Jennifer never wanted to have kids…until she did.
She explains that for as long as she can remember, she had no interest in marriage, babies, or motherhood. When she “played house” as a little girl, she always chose the role as “the daddy who goes off to work.” “I never even held a newborn before,” she laughs.
But when she turned 30, something inside her changed. She informed her boyfriend (now husband) who she had been dating since they were teenagers, that she was now interested in marriage after all. And shortly after that, she also let him know that something had shifted. She did, in fact, want kids. So, they sold their condo in the city, bought a house in the suburbs, and tried to fill their spare (nursery-to-be) room with a baby — to no avail.
From Infertility to Pregnancy and Back Again
Jennifer, a self-professed “type A” personality had been meticulously tracking and realized that things were not happening as they should. She also just had a “gut feeling” that things weren’t right. She confesses, “I thought maybe the universe was punishing me for not wanting children, but then changing my mind.” So, being the “take charge” type of person she is, after six months without success, she contacted her doctor and told him she had been trying for a year. By the time they were ready to take action, it had in fact, been a year. She was prescribed Clomid and Letrozole — medications designed to enhance her egg development and ovulation. Her doctor told her he was confident that she would be pregnant in a couple of months. She wasn’t. Her husband’s sperm count and motility were fine and Jennifer was only 31, with no apparent issues. As it turned out, she had a diminished ovarian reserve. Although she was happy to have the information, she didn’t feel very good about being the one “at fault.”
So, Jennifer and her husband made the decision to advance to IVF. They lucked out by gaining a spot in a clinical trial (being conducted by a local fertility clinic) after another couple had dropped out. And despite her diminished reserve, Jennifer produced a large batch of eggs. The quality, however, was obviously lacking. They underwent two cycles that both resulted in a chemical pregnancy — so no baby. From there, Jennifer “cried it out on a beach in Bermuda,” then flew home and tried to determine what was next. “I mean, IVF sort of felt like the end of the road,” she explains. So, she researched adoption and donor eggs, finally (after three years of standing empty) turned the intended nursery into a guest room, and then… discovered she was pregnant naturally.
That pregnancy resulted in the birth of her oldest son (age 6) — and the declaration of “Yay! You can have more babies. You’re cured!” from all her friends and family. Jennifer knew she was not. So, when she and her husband were ready to add to their family, she tried a medicated IUI and one more round of IVF using her own eggs — and her own money. And then Jennifer decided to move forward with frozen donor eggs. She was especially encouraged by Donor Egg Bank USA’s Assured Refund Plan® option. The plan includes up to six cycles (eggs and treatment) and a live birth guarantee: bring home a baby or receive a 100% refund. Jennifer explains the plan’s appeal over choosing another round of IVF using her own eggs, “I decided I wasn’t going to spend one more dime without a guarantee.” She also wanted her children to be close in age, knew her own age was advancing, and just didn’t see her odds getting any better if she chose to use her own eggs.
After one unsuccessful attempt with frozen donor eggs, Jennifer was able to try again. This time she chose a favorite donor who was so similar in every way that Jennifer says, “they could be mistaken for sisters.” This cycle resulted in the birth of her second son (age 3), and several viable embryos that were cryopreserved. “Four embryos out of five fertilized eggs. I felt pretty good about that,” notes Jennifer. “That’s a pretty darn good stat.” And then, the mother of two, who once thought she never wanted to be a mom at all, chose to use the “best” cryopreserved embryo to conceive her third son, who just turned one.
While Jennifer's infertility journey has been uniquely her own, she shares many of the same feelings and experiences of others who are struggling with similar challenges. “I felt very isolated,” she recalls. “I never even knew anyone who had gone through IVF. Until we started, I didn’t really even know how it worked. And moving to donor egg IVF felt even more foreign, especially since I was in my early to mid 30s.” While she was grateful for her incredibly supportive friends and family, she craved being able to connect with someone who truly understood what she was going through. She found that connection, and a small community of other parents-to-be who were undergoing similar experiences at the same time, online at Babycenter.com. These small communities created lasting friendships Jennifer still enjoys today.
Once Jennifer decided to use donor eggs, she (like many) questioned if these donor egg- conceived children would “feel like her own.” She was surprised to discover how excluded she felt from the process while the eggs were being thawed and fertilized. Her husband was there, but she was not needed until it was time for implantation. To make matters worse, people would sometimes ask her questions such as, “Is your baby going to know their real mom?” Fortunately, those thoughts eventually became a non-issue. “Once I was pregnant, and even now,” comments Jennifer, “I completely forgot they’re donor conceived — for days and weeks at a time.” Having conceived her first son without any assistance, Jennifer explains, “I’ve had both experiences. There’s no difference.”
Telling Their Story
Jennifer likes the fact that her family has several layers of connections. Her oldest shares 100% of his DNA with Jennifer and her husband, her two youngest are created from the same donor’s eggs and her husband’s sperm, and all three of her children share a bond that only brothers can understand. And she and her husband are very open regarding each son’s history. Jennifer has been careful to introduce the idea of having used an egg donor carefully, with lots of smaller conversations, instead of just one abrupt announcement. “People just want to know where they came from,” she says. The boys, all still very young, are somewhat interested, sometimes asking about the “special lady” who gave them eggs. Jennifer lets them know while she doesn’t know her name, she does have her picture, and they can see it if they’re interested. But understandably, things are still a little unclear for them. Jennifer remarks, “It all just makes their stories more complicated. While I do wish they were simpler, I wouldn’t change it. Because that would mean I wouldn’t have them. They wouldn’t be who they are.”
Take It From Someone Who Knows
Having undergone years of infertility, frustration, and doubt, Jennifer feels she’s gained some perspective and is eager to share what she’s learned. She knows intimately how easy it can be to worry: about getting pregnant, about staying pregnant, about the outcome of that pregnancy, and more. Having experienced multiple miscarriages on her way to parenthood, she understands just how heartbreaking it can be to celebrate that positive sign on a pregnancy test, only to have your hopes dashed days, or sometimes weeks, later. And yet, her advice: don’t worry. “You’re doing it to protect yourself, but it doesn’t protect you,” she says. “I worried through all my successful and unsuccessful pregnancies. And it didn’t change the outcome one bit. It just took away some of the joy.”
And when it comes to considering using donor eggs, Jennifer recommends not waiting around. She understands that it’s hard to give up the hope of getting pregnant using your own eggs. But she cautions people about letting that stand in their way. “Once you’re about 80% sure you are ready for donor eggs, that is the threshold, the time to move forward. Because I don’t think anyone ever gets to 100% certainty … until they become pregnant using a donor egg, that is.”
And after enduring years of a variety of fertility procedures to become the mother of three very wanted, happy, healthy little boys, it’s safe to say that Jennifer knows what’s she talking about.