On Friday, December 11th, we went to our fertility clinic for our first ultrascan. I was 7 weeks, 2 days and the little peanut was in there, in all its glory, with a good strong heartbeat. The baby measured one day ahead in terms of size.
This scan was a major milestone and seeing the little blueberry on the screen with a fluttering heart, we enjoyed a huge sigh of relief.
We are not out of the woods yet, but our risk of miscarriage just made another substantial drop. According to the data, after finding a heartbeat, the risk drops to less than 5%.
I was given a due date. July 27th, 2016. We are hoping to go one day past, and deliver the child on the 28th, the same day of Nana Nancy’s birthday. It would be the ultimate birthday present for my mom. To be honest, a birthday present she paid for, as my parentals were the generous benefactors of this last round. Round 14. Feels like round 144.
This cycle was a Biggie, for reasons I have not fully elaborated on yet.
You see, it would be our last round using my own eggs. At the end of our failed round #13, my doctor strongly urged us to turn to donor eggs. “You have baaaad quality, I’m afraid. Always have. If you want to have a baby, you should get someone else’s eggs.”
He went over the drill, as I sat frozen, staring into my lap. A bleary-eyed Martin took notes. “There are no donors in Denmark. You’ll need to go to Spain. Call this clinic in Valencia. They are very good. You won’t see pictures of the donor, but they’ll match you by height and hair color.”
The conversation encased me like a thick fog of truth I couldn’t escape. I knew all roads led to this. And yet I couldn’t bear to hear such barefaced facts and figures about some donor database in Spain.
“Dr. Jens, is there any hope in trying one more time? I think I have another round of injections and retrieval in me?”
His graceful reply: “Yes, Camryn. In order for you to look yourself in the mirror in 10 years and say, ‘I did everything I could’ I think you should try with your own eggs. One more time.”
I flew home to California two days later and bawled to my mom, curled up on the toddler-sized sofa in my nephews’ playroom. Mom cried with me. I told her our plan. I would talk to my sisters. All three of them. I would tell them my dilemma. Which they already know all about. I would tell them I had one last attempt in me. And then, with all three of them, I would make the ultimate ask. “Would you ever consider a donation?”
My three sisters are the most inspiring, generous, intelligent and loving women you could ever be lucky enough to know. Each of us are very different. I would be proud and honored for any of them to be the genetic donor of my baby. The oldest is done having children; she would love to give up a round of eggs. The other middle sister is a proud mom of 1, who I hope and pray goes on to have more kids, as she is the Martha Stewart/Mary Poppins of the bunch. The youngest is my mini-me. She is the one I can proudly say I joined in raising. She is my pride and joy. The fact that I needed to ask such a colossal ask of her didn’t sit well with me, because I’ve made it my point in life to protect her. And now, I needed her to save me from the agony of a child-free existence. Like the goddess that she is, she said, “Of course I’ll do that for you, sissie!”
What I am most proud of in this sad and sticky situation is that I have three sisters who jumped up to help. There was no, “It;s kinda weird” or “This is a freakshow” or “I’ll get back to you,” which they would have every right to utter. This is wei-rd. Very, very weird stuff. An Act 3 soap-operatic dramatic turn that none of us ever envisioned for our lives.
But yet, they showed no equivocation. What an army I am lucky enough to have. We decided that Youngest Sister — whose age is so youthful, and in a medical dilemma where the most critical variable driving success is age — was our best option. We decided: total transparency. The kiddo would always know. Everyone would know. The milkman would know. We would pull the wool over no one’s eyes. We decided: to sit on it, deliberate and seek the counsel of a therapist. And we decided: sister’s husband had as big a vote as anyone. We decided: to be practical, and not put all of our eggs in my Youngest Sister’s basket, and that all three would be tested so as to not put all pressure on just one.
And then I returned to Denmark with a plan. The ultimate plan. We knew we had this option right there, a few months in front of us. We knew my clinic was up for one more round.
And we took it on.
And we got lucky. So darn lucky with my own batch of unwell eggs, which held one little fighter.
My biggest fear in dragging my sisters into this mess was not in the DNA-dilemma. I abandoned the need to preserve all of my genetics a while back. It was also not a fear that any of them would feel a claim to the child. That’s not their style. To be loaned 23 chromosomes from any of my sisters would be a gift I would be honored and thrilled to receive. 25% of my genetics would be preserved — as my siblings and I share ~50% of our genetic material (although I suspect youngest sister and I are more likely 75%, as we are practically twins). I know their roots, their characters, strengths and quirks. I love each of them deep down to their core, so any human being they could help create would be a first-rate, rockstar soul.
My reluctance stemmed from my concern that I could be endangering any of my sisters. That 12 days of shots and hormone stimulation, constant ultrascans, speculum-mayhem and egg-retrieval surgery would be too much agony to ask of any person, sister or not. I know the brutality of a round of IVF quite well and for them to donate, they would undergo a round of In-Vitro Fertilization. Their ovaries would enlarge to the size of grapefruits, and they’d have mood swings, bloating, swelling, pain and a polka-dotted belly.
Worse, the remnants of a round could linger on decades past, at each annual mammogram when they recall that time they were put on a very strong hormone protocol.
I just didn’t want to endanger them.
And now, it seems possible I may not have to.
I carry with me so much pride that Martin and I have our tight-knit families in our corner, as we wage this fight.
I give my parents all of the credit for raising their four girls to hold to the belief that we always help each other. Every time. When one of us has a crisis, we all have a crisis. And no challenge is too tricky or unsavory that our entwined hearts and strong spirit of togetherness cannot overcome it.
Thank you, my dear family. This baby is all of ours.