I’ve not written since July, and what I wrote in July was months out of date, so as you can imagine, what I’m writing now is even more out of date. But I want it written down. Partly because I feel some sense of duty to you, if you’re still following… because I’ve followed blogs and then they’ve tailed off and I’ve felt a bit, well, cheated, it’s like reading a book that someone never finished writing, or getting a library book and finding someone has ripped the last chapters out so you don’t know how it ends.
Spoiler: I’m not sure how this ends either. It feels quite binary, either it ends with me having a baby. Or not. But whatever the ending is, I feel like we’re not there yet. Also, I’m not totally altruistic, a) I’m weirdly obsessive about keeping a complete record of all this stuff, and as most of it’s here, it makes sense that it should all be here, and b) writing stuff down helps me make sense of things, so even though I haven’t written here in real time, I’ve scribbled notes along the way so it seemed silly not to flesh them out into fully formed blog posts.
So when I left you, all those months ago, I’d called two agencies that find egg donors for people like me. (By the way, I’m not going to name them, just like I never named the clinics. It feels unfair to talk about my experiences, be they positive or negative, without giving them the opportunity to respond.) And, just like when I was first looking for a clinic, I went with my gut and picked the one that didn’t make me feel under pressure and like I had to make a decision there and then, I picked the one that seemed like it got me and what I was after.
Both of the agencies I spoke to worked in similar ways. They had some potential donors on their books, but they were constantly recruiting more — demand very much outstrips supply. So they would take down the details of what I looked like and what I was hoping for in a donor, and then they would hope to find me a suitable match, at some point in the future. Once matched, we would never meet the donor, or have any identifying information about her (although any child would be entitled to this information at a later date), but we would pay for her to have a cycle of egg retrieval and all the eggs that she produced in that cycle would be ours.
I think it’s probably worth explaining why I wanted to go for an agency rather than buying half a dozen frozen eggs from an egg bank — you can literally do this. Just like there are sperm banks, there are egg banks, and they work in the same weird pseudo dating site way — you tap in what you’re looking for: hair colour, eye colour, build, height, level of education, and the site churns out a series of matches, including information about how many eggs are available and how much they cost. But as delightfully simplistic and straightforward and instant gratification as this route would have been, it didn’t sit right with me for a few reasons.
Firstly, the frozen egg aspect. Although I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that frozen or fresh, I’d probably have had problems conceiving with my own eggs even if I’d tried in my mid-30s, my experience with frozen eggs was not a positive one. That’s not to say people can’t or don’t conceive with frozen eggs. There are forums full of women who have, but instinctively I personally didn’t have a huge amount of faith in frozen eggs.
Then there was the fact that you buy a certain number of eggs but you have no way of knowing how many eggs the woman produced — was she hyper-stimulated to produce 30 or 40 that have been frozen in batches of six? Does it matter? Well, kind of me to me, yes, it does. And not just because I hate the idea of a woman being pumped full of as many drugs as possible to “maximise her output” and make a load of money for the egg bank. But from a selfish perspective, there’s a school of thought that believes that if you over-stimulate someone they might produce a lot of eggs but not all of those eggs will be good quality. If it’s you and you’ve got all the eggs to play with, that doesn’t matter so much, you’ll just end up with the decent ones making embryos, even if some of them aren’t top notch. But if you don’t get all the eggs, what if you just end up buying the dud ones?
This dividing of eggs into batches also raises the possibility of multiple siblings — the rules for egg donation are the same as for sperm donation in that one donor cannot create more than ten families — and you have to accept if you’re using donor anything that it’s very likely that your child will have half-siblings out there. But that possibility is greatly increased if a donor’s eggs are split into several batches. That’s not to say that an egg donor who is found through an agency can’t donate more than once, it’s just less likely, and that was sort of important to me.
But the most important consideration for me was ethical. There’s been a lot in the press and on social media recently about the ethics of surrogacy and egg donation. About whether it exploits women, and is akin to women selling their bodies. Let’s be honest, if you’re an egg donor in the UK, where it’s illegal to donate for money and the maximum a woman can be paid is £750 of expenses, you’re hardly doing it for the cash. But equally I know that there are places that offer women free, or cut price, egg freezing or IVF if they agree to “share” their eggs. That might be seen by some as an incentive, by others as coercion, either way, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I might have ended up with some woman’s eggs because that was the only way that she could get an egg freezing or IVF treatment that she wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.
And so my decision was made. I picked an agency, we filled in a form about us, about our likes and dislikes, sent them some pictures and then, well, just waited…