Egged on: Navigating the world of secondary infertility and egg donation

Join us on this journey into our hearts, a petri dish and (hopefully) my uterus.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I wanted a baby. I got a promotion.

At the beginning of August, I was picturing my life the first week of October. I optimistically imagined that I'd be walking around work with this secret pregnancy, throwing up every morning like I did with my daughter, somewhat oblivious to the state of my industry because I'd be much more focused on the incredible new life happening within me.

By mid-August, the picture changed. After our donor fell through, I asked to go part-time to put more focus on the child we already have. She has always grown up having to be stuffed into the time around our work schedules. That's not that unusual, of course. But with a husband who works nights and weekends, and my job that requires almost 24-hour attention, it's frustrating for both of us.

I imagined this life where I'd focus on work while I was at work and on her while I was home. Maybe I'd actually be able to get the laundry into the dresser drawers. Maybe I'd be able to help her with homework. Maybe I'd be able to fix dinner at night.

Well, that plan didn't work either.

At any other time of my career, I'm sure I'd be overwhelmed with joy over what transpired for me professionally. My request to go part-time turned into an offer to be the Edi.torial Ed.itor.

That's a big deal.

Many ne.wspap.ers use edi.torial pag.e jobs as a way to reward the best employees. It was a nice promotion with a raise. A huge honor. It means they trust me, they value my opin.ion. It's a big deal.

But there's still so much frustration for me. No matter how hard I try to change my life -- to take control of things that I think are somewhat within my control -- I just can't get a grasp.

I go to what seems like extreme lengths to have a baby and can't even get to retrieval stage.
I try to pull back on work and instead get more challenging, time-consuming assignments.

My new boss is a fantastic guy. He knows that this job change started with a request to go part-time because I'm not going to put my daughter in after-school care. But he's also got very high standards. He expects a lot of people. He's smart. He will challenge me. And this is a job that I've never done before. It's not going to be easy -- especially at first.

I have always told my reporters that the easy stories are never the good stories. Great should be hard.

I guess that could also mean that a worthwhile life is hard -- full of hard choices, challenging days, difficult decisions.

But I was really hoping for things to just slow down a bit. I could use a little downtime.

It's been a terrible, terrible year.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's hard to be a Tigger

I know all of you have seen this.

But, just in case there's even one person who finds their way here who hasn't seen it, here it is.

It will change your life.

I'm feeling much more Eeyore than Tigger these days.

The election doesn't help. Elections just remind me how selfish and ignorant most people really are. That becomes particularly obvious when you're taking calls at a daily ne.wspa.per in a conservative community.

But I'm trying.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It may be over for me, but I'm still pulling for my cyclesistas

For about a year, the bottom drawer of my refrigerator has been filled with fertility meds. These are all from my canceled IVF cycle. Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of drugs. The Repronex expired. So did a few other things. But there was plenty of Follistim with another year before expiration. I hated looking at it every day.

I heard about someone who was single, recently broke up with her partner, embarking on a donor cycle without insurance coverage. I didn't know her. I still don't. But I thought I could maybe ease up some of her burden.

We emailed a few times. I boxed it all up with cold packs to keep it the right temperature and shipped it off to Seattle or Portland or someplace like that (I can't even remember.)

She used the Follistim. It probably saved her thousands of dollars. Her donor produced a bounty of eggs. She's getting her pregnancy test this week.

This is where that lack of jealous gene helps.

I really hope it worked. I really, really hope to be part of something good happening to a peer whose journey through infertility ends with a happy story. Knowing that I helped make it even a little bit easier for her would make me feel like all of my emotions, frustrations and sadness were somewhat worthwhile.

Good luck Judy. Let's all send positive thoughts her way.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The check's in the mail

I couldn't do it.
So I made my husband do it.
I guess it's a lot like that earlier post about our wedding vows and the letter that we expected to write to our donor.
This time, though, I had him make the call to our donor agency.
It was just too hard to make the ultimate call to end our journey. But I knew I couldn't go forward unless I had some confidence that it really would move forward.
Too many disappointments with too similar of circumstances in too short of time.
So he told them we just couldn't move forward. And we wanted our money back.
People ask me how I feel about it .. do I feel good about the decision.
Not even a little. Not even for a second.
I feel angry and frustrated and confused and disappointed.
At one time or another, I've heard just about every one of my girlfriends tell me they were "done" having children. They felt their family was complete. They didn't want to go through childbirth. They didn't want to go through the baby stage. They didn't want to overextend themselves financially. Their career was too taxing.
I'm never ever ever going to feel done.
There will always be questions.
There will always be regret.
There will always be anger and frustration and confusion and disappointment.
Always. Forever. Without question.

That's something I've never really faced before.
I felt more peace when I made my toughest career decision -- leaving for what I thought would be forever. I was in a bind financially. I was working at a place surrounded by uninspired and unmotivated people with no interest in helping me grow. It was time for a drastic change, so I quit.
Then the phone rang with an opportunity to make double the money and write a book. I thought it was the end of my ne.wspa.per career.
By all accounts, it should have been. You can't go to PR and then come back again.
I did that for 15 months and then made the easiest -- and best -- decision of my professional life:
Cut my salary in more than half and get back to where I belong .. in a
If you look at the hours I work and the pay I get, I think my hourly pay is still lower than what I made in 1991-1992. And I've never regretted it for a second.
Here's the difference between that choice in 1991 and this choice in 2008: In 1991, My decision was based on changing something that needed changing. I had to get out of a bad situation.
Today, my decision maintains the status quo. It is based on fear of more disappointment.
I'm not sure that's a great way to live a life. It's not the way I do things. But I just can't bear the thought of going through this again. It's too hard. Too emotional. Too costly with a relatively low rate of success.
My head won over my heart.
But my heart will pay the price.
Maybe some surprising opportunity will present itself. Maybe my phone will ring because someone knows someone who has embryos leftover from IVF. They've been frozen for years and the couple wants to donate them. Maybe we'll win the lottery and pursue adoption. Maybe I'll wake up one day and decide that one kid is the perfect number, even if she'll never have a sibling to share the excitement of Christmas morning.
Or maybe I'll just move on. Reinvest in my career. Take more free time for myself. Maybe travel to Europe with my daughter when she's a teenager because, well, we won't have anything holding us back.
And while all these things could be good -- even great, there will always be that part of me that wonders about that second baby that was never born.
And maybe, at some point, I'll feel like that's OK.
That just doesn't seem likely.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Even if times are bad, life is good. More talk about being grateful.

It's been a week since I've posted. I know there are a lot of people out there who check-in everyday. Thank you for your loyalty, your interest and -- most importantly -- your support.

Today I'm going to get back to my grateful list. There was a time in my life that I would start out every single day writing down three things that make me grateful for my life. Boy, I'd love to see that notebook now.

That was late 1991 to early 1992 ... not long after my father died. His death took me completely by surprise. There were kids I knew whose parents died when they were really young. But, of my friends in my 20s, I think I was the first to lose a parent. It sounds stupid, but it never occurred to me that one of my parents would die. And it never occurred to me that the death of a parent would be so devastating. His death has defined every day of the rest of my life.

I suppose I also never thought I'd struggle with infertility. I never thought it would hurt the way it has. And I know I never thought a struggle with infertility would define every single day of the rest of my life.

But that's not what I'm trying to write about today.

Today, I'm going to brainstorm. I'm taking 15 minutes and writing down all the things that make me grateful for my life.


My beautiful, spirited, funny daughter.
My loving, funny and brilliant husband.
Even if jou.rnalism is dying, I have had 20 great years living my dream by working at a daily ne.wspaper.
Even if some ne.wspapers are dying, ours is still making money.
That means I might have another 20 years living my dream working at a ne.wspaper.
I have had the opportunity to travel a little bit.
I will have more opportunities to travel in the future.
I've seen the Grand Canyon twice .. and I know I'll see it again.
Been to DisneyWorld 10 times ... and probably will go 10 more times in my lifetime.
My 1992 blue Honda Civic, wherever it may be now.
All the places that Civic took me -- details omitted to protect the innocent ;)
Good friends.
Honest friends.
Family I would choose if they weren't already chosen for me.
The opportunity to live in a house ... even if I dream of someday living in an apartment steps away from the beach in Chicago again.
My high school, which took me as a sophomore despite my rocky start as a freshman.
My college, which taught me to love subjects I hated and introduced me to my mentor.
My college and grad school, which introduced me to lifelong friends.
Did I mention my husband, who always makes me laugh?
My oldest friend, who just got engaged.

Time's up.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

'Maybe we should try having one the regular way'

That's what my husbnd said to me a week or so ago.
Honestly, it sounded like a crazy, far-fetched idea. I guess I'm just resigned to the idea that my eggs are stale.
Going with a donor also erased almost all the risks that come with old eggs -- birth defects like Down syndrome in particular. I liked that idea. It was something to put in the "pro" column for ending the IVF efforts and moving toward egg donation.
Watching that creepy Sarah Palin lie her way through that speech last night, I was reminded of the risks of getting pregnant at 42. I don't know the extent of her child's challenges. But seeing the four children she had in her 30s, contrasted with the son she had in her 40s, it's clear that that risk of Down's really is higher for older mothers.
Seeing her beautiful little baby, though, also made me wish we hadn't wasted the last year on egg donation. If someone offered me the chance to adopt a baby with Downs today, I wouldn't hesitate. My husband probably is unsure what he'd say, but I know him well enough to know he'd be right there with me.
So why did we stop trying with IVF after one cycle? I mean, we could have tried it two more times and still had a cycle on our insurance for the egg donation.
Maybe it was the sorry statistic ... that even the best stats put our chances of conception at 15 percent with a live birth rate of maybe 12 percent.
Maybe now we should try it the regular way. What the heck, right? My college roommate had one failed IVF cycle and then got pregnant by accident. She's got a lovely baby boy now.
I stayed on the pill after my cycle was canceled because it makes everything lighter and more predictable, if you know what I mean. But as long as I'm on it, there's absolutely no hope at all.
Maybe it's time to toss out that package.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sorting through the rubble after the avalanche: Take a week, or two, or three ...

