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The Parents Via Egg Donation Organization: May 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I’m Not Done But They Say I Am.

I always wanted four kids. Two boys and two girls. This was my dream, my fantasy, and my plan. Four kids. In this dream this big happy family lived a in sprawling ranch style house with a pool. I was a soccer mom and I was proud of it. My kids played musical instruments, they sang, they did well in school. Aside from being gorgeous, smart, and great kids, I was their mom, and I was married to the love of my life and we were doing that great American thing by raising a large family.

Things didn’t quite work out that way for me. I experienced my first miscarriage at 22 and continued having 8 more until I was 35 and said enough is enough – something’s gotta give. That’s when I researched and found one of the best RE’s (John Hesla, Oregon Reproductive Medicine) in the country and sought out his opinion. What he told me I was half expecting -- I needed an egg donor to have a child because in short my eggs were shot, the odds of me having a genetic child were very poor. I ruminated, marinated, and reflected deeply his words. What was more important to me – hanging on to my genetics that weren’t going to work or being a Mom.

I chose being a Mom.

Once I boarded the ED train I didn’t look back and was really excited to begin.
Thankfully for me the first try worked. I got pregnant – had one hell of a pregnancy. Bleeding, hyperemesis, preterm contractions, you name it I had it. I then went on to have my child and of course nothing is easy for me. Labor and delivery were no fun, but he got here safely and soundly, and he was healthy and he was mine! mine! mine!

I was finally a mother – AMEN.

Or so I thought.

Two years after he was born mother nature played her Jedi mind tricks on me and I completely forgot about what my pregnancy was like. Nature’s maternal instinct kicked in and my baby clock went off again – it was time to have another baby. I was almost 40 and I felt time wasn’t on my side. And I knew if I wanted to have those four kids I’d need to have them in quick succession.

Because I was approaching 40 and had experienced some post partum complications (blood clots for starters and some cardiac stuff) I was supposed to now see a long line of doctors who would decide my fate. I was so resentful during this time because I felt entirely ripped off.

First of all, my body failed me – my eggs couldn’t be like normal eggs that are plentiful and full of great DNA to make babies with. No, my eggs had to be crappy, my DNA skewed, and after all was said and done my body has a clotting disorder that we didn’t recognize until after my son was born. In fact, I think we are damn lucky to have him here, and me here if I am being completely honest.
And now they were making me go before a panel of doctors who would decide my reproductive fate. God I was pissed off. Even now this many years later it still irritates me. Ugh!

So – after many meetings with my doctors, and many long and animated discussions with my husband they all decided It was too dangerous, too risky. The argument was they wanted me around to be a mother to my son, not be some martyr who insisted on having more children to fulfill her selfish wish of having a large family. The day I received the news was probably one of the lowest days of my life. I was too sad to cry – all I could do was hold my son and marvel in his perfectness and know I’d never give birth again and experience the miracle of life. It wasn’t going to happen for me, now or ever.

What did we do?

We accepted our fate, enjoy the hell of our child, and cherish each and every day with him hoping we don’t over indulge him along the way. My husband will tell you he’s perfectly fine with one child, raising an only child doesn’t bother him in the least. I wish I felt the same way. I really do. We talked briefly about a gestational carrier – but that was too far out of our reach money wise. We talked about adoption but we realized that wasn’t something for us.

I went to create and found Parents Via Egg Donation – as a way to help those who are looking at creating their family through egg donation. PVED would be my baby, and I’d have thousands of babies through women like you. And maybe fill that emptiness in my heart that is still there. Thankfully, it has keep me really busy, and in many ways fulfilled. The joy I experience on a daily basis knowing we make even the smallest difference in the lives of women all over the globe is amazing.
But I have to say even as the founder of this very successful organization I still have my moments. The pain is still there. Some days as fresh as the day I received the news I’d never carry another pregnancy. No one could have prepared me for the pain that comes with secondary infertility.

And honestly I don’t always know how to deal with that.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Language - It's all about the Lingo...

