By: Stacey Ellis
Adoption. Egg Donor. My egg. Adoption. Egg Donor. My egg. Back, forth. Back, forth. I gave myself migranes running those words through my brain. What if? What if I could find something to make me produce eggs, good eggs, eggs that could result in a child? What if I produced eggs and they fertilized and I found out the child had problems? Would I blame myself for forcing something that was not meant to be? So many kids are born healthy and yet so many are not. Am I being selfish even considering trying to use my own egg at this point? It’s not like my genes are so grand. My parents both have heart conditions. My sister had crohns. My father has a huge nose. Huge. His brothers do, too. I mean, what makes my genes so great?
Yet I still found myself scouring the internet for days for some solution that would make me produce healthy eggs. I started with a list of vitamins and nutrients given to me by an acupuncturist and a nutritionist. I read about each vitamin and nutrient and any and all studies on them. And I read blog after blog. I never thought I’d write on those blogs, after all, who wants to hear my play by play? But in reading those blogs, I found that combinations of certain vitamins had helped some women improve egg quality. There were even some cursory studies showing egg quality improvement. But, the vitamins and other nutrients need to be taken for three months. So Steve and I decided to break for the summer, get back to planning our lives and some vacations we put on hold in the spring. I was going to give it my best shot and take a final FSH test in three months, so I would never say, “What if?” I tried four times to find a pill holder that had big enough compartments to hold everything. Prenatal Vitamin, Synthroid, Wheat Grass shots twice a day, Royal Jelly two times a day, DHEA three times a day plus Omega-3, Calcium, Magnesium, L’Arginine, CoQ10, blah blah blah.
I started working out like crazy to lose weight (Dr. T said I shouldn’t work out during the IVF attempt, except walking). Now I was free of all ultrasounds and blood work. I took the meds and vitamins and drank the wheat grass juice religiously. I was on it. In the meantime, Steve and I picked out an egg donor per Dr. T’s specifications, knowing none of the vitamins or nutrients were likely to work. We found a woman who produced two dozen eggs per stimulation cycle and such donation resulted in a pregnancy. Then I thought, what if we use an egg donor and I have something that could prevent me from carrying successfully? I had a gut feeling. I didn’t listen to it last time and did an IUI without an HSG test telling me my uterus could carry a child and, sure enough, I needed surgery. Now, I wanted peace of mind. I told Dr. T, if we’re stacking the deck, I wanted him to run every single blood test known to man which could detect anything that could prevent me from having a healthy pregnancy. I figured I met my deductible and my co-pay on my insurance with the surgery and IVF, so tests would be 100% covered. Bring it. Fifteen vials of blood later, more devastating news:
I have the MTHFR gene mutation. This is a mutation that doctors rarely test for unless a woman miscarries numerous times, usually late in pregnancy, after the 18th week. In my case, I had two mutations (both mom and dad have it). It doesn’t mean that much unless you are trying to get pregnant. Since I was, I learned that if I got pregnant, I’d have to shoot a shot of heparin – a blood thinner- every day for nine months to prevent clotting and late stage miscarriage. Really? Really? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I was DONE with a capital D. We’re adopting. Period. A few days later, after meeting with my OBGYN for my annual visit and with a hematologist, I realized, this is actually pretty common and with the shot of heparin every day for nine months, I could carry successfully without much more risk than any other woman. Still, I was exhausted. I was tired of being a human guinea pig. I was tired of EVERYTHING. I was tired of all the vitamins and crap I was still taking. Every day, it felt like poison in my body and they were only vitamins!
My husband suggested we meet with an adoption attorney. While we were both “open” to it, it still felt so foreign. Once I mentioned this to numerous friends, we had several recommendations of adoption attorneys and agencies. We picked AdoptHelp and met with the owner, Mark Goldman. We had a two-hour free consultation and we were unbelievably surprised.
Adoption is not what it used to be. Back in the 60s and 70s, teens or unwed women who got pregnant went to grandma’s house, gave birth, the baby was taken away, and the teen or unwed mother had to go on with her life, quietly mourning her loss, struggling with her decision (or the decision of her parents) and longing to find her child. The birth mother had no idea where the baby went. Today, that doesn’t happen at all; birth mothers make plans for their babies and pick the adoptive parents from glossy profiles written by prospective adoptive parents. Back then, waiting lists were years long. Today, there are no “waiting lists.” We would be matched with a birth mother based on criteria we establish and she establishes for her baby. Back then, prospective adoptive parents were summonsed in the middle of the night, “If you can get to Texas in the next 12 hours, there’s a baby for you!” Now, we would be matched three months before birth, we would talk to the birth mother, we would meet with the birth mother, we would be in the delivery room cutting the umbilical cord! Back then, adoptive parents didn’t know much about the medical history of the adoptive child, whether the child was drug or alcohol addicted at birth. Today, birth mothers are drug tested weekly, set up on Medicare for standard prenatal medical care and drivers are hired to pick them up and take them to their appointments. All of the birth mother’s medical records are given to the matched adoptive parents. A background check and a psychological exam are performed on the adoptive mother. It is UNREAL how thorough it is now and how open.