It's been three weeks since my cycle was canceled. It's hard to believe that at one point, I had such strong faith that it would move forward --- that I marked my calendar for this coming Thursday ... blood test????

No. There will be no blood test this week. And probably not ever. I haven't made a commitment to a decision yet. But it's been three weeks, and I still haven't found the courage to commit to moving forward.

I took time this weekend to clean out the room that was a nursery when we bought our house in 2002 -- a room that I envisioned would be a nursery for our second child. Cute bee wallpaper with a sweet yellow striped valance from Pottery Barn makes it suitable for a boy or a girl. I even had bedding picked out -- animals with sweet little smiles.

It was my daughter's room until she moved into a bed in 2003. Then it was a guest room. And a scrapbooking room. As my daughter grew out of toys and books, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them. So they stacked up in boxes, making that room useless.

Cleaning it out represents surrender. If I get up the courage to donate the stuff, that will mean defeat.

For now, the room will be a guest room/scrapbooking room.

My daughter had asked about moving in there. She wants to take down the wallpaper and paint it lime green and grape purple (ironic for a kid who doesn't like fruit, right?). I told her we had to hold off on that plan because I didn't have time. That was a lie.

I was waiting to see if I got pregnant. If I was having one baby, that would be the nursery. If I was having two, I'd move my daughter in there and use her current room (the bigger room/bigger closet) as the nursery.

Maybe it would be easier to just close the door and pretend like that room doesn't exist. Our house is plenty big without it.

But sometimes it makes more sense to open that door ... even if it means having to clean up the avalanche of board books and emotions that spills out. It's the only way to stop thinking about the hard choices that await.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A day at the lake is the best therapy

Still haven't come to any conclusion. Still haven't been back to work. Still not sure if I'm going to be part-time or full-time.
But I do know that spending a day or two next to a lake, listening to the waves and enjoying the breeze, is the most calming experience ever.
Back at home now. Cleaning out my linen closet at 1 a.m.
Trying to figure out what to do with all the boxes of progesterone suppositories that I've been holding onto in case I ever actually get to a transfer and need them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's time to talk about being grateful (a post about jealousy and offending people I respect)

I've always been grateful that the jealousy gene passed me over.
I've never envied people with bigger houses. I've never wanted a fancy car because someone else drove home something new and loaded. I never measured my own success by the size of my salary, the ranking of my college or the tag on my blue jeans.
Somehow, I actually believed it when people told me that happiness comes from within.
It's a great stroke of luck.
Unlike a lot of women who struggle with infertility or secondary infertility, I don't get upset when I see pregnant women. I can be genuinely happy for friends having babies.
This is something I'm especially grateful for now, when it would be easy for me to withdraw -- something I'm prone to do anyway.
I'm grateful for this because it allows me to look at my options without weighing the "how would you feel if" issues. It allows me to see my future under the three possible scenarios and measure my raw emotions without having to consider all these messy unknown factors.
Here are the possible outcomes:
* Quit and be happy with our family of three.
* Roll the dice on another donor and succeed.
* Roll the dice on another donor and come up empty.
Is there one option that I can cross off this list as unacceptable?

Not quite yet.

On another subject ....

My last post wasn't meant to imply that I think egg donation is something that will ultimately lead to a terrible outcome for the donors.
It was just my personal reaction to some very personal testimony from a woman who was looking for answers after losing her daughter to a terrible cancer.
Do I believe that the hormones injected during IVF or egg donation treatment can cause cancer? I really don't know.
But I really don't know that anyone knows -- or that anyone can really make an educated guess.
Does that mean I should give up? I'm not even saying that.
Does that mean it's wrong for others to turn to egg donation while building a family? No. Of course not.
It's just another factor for me to weigh while I'm making a decision that could rewrite my life plan.
I'm just so desperate for some bit of information that will lead me to the correct conclusion.
This is a time when I wish I had faith -- I wish I believed in God or some other sort of great equalizer or higher power to point me in the direction of the answer that I won't regret.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What are the risks for egg donors?

For me, Catholic school means something completely different than what it means for most of the world.
That's probably the case for most women who were fortunate enough to attend the all-girls Catholic high school that I attended.
It was full of enlightened, open-minded mostly female teachers who encouraged us to think about the consequences of our actions.
We heard from nuns who spent time in jail for protesting the military buildup at the time (early 1980s). We marched in peace walks with teachers and nuns. We were encouraged to volunteer to help out people in our communities.
Our school had a social justice club. It didn't have cheerleaders.
I wish my daughter could attend that school.
Anyway, why are we taking this trip in the way-back machine?
It's some background on why I tend to over-analyze the consequences of my actions.
I didn't step into the world of egg donation blindly. I tried to do some research into the consequences for the girls who donate. What happens to a young woman's body when she fills it will these hormones? What are the psychological effects of donating your DNA to complete strangers.
I've touched on all these issues in the blog. That represents just a fraction of the amount of consideration I've given to the ultimate cost of this -- the cost to the donor.
I'm a feminist. I'm supportive of reproductive freedom. I generally believe that women need to put focus on women's issues because it won't otherwise happen in what is still largely a "man's world." I'm all for women's rights.
This egg donation issue has created conflict for me. My desire to use an egg donor has not really fit neatly into the traditional liberal interpretation of how feminist women should look at things. I've struggled with it. I've talked to people about it. And I came to the conclusion that I need to make up my own mind on this issue.
Today I came across an article on the site. It led me to a more detailed article on the site connected to the great site.
This is testimony from a woman whose daughter developed colon cancer after three rounds of donations. She was testifying before Congress in support of a general registry for donors (I am very much in support of that as well.)
This touched me for many reasons.
Among them, one of my dearest friends died of colon cancer this year. She suffered through a year of treatment and pain before her body just couldn't fight anymore.
The thought of someone going through that as a result of a contract with me is unimaginable.
I'm not sure if there is a real medical link between massive amounts of hormones and colon cancer. No one is -- because there haven't been any studies.
But here's the link .. you can decide for yourself:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fate won't make the decision for me

So I thought I'd sort of leave it all to chance.

I put in a request to either go part-time or be able to leave everyday at 3 to pick up my daughter from work.
If they told me to go part-time, I'd give up on the egg donation thing because I'd lose my insurance.
If they wanted me to stay full-time, I'd have my benefits and could continue to pursue it.
Leave the decision in the hands of people who know nothing about this whole episode.

(Actually, they might have an idea. I've told two people at work the details, one or two who probably know the details, and a bunch who probably don't know anything. I'm not opposed to anyone knowing about it, per se, but I really don't want to tell anyone else. If I tell someone, it's like an open invitation for them to give me their opinion. And I don't need that. But I do believe it's in my best interest for my bosses to not know about this.)

OK ... well, I thought they were going to take me up on the part-time offer. It's a great deal for them: Cut my pay 20 percent but get all the work done.

But there's some resistance. I'm not 100 percent sure why. Maybe they need me to pick up work that used to be done by people who have left. I have a meeting set up because my boss wants to talk to me about it.

So, it looks like it's not going to be that easy for me to pawn off the decisionmaking to chance.

I'm going to have to make the call.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fertility clinics: Home of the brave

News.rooms feel a lot like fertility clinics these days. Lots of sadness, uncertainty, dreams for a better future ... desperation.

People in both places are trying to reinvent themselves into whatever they aspire to become. In news.rooms, writers are learning videography to make them more valuable in a Web-centered world. At fertility clinics, women are using hormones and someone else's gametes to create (or re-create) a fertile self.

During that journalism conference I attended a few weeks ago, I stumbled into a session about how to reshape yourself, your, etc. They wanted us to write our "theme songs." I left before it was over.
But one of the exercises we did stuck with me. We were asked to take out our notebooks, pick up a pen, close our eyes and finish this sentence:

If I was brave, I would .....

Focusing on my career, it was a tough question to answer. In many ways, I think the bravest move in journalism is to stick it out -- continue doing what you love and hope the market continues to support it. To show faith in your organization that they will find new revenue streams to offset the real estate ads lost in the collapse of the housing market. Hope they will find ways to make real money on the Web.

But this exercise is particularly relevant to my infertility journey right now.

If I was brave, I would continue with a new donor. I would set aside the experiences with the last three women -- and write off those situations as oddities. I'd risk it all and move forward.

Here's the question: Am I brave?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's not Kleenex or Jell-O. Depression isn't a catch-all phrase for sadness.

There's a big difference between sadness and depression.
Sadness is a reaction to an event.
Depression is a medical issue -- a physical illness that's accompanied by feelings of sadness and hopelessness. While it can be triggered by an event, depression is connected to chemicals in the brain.
I struggled with depression in my 20s. Since then, I've always known it was something that could come back at anytime. I feared postpartum depression would set in after my daughter was born. When my mother died, I took extra time off work to make sure I felt all the feelings and didn't let anything linger.
All of the infertility stuff left me feeling frustrated, sad, anxious and uncertain.
But never completely hopeless. So I knew I wasn't depressed.
Today my husband overheard a conversation of mine and commented on how I sound so hopeless.
That made me wonder whether my sadness over the canceled cycle is actually depression.
And making a life-altering decision while depressed just isn't smart.
Before we embarked on the whole donor thing, our clinic required us to see a psychologist who specializes in fertility issues. This might be a good time to check back in with her.

