Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Skinny on DE-IVF

When I tell people we struggled with infertility, people usually nod and lean in to hear more about our story. They ask if we did IVF because that's a term people are familiar with even if they don't know what all it entails. When I tell them we did IVF with a donor egg, I frequently get blank stares. In light of National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought I'd break down what DE-IVF is, how it worked for us, and some answers to the questions I often receive.

What is DE-IVF? 

For starters, let me start with a quick definition of IVF. In Vitro Fertilization is a reproductive technology in which an egg is removed from a woman, joined with a sperm cell from a man in a test tube (in vitro). The cells then fuse to form a single cell which continues to divide, becoming an embryo. The embryo is then transferred to the woman's uterus to (hopefully) implant.

The main difference with DE-IVF is that you have two women involved. Your egg donor and your embryo recipient. We went with an anonymous egg donor we selected through our infertility clinic. 

Why did you need an egg donor?
For unknown reasons, I had a "severely diminished ovarian reserve" and "poor egg quality". Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. For some reason, when I went through my preliminary infertility testing at 29, my egg reserve and egg quality were more suited to a 40 year old. Even if I were to pursue IVF using my own eggs, the odds of them fertilizing, making it to the embryo stage, and implanting were less than 2%. My uterus was, to quote my doctor, "Beautiful". I had the goods to carry a pregnancy, but not the eggs to kick it off. Our chance of pregnancy with egg donation was 85% and we liked those odds. 

How did it work?
Since there are two parties involved, we had to both go on a cocktail of medications to coordinate our cycles. This process takes about two months and involves more alcohol swabs and sharps containers than I'd care to remember. Once we were on the same reproductive page, our donor went through all the steps of IVF up until embryo transfer. While she was taking drugs to stimulate her ovaries, I was taking daily injections, pills and hormone patches to make my uterus a veritable Walt Disney World for an embryo (the happiest place on earth, get it?) :) 

This was just a third of all the meds/needles we used. :/
Our donor was closely monitored during the stimulation period, and when it was clear that the eggs were ready to be retrieved she took a trigger shot and I did the same. We actually triggered on my birthday and our donor had her eggs retrieved on Mother's Day. I took this all as the universe bestowing major good juju upon us! Once the eggs were retrieved they were fertilized using my husband's sperm and we waited for the report on how many eggs fertilized successfully and of those, how many grew to the blastocyst stage (5 day old embryo). 

We had plenty of eggs fertilize and what our embryologist referred to as a "rockstar" embryo for transfer. Our embryo transfer went smoothly and 8 days after transfer we received the blood test results that we were indeed pregnant. 

Arlo, as a 5 day embryo...our rockstar.

Was it hard to select a donor?
Yes. We reviewed hundreds of donor profiles. Our clinic did an thorough job of screening all egg donation applicants. They went through interviews, psychological screenings, and provided full genetic background information and health histories, but you are selecting someone who will be genetically linked to your child and that's a heavy decision to make. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be passing my genes on to my offspring. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I came to a peace with it and knew that if this worked for us, I would have the joy of carrying this baby, nurturing him and being his mother and that that counts for so much more than 0.1% of his genes. (Side note: Did you know that 99.9% of your genes are shared with all humans and only 0.1% of our genes result in the variations we see?) Plus now that Arlo is here, people tell me all the time how much he looks like me. I think it's because I did such a kick ass job of cooking him for not 40, but 41 weeks. 

So, you aren't his real mom? 
This one sounds so much worse than I know people intend for it to come out. Yes, I am his real mom. I hoped and prayed for this little life for 7 years. I went to incredible lengths to prepare myself to carry him and was disciplined about what I did (and didn't) eat and drink during my pregnancy. I labored and pushed him screaming into this world and have nurtured, held, rocked, sang, fed, diapered and snuggled him through his first year of life. I am his real mom. (P.S. you don't have to experience pregnancy to be a real mom either).
This looks like a momma to me. :)
Are you going to tell him?
Absolutely. I've been telling him about his story for a while now. I've whispered to him about the special woman who gave us an incredible gift so we could have a baby while rocking him at night. As he gets older and can understand more we will share more age-appropriate details, but we plan to be very open with him. There are some really precious children's books that help open up the conversation and make it a part of his story from an early age. It really is a beautiful story to tell and I want him to grow up knowing just how loved and wanted he was and still is. 

What if he wants to meet the donor someday? 
We will support him in that endeavor. Our donor was anonymous, but there is a database where donors can provide their contact information and recipients can provide theirs in the event that both parties want to connect. We will cross that bridge when we get there, but I would hug her neck so hard and gratefully thank her for helping me become a mother.

Infertility impacts 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age and can be a very isolating disease to face. If you aren't in the trenches of this fight, 1 in 8 is someone you know. If you are one of the 1 in 8, know that you are not alone. RESOLVE, the national infertility association, can provide support and resources. They also work tirelessly on behalf of the infertility community to bring awareness to the disease and educate our legislators and insurance companies. I'm here too! Contact me if you need an ear, or have questions that you aren't comfortable posting. I am so thankful that we live in an age where there are multiple family building options available and hope that all the parents-to-be find their path.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story! It's such a miracle to be out the other end of it with a babe in your arms. And real mom??? My blood pressure went up just thinking about someone saying something like that to you. Unreal.

    1. I think that 99% of the time this slips out because people are startled at how much we favor one another. "Wait, what? You're not his real mom?" or "I would have had no idea he wasn't yours!" It's not meant to be malicious, but I think the more people learn about egg donation, the less those type of comments will happen. :)

  2. Thank you for sharing, that's a really beautiful story Mr.Arlo has! You are his amazing mama!! People are stupid and people say stupid things, you are a class act to handle it so well! Well done mama!

    1. Chrisi! I just clicked over to your blog and love your spirit and writing! So glad we have connected through Holly. :)

  3. Fellow DEIVF mama here -- I found your blog through the #NIAW on Instagram.

    This is such a great post. You break it down so eloquently! My blog ( -- no way to link to it in the options below) is password-protected but I am very open about our DEIVF in real life.

    1. Hi there! Thanks so much for reading and connecting! I just shot you an email so we can link up and I can follow your posts. :)

  4. You're so brave to share this story! Stories like yours remind me of how very lucky I was to conceive Mac so easily. You are indeed your little Arlo's mama, and there's nothing that will ever change that!! And just by following, I can see that you're a great mama! Hugs to you!! XOXO

    1. Thank you, Lyndi! And I meant to post a belated happy birthday to little Mr. Mac! That first year sure flies, right!?

  5. Well said my friend!!!! Our boys will always know how loved they are.

    1. They most certainly will! Hope you and your little miracle are doing well. I can't get enough of his sweet pictures!