. She said that unfortunately the clinic won’t allow that to happen.
So donor 1 is no go.
Donor 2 is half Chinese half caucasian. She’s got the height as she is slightly shorter than I am. She just completed one cycle with 13 eggs, 11 fertilized, 1 transferred, and 9 frozen embryos. The recipient had a miscarriage and has not done a frozen embryo transfer yet. However, this donor is unavailable to donate again until 2016.
Donor 2 is not going to work out either.
Donor 3 is the same height as donor 1. I was very impressed with her profile and felt her sincerity coming through the page. However, she is a mixture of caucasian and another asian ethnicity and may have only a little bit of Chinese. She was in cycle at that time and another couple was already in line to be matched with her. The clinic’s policy is not to inquire about the donor’s intention to donate again until the cycle is done. So as far as I am concerned, she is not available.
Donor 3 also doesn’t seem like a possibility.
Just like that, all three donors are not available. I was disappointed because I thought I had a good chance of having one of those donors.
Bob and I were initially adamant about not going with a donor agency because of the extra cost. I crunched some numbers and found that going with an agency is doable. So I started embarking on the journey of looking at donor databases at different agencies. Agencies come in different shapes and sizes. Some are national and have donors all over the country. Some are small and local. Many of the local ones do NOT have any asian donors. One well known one in the city actually has 15 to 20 asian donors at a given time, which is quite good. However, we didn’t see anybody who stood out. I was remotely interested in one girl who is 5’4″. That was it. And the agency director does not provide a password for full access of the profiles until potential recipient parents meet with her. So we made an appointment for a meeting. In the mean time, we continued looking.
One day, I received an email from one of the donor databases that a first-time fully Chinese donor was available from the other coast. She was tall, pretty, and educated. I quickly forwarded the email to Bob and started daydreaming about the possibility of working with someone like her. I clicked on her profile and saw that she was already reserved by another couple. Asian donors are like a hot commodity. You have to snatch them quickly before they disappear. Plus, I looked more closely at the cost associated with this agency and the extra cost of working with an out-of-town donor. Did you know that you have to pay for the travel cost of the donor and a companion of hers for all their hotel, meals, transportation, etc etc. It adds up in no time. And someone like her who is a first timer, you don’t know how well she would respond to the stimulation.
Another day, we found another fully Chinese asian donor on another database. She was within my height requirement and was highly educated. She had already donated 6 times. The donor agency coordinator informed me that our current clinic would not agree to working with her because the ASRM guideline is for donors to donate no more than 6 times. In order to cycle with this donor, who is also out of town, we will have to cycle with a clinic down in the LA area that would accept the 7th donation as well as pay the extra cost of travel. Uh. No.
And then, I discovered through a donor egg forum that you can actually cycle in Malaysia with Chinese donors. I found a lady who owns a donor agency there and wrote her. We exchanged a few emails. I told her my criteria for a donor. She sent me a bunch of donor profiles. The thing is, the donor profiles don’t say much about the donor. They include the donors’ names, a few pictures, the family’s history, and the reason for donation. Some of the profiles have a lot of missing information. And the family history for all the donors say “No” for all the health conditions. I don’t know how much we should believe that. I told the donor agency lady the top three choices. From what she told me later, it doesn’t seem like any of them will work out. Plus the cost of cycling there is not as inexpensive as going to the Czech Republic. The cost of traveling plus the cycle would be about 60% of what it’d cost to cycle with an in-house donor at our current clinic. We also have to factor in the cost of travel and frozen embryo transfer if the first transfer doesn’t work. Traveling to Malaysia around summer time is pricey. All these factors make me hesitate in actually thinking further about egg donation in another country.
Finally it came time to meet with the local donor agency lady who has many more asian donors than any other agencies in the local area. It was a nice meeting. We learned a lot about the cost and the process of working with her. The take home for me from meeting with her is:
- If we see somebody that we like, we have to be proactive because the donors will be chosen by others in no time.
- You pay the agency fees for a donor after you choose the donor. With first-time donors, you pay the agency fees first, then pay for the donor to go through her screening. If the donor doesn’t pass the screening, then you would lose the money that you have paid for her screening.
- If a donor doesn’t work out and you decide not to go with the agency anymore, you will be refunded majority of the fees minus $500 administrative fees. However, if the donor has started stims already and at some point the cycle is canceled due to no fault of the donor, she gets compensated at a fraction of the fees, ranging from $500 to $1500.