In the meantime, here's an article about only children and secondary infertility that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. I couldn't find it on their Website, otherwise I would have provided the link:

Only Doesn't mean Lonely
Save your pity--that lone child doesn't want or need it

Sunday, August 10, 2008
By Heidi Stevens

Shereen Peterson worries about her son.
There are the usual worries, sure. Sugar, sleep, tantrums, germs. But the big one -- the nagging worry that has latched on to her psyche with all the strength and perseverance of a toddler -- is his solitude.
Skylar, 3, is an only child. Shereen and her husband, Kyle, have gone to great lengths to give him a sibling: four rounds of artificial insemination, acupuncture, in-vitro fertilization. No dice. Now, they've decided, Skylar will be an only.
"I worry he'll be spoiled," says Peterson, 37. "I want him to know the world doesn't revolve around him. I worry he'll be needy and clingy to Mommy, that when I send him off to school he won't want to go.
"I worry that when he's older, he'll feel lonely," she continues. "He won't have a companion in life -- someone in the family he can share every feeling with. Even if you get in fights, there's unconditional family love with a sibling."
Statistically speaking, Peterson's fears aren't likely to come true. Study after study prove only children are no more spoiled, lonely or maladjusted than their peers who have siblings.
They're also, oddly enough, not alone.
The single-child family is the fastest-growing family unit in this country, according to recent Census figures. In 2004, 17.4 percent of women ages 40 to 44 reported having one child, compared with 9.6 percent of women 40 to 44 in 1976. Single-child families now outnumber two-child families (20 percent versus 18 percent), according to the 2003 Current Population Survey.
It's impossible to quantify the various factors fueling this trend, but experts point to a number of circumstances that aren't likely to diminish any time soon -- if ever.
"Secondary infertility, women working, a high divorce rate, the expense and difficulty of adoption, the high cost of raising and educating children, terrible parental leave policies, child care that's not up to snuff, an increased number of single parents," lists Susan Newman, social psychologist and author of "Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only" (Broadway/Doubleday). "Parents want to do the best job of parenting, and with all these factors working against them, they're often stopping at one."
But for all their strength in numbers, only children (and their parents) still shoulder a hefty load of stigmas -- many dating back to 1896, when psychologist G. Stanley Hall said "being an only child is a disease in itself." Only 3 percent of Americans think a single-child family is the ideal family size, according to a 2004 Gallup poll.
"The stereotypes are still there," says Carolyn White, editor of Only Child magazine. "That they're unable to socialize well or have close friendships or be in relationships that are secure and bonded. That they don't think of others as well as themselves."
Never mind that 30 years of research, conducted mostly by social psychologist Toni Falbo, proves the opposite is true.
"In many respects, only children tend to be more well-adjusted," says White. "They learn to socialize very well because they know that if they don't, they're not going to have any pals. They really have to get out there."
Onlies are usually resourceful, independent, gregarious and extremely driven, White says, and they tend to outperform their peers with siblings on academic achievement tests.
"That extra attention from parents can have a very positive effect," she says.
And kids are socialized in so many more settings than just home -- especially now, with play centers, youth sports, increasingly hands-on parents and, let's not forget, preschool. "I never went to preschool," White says. "Who ever heard of preschool then?"
So why do the stigmas remain?
"People are lazy thinkers," says Newman. "Rather than say 'My friend has three children and her oldest is a loner,' we get stuck in this pattern about only children, no matter what the studies say."
Craig Shparago, 40, doesn't need any studies to prove what he already knows. His daughter, Ava, 7, is an only child. "She's just a really wonderful person," he says. "She makes a lot of friends. She's got a rich imagination. She's super creative. She doesn't seem to get bored much. It certainly feels like it's working out for us to just have our little trio."
Shparago and his wife, Karen, live in Wilmette, where he says most families they know have more than one child. But they don't spend a lot of energy worrying about how others are doing things. Their focus, he says, is Ava.
"When I'm home, we're usually playing detective or hunting for ghosts or something," Shparago says. "I tend to be the playmate."
Veronica and Sean Scrol live in the South Loop with their son, Ian, 5. Veronica says she used to worry that Ian would be shy around other children. But watching him race to play with the other neighborhood kids alleviated those fears.
"I talked with some friends of mine who are only children and they said they actively sought out friends because they didn't have any siblings," says Veronica, 40. "They all said they really cherished those friendships because that's all they had."
The Petersons, meanwhile, are in the midst of moving from their condo in the city to a house in Glen Ellyn, close to Shereen's parents and siblings.
"When he grows up we'll tell him, 'Mommy and Daddy tried everything we could to give you a sibling, and that's why we moved to Glen Ellyn so you could be surrounded by your cousins and my very fertile brother,'" Shereen says. "We're settling into a groove now. ... I just have to think about what matters and everything we have instead of what Skylar's not getting."
And the stereotypes, finally, show signs of diminishing.
"The stigmas have lost some of their strength," says White. "Most only children have many other only children with whom they can relate."
And, Newman adds, the factors are all in place to further distance us from the old way of thinking. Namely?
"More and more fabulous, wonderful only children."
- - -

Famous 'onlies'
Nancy Reagan former First Lady
Robin Williams actor *
LeAnn Rimes singer
Alan Greenspan American economist
John Updike author
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar NBA Hall of Famer
Danielle Steele author
Richie Sambora Bon Jovi guitarist
Lisa Marie Presley singer
Ansel Adams photographer
Daniel Radcliffe actor
Tiger Woods pro golfer *
Alicia Keys singer
Enoch Powell British politician
John Lennon singer-songwriter *
Mahatma Gandhi Indian leader
Lance Armstrong pro bicyclist
Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State
Rudy Giuliani former New York mayor
*Had/has half-siblings
- - -

Remember: Someone else will have to live with them someday

Raising an only child presents a unique set of challenges. We asked for advice from two experts: Carolyn White, editor of Only Child magazine, and Susan Newman, social psychologist and author of "Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only."
"You have to make a conscious effort that parents with two or three children don't have to," says White. "They have so much going on that something often gets left behind, and that's a good thing. A little disorder is important to fill that gap that a lot of people talk about."
* Don't do the chores."Give your child responsibilities," Newman says. "Don't pick up their dirty laundry, don't put their dishes in the dishwasher. You wouldn't be able to do that if you had two or three or four."
* Don't hover. "You want your child to be independent and make good decisions and be a community participant," says Newman. "That's not going to happen if you're on top of him or her all the time. Let your child settle his own disputes."
* Introduce change. "Only kids live in a pretty comfortable world," says White. "They come home from school and their room is pretty much how they left it. With siblings you can come home to anything. Juggle things around so they understand they're going to have to make adjustments: 'I'm not picking you up today, Grandma's picking you up.'"
* Don't overindulge. "Decide what your values are. Don't buy the room full of toys, the house full of toys, or fall into 'I want to give him or her everything I didn't have.'"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are you comfortable making the choice that we won't have more kids?

That's the question that my husband posed to me this morning when we were talking -- yet again -- about whether to move forward with a different donor.

For me, there's another question: Am I comfortable picking another donor and starting the process over again, only to be heartbroken without ever making it to retrieval?

So I'm trying to look at what life would be like under both scenarios:

If we quit, I wouldn't need my health benefits that cover IVF -- that's the only way we've been able to afford all this.

That means that maybe I could go part-time and spend more time with my daughter.

As my husband put it after the first donor fell through: Maybe we should use this as a sign that we should do a better job with the one kid we've already got.

Not that we're bad parents. And, seriously, she's a fantastic kid. Personable. Funny. Respectful (most of the time). Loving. Generous. Smart.

But we both work long hours. We have opposite schedules. And she has always expressed a desire to spend more time at home instead of having to go to after-school care.

I've tried to go part-time over the years -- I've submitted proposals and job-share plans -- but my employer couldn't make it work. Now that news.papers are in such bad shape, I think they'd go for it. It would save them a good amount of money and the paper would still come out every day.

I could pick up my daughter after school every day. She could have friends come over for playdates. She could participate in after-school things at the park district. She could maybe join a sport team of some sort. These are all things that have been reserved for weekends because of my 10-hour-a-day work schedule. Oh, and I have to work weekends now, too. So even weekend activities would be limited if I continue full-time.

Going part-time means relying on my husband's benefits, which are excellent. However, since his company is self-insured, they are exempt from the state law that mandates insurance coverage for IVF.

No insurance -- no IVF. We just can't take on that kind of expense without putting an uncomfortable amount of pressure on us. I'm not good at most debt.

But I go back to that question ... am I comfortable with the choice to raise my daughter as an only child?

Well, the answer is: No.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Damn the mail

Yesterday's post was really about the procedural stuff that we had to tackle before we could answer the big question: Do we try again with another donor?
Today I opened the mailbox to find those pregnancy test strips that I ordered on Saturday, the day my donor started stim meds -- the day I really thought represented our "no turning back" stage.
I forgot that I even ordered them. Idiot. My husband's mother, whom I've never met, would have called it a kenehora. The moment I put faith into moving forward, it fell apart.
For now, the pregnancy tests are in the giant box full of unused meds. That box will sit closed up on my dresser until we decide whether to move forward or give up all hope.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm finally able to think about it, talk about it a little ... and maybe even write about it

I'm not even mad at the donor.

I was told her STD has probably been sitting dormant for several months because she hasn't been sexually active since October. I don't know that I believe that. Since April, she's had at least two pap smears and a surgical procedure on her cervix (Leep). It's hard to believe they wouldn't have noticed something out of the ordinary. And since her bad cells removed by the Leep could possibly have been caused by an STD, wouldn't her doctor have tested her? I also have a hard time believing that an attractive, fun-loving 23-year-old woman hasn't been with anyone for almost a year.

But, none of that matters. I'm not mad at her.

To recap: My cycle was canceled 9 days before the retrieval date because my donor came down with chlamydia. The was our third donor. My first donor also was nixed because of chlamydia.

Before we signed on, we were assured this donor was reliable and dedicated and enthusiastic. We heard words like "poster child" for a good cycle, "100% confidence" in her dedication. They put her on the payroll because she's such a good cheerleader for the cause.