I was talking to a close friend of mine one day last week and the subject of my child’s egg donor came up. This subject comes up from time to time and I am totally okay with it. While we were talking, we were laughing about how tall my son is. (He’s 5’4 at 9 years old). It’s also amazing how much he looks like both his father and me. In fact, he acts more like me than his father personality wise. The characteristics that he has are split pretty much right down the middle, actually, it’s rather fascinating.

Anyhow, my friends said, “Does your son get his amazing hair from the donor mother?”


My head snapped and my friend I think realized what she said and immediately said “Oh Marna, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded, I am so sorry.” In my head, I was thinking “What the hell?” at the same time my body tensed and I felt my arms instinctively cross themselves across my chest.

So I took a deep breath and smiled and I hugged her telling her it was okay that this was uncharted territory for lots of people.

Both of us are writers (she’s much better of a writer than I am), and so, we both deal with words, language, and lingo every day. We are hip deep in it if you will, and are continually amazed how powerful all those little letters put together can be.

My friend said, “Of course you are the mom, but what do I call her?” I laughed and said “Anything you want” and I meant that. My son and I have make up names for her all the time. For a while, she was known as the “Angel Lady.” Then for a while, she was “Eddie” (E.D. sounded out.) And later still she actually had a name I named her “Julie” as that’s my favorite girl name of all time (Actually Giulianna), and my son I think referred to her as “Sasha.” More often than not, when my son refers to her he will say “the donor.”

He and I have talked about the fact that he shares her genetics not mine. He will be the first one to tell you she is clearly not his mother I am. In fact, he was so sweet, he said to me not long ago “Mom you know this whole egg donor thing is just a formality.” I cocked my head and said “ A wha?” “You know Mom, a formality, or a technicality. Technically, I am my egg donors genetic off spring. “Ooooh” I replied and nodded, wondering where this conversation was going. Knowing my child is science minded I was bracing for the whole mother conversation as we have talked about the parentage of for instance plants. However, that never came what came next was extraordinary.

My son wanted me to be very clear that while he was grateful to our egg donor as he loved his life he couldn’t imagine anyone else other than me to be his mother, and in no way did he consider the egg donor to have any role as a mother in his life. I hugged him fiercely and said something along the lines of “Gosh I would hope not, who else is going to pick up your dirty underwear?” We both laughed, for the millionth time we connected, and bonded on a level that is so pure, sweet, and real.

I am asked all the time – “What should I refer to the egg donor as?” My answer to that is whatever you want. Some recipients know their egg donors or at least her first name and can refer to her by her name. Others have family members who are their egg donors and so that egg donor might very well be “Aunt” – and for those of us who used an anonymous egg donor referring to their egg donor as “the ED” is normal and natural for us.

Where does that leave the conversation with me and my friend? It left me thinking that we don’t have the same kind of language and verbiage that the adoption community has and clearly, it’s something we need. We know what ASRM thinks we should refer our egg donors as, and we know that there is a community that feels we should refer to our egg donors as the genetic parents as our children have their DNA.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. 10 years ago, the term “genetic mother” or “donor mother” would have horribly threatened me. Now? I could give a rip. Why? Because I am so invested and ensconced in the relationship with my son that I know hands down who Mom is – me.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I am a Public Figure. Are My Reproductive Choices Any Of Your Business?

I am a Public Figure. Are My Reproductive Choices Any Of Your Business?

I don’t know about you but when I hear that a celebrity or a public figure in their mid forties is pregnant, the first thing I think of is “Good for them!” And the second thing is “probably egg donation” and then I go on with my life. I don’t ponder, obsess, or feel the need to know for certain if their child they are having is going to have that genetic connection or not.

Because the reality is—I don’t care.

Now this doesn’t mean the public doesn’t care. In fact, they care very much. So much so that because of tools the internet provides us these days (bulletin boards, forums, etc...) all of those questions that are typically only thought and speculated about are now posted for all to see.

This brings me to the age-old question about public figures in general. What’s off limits to the public in regards to public figures, or celebrities? Are we entitled to know how much money they make? Are we entitled to know what faith they are? Are we entitled to know the personal details of their intimate relationships? Are we entitled to know about their medical conditions and health history? Are we entitled to know about any criminal records, credit scores, what they throw out in their trash, or whom they might be horizontal bopping with?

