You never imagine that you’ll be infertile. We got married, had some wonderful years of being a couple, and then decided when I hit 30 that we’d perhaps start thinking about a family. A year later and nothing had happened, so we headed off to the doctor and began a long process of tests and referrals.
We had two in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in the UK, which resulted in embryos not developing. We were therefore advised that my eggs were unlikely to have success. In the UK, the law has led to a reduced donor pool, so we faced a three-year wait for an egg. We didn’t want to wait for my age to become a challenge and—having got the bit firmly between our teeth by now—we decided to look abroad.
Meeting with Shady Grove Fertility
I felt devastated about needing donor egg treatment—being told your eggs are “off” is a bit of a shock! Especially as there were no obvious issues and my cycles were all normal; it’s hard to come to terms with as deep down you think the doctors are wrong when they can’t tell you why! But we were determined to press on with our project. So we booked a nice hotel for a night away, had a good long chat about it all, and went back to our physician to start the process with Shady Grove Fertility. Keeping busy and feeling that things were progressing was the best way of dealing with it so that we were always looking forward. Once we’d made that decision, we could throw ourselves into planning, flight bookings, further tests, etc. so you always felt as though you were doing something.
We looked at Shady Grove Fertility because there was a link already established with our clinic, the success rates were very good, and we were very impressed with the staff we spoke to. They were friendly and positive about our chances. We also liked the Shared Risk 100% Refund Guarantee—although the concept of “a baby or your money back” felt quite odd, it did provide a welcome reassurance.
Selecting a Donor and Going through Treatment
It surprised us how easy it felt to choose a donor. Yes, it’s weird and I felt quite sad that I might have children that would never look like me, but there were enough donors that we could choose at least basic characteristics. And we really warmed to our donor’s answers to the questionnaire. I still occasionally wonder what my daughter especially will look like (as my son is a mini version of my husband we’ve a good idea about him!), but once we’d picked, we somehow stopped thinking about it and focused on the fact that they were our embryos.
Going through the treatment is no picnic, but definitely manageable. Having done IVF before, we were pretty used to the injections and, in fact, quickly abandoned the idea of Mark doing them. It’s far easier to reach around and stick it in your bottom yourself! You very quickly become immune to the whole process. The biggest challenge is dealing with the quantities of medications and making sure you’ve got the right mix on the right days. That was what needed patience and concentration.
Coming to Shady Grove Fertility for the actual EVENT was terrifying and exciting. Planning the right flight times is a challenge, so we just booked a two week holiday and had a lovely time exploring that part of the U.S. It made the cost feel more reasonable knowing we’d done more than just come for treatment that might not work. It was really touch and go however as the donor produced just eight eggs to share with us and another couple—we were on tenterhooks. Miraculously, two of ours took off and we couldn’t believe it when we heard that they’d made it to nine and eleven cells (ours had never got past five) and then on to blastocysts. We had one transferred; I spent a tedious day lying down in the hotel room and then had to just carry on as normal for the dreaded two-week wait. Of course, every twinge in my tummy convinced me that it had or hadn’t worked! It’s two weeks that feels like forever.
We were shocked and ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant! We’d pre-booked a dinner out for that night so that we could either celebrate or commiserate! At the same time, we consciously kept our distance from the idea and didn’t let ourselves get excited properly till after twelve weeks. Even at the seven-week scan, we tried not to get excited. It only felt really real once I felt sick, had a tummy growing, and had been discharged from our clinic; then we were just the same as every other expectant couple.
After a very easy pregnancy, we had a beautiful baby boy that July, who has brought an end to peaceful weekends and luxury holidays but has been an absolute joy. We also returned to Shady Grove Fertility two years later and had the remaining embryo transferred, with the amazing result of a lovely little girl. That was a more challenging pregnancy as I had a bleed at seven weeks and was convinced that was it, but we came through it and here we are. They are now three and nine months, look very alike, and are full of fun. We’re very open about how they came about and will be as they grow up—our little girl will I’m sure, find it funny that she was two years on ice! But they are 100% mine and I couldn’t love them more if they had my DNA—as it is, it looks like I’ll just be the short one in the family one day!
My SGF Experience
This process was like a project and needs to be treated like that. Doing it from abroad does need you to be a bit more hands on, as communication between clinics wasn’t always brilliant! But the Shady Grove Fertility instructions were clear and there was always someone there to ask. So it was overall no more challenging than the normal UK cycles. All of the team there were great. Amanda was extremely friendly and welcoming at the start. Gail saw us through the cycles and was always prompt with help and answers.
Michelle’s Advice for Future International Donor Egg Patients
Finances aside, we would thoroughly recommend it and be very happy to chat to anyone about our experiences. We’d have two top tips for dealing with it: get an airline credit card to pay for the treatment, as the air miles will fund the flights, and book nice holidays so that you have lovely times to look forward to during a difficult period. (Plus, if successful, you won’t be having posh holidays anymore!)
If you have any questions about our Donor Database or the Donor Egg Treatment Programme in general, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team by calling 0208 003 0827, or email Amanda Segal our International Patient Liaison at [email protected].