Guest post: "Secondary infertility brought us heartache and loss - egg donation is bringing us hope"
Victoria Welton has chosen to use an overseas egg donor after years of feeling guilty about her unexplained infertility
Posted on: Fri 05-Feb-16 10:43:34
(69 comments )
'But it's OK though, isn't it? Because you already have one.'
This has to be one of the most soul-destroying sentences I have heard since Ross and I started trying for a baby. My second child and his first. My body worked first time, so why not again?
The guilt I feel over having a baby with the wrong man, but not being able to have one with the right man, is immense. Yes, I have my nine-year-old daughter, but while my body tells me it is done with having babies, my heart and soul are crying out for more.
I had Grace when I was almost 37. It was having her that made me see that the relationship I was in was abusive, so I left when she was three months old. By the time I was almost 40, I had accepted that I might never have another child. Then Ross came along and everything changed.
We have been together for almost five years and for over two-and-a-half of those we have been trying for a baby. I first fell pregnant after just three months - but I miscarried after six weeks. I got pregnant again over a year later, but this time it was a self-aborting ectopic pregnancy. The amount of pressure that each month now puts on our sex life has become a big strain on our relationship. We keep saying that we can't wait until we get 'back to normal'.
We have been trying to establish what is wrong but, because this is secondary infertility, we are struggling to be taken seriously. I have had a great deal of difficulty with GPs and hospitals. We are not allowed IVF on the NHS because I already have Grace and because I am over 40. It doesn't seem to matter that Ross is seven years younger than me and has no biological child of his own.
Despite the hurdles, we didn't give up. Our GP finally agreed to send Ross for a semenology test - which came back normal. I went to see a specialist, and after a number of questions, without any physical tests, I was advised that I had unexplained infertility - and that the endometriosis and balanced translocation of my chromosomes were a contributing factor.
I started this process feeling worried about being a failure, and scared of the medical procedure. Now, I'm full of feelings of excitement and anticipation.
A balanced translocaton is where a part of one of your chromosomes has swapped places with part of another, which means they compensate each other and cancel out any abnormalities. If you get pregnant, then your baby could contract just one of your abnormal chromosomes resulting in disability or miscarriage.
At my request, I was then sent for an Anti-Mullerian hormone blood test thought to reflect the size of a woman's remaining egg supply - or 'ovarian reserve'. A healthy woman has a count of 15 to 30. Mine was less than five - giving us a 20% chance of IVF being successful.
Faced with this knowledge, we investigated the possibility of an egg donor last summer. We found out that it was a legal requirement in the UK that the donor was declared - but in many other countries, they have to remain anonymous.
We learnt that a woman of a younger child-bearing age, who has gone through a multitude of tests and screening processes, is matched to you, your characteristics and your interests. They then match up your menstrual cycle, either naturally or via the contraceptive pill. Most clinics then guarantee you a minimum of 10 eggs ready for fertilisation. We attended the Fertility Show and kept on researching, and then found a clinic in Cyprus we really liked.
I had been struggling with the fact that the baby would not be genetically mine. However, the research I have read on epigenetics has given me so much comfort. Even though a donor egg baby receives genes from the donor, the instructions on how they are expressed is from the woman who carries the baby to term.
We have now completed our paperwork and have chosen a donor. The next stage is to start medication at the beginning of my next cycle – which involves at least one injection a day for 12 weeks. Ross and I will then travel to Cyprus and stay there for eight days. Ross will provide a sample to use for fertilisation, and after five days two embryos will then be transplanted into me. I've been keeping a vlog diary on my YouTube channel of our journey so far, and sharing this on my blog every weekend.
Even though we are having to go through so much and pay in so many ways for this baby - including costs in the region of £7,000 - it all somehow feels right now. I started this process feeling worried about being a failure, and scared of the medical procedure. Now, I'm full of feelings of excitement and anticipation. When I woke up on New Year's Day, I said to Ross 'This is the year we are going to meet our baby'. I am still worried about all the medication and scared of what is to come, including the heartache of it not working, but the want for our newborn far outweighs this.
By Victoria Welton
Good luck on this amazing ride! Look forward to following your vlog diary. Hugs xx
It took me 3yrs to conceive my second still early days and hoping all goes well as it could be my last chance, especially if it takes 3yrs every time. I think your partner should be afforded the right for a child on the NHS regardless of how many children you have.
I wish you all the best in your treatment... however I did have a question and hope you won't mind me asking...
There is a link in your post to information from the HFEA which states Anonymity has been removed because it has been recognised by law that many donor-conceived people have a desire and interest in finding out about where they came from
I therefore wondered why you and your partner decided to use an anonymous donor in Cyprus over an identifiable one from a UK clinic? I presume you will be planning on telling your child they are donor conceived as you are obviously very open and honest about your fertility journey on your blog and vlog... and I wondered how it might be for you if your child asks for the identifying information of their donor in the future?
