I wish the story of growing my family were as short and sweet as the baby board books lined up in my daughter's room. But how we got to where we are was truly an Odyssean novel. So I have not one, but a collection of stories of how I chose my donor.
Everyone probably has a different list of traits, features, or characteristics they most prefer. In making this very important choice of whose eggs to use for our future child, I went with my instincts on how to rank what was most important for me. But typing this with my beautiful, healthy 10-month old on my lap, things didn't play out exactly how I'd imagined they would four years ago. What I was sure was most important, changed over time.
"In my search, I was reminded how truly unique every person is."
Several years ago, I checked off boxes on donor agency websites for height, eye color, and ethnic background, in search of "a match." My key criteria in sorting were (in order of importance): that she look enough like me, was small overall, had a majority of my ethnic background, and based on her questionnaire responses, seemed familiar enough or like someone I could relate to. And there were certain qualities which we actively tried to avoid. We didn't feel we could relate to highly athletic genetic material.
I was thrilled when we found (what turned out to be) our first donor. I would look at the folder on my desktop daily to gaze at her photos in the weeks leading up to her screening day. She reminded me a lot of myself at 23 -- it was her hazel eyes and dark hair, her posture, and her commitment to her studies. I think in part I was falling in love with all the possibility for my family that was tied up in this person. I was simply filled with hope. I was also trying to convince myself that our height and ethnic differences weren't a big deal. I do identify fairly strongly with my ethnic background; but given the choices available, I knew I'd made the best one.
Unfortunately, after her screening, she was found to be a carrier for a genetic disorder. Most donor egg agencies do not pre-screen donors; they simply represent the donors and once the agency fee is paid, preliminary medical testing begins. I was heartbroken, as I felt so comfortable with this donor and all of her familiar characteristics. We continued our search. (It wasn't until we had a list of failures that we learned about frozen eggs and DEB.)
This time around, I would only consider experienced donors, which narrowed the pool quite a bit. I chose our second donor based on a vague facial resemblance, though her body size and ethnic background were very different to mine. Then we learned this donor screened out at our clinic due to compliance issues. She had previously donated at this clinic, and was prohibited from donating there again. This time, I felt I could live with the misfortune of things not working out, because she wasn't the ultimate match anyway.
I used this same agency to avoid new agency fees. Donor #3 was 1/4 my ethnic background, and if you had really poor vision and it were nighttime, you could get us confused. Unfortunately, this donor contracted an STD during our cycle, and for medical reasons the cycle was canceled. Putting aside my response to the freak mishap, I was frustrated at having to find another donor with a combination of some of my characteristics, as it was proving difficult to find. In my search, I was reminded how truly unique every person is. There is no exact match for anyone out there! I might find a donor with dark hair who might have some aptitudes in common with me, but she might be a soccer nut or have a completely different ethnic background than mine. Weirdly, this lesson in uniqueness only made me want to have my own unique, special baby even more.
I still had heaps of hope, and through another agency, found a donor (#4) who met most of my criteria. The only missing piece was that I didn't have a clear picture of her personality based on her short responses. But the other criteria were so strong that we felt really great about her and moved forward immediately. This donor didn't produce enough follicles and the cycle was cancelled.
"Time was running out for us and I couldn't wait forever for my doppelganger, so we moved forward."
We chose donor #5 for her face and body shape resemblance to me, and for her similar aptitudes. There was an overall similarity about her. Even though she was East Indian, which I am not. (I'm Caucasian.) Of the few eggs harvested, we got only 3 poor quality embryos, none of which resulted in pregnancy.
Donor #6 was Jewish, even though that held no meaning to me, and again we chose her because she scored so high in terms of physical resemblance. I knew if I wound up becoming pregnant with her eggs, that it would never come up with friends or acquaintances that my baby didn't look like me. I felt super safe about this and was delighted to move forward. I felt somehow like she was the one! It was meant to be. But in a bizarre continuation of bad luck, her eggs did not produce viable embryos.
Our unlucky streak ended with donor #7, an egg donor from the DEB network! We found donor eggs from someone who felt perfect for us: she had brown hair, wore the same clothing size as me, and had a personality similar to mine as well as a few random parallel interests. She just happened to be an unfamiliar ethnicity and had blue eyes. Time was running out for us and I couldn't wait forever for my doppelganger, so we moved forward. I don't feel like I settled for this donor, though, because I felt a strong connection to her. I felt that her eye color was an unimportant detail. I'm sort of a detail person so had you told me years ago this would be my story, I wouldn't have believed it. If people comment now on my daughter's eye color, I just say there were blue eyes on both sides of our families, which is true. Of course they also comment on how happy and attentive our baby is and on the funny noises she makes.
It seems like most people don't know about egg donation, and I don't feel it's my job to educate them, at least in casual conversation about my daughter. It would be nice if they knew, but taking that conversation on, repeatedly, would open up too many questions, many of them personal.
When it comes to MY thoughts about how our donor was a different ethnicity, it is a non-issue. We are in love with our newest family member, and her coloring has had zero affect on the depth of my connection to her. I would call my love for her bottomless. You would think that given the turn of events, and the scientific randomness of whose eggs wound up getting fertilized, that I might now feel that any of those 6 other donors would have produced a baby just as amazing and perfect and lovable as my daughter. But that's not at all what I think. I found the right donor for me and I think (know) I've got the best baby on earth!
Author Jessica K and her husband are no strangers to the infertility journey. Thankfully their lives are now full with their daughter and they are looking forward to many years of happiness to come.
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Thank you for sharing your story. As I write this I am waiting the result of the pregnancy bloodwork that I did this morning. We also used frozen donor eggs thru DEB USA and spent many hours pouring over the applicants. We finally went with someone who we both had a strong gut feeling for even though she doesn't look like either one of us and is of a different ethnic background. Our son, who is 3, was conceived via IVF with my eggs and while my husband has dark hair and brown eyes and I have dark hair and hazel eyes, our son has light hair and blue eyes! And I am adopted and look just like my dad! So you never know what can happen!
Submitted by Mary Ellen Q 5 years, 4 months ago
Did you use a frozen egg donor or was it fresh?
Submitted by Michele 4 years, 4 months ago
Hi Michelle, Jessica utilized frozen eggs through Donor Egg Bank USA.
Submitted by Donor Egg Bank USA 4 years, 4 months ago