First, there was a lot of looking at online profiles at various egg donor agencies. To me the ED is one of the most important keys to this process because they're essentially representing me in our future baby! Of course, I wanted them to hopefully look a bit like me, and be built like me too. And if possible, have some of my personality traits as much as possible. Well, all that is much easier said than done...
First off, just like with online dating, it's hard to gauge what that person truly looks like from their photos. Some photos look great. Others look nothing like that person's other photos and you wonder how someone could look so different from picture to picture? Of course, it's even better when you get to see a video of someone so you get a sense of how they sound, what their personality is like, etc. It feels like you're "meeting" them in real life. Finally after looking at a variety of donors, we finally settled on someone that just immediately registered [to me] as "SHE'S THE ONE!!" Everything in her profile made me feel like she was the perfect for us.
So we signed on with the agency and got in a contract with our egg donor. Things seemed great!! However, about two weeks prior to our first scheduled transfer, we were informed by the agency that our egg donor's father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and she wasn't going to be able to make it to the transfer date. In fact, they weren't sure if she was going to be able to do a future transfer either. We were devastated! All our money had been paid for the agency fees, medications, donor's fees, flights, hotels, etc. Our surrogate was on medication, etc. This felt like a serious blow.
We took a few days to re-group... I had to take a few days to pull myself off the couch quite frankly. I felt really down. I was definitely worried if we'd be getting all our money back, etc. But after a number of emails and phone calls, we were able to get the majority of our money back. (This seems like a no-brainer, but it really isn't. MAKE SURE YOU CLEARLY UNDERSTAND THE TERMS OF THE EGG DONOR CONTRACT BEFORE YOU SIGN ANY PAPERWORK!!!)
Because I'd actually found my egg donor prior to finding a fertility clinic, I was not aware that my fertility clinic works with a number of egg donors directly. This was not something I'd heard of before, but in the end was great! We were able to save an agency fee, and just had our lawyers work up the details & contracts. My lawyer is holding the escrow for the ED. (Yes, the egg donor is still anonymous though. Only our lawyer and the fertility clinic know her name & info. All her medical data, photos, etc were sent to us with her donor number...not her name.) Another great thing about using a donor through our clinic is that our RE is familiar with her, and knows how many eggs she produced last retrieval, etc! (Due to financial reasons, we were having to go with a first time donor originally...but because we were able to save the agency fee and much of the travel costs, our second donor is costing us less. *Big sigh of relief*)
So now we're a little over two weeks away from our retrieval and transfer in California...for the SECOND time!! I'm hoping for lots of eggs, of course...and lots of healthy embryos! Our goal is to do one Single Embryo Transfer (SET) though. My husband and I are not looking for twins. I know SETs aren't everyone's choice, but this is our plan. If it doesn't work the first time, we'll have to regroup after that.
Overall...here is a SUMMARY of important things I learned through the many months process of searching for an egg donor. (Especially important for those of you on a budget trying to figure out how to pay for this whole expensive IVF/surrogacy process.)
- Find a fertility clinic FIRST - If you are like us, and already know you can't have a child that doesn't seem like an obvious first step. But in the end, they just might be able to help you save some money and find a great egg donor quickly.
- Look at a ton of different profiles - There are lots of great women out there willing to be an egg donor. Create a list of what's important to you and narrow it down from there.
- Consider the costs involved - Our first surrogate was actually overseas, and one of the reasons we chose her was because her fees were low and it actually seemed less expensive than an American egg donor. However, in the end...it was going to be the same or more. Egg donors living in the same city as the clinic won't need a hotel or car rental....and obviously not a plane ticket!
- Make sure you read and understand the contract - Both with the egg donor agency (if applicable) and also with the egg donor! This was definitely what saved us when our first egg donor backed out of the transfer at the last minute.
- Ask for the donor to make a video - Some agencies already have the donors make videos if they'd like. Obviously not every donor will want to do this, but our first donor did...and it felt great to "meet" her in person. We ended up not getting a video from our second (and current) donor, but now I'm more comfortable with the process and can live with our decision much easier b/c of all the stress we went through the first time after our cancellation.
- Read over her medical history very thoroughly - This seems obvious, but in the heat of the moment when you think you've "fallen in love" with a donor b/c of some reason such as "she loves Bob Dylan's music" and "she's sooooo cute"...you may end up overlooking something in her medical history that you'll regret later. This almost happened to us when I got overly excited about someone, but later realized I'd overlooked some red flags in her medical history that would worry me (personally) for a long time to come. I tend to be a worry-wart anyways, but you have to figure out what you can personally live with.
- Decide what you can live with and what you can't - Everyone has something wrong with them. There is no person (or their family) that is not touched by cancer...or diabetes....or arthritis....or depression....or SOMETHING! After all, I've got my own issues and hence the reason we're doing this in the first place. So decide what you can live with and what you can't.
- Breathe deep, have a glass of wine, and HOPE FOR THE BEST! - When you're using an egg donor, this entire process is out of your hands. All I can do is read other people's TTC blogs, chat with my surrogate, and annoy my husband. Oh, and play with my two dogs. Ha! There is still a LOT of time to kill in this whole process.
Anyways...I wrote this post b/c I hope it will help someone out there. It's hard accepting the fact that you cannot have your own child. Especially hard sometimes is accepting that you cannot have your own biological child if that's the route you want to take. Thankfully for us, we were just excited to be able to try this option. I feel blessed that there are such wonderful women out there willing to donate their eggs...and their wombs to other women such as myself. The world is truly a wonderful place sometimes. :-)