When my husband, Jared, and I got married I was almost 41 years old. We hoped to start a family right away but knew that it may not be easy.
Less than a month after our wedding day, I visited an OB for blood work. I will never forget her words, “I don’t know how important this is to you, but I don’t see too many women over 40 who get pregnant with their own eggs.” Her words stung and I left her office feeling discouraged, with a business card for a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF to discuss possible infertility.
The test results showed that getting pregnant would be difficult. While I was in great health, the hormone that reflects egg supply was very low, even lower than expected for a woman of 41. There was promise in the fact that science was on our side, but we knew very little about infertility and the treatment options. We spent the next year trying all the treatments, reading all the literature, learning all the acronyms and battling the disappointment.
Following our first wedding anniversary, we went in for our third attempt at an egg retrieval for IVF. On the way to the infertility clinic I shook my head and said, “this is just never going to work.” It’s uncharacteristic of me to be so negative and I surprised Jared with my attitude but something inside me knew that this was not our answer.
While the facts were hard to hear, we were fortunate to have a clear reason for our infertility; many couples receive the vague ‘unexplained infertility’ diagnoses. Unfortunately, there isn’t a treatment for low egg reserve since women are born with a finite number of eggs. We were told that my extreme low egg reserve gave me just as much of a chance at a successful pregnancy on my own as it would with traditional IVF but either would be very unlikely. The doctor did not recommend we continue treatment, at least not with my own eggs.
This information should have been devastating, but I was surprisingly relieved. As I said to my husband a month before, I knew this wouldn’t work. If we wanted a child it was time to take a different path. Somehow, I knew this new path would get me my family.
I researched donor egg IVF. After getting used to the idea, it sparked hope. It was hard to come to terms with having a baby that did not have my DNA (and another woman’s genetics) but Jared said something that helped me let that anxiety go. My strongest traits of kindness, empathy and patience would be passed on through nurturing and parenting, not DNA. A baby conceived with a donor egg would still grow inside me and be raised with my love.
It didn’t take me long to find the right donor. We chose a young woman who had physical characteristics similar to mine like fair skin and blue eyes. More importantly, her questionnaire answers were sensitive and sincere. She was focused on her love for her family and passion for helping people. Although we would never meet this woman, we were about to ask her for a monumental task.. For the first time since that initial visit to the doctor, I was filled with hope. I told Jared that this path will work. We are going to get our family.
In August of 2018 after three days of back labor and an unplanned C-section, our son was born. He looks remarkably like Jared, though many insist he looks like me. He began walking before his 10-month birthday and can already kick a soccer ball, so we are confident he has Daddy’s athletic ability. Our child loves when I read to him, stops what he is doing to dance whenever music comes on and has a laugh that is no doubt a parrot of mine. He is, without question, my son.
We share his story with him often, keeping it simple for his young mind. Our family focuses on how much we appreciate everyone who helped us bring him here. We thank the doctors, the nurses and the special woman who gave us a very important egg that helped to make him before he grew inside of me. As he matures, we will offer more details and answer all his questions of how he came to be and why it is so special. It is our goal that he never finds his story strange or shameful. If he becomes curious about the anonymous woman with whom he shares DNA, we will offer all that we know and navigate his desires as best we can.
Jared and I are so fortunate that we had access to the best doctors and treatment options. This isn’t the path for everyone. Some will question our choices but we can’t waste time on what others may think. Our son is here now and he is more than we could have ever dreamed. I can’t imagine any other outcome and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Laura Watson lives in Boston, MA with her husband, Jared and son, Duke. She shares her family’s story in order to help remove the stigma of infertility and give a voice to those who are struggling to become a parent. More of Laura’s work can be found on her blog Reading, Writing and Nursery Rhymes.