May the odds be ever in our favour (written 15th November 2014)

Two and a half weeks on and I’ve just had the second scan in my evaluation cycle. The cycle is designed to test my body to make sure it can do everything it’s supposed to in order to receive the donated-egg embryos we hope to have once we commence our proper cycle. Amazingly my body has behaved and my endometrial lining is at 10.6mm after only a week of minimal drugs – much more than the 8mm required to pass my mock cycle. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised, my body has always been pretty good at this part of the process, it just can’t do the one piece that makes this part worthwhile – grow a decent egg. Nevertheless I’m pretty pleased and am anxiously awaiting an email from San Diego to say we’ve passed and I can stop the drugs….or more to the point, move onto the next ones.

As far as I know our blood tests have come back normal (yay!) and we also ticked off our counselling session, if you can call it that, last week. It’s the third time I’ve seen the counsellor we saw (my fourth counselling session at the clinic) and, having just seen her for our local donor cycle, this one was more of a formality than anything else. Once again we’d already spoken about most of the stuff she bought up and knew exactly how we felt about it. We’re generally a pretty laid back couple so her ‘curveballs’ (“what if your donor had donated to someone else here locally and you ran into the children from that donation”) were kind of like water off a ducks back. We’re prepared for that and will deal with it if it arises, we’d like to think that would be a positive thing rather than something to worry about. What worries me more is the extra risks we’re choosing in the hope of having a child.

We’ve decided to go with the clinic’s ‘Success Guarantee’ which basically means, if we’re accepted into the program, our cycle/s will result in a baby or we get most of our money back. If our first cycle doesn’t work we go back for a cycle or cycles using (should we be lucky enough to have them) our frozen embryos (AKA FET) until those frosties are used up or until we have a baby. If no baby results from this process, refund. The catch with this – other than having to qualify for the program – is that they transfer two embryos each time. Yep, there’s a possibility (although isn’t there always) of us having twins, a thought that both terrifies and excites me.

There’s roughly a 40% chance of our cycle resulting in twins and, should that happen, the risks for both mother and babies go up dramatically. There are higher risks of premature birth, low birth-weight, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and complications and/or issues both as newborns and later in life. I’m not going to lie, all of that absolute petrifies me. What if the decision we’re making now severely impacts on the future lives of our children. What if by implanting two we’re effectively issuing them with a life sentence? So why have we made the decision we have?

It certainly hasn’t been made lightly, and I wonder every day if we’re doing the right thing.  It’s partially a question of money – the success guarantee option is roughly only $5,000 more than a one-off, one time only, single-embryo transfer – and that’s clinic fees only. If a single-embryo transfer wasn’t successful we’d not only have to fork out another nearly US$20k, we’d also have to cover the costs of getting to San Diego and staying there again. Admittedly we’d have to cover travel costs under the Success Guarantee cycle too, but at least we wouldn’t be paying the clinic fees again.

Another part of it is that after three failed IVF cycles here (and countless other treatments) it just doesn’t feel like the odds are in our favour. It honestly doesn’t feel like it could work. I know that may seem stupid (especially given we’re using the eggs from a donor in her twenties) but after nearly four years of failure it’s extremely difficult to believe that things could go right. We’ve been conditioned to think negatively and now feel the need to give ourselves the best chance of success.

To further increase our chance of success we’re also opting to pay extra for Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) where a selection of our embryos are tested pre-transfer (usually around day 5) for any chromosomal abnormalities and the best (or most normal) embryos are selected for transfer. This testing will hopefully reduce our risk of miscarriage further down the track. It’s also possible to test for gender at this time and we’ve been told we have the option of choosing the sex of our child/children before the embryos are transferred into me. WOAH! Hold up there, what?!? Yep, we could potentially choose whether we have boys, girls, or one of each (assuming the embryos stick and make it to full-term). This world is starting to sound a bit Gattaca. Scary. Still, not ones to leave an issue unexplored, it prompts a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of this.

The idea of twin boys freaks me out, we both (pre-fertility issues) always wanted a girl first, but if we were having twins then maybe one of each would be nice, or maybe twin girls would be better. In the end boils down to this: all we want is a healthy child (or children!), whether it’s a male or female, two of one or one of the other doesn’t matter to us, and so the choice of sex pre-transfer is irrelevant. All that matters is that the baby is healthy and is ours. End of discussion.

It seems we’re not the only ones freaked out by twins as, although our donor had initially said she’d be happy with an open donation, with her previous cycle resulting in twins, she’s become a bit freaked out about the whole thing and now wants to remain anonymous. However all is not lost. She’s agreed to register with the Donor Sibling Registry so, while we still won’t know who she is, we’ll be able to contact her anonymously to ask questions and share information. That’s enough for us! Our main concern was essentially ‘losing her forever’, having her disappear into the woodwork with no way to ever contact her with questions, and our child or children losing the only connection they have with one half of their genes. Who knows, even our donor herself has admitted that, at some stage in the future, her feelings on contact may change and we may have a more open relationship.

And that’s pretty much where we’re at. We paid San Diego for our donor’s medication today (eek!) so once the last little bits and pieces of our pre-testing are ticked off we’re good to go. Assuming I pass my evaluation cycle, SDFC will soon be providing us with our timeline, we’ll know our rough dates, and the die is cast. May the odds be ever in our favour.


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