We were hesitant to move forward after donor No. 2 backed out. But we were assured this girl would surely get us to the retrieval stage -- from there it's all a matter of science.

And that's exactly what I told the director of our agency today ... I hold the agency responsible. The agency built up our confidence in the candidate.

I picked this agency for two main reasons: cost and personality.

They emphasize words like compassion and ethics in their literature and during interviews. Frankly, that's why I chose them. I felt like they were more than just a recruiter matching Point A with Point B. I felt like the people who work there are invested in this process, passionate about their work and concerned for the people who come to them, like us, at a desperate point in a life-defining process.

When my husband and I walked into their office to meet with them today, I feared that my impressions would be proven wrong. They could have just whipped out a contract and told us we needed to cough up a bundle of extra cash if we wanted to continue with a different donor. They could have told us that we'd be out about half the money if we quit and went home.

My husband is deeply entrenched in the "angry" stage of loss. I'm still working through the weepy, sad, confused stage.

I'm sure they hated having us there. I hated being there.

We set up this meeting to determine what we should do. We didn't know whether we wanted to look at more profiles or call it quits and use the money to take a trip to Hawaii.

And we still don't know what to do.

What I do know is that my initial instincts were right about the agency. While it's clear that this is all part of a legal/business relationship, the director also made it clear that she knows our circumstances are unusual. She acknowledged that we have had terrible luck. And she said she's willing to minimize the financial impact because of it. By her actions, she ultimately took responsibility.

My husband isn't any less angry. And I'm not any less weepy.

But I do have this sense that maybe, just maybe, my judgment isn't all that terrible. Sure, I picked two donors who exposed themselves to chlamydia and one who backed out at the last minute.

But I also feel very good about the agency I picked. During a meeting that at times became hostile, they ultimately showed us a lot of respect and took responsibility.

It makes me wonder if maybe we should give this a shot with a fourth donor. Or maybe it's time to cut our losses and accept life as it is. We have one great kid. And, while she would probably love to have a sibling now and later in life after we're gone, she's also amazingly happy with life just as it is.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thank you

Blogger's been busy today .. it hasn't let me post any replies. So here goes ...
Thanks everyone for all your kind words. I've posted some and respected the requests of others who asked me not to post their comments. It helps to know there are so many people in our corner.
We lost power last night. That was a good thing, I think. It gave me time to digest what's happening.
I'm hoping to write about it tonight, when I have some time to myself. In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy the day with my daughter and try to avoid thinking about our decision -- whether to go forward or be done.

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's over for now. Egg donation and STDs don't mix.

My cycle was canceled today.

I'm too upset to blog about it -- or talk about it, for that matter. And I have no idea where we go from here.

Any and all words of support would be welcomed.

Let's just say that my clinic has seen its second case of a donor with chlamydia. The first case, of course, also was mine.

For now, I'll refer you to that post.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Infertile women have plenty to say ... well, most of them seem to

Since entering the IVF/Infertility/Egg Donation blogger community, I've come to learn that woman undergoing assisted reproduction are the most prolific writers on Earth.

There are more blogs on this topic than just about anything other than politics. If we calculated blogs per woman undergoing fertility treatment, I bet the ratio would be very high.

There are more infertility blogs than there are blogs about news.papering. Even journal.ists, paid professional writers, don't have as much to say as women longing for a baby.
Check out the link to Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. Look at her blogroll (there's a link at the top of my blog list). Incredible. And all of them have something worthwhile to say. (BTW .. I don't think I'm on there yet, but she says she's going to add me).
Here's today's irony: Today, I don't have a lot to write about. It's a beautiful day in Chicagoish. We're going to spend some time outdoors .. maybe a little nature hike at a forest preserve.
The only news to report is ...
Last night, my donor began her follistim -- the drug that makes her develop more follicles and mature eggs than the typical one per month.
Follistim is injected via one of those cool pen things with the easy-change needles and an easy-to-measure delivery system. There's no worry over whether she's doing it right since she's done it before with positive results.
She'll be on the follistim for about 10 days. She'll have surgery two days later. Then they mix up the eggs with my husband's sperm and hope something grows.

That puts her surgery around the 13th. My transfer will be the 16th or the 18th. If I take a home pregnancy test, I should know whether I'm pregnant before I go back to work. (BTW .. I ordered HPTs yesterday ... I have every intention of testing at home!)

My 3-week vacation, trouble in news.papers and good karma. Convincing myself that this donor egg cycle is destined to succeed.

Vacations away are always preceded by a flurry of shopping, laundry, packing, arranging a dog sitter, holding the mail, working ahead at the office, trips to the bank and making printouts of itineraries. When you finally arrive, you need that vacation.

Preparing for a vacation at home is a lot easier. Work ahead at work. Think about what you might do with your lazy days.

This year it's going to be a long vacation at home for me. It's not that we don't have anywhere we'd like to go -- or the money to go there, for that matter. But my husband doesn't have time off. And I need him to give me shots every night. I might be able to get away with doing one of the mini Lupron shots -- though I bet I'd faint. But once I start those progesterone in oil shots, there's no separating us for more than 24 hours at a time.

I'm not really good at lazy days, so unstructured time actually stresses me out. I'm sure I'll fill the calendar with plenty to do around Chicago. We have some museum memberships that we could put to good use. My daughter is old enough to take in a neighborhood or architectural tour and learn something. I haven't done one of those since high school. We'll hit the beach. Lincoln Park Zoo. Maybe a suburban pool. I'd like her to work on her bike riding. We'll stay up late and do some star gazing. I'd love to take a day trip to go hiking ... maybe someplace with a waterfall. There's the American Girl Place, too. We'll visit with friends, get ready for school, go see some movies. Squeeze in some scrapbooking, too.

Mixed in with all that will be the pills, the shots, the retrieval, sperm collection, embryo transfer and the beginning of my two-week wait. That's the part I dread. The wait. But I'm not going to try to write about the emotions of that. Instead, I'll send you to the most heart-breaking and insightful post I've ever read about the 2WW:

My 2WW will begin while I'm on vacation from a job in a troubled industry.
The last year at work has been defined by a couple of rounds of layoffs, added workload, decline in quality, bad morale. That's not the best environment for someone going through the hormonal ups and downs of pre-transfer and the anxiety that comes after transfer.
This three-week vacation was planned back in January when I thought I was going to do a February transfer. Luck just happened to place it at the optimum time for this first donor egg cycle.

It's one of those things that makes this all feel like this cycle is filled with good karma. It's keeping me positive.

And three weeks to play in one of the world's greatest cities ain't bad either.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Egg donation is big news. Oh, and look at the button on the left. Please vote for me. :)

Links to recent articles for those of you looking for more information:

Scientists: Egg shortage hurts stem cell research
Scientists say egg shortage threatens stem cell research, seek ways to pay for eggs
July 30, 2008

Tough Economic Times Create Boom of Egg Donors (this is a news story quoting the director of my donor agency, Center for Egg Options in Northbrook, Ill.)

A delicate technique at Mayo produced the first births - healthy twin girls - in Minnesota from frozen eggs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trying to find the right words: Adding estrogen to the mix

Tonight I start estrace, estrogen tabs that I have to take orally and vaginally. I also take a baby aspirin every day. These things are supposed to help build my uterine lining to make a cozy spot for the embryo(s) to nest.

My husband is on antibiotics to clear up some sort of bacteria they discovered in the sample he left after his visit to the clinic collection room the other day. (It's nothing to worry about, I'm told. And, no, it's not an STD.)

Of course, we are still doing Lupron, prenatal vitamins and folic acid supplement.

What all this means is that we are moving forward. Our donor (remember, I'm calling her Tanya) was in for her baseline appointment today. She has some fluid in her tubes, but nothing that should stop us from proceeding, I'm told.

The nurse told me how much she loves Tanya. She's reliable and responsible and funny and personable and dedicated -- that's what they say at least. Makes me wish I knew her for more than the 20 minute phone conversation from a few months ago.

I wonder if she wants kids of her own some day.

When she first filled out her application with the donor agency, she said she had been feeling depressed because her boyfriend was serving in the military. I wonder if they are still a couple. I wonder how he is doing and whether he's safe.
I wonder how many children have been born from her donor cycles. Her sister also is a donor. I wonder how many children she helped create.

All this focus on the donor has a purpose. It's time for me to begin crafting a letter to her -- to find the perfect words to tell her how I feel about her gift that allows us to try to pursue a dream.

As a writer, you'd think that the words would come easily. But they don't. It's not because I can't express my feelings. It has more to do with the combination of conflicting emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, hope.

I can only equate it with something that happened two days before our wedding, Thanksgiving of 1997. We wanted to write our own vows. For my husband, the words flowed easily. He's a great writer, certainly the more talented of the two of us. I could not clear my head of all the details of planning the wedding, designing the program, putting finishing touches on the seating chart, writing the checks, worry about what my mother would think of the '70s disco band we hired, etc. etc. I couldn't write vows that carried any of the real emotion, passion, excitement and love that I was feeling.

So I cheated. We both read the vows he wrote. And they remain the most beautiful vows I've ever heard:

I promise to find a new reason to love you each day.
I promise to keep our home filled with laughter.
I promise to continue to challenge you, as you do me each day forth for the rest of our lives.
I promise to give you the comfort and support you need when life has been hard, and help you see that even in the times that try our souls, your hand need only open to feel mine there.
Most of all, I promise to be a better person each day and be worthy of the love you have given me -- a love I will never take for granted, or diminish, but will cherish and nurture as long as I live.

On top of the conflicting emotions, there are the drugs and my work and everyday life with a busy 8-year-old. Maybe my brain is just too clogged -- like it was that night in 1997 when we set out to write our vows.

Maybe it will clear up at the end of the week, when I begin a long stretch of vacation time.

Or maybe I'll cheat again ... and have my husband write the letter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jack of all trades

My husband had to go in and update his sperm count earlier this month.

