Plan C: How I Chose My Egg Donor

posted by Brigitte Adams February 4, 2018

Plan C Here I Come

March 8th, 2017 will be a day forever seared in my memory — the day I found out that the only embryo from my frozen eggs resulted in a chemical pregnancy.  The rest of the month was a blur.  I vacillated between depression, anger, pity, fear and back.  I thought of all the things I would have, could have, should have done differently: frozen 2 or 3 rounds of eggs, fertilized at least 1 of those rounds, decided to become a single mother earlier, not banked all hope of my future motherhood on my 11 frozen eggs.  Looking back is a dangerous game — one that sucks you it and fucks with your head.  When my head cleared a bit I realized that I still did want to become a mother and was finally ready for Plan C – finding an egg donor.

The game of fertility is one you never master, because the next step is the one you never anticipated or prepared for confronting. 

The Fertility Fellowship

I knew nothing about egg donation. After spending a few days aimlessly Google searching “egg donor,” “embryo donation,” “best egg donor clinics,” “egg donor success rates,” “egg donor criteria,” I froze.  Didn’t I do this same exercise with egg freezing seven years ago?  Then with frozen embryo transfers?  And, finally “chemical pregnancy?”  Dr. Google was not the answer.  I needed to talk to someone — someone who actually had used an egg donor. 

My fertility north star, Carolyn, put me in touch with Marna Gatlin (who founded the site Parents Via Egg Donation).  She not only responded right away, but also picked up the phone and called me.  Just when you think that you are the only one who went through “x and y,” you meet someone who went through the exact same thing “and z” too.  The fertility fellowship never seizes to amaze me. 

My questions for Marna ranged the gamut from:

  • Should I use a frozen egg bank? 
    • No!
  • Should I try to “adopt an embryo?” 
    • Not easy & most organizations exclude single moms
  • Should I ask a friend who has extra embryo on ice? 
    • Tricky question, but why not
  • Should I use an egg donor agency? 
    • Very expensive and donors are not as closely monitored as in-house egg donation clinics
  • What clinic should I go to? 
    • Oregon Reproductive
  • Are their success rates good? 
    • Stellar
  • What do I look for in an egg donor?
    • Go for someone who has done it before with good results
  • Should I choose an anonymous or open donor?
    • Up to you

At that point, I had been leaning towards a fertility clinic with an in-house donor base in California.  Then I compared that clinic’s results to Oregon Reproductive Medicine (ORM) and noticed a distinct downward trend.  In 2010, the California clinic’s egg donor live birth rate was 53% and four years later it had plummeted over 20% to 32.6%.  What happened between 2010 and 2014?  Why did the clinic not post 2011 data (when downturned commenced)? Did the lab change hands?  Had they hired new Doctors?  

Nancy ‘Fertility’ Drew

I turned full on Nancy Drew and for two days buried myself in SART, CDC and Fertility Success rates data.  I made dozens of spreadsheets, I created trend analysis, I did my homework.  The next time I tried to get pregnant would be a numbers game.  I was not going to let the clinic, Doctor, location, Nurses influence me — data was going to make my decision for me.  And, yes, my friends, there is data.  You just need to know where to look for it and how to decipher it. (upcoming blog, I promise)

I chose Dr. Hesla at ORM (Carolyn’s Doctor who has successfully helped her have 3 frozen egg babies).  He was night and day from my first fertility Doctor seven years prior — helpful, kind, and straightforward. And, the clinic actually picked up the phone when I called.  No more cable company wait times here!  Once my registration was processed, I was given access to their in-house donor database. This is where I lost it.

I remember feeling a bit like a  ‘kid in a candy store’ scrolling through sperm bank profiles.  Now, however, the pictures were women who were NOT me. 

How could I choose the right woman?  Should she look like me? Had she donated before?  Did she sound smart? Should she be blonde or brunette? Brown eyed or green?  Why couldn’t she just be ME?

Choosing Egg Donor #1

I closed my laptop and took a few deep, deep breathes.  This was Plan C  — not the plan I chose, but the place I was and I needed to continue to move forward.  I quickly scribbled a list of egg donor must have’s and have nots:

I though she would call out to me like the sperm donor’s picture did, but I spent hours shuffling through the database.  No one screamed out to me, “I’m her stop looking pick me.”  I finally narrowed it down to three women who ticked my have and have not criteria.  Then I chose one of these women.  I liked her face – it was kind and open.  Done. Donor picked next step.

Again, if only the world of fertility was a linear path.  I waited for the donor to start her stimulation cycle to no avail. She had a cyst which needed to clear.  Not a big deal… what’s one more month.  Four weeks later, however, not only did the cyst need to be aspirated, but she had failed her blood test (most likely due to a STD).  I called my nurse at ORM to calm myself down.  Yes, she confirmed I was having shitty donor luck. 

Then…Choosing Egg Donor #2

Then the funny thing happened, I went back to the donor database and there was a new donor available.  Without looking at her profile, I had a very good feeling about her.  I knew she was the one.  In fact, as I read her profile, I realized that she was a better match than Donor #1.  I frantically called ORM to confirm her availability.  She was the one — we have the same eyes.

So, the wait began again.  I have never anticipated another woman’s period before… one week, two weeks, three, four and the moment of truth.  No such luck!  Her blood work was elevated.  Donor #2 would have to wait another month.  At that point, I was four months behind my “plan” which I never should have “planned” in the first place.  Patience, is a virtue I do not possess.

So, the wait began again.  One week, two weeks, three, four and jackpot all systems a-go!  For the sake of time, I started my cycle simultaneously with my donor.  Oh, beloved Lupron I remember you!  Coffee restriction (1 good cup a day).  Weekly acupuncture to improve blood flow and grow a nice and thick endometrial lining.  We were cycling together.  She was producing eggs that would hopefully develop into healthy embryos and successfully implant in my uterus.  Things were looking good.  FINALLY!  Plan C was moving forward.

Donor Egg Math: 24 year old vs. 39 year old eggs

In late August, my donor harvested 19 eggs.  She was 24 and I was 39.  I think the following is a clear indication of age’s impact on egg health:

              *best explainer site I have found for embryo grading     

But, it’s not just age.  Not all 24 year old eggs are alike, just as not all 39 year old eggs are  alike.  For a comprehensive picture of your fertility you need to take  an integrated approach: AMH and FSH Day 3 levels, as well as your antral follicle count.   

On September 18, 2017, I had one beautiful Day 5AA XX (girl) embryo implanted.  You might already know the end of this story, but stay tuned next week for my first pregnancy test results…sorry to keep you hangin’.

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