(I have a horrible feeling I published this post out of order, so I’ve reordered it — apologies if you already read an earlier iteration and felt you’d missed a bit, you had.)
When the call came, the number wasn’t in my phone, and a donor was the furthest thought from my mind. We’d had generic email updates from the agency keeping us posted about the impact that the pandemic had had on the recruitment of donors and the possibility of treatment delays, but for me, the whole things was sort of mentally parked. There was comfort in knowing that what happened next was in someone else’s hands. There was nothing we could do about it, it was just something that was happening elsewhere that we had no power or control over, all we could do was just get on with our lives. And so we did. Well, as much as anyone could in the middle of a global pandemic.
So when I picked up the phone on a Friday afternoon in the summer, and didn’t entirely hear the caller say where she was calling from, I assumed it was a sales call, or a call from a work acquaintance, and I did that thing you do where you just let them talk until you figure out who they are and what they want. And then I realised. And suddenly it was the most important call in the world and she had all of my attention, because the person on the other end of the phone was telling me that she thought she’d found us someone who could help us have the child that we so desperately wanted. And as she told me more about this woman, despite myself, I was cautiously excited: visually she sounded like me, it sounded like we had shared interests, and she had admirable reasons for wanting to be a donor.
The next step was for them to send over a profile — a combination of basic information about the donor, her answers to questions that would give us something of an insight into her, her life, her personality, her motivation for becoming a donor, and a couple of pictures of her as a child. I waited impatiently for the email to arrive in my inbox, and took a deep breath before opening the attachments.
It was like getting my A-level results all over again. I was crying before I’d even read the first line. But as I wiped away my tears, I couldn’t help but smile. I LOVED this woman. She sounded smart, sensible, like she had her shit together and shared a similar world view to me. And she sounded like she looked like me but better — she was taller for a start and she’d even done some modelling for fuck’s sake, she was basically an upgraded version of me. I genuinely couldn’t believe they’d managed to find such a perfect match for us. Every single one of my boxes was ticked, I couldn’t find fault with her — OK she admitted to hating maths and being crap at it, but so what? It was like a Hollywood film star having a wonky tooth, you’re hardly going to kick them out of bed for it, are you?
On the phone I’d told the agency that we’d think about it over the weekend and let them know before the end of Monday but there didn’t seem any point in waiting. What was going to change over the weekend? Why would we play it cool? I didn’t think there was anything more we could have hoped for, so I emailed them that evening, saying she was everything we were looking for, and we were excited to move forward with the process, let us know what we needed to do next.
For the first time, I was genuinely excited — rather than simply accepting — about the prospect of trying to conceive with a donor. The thought of trying to conceive with this donor, this me-but-better woman, this amazingly altruistic person whose generosity was going to effectively swipe decades off my age, multiplying our chances of success by a factor of ten or more, actually thrilled me. I know, I know, (how could I not) that there were a lot of hoops to be jumped through before we got to the point of an embryo transfer, but we were a step closer than we had been the day before, and that felt like a good thing.
(Incidentally, I am really aware that it sounds like I’m entirely airbrushing the other half of the equation out of the picture here. That it probably looks like there hasn’t been consultation or discussion, with my other half, my partner, my boyfriend — who I also realised I haven’t even given the courtesy of giving an initial to, let’s call him B — that it might look like his views and opinions are secondary. They’re not. I’m not making unilateral decisions, but I am wary of putting words in his mouth, and betraying his trust.
Years ago, pre-B, I made the choice that I was going to share my story in this way, and I’d like to continue to be able to do that. But when I met him, it stopped being just my story and became our story. And I struggled with whether I should even continue to write this blog. But for all the reasons I outlined here, I’d like to be able to.
The thing is that although I’m technically anonymous, there are a handful of people who know me IRL, just because when I was in the midst of all the IVF stuff and something really shit had happened, while I wanted to share it with well-meaning, concerned friends, sometimes, for all that I wanted them to know what had happened, I just couldn’t face reliving every heart-wrenching, devastating moment again, and it was just easier to send them a link to this blog instead. As a result there are also people who know him too, people who aren’t necessarily his close friends, people who he might not choose to tell some of the stuff that I’m telling. And so continuing to tell this as mostly my story, rather than relating every single conversation that he and I have had, or pretending that I know what he is thinking, and assuming that he is prepared to share it with an audience of (mostly but not exclusively) strangers, feels like the best way to do it. So this is my version of it, but it’s definitely our story.)