Where do we draw the line?

For years, we have made public figures and celebrities spokespeople for products and medical procedures. They advertise food, diet, car, weight loss, fitness, clothes, medical, and various other products. We buy those products a lot of the time because of celebrity endorsements.

“Wow if Valerie Bertinelli lost weight on Jenny Craig and damn she looks good so can I!” Look at Jennifer Hudson; she has gone from size 16 down to size 6 through Weight Watchers. She’s their spokes person and the Weight Watcher memberships I hear have increased by 30%. What a boon for Weight Watchers.

So now, we are looking at Reproductive Endocrinology and namely egg donation. There are not many public figures who are stepping up to the plate. Why? Even those who have chosen jobs where it places them in the public eye or mind you, the limelight they do have a right to privacy, especially where their kids are concerned – but then drawing that line at egg donation makes everything that much more complicated.

How does it make it complicated? Well for those women who are in their mid to late forties having babies, whether it be singletons or twins this perpetuates this crazy fantasy that your fertility and mind is endless!


That fact remains that fertility begins its decline as early as 28, markedly so at 32, and even more so at age 35. Once you hit forty and beyond your chances of having a child with your own eggs drop to about 5%. Forty-five and beyond you are talking 1%. When a woman uses donor eggs, her odds jump dramatically – like over 50%. In addition, if you select a clinic that has amazing stats your success rate can jump to 80+ percentages.

I get why those in the public eye may want to shy away from talking about the way in which they created their family. It’s all about their children that they love so much. But you have to know that the celebrities who have adopted children – Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Jamie Lee Curtis, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Katherine Heigl, Rosie O’Donnell to name a few have done so proudly – because it’s a beautiful thing.

Therefore, the question remains – If trying to protect your child from the stigma of egg donation are these famous-celebrity-public figures creating stigma, weirdness, and uncomfortablness by this veil of silence and secrecy.

Or really is it just none of our damn business?

What I would like to see is a group of physicians get together and create a public service announcement that is broadcast nationwide that says clearly “Your neighbor, your friend, or even a public figure might announce happily they are pregnant over the age of 40. Before you think you have lots of time, here are the facts about female fertility”

Will it ever happen? I don’t know. But in the meantime I am going to be left wondering if the Holly Hunters ( 47 ) Jane Seymour’s (44 ), Joan Lunden’s two sets of twins, (52) and (54) Elizabeth Edwards, (48) (50), Kelly Preston’s (47), Sarah Jessica Parker’s (45) Marcia Crosses’s (44), and the Laurie Metcalfe’s, (50), by the miracle of modern medicine, and some magic potion had their children or did they use an egg donor.

My guess it’s egg donor. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make their kids any less special, different, or unique. Their children are their children, end of story.
I just wish someone like them would stand up and say, “You know what, I used an egg donor. I am proud of it. And I am here to educate you.”

That’s what I’m talkin about!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Dr. Paula Amato from OHSU Fertility Consultants to give FREE Egg Donor seminar.

I had the privilege last year of appearing with Dr. Paula Amato Associate professor and reproductive endocrinologist at OHSU and OHSU Fertility Consultants on a radio program called "Think Out loud".  The subject matter revolved around whether or not the government should limit our fertility choices.  The radio program was excellent, lots of great topics were discussed.  I found Dr. Amato to be warm, caring, friendly, and incredibly knowledgeable regarding egg donation and Third Party Reproduction.

On  Tuesday, May 25, 2010  from 6-8 p.m. Dr, Amato is hosting an open house and giving a presentation called:

Title: When traditional infertility therapies don’t work: Achieving the goal of becoming parents through egg donation

This free seminar is going to be presented by Dr. Paula Amato with OHSU Fertility Consultants located at OHSU Center for Health and Healing, 10th floor, 3303 SW Bond Avenue, Portland, OR 97239

Registration recommended: www.ohsuwomenshealth.com/lectures

Dr. Amato specializes in caring for patients with infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, and menopausal issues Her research interests include stem cells, metabolic-endocrine interactions, and environmental impacts on reproductive health. Dr. Amato finds her work intellectually stimulating and highly rewarding. Her patients' life stories and the science of reproduction are what inspired her to pursue a career in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Dr. Amato loves the Pacific Northwest and says that OHSU is a great fit for her. In addition to outdoor sports, reading, independent music and film, and ethnic food, Dr. Amato enjoys spending time with her partner and their two dogs.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Genetic Link And Becoming a Mom: My Story of Being a Donor Egg Recipient

I originally wrote this piece for Fertility Daily.  I typically blog and go, but this piece has stayed with me and I felt I wanted to post it here as well.

