Saturday, 27 November 2010

Talking it over

Way back when all this began, we talked about what we would do if the IVF didn't work, and we agreed that the options on the table were embryo adoption and ordinary adoption. At least, I thought that was what we'd agreed. But it turned out DH hadn't considered either option at all, because he was so convinced the IVF would work. And he wasn't too sure what embryo adoption even was.

Fast forward to this week, and he's got his head round normal adoption but is still very hazy about embryo adoption. Part of the issue is that my research showed that it's pretty rare to be able to do it in the UK, due to a huge lack of donor embryos. So I was thinking we'd have to go abroad for it, and he's dead set against that, because he doesn't want me to undergo 'a medical procedure' in a foreign country. But then I discovered that although it's rare in the UK, it's not impossible, and it was back on the table again - as long as we did it here.

I'm sure we talked all those months ago about the reasons for embryo adoption rather than egg (or sperm) donation, but I underestimated DH's ability to fail to process things he doesn't want to think about. So now the whole topic is having to be rehashed, and I'm still not sure what the end result is going to be.

We've had a few discussions about embryo adoption since Monday. I've explained to him why it's my preferred option over normal adoption.

If we want to adopt, we'll have to wait a year from our last fertility treatment before they'll even start the approval process. Then we'll have to open up every aspect of our lives to a bunch of strangers who will be judging us on everything we say and do.

There's no guarantee that we'll be approved as adopters, and in fact being white, middle class, middle-aged, married and Catholic are all likely to count against us in the eyes of social services.

Even if we are approved, we then have to wait for a child to be matched with us, and since we're looking at a foster to adopt scheme, we could then end up spending the first two or three years not even knowing whether we're going to have to give the child back.

And, of course, we're unlikely to be given a baby and so we have to consider the psychological damage that the child has already suffered in its life. I admire people who adopt older children, and I'm not completely ruling it out, but right now it's not for me.

Plus, I really want the whole package - it's important to me to know what it's like to be pregnant and to give birth, and if there's any chance of that happening, I want to take that chance. And it seems shallow, but I also want to be able to name my own child - and if we're adopting an older child, or fostering with the possibility of adopting in the future, the child will have been named by its birth parents and it would be cruel to try to change the name that it's used to.

We were talking about the whole adoption vs embryo adoption thing in the car on Thursday night, and I said that with embryo adoption, the child may not be genetically ours, but because I would be growing it in my body for nine months, biologically it would be getting an awful lot from me and so I would feel that it was very much our baby.

But DH said, "Yes, but it would get nothing at all from me."

And I realised that I've been looking at this from my point of view, and what I need, and haven't really thought enough about what he needs and what he's giving up in deciding we've reached the end of the road with our own eggs and sperm.

I thought a lot about this, and then yesterday he had the day off work and we were in the car again - and I do find the car a very good place to have a discussion like this, what with him being a captive audience and everything.

So I told him I'd been thinking about what he said, and I explained that there were three reasons I'd been talking about embryo adoption rather than egg donation.

The first, and probably the most important, is that we know that there are problems with his sperm as well as my eggs. None of the embryos we've had in the first three IVFs have implanted, and we can't say for sure whether that's because of my crappy eggs or his crappy sperm, or both. If we're deciding to give ourselves a better chance by going for younger, fresher eggs, it makes sense to give ourselves the best possible chance by going for embryos which have been produced by a couple who have already become parents themselves.

The second reason is that our Church is very opposed to donor eggs and sperm, but hasn't really come down clearly on donor embryos. Plus there's a very good argument that adopting an embryo is a good thing, as these embryos have already been created and would probably be discarded if people like us didn't give them an opportunity for life. Of course, we've already gone against the Church's teaching by having IVF in the first place - I'm very conscious of that, and it was a very difficult decision to make. Going for donor eggs with DH's sperm would be a step further in opposing that teaching.

The third reason is that although the chances of success with donor embryos are much higher than with our own eggs and sperm, it's still highly likely that we wouldn't be successful first time. We can't afford to have more than one attempt with donor eggs - and can't really even afford to have that one attempt if we do get the go-ahead to have one last try with my eggs and then have to move on if it's unsuccessful. Donor embryo treatment is cheaper, and so we could probably scrape together the money for two or three attempts if necessary, and could even manage to afford one attempt after trying one last time with my own eggs.

There's another secret reason that makes me feel absolutely horrible, and I hope I never have to tell him and show him what an awful person I am. But the fact is, I can cope much more easily with the idea of having a child that's not genetically related to either of us than the idea of having a baby that's his but not mine. There's just something about the idea of his sperm fertilising another woman's egg that makes me feel betrayed. I know it's irrational, and I feel like if I loved him enough, I would want to have his child no matter what. I do want his child, but I want it to be with me - I want it to be half mine and half his, and if I have to say goodbye to that dream, I just don't think I can bear to watch a child grow up and know that genetically, it's half his and half a complete stranger's - to see a character trait or a certain expression on the child's face and think, "Does she get that from DH, or is it from the stranger who gave us her egg?"