I am truly not being judgemental or critical about the choice you have made but rather curious about your reasons behind it.
Again I wish you all the best and hope you will soon have your longed for baby.
I have to admit, I briefly toyed with the idea of travelling abroad for treatment, not because I wished the donor to stay anonymous but for reasons pertaining to cost.
I decided against it in the end, but there is (I think) a waiting list for egg donors in this country.
What an honest, positive post. I'm sorry that you have had so many trials in the past and share your hope that this will be the year you hold your little girl's baby brother or sister in your arms.
We were blessed with one child naturally but I know just what it's like to feel incomplete and long for the heightened sense of family that two children would bring. When we realised I wouldn't be able to have any more and wouldn't even be able to go through egg retrieval, we looked seriously at all the options.
IVF in Britain is very, very expensive; double the cost of the same treatment in a first-class clinic outside the UK. There's an option to share eggs with another couple in the UK and have the treatment for
a little less but what if we got a baby and the couple sharing eggs remained childless? I know it doesn't make much sense since some couples are waiting hopefully for someone to come along who needs their eggs and is prepared to pay towards the treatment fees in return - but it wasn't for us. We knew we wouldn't be able to look at our child without imagining how much his/her biological parent must yearn to see them.
So because we went overseas, we would have had to pay around £5000 for a known egg donor, and another £2000 to have those eggs transported anywhere. Someone asked about donor children possessing information about their genetic parents and I have to say I'm torn. Our child knows the lady who carried him and we find that delightful, but we had the opportunity to get to know her and choose each other. What if we had been allocated a UK egg donor who my child demanded to know and it turned out that this person was not a safe, life-giving person to be around. We didn't know what we were opening the door to. Or if my child felt almost obliged to go looking for genetic parents, just because the option was there and he felt he ought to? In the end, we were happy to go along with the clinic's matching process - and accept we'll know her name or address, or even what she looks like.
In this entire post you failed to mention the ethical or more than often unethical implications of going to a poor country and purchasing a poor womans eggs.
Lots of women donate eggs for reasons other than money. There is nothing to suggest that she is exploiting a poor person.
Who went to a poor country,*theX*? We certainly didn't.
Why do you think that egg donation is more popular in countries like the Ukraine, Spain and Cyprus? Is that they are just more altruistic or that massive youth unemployment and poverty reduce the choices women have.
From a fellow recipient of donor eggs abroad, the best of luck to you!
We tried to find a donor in this country, but were advised that the waiting lists were very long, and being in my mid forties I did not have the 'luxury' of time. One consultant we saw at a London hospital said that the numbers of women coming forward to donate eggs had dropped dramatically since the removal of anonymity.
There is nothing wrong with selling your eggs, to make money, if that is what the donor wants to do.
If you have been in that position X and have decided not to get donor eggs from abroad, that is your prerogative. I would find it hard to tell someone, desperate to have a baby, to just live with infertility on account of a woman in Cyprus possibly making an economic decision to sell her eggs.
Wow so you feel comfortable with a woman being so desperate for money she needs to pump herself full of drugs be sedated and have a massive needle extract her eggs.
The problem there is that she is desperate for money.
Also there is a reason you can't sell you eggs in the UK and only be compensated for your expenses because the UK recognises that when you commidify human beings its immoral and exploitative.
Yes and that there are women in the UK ready to exploit her desperation.
X - How do you know the donor is desperate for money?
Well there is a wealth of information regarding exploitation within egg donation and commercial surrogacy if you have a look for yourself this article provide a good intro.
So, just because exploitation exists, does that mean that all clinics in all countries are exploiting women??
It's not true that there is a huge waiting list for donor eggs in the UK. It might be the case for some clinics, but certainly not all.
A highly reputable clinic near me has no waiting list, and the eggs are sourced from their own list of UK patients.
It helps no-one to perpetuate the myth that donor eggs are hard to come by in the UK. I suspect some clinics who have this problem say it's nationwide, whereas it really reflects their own low signup rate for egg sharing programmes.
I don't think you understand the process very well. Here, in the UK, you can have your own IVF paid for if you give up some of your own eggs. If that's no exploitative, I don't know what is.
You conveniently ignored that the fact that many countries where donor eggs can be purchased are not, in fact, 'poor'.
The Guardian, much as I love it, does not have a terribly balanced view of this issue.
That's a really weird argument to take, a widespread audit of donor egg clinics is unlikely to ever happen because the wellbeing of poor women and their exploitation is not a concern to authorities. It's unlikely that we will ever interview every prostitute in the world but we can say based of studies and interviews that women on the whole do not enter prostitution by choice but are forced to by poverty, drug addiction, poor mental health etc
However, journalist and academics have spotted a significant trend of mal practice and exploitation of your poor marginalized women who a farmed for their eggs in poor countries.