Monday, February 14, 2011

One woman's quest for an egg donor

I was watching TV late one night , into the wee hours of the morning…

I was so tired & bored that I started channel-surfing and I stopped on this program called “70&Pregnant” on the Discovery/TLC Cable Channel. Boy! Did it wake me up? Mark & I have tried for years to get pregnant and we realized about 15 years ago that because of my premature ovarian failure, only a donor egg would work for us. So needless to say when I saw this program, I perked up immediately…. On this program, they featured an Indian doctor who helped a 70 year old Indian lady get pregnant and have child with a donor egg. The donor came from a nearby Indian village & the cost was cheap by U.S.A. Standards for IVF.

During the program, the doctor discussed the cost of IVF in Indian and immediately, since fertility treatments for me & Mark are too expensive, when I heard the cost of IVF in India, I jumped up & started researching Doctors in India right then and there. I could barely sleep that night.

When I woke up the next day, I went straight to the Indian Embassy here in D.C. – no appointment, no announcement, nothing…. and just talked to whomever I could about the country. The receptionist was the sweetest and kindest lady in the world. She told me so much about the country, the time differential, how to dial abroad, etc. Then finally I asked, hey do you have a science or medical representative here from India as a part of your staff? She said yes and she directed me to the Counselor of Science for the Embassy. He happened to be free, praise God, so he & I chatted for about 20 minutes. I was so excited about the cost of IVF in India that I didn’t even beat around the bush. I told him exactly what I wanted and he poured out all the information he could. He bent over backwards to help me.

He told me, if you are going to India and you don’t know of a Dr. I’d recommend Dr. A. Malpani. I keep hearing their names and I’ve read extensively on them & their practice. I’m told they are the best in Mumbai. You can’t go wrong with them. They have a lot of good write-ups and in my field, this it he name that comes up when referring to IVF in India. This was a name he had in his memory. He didn’t have to ask anyone or call anyone. This made me feel really good because how many people have an IVF specialist’s name at the tip of their tongue just waiting for someone to come in and ask for it? Then he introduced me to the media and newspaper staff, I had tea, then walked around and met other staff who gave me DVDs, Maps, CDs, Newspapers, Hotel contacts, etc. I was even put on the Embassy’s newsletter’s mailing list for events. The folks at the Embassy were the most pleasant people in the world to deal with. They took all my concerns about traveling abroad to a country where I didn’t speak the language away instantly. They also told me that they would help me an in any way they could in the future.

So I went home, armed with all this good literature, DVDs, CDs, etc. and started researching on the internet and made contact with Dr. Malpani. This was in June 2010. I’ve asked Dr. Malpani questions weekly if not 2 and 3 times a week since June 2010 about IVF, donors, his/her practice, policies, procedures, etc. I’ve inquired about things on the internet, things I’ve heard, etc. and within a 24 hour period including Saturdays, Sundays and all holidays, Dr. Malpani’s answered my questions. I’ve even asked Dr. Malpani about questions that if I knew a little more about the internet I could have found on their web site, but Dr. Malpani, pleasantly & patiently answered them for me anyway.

While over the last 8 months of speaking with Dr. Malpani I’ve come to trust and value the practice, there was only one issue that held Mark and I up from flying to India and seeking IVF treatment immediately. We needed to find a donor that we could see & visually approve of 1st hand before the IVF procedure. Most doctors in India do not allow the recipient to see photos of the donors prior to the IVF treatment. Dr. Malpani’s practice is to match a donor to you and choose the donor anonymously. This didn’t sit well with me & Mark because while having a healthy donor is primary to us, it’s also important to us to see from whom ½ our baby’s identity will come.

After we told Dr. Malpani this, the option of advertising for our own donor was suggested. So we set out to find a donor by advertising in the local papers and on the internet. Dr. Malpani warned us to be patient, that it could take some time. So we placed ads in newspapers in India. We’ve even gone to Donor and Surrogacy Agencies and it’s been a world-wind experience.

We’ve spent about $2,500-$3,000 U.S. dollars on several newspapers, internet services and donor agencies just advertising and viewing photos. While we aren’t happy about the cost, we are delighted that we’ve seen the photos and chosen to see our donor. It’s renewed our resolve to see our donor no matter the cost or length of time it takes to find just the right one.