I was quoted the other day in the New York Times about my feelings about regulation regarding egg donation. I am not shy about how I feel on the subject. I think less is more where the government is concerned. The issue being that we are supposed to be a self-regulating community regarding egg donation and Third-Party reproduction and we aren’t. The Nadya Suleman’s of the world have put the “freak show” back into Advanced Reproductive Technology (ART), which frankly irritates me to no end because we as a community have worked so hard to educate the public about ART specifically egg donation. Moreover, while we want to put a face on those who create their families via egg donation many of us are afraid to be “outed “because of public reaction to something “different.” The NYT article as well as the ABC Article focused on the cost of eggs and those agencies who don’t abide by ASRM guidelines because after all they are just guidelines. ABC also focused on donor compensation, and what characteristics recipients felt were important in making their donor selection.

This got me to thinking about egg donation as a whole. How I get from point “A” to point “B” meaning how I made my own donor choices and my journey along the way. For me when I received my diagnosis that to create my family and become a mother I would need to rely on an egg donor I was initially relieved. Finally, a doctor could name what was wrong with me instead shrugging and saying “I don’t know.”

After 16 years of failure I was sick of “I don’t know.”

Then I began to ruminate – about my future child, about the fact I would not be seeing myself in the eyes of my child, or for that matter having a child that would have no genetic connection to me or my side of the family. I won’t fool you – that was a tough pill to swallow. Nevertheless, I swallowed it. I gnashed my teeth in the beginning because I didn’t know any better. I cried bitterly and shook my fist at my creator. “Nine times I lost babies and now you are telling me I can have a child maybe but I have to give up my genetics? Have you lost your mind!?”

So what did I do? I took the blue pill and jumped through the looking glass with both feet. I have never looked back. I have only gone forward. For instance, I decided I hated the fact I am a shrimp. Being short has been the bane of my existence. I feel strongly that tall people have it easier in life. Therefore, I decided I wanted a tall donor – an Amazon if I could find one. A tall donor coupled with my husband’s 6’3 stature would create a very tall child. I have some cardiac issues on my side of the family as well as Diabetes. I wanted to make sure my egg donor had a clean health history. I also was sick of my stick straight dark hair that never did anything. I have paid a lot of money over the years to have curly hair – so I selected an egg donor with thick curly hair. Is that being vain? Probably. However, my mindset was if I have to trade in my own genetics I might as well find someone not only had the characteristics I found appealing, but also someone that I could connect with, and fit into our family.

Was I scared? You bet I was. The insecurity I felt was overwhelming. However, I realized through the process it wasn’t just about losing my genetic link it was about finally becoming a mom. 1. Would I be a good mother? 2. Would I be as good of a mother as my own mother who inspires me every day? 3. Would I screw up my kid? 4. Would I be able to love this child even though this child and I shared no DNA?

Finally, when I was able to answer those questions:

1. Yes

2. Yes, my own mom taught me the most important thing about being a parent was to love your children unconditionally and to accept your children period – warts and all.

3. Yes, not only would I screw up my kid, I was going to do it on a regular basis. I was going to do it so much that I decided I would provide my kid with a “therapy bucket”. Every time I screwed him up, I’d give him a buck to toss in the therapy bucket to pay for the therapy he’d need later in his life.

4. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have to say this was probably the easiest part for me – was to love him unconditionally. And this is coming from someone who started out in a rocky place. I didn’t feel worthy of this piece of perfection, and when I finally got it together and came to realize I was deserving of this being who loved me unconditionally my shields and defenses came down I began to love and haven’t stopped since.

