Why America? Sarah Esdaile’s Patient Story

27th January 2016

Her story began at the age of 40, when Sarah was told of her infertility and that she would have to, “forget [motherhood], adopt, or use donor eggs.” But through the International Donor Egg Programme she was able to choose her own donor and commit to only two trips to the U.S. in order to realise her dream of motherhood.Read more about Sarah’s decision to choose Shady Grove Fertility over the local centres she visited.

WHY AMERICA?

Shady Grove Fertility offered everything that we wanted from a donor egg programme. They have a great reputation, impressive statistics, and a high level of personalised care. Perhaps the most important thing for us was the combination of total anonymity twinned with a lot of information about the donor—this made us feel both safe and responsible in terms of our choice of an egg donor.

WHAT ABOUT THE LOGISTICS AND TIME DIFFERENCE?

Although initially daunting, this aspect of using Shady Grove Fertility did not feel stressful. Only two trips were required of us—first, for an invaluable information gathering visit and, second, for the embryo transfer itself. There is help and advice available in terms of booking flights and hotels. The efficiency of the team at Shady Grove Fertility and our dedicated nurse in particular meant that we were barely affected by the time difference. We often received a quicker response from our nurse in the States than we did from our team here in London!

WHAT DOES THE INFORMATION GATHERING VISIT INVOLVE?

It is overwhelming but makes a huge difference in terms of information and reassurance. We spent some proper time with Dr. Levy and had ample opportunity to formulate and discuss all of our questions and reservations with him. There was time allocated to discuss the financial aspects in detail, time with our nurse to talk through the drug protocol, and even time to learn how to give the injections most effectively! My husband gave a sperm sample and I had a mock embryo transfer so that Dr. Levy could familiarise himself with my anatomy in order to ensure a smooth actual embryo transfer. We also had an opportunity to look through the donor database and discuss the daunting prospect of actually picking an egg donor.

BUT HOW ON EARTH DO YOU ACTUALLY CHOOSE A DONOR?

Ultimately, it is surprisingly easy and the process of facing one’s prejudices and working out what is important is quite a liberating one. We were supported every step of the way and found the detailed information available to us very reassuring. For us, the education of the donor was important, her personal statements, and also her photographs. I liked the look of my donor and felt that I could love a child that looked like her.

BUT ISN’T IT REALLY EXPENSIVE?

It is a bit more expensive. And nobody is pretending otherwise, but can you really put a price on having a baby? For us, we did not want another round of IVF with a low chance of success; instead, we wanted a fresh start using a young, healthy, anonymous donor, about which you know more information than you probably know about your own family’s medical history. It is expensive but it’s worth it and the Shared Risk 100% Refund Programme means that you either take home a baby or end up losing only a negligible amount of money.

THERE MUST BE HIDDEN COSTS THOUGH?

There really aren’t! The drugs cost money and the flights and hotels cost money but that’s it. Everything else is included. Shady Grove Fertility is very up front about this.

SURELY THE SHARED RISK 100% REFUND PROGRAMME IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

I thought this and it took ages to get my head around it. I soon realised that Shady Grove Fertility could not function as a business unless their Shared Risk 100% Refund Programme worked. I cannot describe how reassuring it is to have someone believe in your ability to get pregnant to the extent that they are prepared to share the financial risk with you. 

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO GO TO THE STATES FOR AND HOW MANY TIMES?

Only twice. Once for the information gathering and once for the embryo transfer itself. You can stay for as long as you like each time. We went for 24 hours for the information gathering visit and made a mini break out of the embryo transfer visit. For us, having a relaxing week in Washington, D.C., prior to finding out whether I was pregnant or not was a very positive thing to do. Washington, D.C. is an amazing city and, after the considerable stresses of any fertility treatment, an opportunity for rest and relaxation should be grabbed with both hands. 

WHAT IF I DON’T LOVE MY BABY?

Look, you have got to do a bit of work around the whole decision to use a donor egg. There is a grieving process and a bit of adjustment required in terms of letting go of an imagined future and embracing a slightly different one. All I can tell you is that everything that I worried about during my pregnancy became entirely irrelevant when I held my baby in my arms. I couldn’t love her more. In fact, I think I love her extra much because I fought so hard to get her!

HOW WILL I COPE WITH PEOPLE TELLING ME THAT MY CHILD DOES/DOESN’T LOOK LIKE ME?

Prior to the birth of my child, I spent a lot of time discussing this with my counsellor. On first meeting my daughter, my counsellor—fully aware of the irony—told me that she was the spitting image of me! It makes me laugh how often I am told this! Much more so than anyone I know with their own blood children. And I now love it. I choose to tell who I want to and keep my own counsel with others.

DO I TELL MY CHILD THAT HE OR SHE IS FROM A DONOR EGG?

The advice is that you should, and that children do better when there is full disclosure. I personally believe that secrets have a way of coming out and I am proud and not ashamed of how I got my daughter. Our story is one of triumph and tenacity and generosity and amazing science, with her as the hero. I can’t wait to tell her. I feel no sense of threat. I am her mummy and she will be as secure and proud of how she came to be as I am.

BUT SHADY GROVE FERTILITY SOUNDS DODGY TO ME!

I know and I thought that too! Shady Grove Fertility is the name of the road in which the clinic is situated. All I can say is that whatever they are called, they are responsible for making me a mother when I really thought that ship had sailed. I am grateful to them with all my heart.

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 Amanda.Segal@integramed.com.

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