In the meantime, let me tell you what we’ve experienced while searching…Oh MY GOODNESS! We’ve had men tell us they could provide us with eggs. We had to explain (via email) so many times that men aren’t born with eggs that we just decided to come up with a “cut & paste reply” to all those emails from men that answered “Female Egg Donors ONLY please Advertisements”. Then during our 2nd newspaper, we had men tell us you really need sperm & not eggs, let us supply them. We’ve had people email us nasty comments about what they think of science and what we are doing. Of course we deleted these and moved on as if they were never sent. We’ve had husbands respond to the ads & lie to us about their wives ages only to have the wives tell the truth later when we indicated that official birth certificates and Indian govt identification would need to be submitted to verify the accuracy of the age of the donor. We’ve had people treat us like an ATM because they knew we were calling from the USA and quote astronomical prices that multi-billionaires wouldn’t pay for golden eggs. We’ve had people tell us since we weren’t Catholic they couldn’t supply eggs after they answered the newspaper advertisements. We’ve had husband tell their wives no after their wives answered the advertisement. We’ve had people play really high priced negotiation games with us until we realized that they might not finally give up the eggs or would possibly hold them hostage if we dealt with them. We’ve had people call us back weeks later asking to donate for our original offer, after they realized we never called them back to offer a higher price. We’ve had people offer us eggs if we could guarantee them a job and flight over to the USA. You name it, we’ve had it. Most of it has been funny because we are committed to not get frustrated but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting old at times.

All of this had us thinking once or twice…do we really want to try to find our own donor? Do we really know what we are doing? Then we’d go back and look at some of the photos and say, yes, let’s keep plugging along. Then when we finally were so tired and ready to give up & take an emotional break, the most stunningly beautiful donor replied to our advertisement. She was nice, well educated and seemed to be quite stable. Once we discussed the process, she said oh no. So here we were thinking we landed a donor, only to be stressed out with her back & forth fear of medication-taking, injection phobias and overall paranoia about egg retrieval. While we understood her lack of knowledge about what was required, we were drained emotionally by the process of trying to explain to her what was expected. We also found ourselves perplexed as to why she’d answer an advertisement when she should have expected that at least 1 needle was involved somewhere along the process.

Eventually we told her that this was more stressful than we could endure and we declined to continue further. She came back and said she was willing to think about it again once she had verified the process with Dr. Malpani. So she eventually spoke to Dr. Malpani and finally bowed out one last time. I must admit, I didn’t do a good job of telling her about the medications. I was too honest and this was best something left up to a Dr. to explain because just listing them out is scary to someone who’s not seeking a child and just wants to help, even if it is for monetary gain. I should have thought about that before I blurted out all the medications and injections. I now know it’s best left to a trained physician to tell patients about stuff like that.

So in the end, Mark & I knew it wasn’t meant to be so we didn’t get too upset by her resurfacing only to bow out one more time. We believe what’s meant for us is meant for us and will come our way without a bunch of coaxing and cajoling.

So we continued to plug on. Then Dr. Malpani suggested egg sharing. We were elated with the option but then we ran into a road block when the only person who has offered to share her eggs wasn’t of Indian descent. This mattered greatly to us because of my heritage so we again, prayed about it, declined that egg sharing opportunity and are now moving forward.

So, 8 months later we are still looking for an Indian egg donor. We’ve put our IVF plans on hold until we either find one through an agency willing to allow us to pay them a referral fee and use their donor or until we locate a donor whose photo we approve of. Most practices aren’t interested in sub’ing their donors out so this may result in us going back to the newspapers for more advertising.

Mark and I’ve talked about this until we are blue in the face. It’s most important for us to have a healthy child. But it’s secondly (not equally) but still important to us to have a child that looks like me as much as possible or like she/he could have been related to someone in my family, even with ½ of my husband’s DNA injected in the mix. Because we’ve located two women who fit this bill but who bowed out because of (a) fear of the procedure to extract the eggs and the 2nd because of a family and medical emergency, we’ve decided to press on because we now know that in a country of over 5 Billion and in a city like Mumbai of 22 Million, she’s out there. We just have to be patient and allow God to deliver her to us.

Traci & Mark.

[email protected]

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