Of course I wondered, “If there’s all this openness and the internet—hello facebook– the birth mother knows where to find her child all the time? Aren’t we more foster parents with legal custody?” Mark was reassuring: “The birth mother spends months making her plan for her baby. When she gives up her baby, there is no longing; there is no angst; there is no shame. She is happy with her plan and when she gives birth and you take the baby, she is at peace and ready to move on with her life and not interfere in yours.” If we aren’t interested in sending letters or pictures, then we designate that’s not the kind of match we want. If we don’t want the birth mother to come back in the child’s life ever or until a certain age, we designate so. If our criteria match a birth mother’s criteria, she looks at our profile and anyone else’s profile that matches. If she picks us, then we accept the match or not. It’s a two-way match. We had come full circle. Steve and I were “matched” on Eharmony and now we could be “matched” with our child.
Now we have a choice: egg donor or adoption. We can only afford one option. I ran it through my head a thousand times. Egg donor Pros: Baby is a part of Steve. I would get to carry the baby and nurture him or her. Explaining to a child that mommy borrowed an egg and then nurtured that embryo and brought him/her into the world is easier than adoption. No “birth mother” coming back some day. Cons: It costs $45,000 and not one iota is covered by insurance. It’s only 60% effective (just like all IVFs); we could be in the same childless position and $45,000 poorer six months from now. All of our friends are pregnant (some through Dr. T!) and we’d be “behind”, timing wise. We’re getting older (I’m now 40 and Steve’s 42) Adoption Pros: We will definitely have a baby between three months and one year from the day we hand in our paperwork. Adoption costs a maximum of $35,000 and my company rebates us $4,000 in cash. The Federal government gives us a $10,000 tax credit. Cons: We’d have to explain to our child why his or her birth mother gave him or her away. The baby is not a part of either of us. No true control over the birth mother and how she nurtures the baby in utero because we’re not around. The birth mother could back out.
These are the rational thoughts of a Type-A woman. The emotional thoughts are so much more terrifying. With an egg donor, would I miscarry four, five, six months in? Would the egg donor baby be stillborn because of my genetic condition? Could I handle a funeral of my own child? Would we lose all that money and not have enough resources to adopt? While I am fascinated and “good with” my friends’ kids, I am not very “maternal” with my friends’ kids –would an adopted baby feel like a “friend’s baby?” Would an adopted baby bond with me? Would he or she say things like, “You’re not my real mother, why don’t you just send me back?” Would my adoptive child long for his or her birth mother? Would the birth mother reject our child later in life?
And yet, I am still shooting wheat grass juice and royal jelly and all those other vitamins. And six weeks ago I had my period and no sign of it since. No, we’re not pregnant…wouldn’t that just solve everything? Whether we plop down $45,000 for an egg donor or $35,000 for an adopted child, either way we have to spend a small fortune just to HAVE a child. None of our friends had to do that. Think of all the things we could buy for our child, vacations we could take with our child, college educations we could put that money away for!
Steve and I went to a joint counseling session to come up with a plan. He had been saying for a few months, “Why don’t we just adopt the first one and maybe do an egg donor for the second one?” I thought he was giving in because he didn’t think I could handle the drugs again, or the loss again, or the process. What I didn’t hear was that Steve was ready to be a dad NOW. I knew he had been ready since we started this process but I now realized Steve didn’t want to be left behind when all of his friends are giving birth in 2010. Steve wanted us to build a family and adoption was the only sure option that ends with a child. And so, in just one counseling session, I heard him being definitive. He wasn’t “giving in” to adoption for me; he was excited to move forward in this direction.
We received the papers from AdoptHelp and reviewed them. The contract is fair (that’s the lawyer in me). The down payment is relatively small ($5,000) and the process begins. Then why, when I filled out the documents on Sunday have I not handed them in yet? It’s Wednesday. Why, when Steve said he’d drop them off tomorrow, am I so emotional? Why have I not stopped the wheat grass juice and the royal jelly and the mountain of vitamins? It’s because we always have hope, even when there isn’t any. And, it’s because, as Steve and I take another step forward, we are also closing a door. I am allowed to be sad on one side and on the other side, so very excited. I am allowed to be scared and yet so confident this is the right choice. And I am allowed to believe that I am going to be a mother, maybe even sooner than our friends, if we just drop off the papers…