I've mentioned before that he could be a stand-up comedian.

Here's a sampling of some of the lines that the nurses at the fertility clinic heard:

Receptionist: How are you today?
Husband: The insurance company is paying for me to masturbate. It doesn't get better than that.

Nurse: (showing him to the room) Have you done this before?
Husband: Yes. Since I was 12.

Nurse: No, I mean, have you been here before?
Husband: Are you kidding? I love this room. Is it available to rent out for parties?

Nurse: (also while showing the room) Do you have everything you need?
Husband: I could use a few more outlets and an air compressor.

I wasn't there. And I have no idea if they were amused or ready to call the police.


I'm not sure if it's the non-stop working or the Lupron. But this exhaustion is like nothing I've ever felt.

It's not as debilitating as that first trimester exhaustion that I got to know when I was pregnant with my daughter. It's more of a I-don't-even-remember-getting-in-bed exhaustion.

I had the opportunity to attend the Unity conference for journal.ists of color last week. Lots of fantastic workshops, networking, opportunities to offer guidance to recent graduates (who have little hope of ever finding a job since the industry is in disarray, BTW).

But the days started when I got in the car at 5:50 am every day and parked for the night at 7 or 8 pm. That was Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday was brief -- one seminar and a chance to see Barack Obama speak.

But it took a toll. Now I'm back to my regular work week and don't have a day off until Saturday. I went days without seeing my daughter last week. After the first day, she was crying. She's clearly not ready for something like sleepover camp, I guess.

And, honestly, that's kind of a good feeling. I'm happy to keep her close to home, especially while we're closing in on this whole experiment.

She's a terrific reminder of both why we're doing this and how fortunate we are.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I have never liked shots

Even the tiny needles freak me out.

When I was maybe 13, I remember meeting a kid who had diabetes and thinking about how impossible it would be to give myself shots.

Advanced fertility treatments rely on a variety of drugs to control your girly parts.

Lupron and birth control pills keep you from ovulating. Like a fake menapause. Complete with hot flashes.

Baby aspirin and estrace help build your lining. Progesterone helps maintain a pregnancy. Then there are other things ... I don't even know what those do.

These things come in abdominal shots, butt shots, oral pills, vaginal pills, patches and suppositories. The donor takes something called follistim, which is just like it sounds: follicle stimulating. Follicles are the things that pop out of the ovaries with eggs -- the more follicles, the more eggs. The more eggs, the better chance that we have of making a baby.

All these drugs are hormones. When I was on my IVF cycle, I called the combo of Lupron and Follistim the "hate and rage" drugs. I felt edgy, emotional and angry at all times. Living and working with me was a real joy, I'm sure.

This time, my only anxiety is related to the actual injections. There's no pain and my husband gives them to me because, well, I was right when I was 13. I could NEVER give them to myself.

Still, I dread facing that needle every night at bedtime.

I've been on the Lupron for a week. I'm now done with my birth control pills. I have a doctor's appointment on July 29, then start the estrogen drugs after that.

It's a time when it feels like a waiting period, but there's a crucial 10 unit shot that must be delivered every day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's been a long four months

The best writers use the toughest times to generate their best work.

It's been a tough four months. Instead of using that time to write about everything that was going on, I just withdrew from the blog.

That's why I still haven't written the Great American Novel, I guess.

Last we met, we had just spoken to our donor. And we loved her.

A few weeks later, we heard that she had a bad pap smear and needed the Leep procedure to clear away some bad cells. That obviously put our cycle on hold. I was quite prepared for it to be the end. And, after talking to her, we decided that we'd be done if she dropped out. We felt like she was our match.

More importantly, I felt a lot of worry about her. If she was my daughter, would I want her playing with her hormones after having pre-cancerous cells on her cervix? If that was me 20 years ago, would I want to go through a series of shots and pills and bloating, etc. -- for someone else and $7,000 in pay -- after having a (minor) operation on my cervix? No. I'd be done with messing with this stuff.

Well, she's still gung-ho. She had her surgery in May and got the all-clear in June. We started lupron this week and we"re on track for a mid-August transfer, assuming all goes well.

Including my failed IVF cycles, we've been at this for an entire year. If you include the IUI cycles, it's been more than two years. In all, it's been about six years. So I'm still trying to remain realistic.

The stats are fairly straightforward, I've got about a 70 percent chance of getting pregnant. Sounds great -- especially compared to the 15 percent rate that IVF gave me.

But that's not the whole story. With every pregnancy, there's a 25 percent chance of a miscarriage. So now we're down to about a 53 percent chance of having a successful pregnancy.

In short, I'm standing at a table in Atlantic City with $14,000 in my hands. I've put it all on red and I'm spinning the wheel.

And I've always said I'm NOT a gambler ... HA!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You know egg donation has gone mainstream when ....

You know it's part of the mainstream when there's a contest to win a donor cycle. Check it out:

When you have been blessed in many different ways, you want to give back to others that are in need. This site was created to help families that have or are experiencing infertility and are in need of an egg donor. Reproductive Assistance Inc. and Fertility Consulting, LLC want to provide this gift to a deserving family.
Infertility is a disease that is a very expensive endeavor and touches many different people. Statistics say infertility touches one in every six families. So, you are not alone.
If you are in the process of selecting an egg donor or will need one in the future, you are in the right place.
Beginning January 1, 2008, we will begin accepting applications for three months thru March 31. From April 1 thru 14, we will choose one winning application, and April 15, 2008, we will announce the family that will receive a free egg donor from Reproductive Assistance Inc. and Fertility Consulting, LLC.
Please complete your application before March 31. We look forward to helping create your family.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Name plus voice times sense of humor equals connection

I like her. I really like her. She seems like someone I'd wish I was friends with if we were in college together.

How do I know?

Because we talked on the phone. Actually, I sobbed. My fantastic husband did a lot of talking. She did a lot of talking, laughing and storytelling. It was so emotional it has taken me 30-some hours to recover enough to write about it.

First, I don't want to use her real name. So let's call her Tanya.

The woman who runs the agency knew I was having second thoughts after Donor No. 2 backed out. So she suggested we talk to Tanya on the phone. We scheduled a time. I came home in the middle of the day. And the phone rang.

Nancy, the woman from the agency, asked Tanya to start by telling us why she chose to be an egg donor. Tanya said she got into it because her sister did it -- in California, I believe. Her first cycle didn't go very well because they didn't get her drugs straight. So she did a second cycle with the same couple. She said she felt like this was something she could do to help people who would obviously be amazing parents. She admitted the money was also a factor -- of course. She's a college student, works two jobs, lives thousands of miles from her family. I liked her honesty.

We told her that we have one child and we want to give her a sibling. We told her we aren't perfect parents, but we have done a few things right. My husband told her the story of how our daughter donated her hair to Locks of Love because she heard that kids with cancer might need it. She seemed touched.

My husband is a comedian. He's dabbled in standup. He can be incredibly funny, amazingly emotional and unbelievably inappropriate all in the same sentence. Some people love his humor. Others are freaked out by it.

Tanya clearly got it. She even kicked back a few jokes worthy of genuine laughs. We connected. And that is more important than all those other factors that we had to look at on paper -- hair color, eye color, medical history, etc.

I go back to the Oprah show on sperm donation. The one thing that I carried away from that was the reality that even an anonymous donor could eventually be part of our lives. So I need to think forward 20 years and decide if this donor is someone I might want at a family Thanksgiving someday.

And she is.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Reading the numbers

All fertility clinics have to report their success rates to the CDC.

Today, I just noticed my clinic updated their numbers, posting the 2006 stats.

They did 100 fresh egg donation cycles in 2006. And 80 resulted in pregnancy. That's 80 percent. WOW.

In 2005, their numbers were much lower -- 63 percent resulting in pregnancy. I don't know if they have just improved their lab techniques, gotten more selective in terms of the women they take as patients or donors, or if they just got lucky. Maybe it's a combination.

Either way, 80 percent success rate sounds so much better than 60 percent, doesn't it?

Now, the updated numbers don't give us the live birth rate. In 2005, abouot 50 percent of the fresh donor egg cycles resulted in a child (or two or three ... ). I don't know if the higher pregnancy rate translates into a higher birth rate.

But I am feeling more positive overall about our decision to roll the dice on a 22-year-old film student.


I also found the following story posted on Associated Content: An egg donor's view of the process.

