No Easy Options: My Journey to Parenthood

anonymous no easy options journey parenthood

How’s your journey to parenthood going?

A dreaded question, hard to answer in a simple sentence or two.  It’s so complicated.  My friends have not heard updates in a while because the answer is ever changing, both in circumstances and in my emotional response to them. It’s hard for me to get excited or hopeful about the options that I’m currently facing, none of which I am excited or hopeful about

After six years of infertility and landing in the unenviable place of having neither eggs nor likely a uterus to work with, remaining options are few, complex, and expensive.

The next steps in our journey consist of going back to the basic elements of creating a baby – identifying viable embryo(s) and where to put them.  It seems that most people have the answer to one of these questions to start with but I’m seeking answers to both. Sigh

We’ve considered and been through a myriad of possibilities – many IVF cycles with my own eggs, known donor eggs (thanks sis!), anonymous donor egg or embryo adoption through clinics, egg donor and gestational carrier overseas, and adoption.  Some of those options have been laid to rest then resurface periodically as zombies, coming back for consideration again.  We may end up with the last option standing, whichever outlasts the others.

Here’s where I am today, sharing the options that I’m considering in a simplified and sanitized way. I still have more questions than answers.

Option 1 – Embryos: Known Donated PGS-tested Embryos, Uterus: My Own

Infertility has brought me together with some of the kindest, strongest, compassionate, smart and helpful women I will ever meet.  Some have provided comfort or advice in the moment, others have become lifelong friends who understand me in ways that none of my fertile friends could ever.  Only a fellow infertile sister could understand the pain, longing, grief, and disappointment in the sea of emotions infertility brings about.

It is one of these women who has generously offered me her remaining PGS-tested embryos, of which one from this cohort has become her son.  While this offer is not without complications, these embryos bring the possibility of a baby many steps closer and the opportunity for a unique lifelong bond between our families.  The embryos are truly a huge gift, for which I am grateful, and bring us to new starting point in our journey.  Now to find a good home to allow these gifts to flourish and come into being.

At best, my uterus has been called “not terrible” or “I’ve seen worse” and that’s when she’s in an unaltered state. When I’m preparing for an embryo transfer I have a front row seat to watch as things go sideways.  Embryo transfer cycles which have looked as good as could possibly be for me, where the standards have been lowered and I’ve gone ahead and transferred an embryo(s) Hail-Mary-pass style, have unsurprisingly not resulted in a pregnancy.

There is no ‘just’ do anything in this journey. Sure, with time and money anything seems possible.  We do not have endless amounts of either.

I have a uterus that’s a low bar, and with a lowered bar comes a lower chance of success.  It is unproven to carry a pregnancy to term and refuses to cooperate, but it still may be  possible that I can carry.  That’s the special kind of torture of a non-definitive answer like many other parts of this journey, but one with high stakes.  I have to hope that if I can get past implantation that she’ll hold a pregnancy for the better part of 40 weeks and the stress of that given her questionable past.  Would I be setting myself up for disaster? Ignoring the advice of multiple doctors who have recommended a gestational carrier? Attempt a transfer and brace for the disappointment to prove to myself that even with starting off with a high-quality PGS tested embryo that I am incapable of doing the rest.

In the off chance that the embryo takes, could I possibly be zen during a pregnancy and ignore the past?  Could I really go in hopeful about preparing for an embryo transfer and ignore the PTSD I have from years of bad news and be hopeful that this time it will be different?  Perhaps I don’t need to be hopeful, but committed and able to ignore the path of destruction behind me. But perhaps not.

If I forego any transfers to my uterus and accept letting go of the experience of carrying, I have to wrestle with the cost and further loss of control of someone else carrying, and build trust and a relationship with that woman and her family. No one I know personally can carry for us.  That brings me to Option 2.

Option 2 – Embryos: Created with Donor Egg and Husband’s Sperm; Uterus: Identified Gestational Carrier

I am humbled and in awe that someone I don’t know would carry for us.  It is truly a priceless act.  And I am lucky enough to have found that special woman, at reasonable compensation.  Someone who is excited, confident, and determined to help another family by carrying a baby after having six uncomplicated pregnancies of her own, who loves to be pregnant and is ridiculously fertile, conceiving while breast-feeding and on birth control, blissfully ignorant of the experience of infertility but big hearted enough to imagine the pain and want to assist.

She’s amazing in so many ways and I would be honored to share this experience with her, BUT if she carries for us, due to where she resides, we must be genetically related to the embryo or be residents of the Midwestern state where she resides, making it not possible for her to carry a donated embryo for us.  Ugh, Iowa, why?  I love the “farm charm” kindness of your people but your laws suck.

Our only option to proceed with this gestational carrier, is to create an embryo genetically related to us via egg donor with my husbands’ sperm.  This is an expensive, inconvenient, and risky option.  It requires a six-month hold on my husbands “sample” before it could be combined with a donor egg as it’s destined for a gestational carrier.  Many steps and people, much time and money involved.  No guarantees. Masturba-cation to Iowa, anyone?

Option 3 – Embryos: Known Donated PGS-tested Embryos; Uterus: Find a New Gestational Carrier

So why don’t we “just” find another gestational carrier for those great embryos? There is no “just” do anything in this journey. Sure, with time and money anything seems possible.  We do not have endless amounts of either.  My husband’s words continue to ring in my head: “If it’s not “our” embryo and you don’t carry, is it even our baby?” Ouch.

Option 4 – Embryos: None; Uterus: None 

Drop the mic and walk away.  This crosses my mind every. single. day.  Could I/we live with this decision?  Have I taken the sting of the last slap in the face and I “just” need to let that settle and heal rather than take any more?

Is any option going to feel right? I don’t know. I’m a good project manager personally and professionally.  I’m focused, make to-do lists, check the boxes, find creative solutions. I’m efficient, organized, and logical.  On this infertility journey, I can sometimes maintain an objective view like I’m managing any project, like the situation we’re discussing isn’t mine.  It’s “just” another project plan to create or problem to solve, not my life being discussed.

If I don’t keep going, will I be mad at myself for not sticking with the ‘short-term’ pain for the long-term gain?

Then it hits me when it’s decision time that this is real and it sucks and I’m tired and angry and afraid and lonely—and the tears come.  This shit is really hard.  I have no idea what to do.  There’s nothing that could have prepared me for the logistics, tradeoffs, and emotional toll.  It’s a marathon without a known finish line.

How do I pace myself?  If I give up, will I have stopped right before the finish line without realizing I was so close? Have I become so exhausted and discouraged that I’m willing to accept things that I don’t really want?  Decisions we make now will affect the rest of our lives. If I don’t keep going, will I be mad at myself for not sticking with the “short-term” pain for the long-term gain?

Each option hangs by a thread—so delicate and easy to disappear with one new legal or medical twist to wipe out the viability of that direction. (For example, those embryos aren’t legally mine yet and the Iowa woman who has graciously offered her uterus has not been fully medically cleared; these option could evaporate in seconds.)

Do we just “take control” and walk away?  Thank life for all of the lessons we’ve been schooled in by this journey and exit now.  No need for more.  Points taken.  Are we fighting too hard for something that “shouldn’t” be this hard?  Am I ignoring all the signs?

I remember looking at an ultrasound with my doctor at the time of my first miscarriage and asking him what we should have seen at this point in a pregnancy because what we were seeing was not it.  He said there’s no “should have.”  His non-answer stung but it was profound.  There’s no should have been, only what is, and will be, so we keep moving forward.

That’s my answer to “how’s my journey to parenthood going” today. Ask me again tomorrow and you may receive a different response.


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