Drugs for me? $350. Drugs for her? $1,300. Having a baby?
Today I gave my Visa card number, along with enough information to steal my identity (yeah, right, like anyone would want to be me) to a nice woman at a pharmacy in Pittsburgh. She promised to send a happy meal of infertility drugs for me, with a supersize for Our Donor and a side of syringes for each of us. Our Donor is the stranger in my city who, God willing, will provide the oocyte -- an egg, a female gamete -- that finally allows me a healthy pregnancy.
God, I can't believe I'm doing this.
Today is the first day of my egg donation cycle, but only the newest day of a long infertility journey. In August 2003, when I was 38 and had been married for six months, I was diagnosed with diminshed ovarian reserve. In other words, the doctors said, my own eggs were hard boiled. My uterus was fine and I could easily carry a child, but my ovaries had shriveled up like a pair of raisins. My best options for motherhood were adoption, or egg donation with in vitro fertilization (IVF). I was told that I had a 3% chance of delivering a healthy infant with my own eggs. I was in shock. I was in denial. And if you'd asked me then whether I knew the meaning of "egg donation" or "IVF," I'd have said, "Um...how about we Google that?"
Fast forward. I have acquired an infertile woman's vocabulary, bristling with acronyms like ZIFT and GIFT and ICSI. I can chart my basal body temperature with precision equal to an atomic clock...a broken one. And I've spent oh, let's say $10,000 of my own and my insurance carrier's money. I've undergone two IUIs and one IVF with my own eggs. Miraculously, with only one healthy egg each cycle, I conceived twice. And I lost both to miscarriage after seeing slower-than-normal heartbeats, at 8 weeks and 9 weeks.
To me those were my babies. My children. They had names, and possessions, and my husband and I had even had a few fights about them. With the last baby, we were able to do a chromosomal analysis. We learned that we had a son, and that he had an abnormality that meant he couldn't live. I knew it was because of my defective egg. I was devastated. I felt like a child abuser. As if I'd fed him spoiled food, or left him naked in the cold. I will never stop grieving.
So now, far from being an obscure search engine result, egg donation is all that I think about. It is sleeptime, mealtime, downtime, car time, any time. It may be the most important, life-defining thing I ever do.
So I've decided to write these days as they happen. I need to understand how I came to this day, when I'm willing -- more than willing; I'm perishing -- to carry a child made from my husband's sperm and another woman's egg, and love it as my own.