My Egg Donation ExperienceEver Wondered What is Egg Donation and What the Process Entailed?
By versacemystyle
As a young lady in my mid twenties I've always wanted to do something to make someone else's life a little easier. Growing up, my siblings and I were all taught the golden rules of life. Always saying please and thank you, sharing with a neighbor who may have been less fortunate than us and even turning the other cheek when or if we are slapped. The latter I've always encountered problems with however, it was on this foundation after watching a movie of the similiar nature I decided to become an EGG DONOR.
I researched it online and then proceeded to a clinic that I thought had the best credentials in New York. I filled out the routine application which was a detailed personal interrogation. This included everything about my family's medical history as well as mine. Details of my daily life and lifestyle as well as a photograph of myself to put on file. There was also the informative aspect of this which chronologically explained the donation process from the time medications would be administered to the time the eggs would be retrieved as well as prerequsite tests. The institute also stated their obligation to myself as a donor/patient.
I was told that the most difficult part of this process would be my regular visits to the clinic. After filling out all the paperwork I received a call from the nurse adminstrator asking me to come into the clinic, this was approximately one week later. This I did and she basically reviewed my application with me then informed me that a sonogram would be required. This I was totally not prepared for, not to mention the awkward feeling of having to be examined by someone you just ten minutes ago met...Following the sonogram blood was taken from me to test for sexually transmitted diseases, blood type as well as other things that I can't remember at this point.
Sonagrams and blood testing I was told will be done on eac of my visits to ensure that everything is normal, healthy and responding favorbly to all medication. My next step was to visit a genetic counsellor who did a simply family tree of my family. This was done by asking for information about my generation of family and theif offspring's medical history. This information was used to determine if further genetic testing was needed. I was then on my way to my next evaluation which was a psychological one. I met with a therapist who askd me a series of questions to check my mental state to donate eggs as well as my reaction to the fact that a child with half my genes may soon exist as a result and what part would I be legally allowed to this child in such a situation.
After completing these testings and evaluations successfully my file was submitted to the doctor for further evaluation to find out if I was eligible in all facets to become an EGG DONOR. As you could guess I was accepted. This all took about 6-7 weeks as I had to reschedule some appointments.After being accepted as a candidate to donate they started me on contraceptives to regulate my period to coincide with the egg donation process. At the third or fifth day of my period I was started on hormone treatment which did not have no immediate effect.
A few days following this medication I was called into the clinic went through the routine tests and sonogram this time approximately six tubes of blood were drawn and I could have felt the difference when this blood was withdrawn. Following a moment of recuperation from this, my nurse came in and took me in another room filled with trays of medication. At this point she demonstrated to me how to inject the bottom of my tummy just below my navel with medication that would mature and increase my eggs. Before this stage of injecting however, I was taught how to mix the medication to exact specifications as well as how to transfer medication into correct dispenser before injection.
As any layman would have imagined this made me very nervous as I am not a nurse nor did I have any experience in this field at that time. I got scared at the thought of having to quickly give myself this shot with a syringe without delaying, I also had to ensure no air was in the needle transfering it to my tummy. This demanded tremendous emotional support. At this time my wonderful husband was as consoling as any loving partner could ever be. I had to inject myself for approximately 6-7 nights. Also for everynight I injected myself I had to visit the clinic early the next morning to do the regular tests. The first two shots came and passed without much difficulty, but by the third night I started to feel different. My mood changed, I was more emotional as well as a bit soar from sticking myself with the needles.
I have never been pregnant and have no idea of how it feels but I got an idea from this next step. I started to experience a mild difference in my tummy but my husband kept telling me it was my imagination. Upon my next visit my nurse showed me the difference in the number and size of eggs. They were the size of quarter (or magnified as they were magnified at some of the ultrasounds). My fifth day of injection I was totally experiencing the effects of the medication. I felt bloated and alot of discomfort I constantly used the washroom at work and had to undo the waste of all my slacks. I felt like i was nine months pregnant with twins. My nurse then advised me not to walk too fast or engage in any rigourous activities including sex and exercise.
One day following this, which was either the sixth or seventh day from the beginning of the injections I was told to come in early the morning as the procedure would be done. I was scared as well as anxious for his. Scared of the procedure But anxious to get these eggs out as they were causing alot of discomfort. The morning of the procedure we got there late. The anaestagiologist was almost ready to leave and postpone the event. Nonetheless, I got changed into thos hospital gowns, hair in a hat and laid on an operation table. I was then engaged in converstation by the anaestagiologist who tried to get my mind off what was happening. We were speaking of water as I was extremely thirsty. He then told me he'd inject some in an ivy tube and put in my arm because oral water is not allowed. Yes I actually fell for that one and next thing I knew I was in a recovery room!!! The all told me you did well the surgery was a success. By the way the eggs were surgically removed using a needle extracting them vaginally.
I was placed on a high sodium diet and was told that everything/my body would be back to normal in two weeks. Those two weeks were the worst feeling of nautiousness, vomitting, indigestion. I thought something had gone terribly wrong as I was not told to expect this. Exactly two weeks later I was requested back to the clinic for a post-operation check up. I was told that everything is back to its normal place and all that was required was rest. Indeed I felt wonderful after that two weeks. It took me approximately four to five weeks later to resume my period. Oh and I was compensated $8000!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Go Hawaiian

We picked a new donor. This one, I'm assured, won't back out.

Maybe there's something to the idea that things happen for a reason. This girl seems like someone I would really like -- like someone I'd be hanging out with if I was 20 years younger. She's a creative type. She wore Chuck Taylors with a formal dress. She looks more natural than made-up. And, she's part Hawaiian. Interesting, right?

Her fertility stats: Never been pregnant. Never had VD. Donated three times. The first time, there wasn't a pregnancy. But that was with a different fertility clinic. The next two times restulted in pregnancy -- both through my clinic. So that's a good sign.

We're going to even talk to her on the phone -- so we have a better sense of her dedication to the process. I'm starting to feel better about everything now.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New hope

I expect to see some new profiles tomorrow morning. Two sound promising. One has donated before and produced eggs for three families. One is new to the process, but has had a pregnancy so we know she's fertile. One's a blonde with brown eyes. One a brunette with green eyes.

It all still feels so futile and far away. The first two girls seemed like such good choices. They were experienced. They knew what they were getting into. They both were described as responsible and smart.

The challenge will be opening up the new profiles with a positive attitude. Because, right now, the idea of starting over and opening myself up to that heartache again just doesn't seem smart.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How quickly things change

So, I was just getting used to the new donor. I thought her lips were a little funny -- thin. I was hoping our baby (assuming we were successful) would get my husband's mouth. She seemed OK. But I didn't feel like she was someone I'd be naturally drawn to as a friend. She was a donor. That was it.

Well, she's not even that anymore.

She called our clinic yesterday and said she didn't want to donate again. She had gained some weight and didn't want to go on the fertility drugs right now.

So I'm back to square one.


And I'm frustrated.


And I'm questioning the wisdom of even continuing.


I also joined a discussion group about egg donation -- possibly a big mistake. I'm just a lurker. And I don't mean mistake in the way it sounds. But it's so hard to hear the reality of the process in motion. The ups and downs. The failed cycles. The desperate need to find answers to the question of why this might be happening.

It's easier to just hold on to the positive stories and think about how much better a 65 percent chance of success is compared to the 15 percent chance that IVF with my own eggs offered. It's easier to look at my (now former) donor's history and think, "she already helped create a half dozen kids out there. That's a good sign for me."

Instead, I'm reading the sad stories. And now I'm donorless.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oprah, the future and the past

It's clear to anyone who watches Oprah that she's not really a fan of assisted reproductive technologies. She recently had a show featuring Martha Stewart's daughter, who has been undergoing repeated IVF treatments without success. Last week, she had a show about sperm donors, who she kept referring to as "fathers."

Honestly, I wasn't nearly as offended by it as others on some of the discussion logs I've read. Let's face it, IF I get pregnant and IF I have a baby, we won't really know how that child will feel about being the biological product of a known father and some randam anonymous woman. Ideally, we will have a second child. And that child will feel as much a part of me as my first child feels. But I have to agree with Oprah: There will always be a curiosity about the woman who laid the egg. Heck, I'm curious about her. So it's only natural that her biological offspring would be curious. Then there's the whole question about half siblings. We know that there are at least 6 from this donor, I believe. Maybe more from frozen cycles.

This led me to make a phone call today to our attorney. I asked some big questions:

* Is there a way to work out some arrangement to make it known that I'd be willing/interested in meeting other families built by the same donor? I have this great image of some kind of fantastic summer picnic with all these half-siblings from different families. Crazy, I know.

* What about those half-siblings? Were they all born healthy? Have they ever developed any kind of terrible disease that could possibly be traced back to genes?

* Our donor has indicated that she'd be willing to eventually be contacted by the children she helped produce. Do we need to put anything in the contract to say we'd be happy to do that?

Well, ultimately, my lawyer said it is probably best to talk to the agency about the things regarding the families from the previous donations. She said the agency's contract with them is done, so anything would have to be arranged informally.

Some recipients put statements in their donor agreements regarding meeting the children in the future. Those are met with mixed reviews sometimes. Our donor said in her psychological evaluation that she'd be willing to meet the family in the future. So I figured that was good enough.

Until then, I'll just be dreaming of coming out on the positive end of that 65 percent chance of success.

And I'll be dreaming of that fantastic family picnic that would bring together five families built by the same generous woman.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

We're back on track!

After last week's developments, I wasn't really sure if we should even continue. Then we found a new donor. But she was scooped up by another couple before we got to her.

This week, the egg donation agency sent us a file on another former donor. This woman is a little older. She has donated four times -- all resulting in pregnancy. They say she's very reliable. She understands what she's doing. And she is doing it for both the money and the desire to help.

So we're going with her.

She's not the person we'd necessarily pick for ourselves. She doesn't have musical ability. She has different interests. But she has a clean health history. And she's a proven fertility machine.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chlamydia comes back to haunt me

It was the summer of 1986. I was selling 45s at my friend's band's record release party. I walked up to a guy I had heard about. A friend of a friend said he was someone I might want to meet. I asked if he wanted to buy a record. He replied with , "only if it comes with your number."
It turns out, he didn't need my number. We went to a party. Then another party. Then back to his apartment.
He was my attempt at a one-night stand. And he was only the second guy I ever slept with.
About four months later, I tested positive for chlamydia. He claimed it wasn't him.
I wasn't very good at the one-night thing. We developed a friendship and ended up getting together for 'dates' whenever I was home from college. We'd have long talks on the phone while I was away.
In the summer of 1988, the night of the first home game under the lights at Wrigley Field, we slept together again. And a few months later, I again tested positive for chlamydia.
Twice. From the same guy.
And I was supposed to be a smart, responsible girl.
So all I could do at first was laugh when I got the call Tuesday that my donor -- that sweet looking, hard-working, bright ambitious twentysomething I have become attached to -- has a boyfriend who tested positive for chlamydia.
It just seemed so ridiculous.
She seemed so responsible. The first couple she donated to left with 30 eggs and are pregnant with twins. She seemed like a great investment.
Damn that boy.
After my doctor's office talked to the CDC and consulted with other professionals and read up on STDs, they decided that we can't work with her anymore.
That puts up back at square one. And that's when I broke down and cried.
I'm mad/frustrated/depressed/confused/overwhelmed.
I'm also remarkably grateful to her for being so responsible to call the agency and tell them she was exposed to the STD.
She could have gone to get treated and moved forward as if nothing happened. That could have caused terrible complications for me and a potential baby.
Or she could have been tested, come up negative, then get a positive test on retreival day. That would have cost me a bundle of money.
As it is, I don't think it costs me anything if we just go with another donor (she hadn't met with the attorney yet and she hadn't had her first doctor's appointment).
If we drop out of the process all together, we get everything back except $500 for the egg donor agency and $700 for the lawyer. We'd get $11,600 back, I think.
This has made me realize how much we are depending on a young financially strapped stranger to be honest and responsible. And it's a litttle scary.
I have started rethinking the whole thing.
My husband says we should just move forward: plenty of people do it without any complications at all.
For now, I'm just reviewing the contract. And reading the stories on blogs.
But, I have to admit, I haven't found anything at all like this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Found this one on some site devoted to all things German. It's a look at an outdated overly restrictive German law on egg donation.,2144,2999675,00.html