When I hear the media use the term designer babies, or read the snarky comments from those who do not agree with how intended parents select their egg donors I am left with the question – “How did you go about selecting your mate or life partner?” There were certainly characteristics you found attractive or appealing were there not? It is the same for us – except we do not get to use our own genetics to have our children we rely on a third party for that purpose – and with that being said, I see no reason for us not to be able to be comfortable with our egg donor selection.

So let us fast forward to 2010 – almost 10 years have passed since the birth of my son. The whole egg donor - selection process is hazy. In fact, even though I am the founder of PVED I often forget about the donor aspect because he is simply my son. He is an amazing, beautiful, well-adjusted, blue eyed, very tall nine year old who could care less about the manner in which he was conceived. Moreover, we don’t care how he was conceived. We are just glad he is here, that he is part of our family, and I am thankful every day for the privilege to love him.

I am not sure even why I feel the need to defend my choices. In the end, what others think is not important. I am my son’s mom they aren’t.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Let's not judge the single dads in the world -- okay?

One of my most favorite outspoken friends has taken the bull by the horns once again to talk about a subject matter that frankly needs to be talked about. We have lots of single mom's having kids. In fact, we don't even look twice. We have couples - hetero couples and gay couples raising kids together, no one looks twice about that either. However, when a single dad joins the ranks of child raising there are often times whispers, and those sideways glances that ask "Why would a single dad want to have children let alone raise them?"

Here is an outstanding editorial by none other than Wendie Wilson. Former egg donor and now very successful egg donor agency owner of Gifted Journeys Egg Donation agency based out of California. Wendie has a whole lot to say about those single dads we love so much.

Wendie Wilson - Editorial:

I've worked in the field of assisted reproduction now for over 10 years. The first agency I worked with felt strongly that a single mother could use an egg donor as long as she had familial and friend support, but a single dad was, well, just wrong. I realize that popular opinion holds women to be the more nurturing of the sexes. However, I don’t necessarily feel that holds true across the board. Nor do I think it's fair or open-minded to turn away single, stable men looking to start a family based solely on their gender.

Many studies done on families with single parents or same-sex couples revealed that what made a healthy, happy child had far more to do with the amount of time spent with the child than what sex the parents were or by having two parents of the opposite sex present. Time spent, needs met and quality relationships which include love and care are far more important than the age-old idea of needing both a “mommy” and a “daddy."

There are often concessions made for the single mother; women who are viewed - quite deservedly - as strong, independent and capable. Unfortunately the same image is rarely conjured when speaking about a single father. Many egg donors, IVF clinics and egg donation agencies question the motives of a single man wanting to have a family. The perception is that a man who wishes to raise a family himself is somehow unnatural. What could be wrong with him? It’s a harsh generalization that is unjustifiably accepted in our culture. If a woman has not found a suitable life partner, it's considered understandable. But if a man remains single, he is called into question for remaining so. There are men who have suffered through the loss of their partners before they were able to share the child-rearing experience. And others who have simply not met the right woman or man. We should not sentence these men to isolation and contempt while simultaneously raising aloft women who've experienced the same vicissitudes. Modern men and women have evolved into much more complex parental roles over the last half-century, and it's high time we begin to take that evolution into account.

Many of the single fathers I've worked with, whether straight or gay, have been some of the most concerned, compassionate and understanding intended parents I've ever met. As with all of the intended parents that I've worked with, they have their own stories of heartache, loss and rejection to share with the rest of us. We so often see talk shows where girlfriends or wives ask for men to be more compassionate and nurturing. Television series and movies are constantly exploiting the time-honored trope of a man "getting in touch with his feminine side," and we love to watch the actors succeed in doing so. Yet when real, actual men in touch with their more nurturing instincts want to experience all of these wonderful moments with a child or children of their own, we look sideways at it. Perhaps it’s time for a shift in perception from the old, draconian gender-based decision process to one rooted in understanding why single men might want children of their own.

Let's stop judging single men who share the very normal, human desire for parenthood. Let's embrace all types of families along with the different ways they come into being. Let's open our eyes, hearts and minds to the possibilities. Single dads: my door is open to you.