This past week has been a whirlwind of emotions for me.
The week started with a surprising offer. A generous one. One that I didn’t see coming. My Dear Colleague told me that one of her closest friends had offered me and Bob her embryos. This friend had made four embryos in her early 30s prior to her cancer treatment. After she finished her treatment, she got pregnant via IUI and had a baby. Later she made a second baby the old-fashioned way and didn’t need to use her embryos. Now that she is done building her family, she has generously offered to give these embryos to us. I was touched by this offer because not everyone is willing and ready to give their embryos to another couple. Many may choose to keep them frozen for a long time, and many would choose to discard them. We don’t have to decide right away. She has just paid for the annual storage fee for these embryos so she would like to donate them before the next storage fee is due. We have approximately a year to make a decision.
Both Bob and I feel blessed that there is such an offer and hence a choice and another way to have a child. We are still going to pursue egg donation first. But emotionally, it makes it so much easier to know that there is a choice if other means don’t get us to where we want. This couple is Caucasian and South American, so any babies resulting from these embryos would not share our ethnicities with us. But I think both Bob and I don’t have a problem with that if it comes to that point.
A couple of days after that, I finally looked into the donors that Dr. E recommended. I really like one of them. She is half Chinese, my height, young, pretty, and a college graduated. The donor profile didn’t say anything about her availability or her prior cycle history. I emailed the donor agency owner who promptly responded to my questions. This donor has done two cycles in the past, is finishing up a third cycle, and is booked for a new cycle soon. At the time of that email, she was going to be available in May for a new cycle.
This is her cycle history:
Cycle 1: 26 eggs, 18 embryos, 12 frozen, 1 transferred, + pregnancy
Cycle 2: 25 eggs, 21 embryos, PGD tested, 21 normal, 1 transferred, + pregnancy
Those are some crazy stats. She has done two cycles with Dr. E. I was very surprised that she would be available in May as I thought someone like her would have a long wait list. I corresponded with the agency owner back and forth. In order to book her, we would sign the agency agreement and pay the agency fee in full in order to secure her for May.
The advantage of matching with this donor is that 1) she is half Chinese and my height, 2) she is local so we don’t have to pay for travels, 3) she seems to have proven fertility, 4) she is available in May, 5) her psychological screening, genetic screening, and all the DNA testings are all current, so we don’t have to repeat/pay for those, 6) she is willing to register with the donor sibling registry as well as to meet with the intended parents, and 7) she has worked with Dr. E a couple of times so she should be reliable.
I really like this donor. I would say she is my favorite donor so far.
Bob and I discussed about it, prayed about it, and thought about it that night. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that this could be our donor. It is a little disconcerting to have to pay the agency fee in full in order to secure a donor, rather than being put on a waitlist and pay right before the donor is available to cycle. What if the donor changes her mind? The agency owner said that the agency fee is 100% refundable should the donor change her mind. I told her that I would read the agency agreement. If we are okay with it, we’d sign and pay.
That was Friday. Then Friday afternoon, I searched for reviews on the agency and the agency owner. I didn’t expect to find anything fishy. What I found shocked me. The agency owner owns two agencies: one egg donation one and one surrogacy one. I found out that her name was associated with a bankrupt surrogacy program in another country that left many intended parents out of money and no babies. Although she wasn’t the founder or the owner of that surrogacy program, apparently her agency provided egg donors for the intended parents. I also found some other reviews of her detailing some unethical practices that some intended parents experienced. On the
Parent Via Egg Donation (PVED) forum, a nonprofit organization that aims at helping people pursue third party reproduction, I found some comments from the PVED founder who seemed to have some reservation about this donor agency and the agency owner. The PVED founder and I chatted on the phone. She told me that a few years back this agency owner was involved in some unethical practices, such as withholding money from a donor or some messy cycle coordination. But that was a few years back and this agency owner might have changed. But the PVED founder warned me to be extra extra extra careful if I choose to work with this agency.
I was so bummed about this discovery. I thought that we had found a donor and everything would be set. However, I don’t think Bob would be comfortable working with someone with such a dodgy past. My gut feeling tells me that everything would be fine if we pick this donor. But I am also cautious about spending so much money not knowing if the agency owner is going to be honest or has integrity. It is very important to work with a reputable agency as the agency is the one who does all the coordination with the clinic and the donor to ensure a smooth process. I need an agency that has a sense of responsibility to make things right if anything ever goes wrong.
Finally, I emailed Dr. E yesterday just to see what she had to say about this agency. Dr. E is so phenomenal with her responsiveness. She wrote me back within three minutes. Here is her response: “I have 3 donor retrievals this month with her donors. I probably use 30 a year from her consistently for several years. Never ever an issue. I also use her for surrogacy. 2 currently pregnant.”
I let Bob read her response. We both felt a little better about moving forward with this particular donor if Dr. E hasn’t had any problems working with this agency.
A few minutes later, Dr. E wrote me again. This time, she told me that she had just matched this particular half Chinese donor that I am highly interested in with one of her patients the day before. She said, “If you want to meet her or talk to her to see if she’s a good match, let me know. She would be available again over the summer.”
Over the summer??? So does that mean that the May timeframe is gone? I wrote her back asking her to clarify. Here is her response: “She’s in cycle now(patients of mine). Next cycle in May (my patients too). Next cycle she would be available for is August. The agency owner has 2 other families (not my patients unless you emailed her ) interested as of Friday. I would email her now if interested.”
You see the nature of looking for a Chinese or mixed Chinese donor? You blink and they are gone. You are not even allowed the time to let it sink it that you have to pay a big sum of money to secure a donor. If you take your time to think and digest the news and make sure that this is the route you want to go, you miss the opportunity.
I was bummed again that the choice of cycling with this donor in May is gone. May is such a nice timeframe. It’s right before Bob’s parents’ arrival. It’s only two months from now. I don’t know if I would want to pay full agency fee to wait for this particular donor to be available in August. August seems so far away (although I know it is not).
Sitting there right in front of the screen, I just felt defeated and numb. Bob is very good at reading my facial expressions. He asked me if something was wrong. I told him that I just felt defeated, not necessarily about losing the donor for the May timeframe, but about the unfairness of this whole process. Why some people have to go through so much to have a child, while other people just simply have sex and are able to accomplish that. I know I will never have an answer, and I am working on accepting that. But these moments are still tough for me as I struggle to compete with others who also want to book Chinese donors to achieve a pregnancy.
At that point, tears were rolling down my cheeks. I hadn’t cried in a while. I knew that one was due. That was a perfectly good time to have a cry. But it also broke my husband’s heart. He just hates it so much to see me hurt. He was good at comforting me. He led me into our bedroom, tugged me in our comforter in bed, and hugged me tight while I cried it all out. In this “nest”, I felt safe to just let all of my emotions out.
Bob told me not to blame myself for not making a quick decision about booking this donor. It is a very expensive decision and it is wise to take time to think about it.
I don’t know what we will decide on. We could decide to book this donor for August. We could decide to go with another donor that could start in May or June. We could go with a non-Chinese Asian donor that is available right now. There are many things to think about. One thing for sure is that we really need wisdom to choose a donor and an agency wisely and we need to be totally at peace with it.
This journey of egg donation is not easy. There is always something, isn’t there?