Germany's Egg Donation Prohibition Is Outdated, Experts Say

The recent birth of a baby by a 64-year-old woman in Germany has sparked debate about the Embryo Protection Law, which prohibits egg donation. But with rising infertility rates, Germany may need to rethink its policies.
The 64-year-old German woman who recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl made headlines around the world. But her age did not set a precedent. Last year, a 67-year-old Spanish woman became the world's oldest mother when she gave birth to twins, topping the record from the previous year of a 66-year-old Romanian who also had twins.

The unnamed German became pregnant with the help of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), using an egg donated by a 25-year-old and the sperm of the German woman's husband. The treatment was conducted abroad, as donating eggs cells for pregnancies is illegal in Germany.

The prohibition of egg cell donation is part of Germany's "Embryo Protection Law," which was passed in 1990. Sperm donation, however, is permitted.

Mothers more important than fathers?

The reasoning behind the ban on egg donation was that both the genetic mother and the woman bearing the baby were presumed to be responsible for the child's existence, said Ulrich Hilland of the Berlin-based Federal Association of German Centers for Reproductive Medicine.

"The law could be interpreted in such a way that it is assumed that mothers have a stronger emotional connection to their children, due to pregnancy, than fathers," Hilland said.

The law aimed to prevent the separation between the genetic and the "social" mother -- the woman who would later raise the child. Surrogacy is therefore also prohibited in Germany.

Quality risks

Christina de Wit of the German National Ethics Council, in Berlin, pointed to another reason for banning the donation of egg cells.

"Harvesting eggs from a donor is an invasive operation requiring extensive hormonal stimulation beforehand, so that many eggs mature," she said. "That means that the whole process involves medical risks; that's not the case with sperm donors."

Some German politicians say the recent case demonstrates that egg donation prohibition in Germany should be lifted. Others point out that the prohibition prompts "reproduction tourism" by forcing women to go abroad to fulfill their wish for children.

"We see risks in quality-control here," Hilland said. "Women who go abroad cannot be assured that the testing and therefore the selection process among egg donor candidates have been sufficient."

Outdated law?

The current German law is one of the most restrictive in the world. It stipulates that only as many embryos may be cultivated as may actually be implanted (up to three per IVF cycle).

Embryos may also not be examined to determine sex before implantation, nor is pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), otherwise known as "embryo screening," allowed -- the latter ban a likely result of Germany trying to come to terms with its Nazi past.

Furthermore, the freezing (cryopreservation) of embryos for later implantation is restricted. Only eggs in the very early stages of fertilization -- the pre-nucleus stage -- may be frozen in certain cases.

The Embryo Protection Law itself was smart, because it defined the legal parameters of in-vitro fertilization and aimed to prevent the manipulation of human life very early, Hilland said.

De Wit agreed.

"The law was originally intended to protect life at its initial stages, but unfortunately, it is rather outdated," she said. "A nearly 20-year-old law no longer corresponds with the huge advancements made in science and reproductive medicine."

Financial problems

However, it's not just the Embryo Protection Law that is restrictive.

"Even if the law were changed to allow egg donation, only a fraction of women would take advantage of it," de Wit said.

An issue affecting many more women and couples wanting children is the drastic cutback in insurance companies paying for assisted reproduction technology (ART) treatments.

Formerly, Germany's public insurance companies -- or compulsory health insurance funds --covered the entire costs of up to four IVF and ISCI treatments and six intrauterine inseminations (IUI). In the wake of sweeping reforms, however, as of 2004 the funds only pay 50 percent of up to three IVF, ICSI or IUI cycles, and only for married couples when the woman is 40 or younger. Other age restrictions also apply. (ICSI, or "intracytoplasmic sperm injection," is a method involving the injection of sperm into an egg via an ultra-fine needle.)

Unmarried couples must cover all costs themselves. And they are heady.

A married couple's average share per cycle currently runs around 1,300 euros ($1,900). Thus, less affluent couples have been essentially barred from trying to get pregnant through ART.

Looking ahead

"We have a birth rate of 1.3 children per woman in Germany," Hilland said. "Children are desperately needed in this country, so any measure to improve the birth rate would be desirable."

German doctors say they now perform around 40 percent fewer ART treatments than before the reform, even though the success rate by IVF is around 25-35 percent for each try, meaning that several treatment cycles would likely see a couple's wish for children fulfilled.

The reforms were supposed to save the public health insurance funds up to 100 million euros yearly through sharing ART costs with couples. But according to Hilland, some 10,000 fewer "ART" children have been born each year since the reforms.

Considering that one in seven couples suffer from infertility and that Germany's population is aging dramatically, that number is nothing to sneeze at.

Louisa Schaefer

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The voice of evil

As a journalist, I truly believe that the best way to protect our freedom is to let everyone on every side have a chance to speak out.

For those wondering what a Watergate ex-con says about building families, you can turn to the "Christian Post."

Nixon's hatchet man, Chuck Colson, tells us that assisted reproduction creates families with five parents, designer babies and murdering mothers.

What would you expect from a guy whose Wiki entry calls him the evil genius behind an evil administration.

You Can't Fool Mother Nature
Sat, Jan. 12, 2008 Posted: 10:14:46 AM EST
Note: The following commentary contains sensitive information that may not be suitable for children.If you haven’t thought much lately about just how rapidly the very nature of the family is changing, consider this: It is now possible for a child to have five parents. That includes egg donor, sperm donor, surrogate mother, and the mother and father who raise him. It is not only possible, but for some children, it is a fact of life.Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy explains this and much more in her book Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Men, Women, and the World. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, especially for would-be parents who may face difficult decisions about childbearing in the near future. Mundy is not writing from a Christian viewpoint or even from a pro-life viewpoint, but she covers the murky field of reproductive technology, and its effects on families, thoroughly and unflinchingly. And she takes seriously the ethical dilemmas that arise in a largely unregulated field where technology is changing rapidly—while most of those involved are still trying to figure out the moral implications.Unlike the well-worn abortion debate, Mundy points out, she is describing a situation where parents desperately want children—and yet the very depth of that longing, when combined with the latest scientific advancements, can, as I have mentioned before on “BreakPoint,” turn children into commodities. The situations Mundy describes are startling. She writes about children who think of an unseen sperm donor as “Daddy” and long to find out if they look like him. She describes women who want children so badly that they will let an unscrupulous doctor transfer an excessive number of embryos to their wombs. And she witnesses “selective reduction” procedures where those mothers watch on a screen as one or two of their multiple fetuses are killed before their very eyes.While sympathetic to the people she talks with, Mundy cannot help but notice the inherent problems. She acknowledges the irony of parents trying to select egg donors and sperm donors with the best looks and the highest intelligence—qualities they want passed down to their children—for the express purpose of building a family not based on genetic relationships. “Every day,” she writes, “families are formed by parents trying to hold in their head the competing notions that genes, while important, aren’t” important.Mundy also sees how the emphasis on parents’ rights can wreak havoc on the lives of children—to the point where she even hears some members of Planned Parenthood, of all people, uneasily wondering if they ought to start focusing more on children’s rights. The biggest irony of all, of course, is that a biblical worldview teaches us that there is no escaping the Creator’s design for our lives and our families. Even those families doing their best to be different—homosexual couples, mothers who deliberately decide to exclude fathers, or couples trying to create “designer babies”—often end up trying to create a family as “traditional” and normal as possible. Make no mistake: The desire for giving life is stamped on our souls by the Giver of life Himself—in whose image we are made. But as the book Everything Conceivable makes clear, when we try to remake things in our own image and on our own terms, we do a tragically poor job of it, no matter how sophisticated the technology. _________________________________________________From BreakPoint®, January 8, 2008, Copyright 2008, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship
Chuck Colson Christian Post Guest Columnist

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Idle time

We're all set. The checks have been chashed. The papers have been signed. We're just waiting to match up my cycle with my donor's cycle so we can get on with the procedures (More on procedures later. I'll post a Chicago Sun-Times story that does a good job of explaining it in a simple way. Also, thers was a recent Chicago Tribune story. Not sure why both Chicago papers discovered egg donation in the same week).

This waiting period is the perfect time to start the wild speculations.

When I was pregnant, I started out normal. No overwhelming anxiety that the baby would be born with some fatal defect. No fear that my child would have a mental impairment or physical disability. Well, that was the case until about the 7th month. Until then, I was just sure I was having a healthy little girl. All of the sudden, I had a "Crying Game" transition and became convinced that my child would be born with both sex organs. No reason to believe that. I knew the chance of that happening was something like one in 16 million. But that's all I could think of until the moment she was born.

Must have been the hormones.

This time, my unreasonable fears are starting already -- weeks before we even start the hormone injections.