- We were told to check on the donor database daily for new donors.
- Working with this agency will be about $5000 more than going with an in-house donor with my clinic.
We were interested in one of the donors who had donated before. She is half Chinese and is currently doing a cycle. However, her first donation’s record was less than stellar. There were only eight eggs and one embryo. Although the recipient did get pregnant, there was nothing left to freeze. We were told to call right after her egg retrieval, which is coming up on May 13th, to look at her performance this time.
After our meeting with this lady, I had been checking the website every single day. I checked one weekend and saw a brand new donor who is half asian (not Chinese). She was tall (almost my height), very pretty, highly educated at a great university, and young. My reaction to seeing her profile was very interesting to me. It was a visceral reaction. I was shaking. This was the first time that I actually saw someone that could be a possibility for us, because she was local, tall, educated, and pretty, although she is not Chinese. However, I saw things that did not add up on her profile. I won’t go into detail of it, but I wrote the agency lady about it. The way she explained the discrepancies was less than ideal for Bob. Plus, another couple with whom the agency had worked for longer got first priority in choosing a donor, and this tall donor was one of their top choices. We had to wait. The next day, I showed Maddie, Aramis, and Jane the profile and we were all daydreaming about having this donor for me. However, I still hesitated because she was a first-time donor and who knows how she would respond to drugs. I am thankful to have friends who would mull over these things with me.
The next two days, I prayed for God’s wisdom and His hand in making a decision for us. If this is not the right donor for us, I asked God to move the other couple’s heart so that they would pick this donor. And also prayer for me to not be disappointed. The next day, the donor agency lady notified me that this couple had picked this tall donor. There was another shorter, 5’3″ donor, that was also brand new and 100% asian. Just not Chinese. I liked her profile as well, and she seemed much more sincere. However, do we risk our money on a first-time donor who has no Chinese blood in her?
This made me think of a donor on the in-house donor database at my current clinic. I remember reading her donor profile initially. She is 5’2″. Definitely way shorter than the requirement I had set for myself. When I saw her profile, I didn’t immediately click on it. And then one day, I clicked on it and was attracted by her. She is half Chinese and very pretty. I was impressed by her answers to the questions in the profile and felt drawn to her. She seemed to have this drive and is very goal oriented. I loved what she said about the reason why she looked into egg donation. And I loved that she actually cared enough to fill out the three questions at the end of the questionnaire: what she wanted to let the program know, to let the recipient parents know, and to let the future child(ren) know. Many donors did not complete that part in their profiles. She also checked that she was open to communicating with the recipient parents and children in the future. All in all, she came across as a very open person. I loved that. However, I never seriously considered the possibility of having her as our donor solely because of her height.
On her profile it says that her four previous donations resulted in pregnancies. So I emailed the in-house donor coordinator at my clinic her cycle history. Here it is:
Cycle 1: 30 eggs retrieved, 20 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 4 frozen embryos. Positive pregnancy with the fresh transfer and a live birth. Negative pregnancy with FET.
Cycle 2: 23 eggs retrieved, 16 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 6 frozen embryos. Positive twin pregnancy with the fresh transfer and a live births.
Cycle 3: 26 eggs retrieved, 21 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 2 frozen embryos. Positive pregnancy with the fresh transfer and a live birth.
Cycle 4: 26 eggs retrieved, 13 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 1 frozen embryo. Positive pregnancy with the fresh transfer—miscarriage. FET to be determined.
She is currently 27 years old. And it seems like the last cycle the results weren’t as good. However, I also have to keep in mind that the uterine environment and the sperm are also critical factors in how many embryos are made and the miscarriage. So I wrote to ask for my RE’s opinion. Given this proven donor who is slightly older and a younger donor who is not proven, which one he would prefer. The nurse wrote back:
“Dr. No Nonsense thinks she is a good candidate even though she is 27 years of age. He would go with this proven donor, rather than the younger donor. We want to see at least more than 14 eggs and she makes a lot more than this.”
It’s a relief to know that she is a good candidate. Bob and I got into a very serious discussion about the height. Is that really a deal breaker? With Bob’s height (6’5″), does it really matter that the donor is not as tall as I am? Given having no baby vs. a baby who is not as tall as he would be if he had my genes, what would I choose? Would I have hesitated if the donor were an inch or two taller? Given this proven shorter donor and a first-time tall donor, what would I choose?