So now you know what a horrible human being I am. But I gritted my teeth and said that those (the first three) were the reasons why I thought embryo adoption was better . As I said at the beginning of this ridiculously long post, I thought we had discussed all this over a year ago, but at the time he might as well have been sticking his fingers in his ears and shouting "la la la" for all the good those discussions did. But I said that if he was dead set on it, we could consider egg donation as well.

So I said the right words, but even typing that last sentence made me cry just now, so we've got a lot of work to do before we're on the same page on this.

In the meantime, he said he needed to find out more about it for himself and asked me to get out my IVF books for him - and I think he's planning to spend some time today doing some reading.

I feel like we're back in that twilight zone when we first found out that we weren't going to be able to have children without help - each of us having different ideas about what we're going to do next, and struggling to understand each other's position and reach a decision about what's the best thing to do. It's not an easy place to be in, and the degree of peace that I had earlier in the week when I thought that the decision had been made has just been shattered. All I'm left with is the sadness, and a bit more confusion and uncertainty.

A couple of months ago we took our nieces to a music show. One of the songs had the following refrain:

We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
We'll have to go through it.

And that's what's playing in my head at the moment. The only way past this uncertainty is to go through it, and I don't know what it's going to be like at the other side. But I do know it's not going to be easy to get through, and I'm kind of wishing I could just hibernate and wake up in the spring with the way forward suddenly and miraculously clear to us.


  1. Ugh, this is so hard. We haven't talked a lot about embryo donation yet, because we're planning on egg donation with my husband's sperm. But I definitely have those thoughts that go like: "but why does this baby get to have his DNA and not mine?" It's all so unfair (in the growing list of unfair things about all of this.) I've actually shared those thoughts with my husband. Not to make him feel bad, but to help him understand how hard it is for me to let go of my own eggs and go to donor eggs. I know you're in a slightly different situation, but I wonder if being able to share this with your husband (and maybe he'd share the same fears/disappointments?) would give you some common ground? I don't know if that makes sense for you or not. Take care of yourself and try to be patient with these discussions (ha! if only I could take my own advice ;-) )

  2. i am sure you already know that this is a constant discussion in my house. My husband, like yours, does not like to think of things unless he knows he has no other choice. I am always 10 steps ahead.
    I am thinking of you as you try to make sense of all of this and figure out what the best option for your family is. There are no right answers here and no easy choices.
    Hang in there.

  3. I come from a similar position (Church-wise) and our next step would definitely have been donor embryos. I know exactly what you mean about donor egg or donor sperm and the feeling of "betrayal" -- I think it is brave of you to even discuss it. I would feel the same way. Donor embryo is a lot like adoption but from the very beginning of the process so you still get to experience everything and be there from day one. I will pray for you both that the decision becomes clear soon. *hugs*

  4. This is so hard :( I would feel exactly the way you feel about donor eggs, and I think you should tell DH about that feeling. It is totally normal to feel that way. I can also see his point about donor embryos, although, to be honest, even in pregnancies where both parents are genetically linked to the child, the father has very little to do. His role comes in strongly when the child is born.Sending you big supportive hugs, and hoping that the way is made a little smoother for you both soon XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  5. I understand the preference for donor embryos over donor eggs as well. It sounds terrible but I would feel some resentment if the child had my husband's DNA and not mine. With a donor embryo it is more equal and although you get connected to the baby because you are carrying it, your husband can connect with it too in his own way for 9 months by talking to it and sharing the pregnancy.

  6. Oh hope springs, I think you guys will get on the same page eventually. DH's just need a bit more time to process everything and mine is exactly the same. And your reasons for wanting to try donor embryos are sound. You are not horrible at all. AT ALL.
    I hope what I'm about to say doesnt come out wrong but aside from all the good reasons that youve mentioned I think that the fact that you currently have a diagnosis that is both male and female related is what makes embryo donation so amazing. I must admit, your DH's response of "but then it gets nothing from me" is not one I had considered either. But I do think that pregnancy as a whole would be a real bonding experience for you both and from what I've heard from other parents of donor embryos/eggs/sperm, once the baby is growing inside you, genetics don't even come into the equation.
    Best of luck, hoping you both get on the same page soon. xx

  7. After all the support that you have given me throughout all of this, I feel rather awful that I haven't been there for you in the past few months. It seems you've been having a rough go of it, and I wish with all my heart that I had been more attentive. Please know I thought of you (and think of you!) all the time, and that I am always sitting in your corner, even if it's sometimes rather quietly.

    Moving onto this next step, of donor anything, is a difficult one, wrought with all sorts of feelings and thoughts that aren't easy to process or understand. So you know, I feel the exact same way about the his/mine biology stance. I never could bear the thought of having a child that was biologically only my husband's and not mine. Maybe it's selfish, maybe it's juvenile, but it's how I felt, and how I would feel given the same situation today (and PB feels the same way). You're definitely not alone in that. Don't beat yourself up about it. :)