There are reasonable fears going into this process. And I think I've addressed those.
What if my donor backs out? (She's donated before, so she already knows what's involved. She clearly wants to do this again.)
What if my donor lied about her health history on her paperwork? (She acknowledged that her father has Crohn's disease. She was reviewed by our doctor. And, let's face it, mine isn't all that impressive.)

You get the idea.

Then there are the crazy ones:

My donor gave eggs to a couple in August. They're pregnant with twins. That means my kid(s) will automatically have two biological half-siblings they most likely will never meet. Will they grow up and want to hunt down those lost family members?

What if those babies are born with some kind of terrible medical thing? Will the docs want my baby to give them a kidney or something?

What if they screw something up in the lab and don't use my husband's sperm? Then the baby will not have a bilogical tie to either of us (though, with our medical history, that might be a good thing).

Again, you get the idea. These worries are all the result of having too much time between the day we picked the donor and the time we start the process.

Here's that story from the Chicago Sun-Times:

In vitro fertilization: Egg donor gives 'ultimate gift'

Chicago woman finds donating her eggs not only helps others, but it pays well, too
January 15, 2008
After watching friends go through the agony of infertility, the young woman decided she would try to help other couples have babies.
So she became an egg donor.
The 28-year-old woman, named Heather, was surprised to learn that donating eggs isn't just an altruistic act. Donors also receive substantial fees. The going rate in Chicago: $7,000.
Heather, who asked that her last name not be used, has earned $14,000 for donating eggs to two couples. The payments allowed her to pay bills and increase her savings. But while the money is welcome, Heather said she did it mainly to help.
"It's the ultimate gift," she said.
The use of donated eggs is becoming increasingly popular. The number of in vitro fertilization attempts that involved either donated eggs or donated embryos increased from about 5,000 attempts in 1995 to more than 16,000 attempts in 2005, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The major reason a woman's fertility plummets after age 35 is the diminishing quality of her eggs. Using donated eggs from younger women can greatly increase the odds an older woman can still have a baby.
About 12 percent of in vitro fertilization attempts in 2005 involved donated eggs.
"It's a more popular approach than it used to be," said Dr. Angie Beltsos of Fertility Centers of Illinois.
Paid by insurance
Heather is an unmarried fitness trainer who lives in the south suburbs. Internet research led her to Chicago-based Alternative Reproductive Resources. ARR recruits donors and supplies couples with eggs. ARR charges about $12,000, with $7,000 going to the donor.
By comparison, donors generally receive up to $10,000 on the East and West coasts, but only $3,000 to $5,000 in the South, said ARR president Robin von Halle.
The in vitro fertilization procedure costs an additional $10,000 to $15,000. IVF is especially popular in Illinois because a state law requires many insurance plans to pay for it.
Through attorneys, Heather has signed contracts with the couples, whom she hasn't met. Each couple agreed to pay the $7,000 fee and never seek child support from Heather.
Heather, in turn, gave up all rights to any child born from her eggs. She will not know the identity of any such child, and vice versa.
Heather underwent a battery of physical, psychological and genetic tests. She gave an extensive family medical history and provided pictures of herself from infancy to the present.
She used birth control pills to synchronize her cycle with the prospective mother's. To increase her egg production, she injected herself with fertility drugs two or three times a day for a week.
A doctor used a needle to remove eggs from Heather's ovaries. The eggs were fertilized in a dish with the prospective father's sperm, and one or more of the resulting embryos were implanted in the mother.
A risk: Torn ovaries
Donating eggs is far more difficult and risky than donating sperm. Egg donors face such risks as bloating, shortness of breath, blood clots and torn ovaries.
Heather said she experienced sharp mood swings and temporarily gained 20 pounds.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said paying egg donors is an ethical way to "acknowledge the time, inconvenience and discomfort." Also, allowing payments increases the supply of eggs, enabling more infertile couples to have babies.
But the society's ethics committee also acknowledged there's a risk such payments could devalue human life by treating eggs as mere property.
The higher the price, the more incentive a donor has to disregard risks to herself and to conceal negative information, the ethics committee said. And if the price gets too high, only rich couples would be able to afford donor eggs.
The committee said payments greater than $5,000 "require justification," and amounts over $10,000 "are not appropriate."
Heather donated 10 eggs to one couple last July and nine or 10 eggs to a second couple last November.
If all went well, both couples would now be expecting children.
"If I can give that gift to have a family, it would make me feel wonderful," Heather said.
Heather is uncertain whether she will ever want to have a child of her own.
"There are a million reasons to say yes," she said, "and a million reasons to not have a child."

The baby-making market
Beware when shopping for egg, sperm donors
By Leslie Mann
Special to the Tribune
January 13, 2008

Thanks to his low sperm count, Chicago resident Jason and wife Megan (not their real names) were unable to conceive. They considered adoption, but Megan wanted to carry their child. So they used donor sperm.The result: a bouncing baby boy, born in early October. So pleased are the couple, they purchased additional vials of the donor's sperm for future pregnancies.Megan and Jason are among a growing number of people who are choosing donor sperm or eggs to conceive, doctors say, though exact numbers are hard to come by. The number of donated eggs transferred to patients rises yearly, up to the most recent 13,327 in 2005, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). No group tracks sperm-donation numbers, but those in the industry say, anecdotally, that they also rise yearly.Before people consider this route to conception, though, doctors recommend these steps:* Learn the lingo. If you don't know ART (assisted reproductive technology) from IVF (in-vitro fertilization), learn the industry's acronym-laden language. Fertility Centers of Illinois (, 877-324-4483) publishes a handy glossary.* Count your pennies. One reason Illinoisans have more than their share of donor births is because our state law requires insurance policies that cover more than 25 people to cover infertility treatment. If you have your own health insurance, though, you may have to foot the bill yourself. That can cost $10,000 to $25,000.* Make sure this is right for you. "This is a forever decision. You are not bringing home a puppy," said Pam Madsen, director of the American Fertility Association. "Be sure that you want to do this, as opposed to surrogacy or adoption. If you aren't sure, you aren't ready."Contrary to myth, Madsen added, choosing half of your child's genes through an egg agency or sperm bank doesn't guarantee a perfect baby.* Determine whether you want your donor to be open or anonymous. And decide if you plan to tell your child of his origins."We chose a donor through an open program because it gave us lots of information about him," explained Megan, whose clinic was Advanced Reproductive Health Centers in Orland Park. "In addition to seeing pictures of him and reading his biography, we have his and his family's full medical history."As part of the openness trend, Megan said, they "will give the child the choice of learning about the donor if he wants to when he's older." With mutual consent, this can lead to a meeting.Alyssa (not her real name) of Chicago, on the other hand, knows the basics about the egg donor -- a medical student, 25, healthy -- who gave her twins but chose an anonymous agreement. She does not know the donor's name or whereabouts and does not plan to tell her twins that they were conceived with donor eggs.In his book "Genius Factory," David Plotz traces the history of the industry, the trend toward openness and adverse effects of secrecy."At first, no one told," Plotz said. "But the kids found out and resented their parents. So increasingly, couples now tell, in part because they know it is healthier and in part because there is less stigma. Also, there are more lesbians and single women using donors, and they have no fathers to protect."Donor recipients can learn from the adoption community, said Marie Davidson, staff psychologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois."There is a plethora of information from adoption studies that supports disclosure," Davidson said. "Some plan to keep it a secret, but there's always a friend or relative who slips. There are great children's books and other resources to help parents tell their children, starting at an early age, so they don't drop a bombshell later."* Research the donor sources and their claims. Sperm banks have been around longer then egg-donor agencies, so they are easier to investigate. The banks tell you, through their Web sites and brochures, everything from the donors' physical characteristics to their medical histories. A catalog from California Cryobank, for example, says donor No. 5741 is a psychologist with brown hair, blue eyes and O-positive blood. He is 6 feet 1, 210 pounds, of Irish/German heritage, and his sperm scored at least one pregnancy so far.An egg-donor agency, on the other hand, doesn't keep frozen inventories and catalogs. Rather, it matches you with the egg donor. Then the donor proceeds with the medical steps necessary to harvest her eggs.Donor sources are not licensed in Illinois, so to check their credentials, make sure the egg-donor agency follows the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) guidelines or the sperm bank is accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks.Both sperm and egg donor sources' claims, though, are tough to verify. In fact, organizations such as the Donor Sibling Registry refute many of their claims in their chat rooms."Even if the donor source is reputable, the information it gives you is a snapshot in time of the donor, who may be 18," warned Wendy Kramer, co-founder of the registry. "You don't know that he may have cancer at age 25 or a heart attack at age 30."* Interview doctors. Donor conception is fraught with emotional and psychological issues, so find a reproductive endocrinologist who has empathy and a string of credentials.Ask how long the doctor she has been doing this. What are her success rates? Will she recommend donor sources, or should you do your own search? Does your opinion jibe with her and her opinion about openness/secrecy? Does her staff include a psychologist (a trend), or does she outsource this service?* Find a lawyer. Call the area bar association for a lawyer who specializes in reproductive law. For a known donor, the lawyer will draft a contract between you, your spouse, the donor, the donor's spouse and the fertility clinic. If you work with a donor bank or agency, you will sign a contract with it.- - -Resources for parentsFor more information about egg or sperm donors or other infertility issues, contact:Resolve,, 703-556-7172International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination,, 703-379-9178American Fertility Association,, 888-917-3777Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology,, 205-978-5000American Society for Reproductive Medicine,, 205-978-5000Donor Sibling Registry, donorsiblingregistry .comDonor Conception Network,, 011-44-0208-245-4369Egg-donor agencies include:ConceiveAbilities, http://www.conceiveabilities/ .com, 773-868-3971The Center for Egg Options,, 310-726-9600Alternative Reproductive Resources,, 773-327-7315Center for Egg Options,, 847-656-8733Sperm banks include:California Cryobank,, 800-977-3761Fairfax Cryobank,, 800-338-8407Xytex Corp.,, 706-733-0130