So many questions. No one could answer for us.
But the most important question is, is this donor available? If she was not, then this discussion would have been moot. About ten days ago, I asked the donor coordinator if this donor was available. This is the answer I got:
“[Donor’s name] will be available to match and complete a cycle in mid-July/August. Have you checked with your care team in regards to your checklist?”
I immediately updated Bob and wrote the coordinator back. Our trip is from July 4th to July 11th. She said, “That should not interfere with the cycle as it looks like you both would be out of town around the same time, and would most likely move forward with the cycle after that. The donor is coming in next week to update her labs, so I can let you know if everything checks out for her. I can match you as soon as you have completed your checklist.”
Dr. No Nonsense’s administrative assistant went over the checklist with me. There are only three things we have to finish before we could be matched with the donor. One is my complete blood count plus platelets. It is easily accomplished. At publish time of this post, I had already completed it with normal results. The second is a saline sonogram to check on the uterine cavity as well as a mock transfer. I originally was opting to get it done with my OB/GYN using my own insurance to save a few bucks. However, given the timeline, waiting for my OB would take too long. This procedure has to be done between cycle day 6 and 12. AF still had not come on cycle day 44 after my failed IVF transfer. I was worried that delayed AF would delay the procedure. AF must have heard the curses I had for her because she showed up that afternoon following my phone call with the admin assistant. So a saline sonogram had been scheduled. (At publish time of this post, the saline sonogram has been done. I’ll write another update.) Finally, a special semenalysis with strict morphology has to be done and paid for privately (because insurance won’t cover for this special analysis). This is to determine if regular fertilization, half ICSI, or full ICSI is appropriate for fertilizing the eggs. This is a matter of paying extra $1000, $2000, or nothing. We originally scheduled it for end of the month. However, after the donor coordinator told me that the donor’s updated labs all checked out, and we wouldn’t be able to be matched with her until all the items on the checklist have been completed, I moved up Bob’s appointment to this week. This is what the donor coordinator said: “I am unable to reserve any donor for you and can only match donors to recipients who have completed their checklist. I do, however, believe that there is a strong likelihood that you can match with [donor’s name], and will definitely let you know if someone else ahead of you on the waitlist becomes interested in her.” So we are doing everything in our power to make sure that we move ahead faster so we can be matched sooner.
All of a sudden, things are becoming real. We are moving from only talking about it to actually doing things and having the potential of being matched with a donor who is pretty, attractive, with a great personality, proven, and half Chinese.
However, I still battled the height of the donor for quite a few days. I know that there is no perfect donor out there. I myself would be perfect for myself. And I am very far from being perfect. Height WAS the second most important criterion for me. However, I set my criteria a long time ago not knowing the extreme difficulty of finding a donor that would match the height, ethnicity, and prior successful donation criteria. Even when I saw the “perfect” donor with the height and ethnicity, they didn’t have some other things that I didn’t know I was looking for. Cost and distance are a problem with some of these “perfect” donors. Plus I didn’t know that I actually care a lot about how attracted I am to the donor’s personality.
So day by day, I have been feeling better and better about the donor’s height. And day after day, I have been feeling like that this is becoming less of an issue. Eventually it will become a non-issue.
One day Maddie asked me how I felt about this whole thing and if I was at peace with it. This is my answer to her:
“I feel like some force is leading me to that direction. Given all the people lining up in front of me, all the ones that we had come across and been given a choice to pick, I think I would still pick her. It just works somehow, with her personality, her ethnicity, her looks, and her fertility history. I was thinking, if the tall pretty donor was available to us, putting her with the current donor together, I would still choose the current donor.”
The force is God. I have been praying daily for Him to lead us in the right direction. Somehow things have been working out with her. The more Bob and I talk about this donor, the more we are excited about the possibility of the future. I am so grateful for having friends who have gone through this process ahead of me. Other than excitement, I have also been feeling doubtful, terrified, ambivalent, and a whole other gamut of emotions. I confirmed with Aramis that these are all very real, normal, and legitimate feelings. Good to know that I am NOT going crazy, that it’s okay to feel positive and negative about the same thing.
Okay there you have it. Over 3400 words for this post. This is a first for me. I guess I did have a lot to say. 😉 I will let you all know the results of all the tests and whether we will be matched with this donor.