I've gotten a few comments and emails from people asking how we got to embryo donation. I think folks are looking more for the specifics of how/where we found our embryo, but I think there are two parts to the answer so I thought I'd write a little about it here.
Part one, I believe, is the emotional part. How does one emotionally get to the point of embryo donation, or any third party reproduction choice. Part two is the logistics, which, unfortunately, will differ for everyone. Embryo donation isn't super common yet, but I'll provide what I know.
After IVF, multiple IUI's, IVF with my sister's donated eggs, Noah and I were broken and broke. It had been three years of riding that infamous emotional roller coaster, and we were literally sick to our stomachs. Our lives had been on hold, my body was a hot mess, emotionally we were both devastated. Rock bottom. We still had hope that we would be parents. In fact, that was never a doubt for us. It was the when and how that was starting to create more wear and tear than we could handle. We were isolated from friends and just sad. All the time. But like most people, we wanted a baby on our terms, we wanted a genetic child. I had given up on my eggs when we moved to my sister's (I actually considered it an upgrade, she's amazing!) but neither of us were comfortable giving up on Noah's sperm. That seemed to be the one good piece we had, so to toss it aside seemed...just not right. If he could have a biological child, why wouldn't we try for that? Well, like I said, we were broke. I mean, we could have taken out loans, but the thought of an anonymous donor not working and then having to pay off the debt from that unsuccessful cycle seemed---just terrible. We also didn't know if I could even carry, as I'd never been pregnant. Doing a donor egg IVF cycle for $30,000 + only to find out my uterus didn't work also sounded terrible. You know what else sounded terrible? Going through the paperwork, expenses, and time commitment for a traditional adoption. Everything sounded terrible. So we just pressed pause and sat with it.
We luckily were usually on the same page and at this point neither of us knew what to do. I started researching frozen donor egg banks and shared donor cycles and various programs that had guarantees or refunds--but again, everything felt terrible. I learned about embryo donation and started calling clinics in my area to put myself on donor embryo wait-lists. Then, when I was on the phone with one of the donor egg bank people, I asked whether they had any donated embryos. The conversation evolved and I found Momo, and something just felt right. To me at least. Those were the logistics. I began searching and calling and throwing myself out there. I had some really desperate phone calls with random clinics where I was asking for whatever "leftovers" they had. If you're not a patient of a particular clinic, the staff isn't always that nice to you. My RE said that after the new year, he sends bills to people for their embryo storage, and said by around March he would know if he had some embryos that were a good match for us. He didn't end up having anything, and I knew I found Momo.
But emotionally, Noah wasn't as attached to Momo, so we sat on it. There was something kind of--amazing about the idea of Momo to me. That it was a gift from strangers. That it was neither mine nor Noah's and yet would be both of ours. That it would possibly help us find out if I could carry, and it was affordable at just over $7,000 not including meds and travel. It was also my ethnic mix, and I liked that. Noah didn't really care about my ethnicity, but what he did care about was a) being a parent and b) getting off the hamster wheel that is infertility treatments. If the goal was to parent and get off IF Island ASAP, then embryo donation was our fastest ticket with the best odds and the least expense. We decided we would do two rounds, as there were two embryos and the clinic would only let us put one in at a time, and then if it didn't work we would get a loan and move to adoption.
In the time it took to create the logistical plan, we also processed what this alternative way of building a family would mean, and we grieved the loss of our genetics. I happen to think I have a beautiful husband. He's a gentle, funny and genuine person with an even temperament and an incredible amount of patience. He's also not bad to look at. Since I met him, when we were in college, I dreamed of having his baby--with his perfect nose and sweet dimples. That felt like a loss to not be able to possibly see those things in our baby (but then again, the poor kid could end up with my funky nose and dimpless cheeks), but you know what I mean. But when I found Momo and thought about Momo, all I felt was what we could possibly gain. A family. Momo would be totally free of anything we projected or looked for. She would be her own 100%. That can be scary or that can be incredible, and we chose to believe the incredible. It took several months, maybe six to really process and feel ready for embryo donation. And once we did, we jumped in. That was it.
Logistically, it was kind of a pain to do an FET out of state--but it was doable. So when people ask me where we found Momo, I kind of feel like there was luck and persistence and chance involved. I recommend starting with your own clinic and clinics of friends. Actually, now that I'm remembering, I had a few friends call their RE to put us on embryo donation lists because our friends had relationships with their doctors. I know there are sites like the national embryo donation center and the embryo adoption and awareness center but those didn't feel like a good fit for us. We preferred a private clinic, it seems like less of a hassle. By the time one gets to embryo donation, you want the least hassle possible. But people do "adopt" from these larger centers. I also saw on twitter the other day an article on a tutorial about embryo donation so maybe that can be helpful.
All of us on IF Island are trying to make sense out of nonsense. We are trying to make the best choices out of a handful of choices we don't really want. We are heartbroken and grasping at straws for much of the time, and in the shadow of this despair often comes a resolution, a faint ray of sunshine and hope, an option you didn't think of or didn't think you'd be comfortable with.
Noah and I love Momo so much. She is ours. She is truly a fighter and perhaps our job was to find her and bring her into the world.
Wishing everyone much luck and peace on their journey.