Embryo Donor Stories
Hearing about the experiences of embryo donors can help in working out what embryo donation might look like for you.
We are fortunate to be able to share the story of two embryo donors:
1. Q & A with a donor:
Why did you decide to donate your embryos?
My husband and I always knew we wanted a family. When we got married it was our first priority. We knew we were going to need intervention and quickly started with IUIs before moving onto IVF. Through our journey we were almost at the point of needing donor eggs as we had zero fertilisation during our first IVF cycle however we were lucky enough to have success with ICSI IVF. Facing this possibility though helped us realise what it felt like to want something so much but not be able to achieve it on your own. We decided then that if we had any left-over embryos we would donate them.
Was it a difficult decision?
After the birth of our 3rd child we felt our family was complete and it was time to donate our remaining 5 embryos. After seeing what these little blastocysts grew into, donation was the only decision we felt happy with.
How did you find your match? How long did it take?
We spoke to our fertility clinic but they only did anonymous donation and we knew that we wanted to be able to meet the couple and possibly receive updates on the children born from the embryo’s. We searched the Embryo Donation Network classifieds and the ads on eggdonorangels.com. We decided that we would place an ad and see if we could find a couple that may be interested. We were contacted by a number of people who were all lovely and seemed so deserving but we were instantly drawn to one couple in particular. We emailed back and forth for a few weeks and felt like we were all very much on the same page with everything. Our clinic required us to do at least one counselling session alone and one joint one with our recipients. We scheduled our counselling after about a month of email communication. Everything went really well so we signed the documents at the clinic the following week. Our recipients than had to wait a 60 day cooling off period before they could move onto their first transfer.
Do you have communication with your recipient?
We do! Initially we had said in counselling that we would just like updates every now and then but we have ended up having regular contact. Our recipients have emailed us and kept us updated regularly throughout their journey and we have found ourselves wanted more correspondence then we initially thought. It has actually been easier to deal with the donation emotionally being a part of the journey. We have met up in person for lunch once when our recipient was about 8 months pregnant and it was so nice to get to know them more on a personal level and for our children to put a face to the names. We also share research and articles that we come across with our recipients and vice versa which has been nice. We have all been talking a lot about the research that shows the children born from donated embryos and my own children are better off knowing as much as possible from as early as possible so we are all very open about it all with our children. We have made little books that explain things in a simplified way and with photos so our children can try and understand what is happening. Our recipients have just given birth to a baby girl and we couldn’t be happier for them!
What advice would you give to others looking to donate/become a recipient?
Donating embryos is such an amazing experience. We feel so grateful to have found a couple willing to give these embryos life and love and that they are so open with us and letting us be a part of the experience. We didn’t set out to make this extended family but that seems to be how it is going. My advice is to be open to this evolving form your initial ideas of what this will look like for your family and take time to find recipients that are on the same page as you. A wonderful, fulfilling experience that brings joy to everyone.
2. Embryo Donor Story:
"The decision to donate one’s remaining embryos is an enormous, complex issue. While it might seem like the “right” thing to do and well-intentioned people may share their opinion about it being “a solution” for infertile couples, it is a deeply personal issue and one that will remain with you forever.
My husband and I made the decision to donate after reading an article that stated 20 people were waiting for every one embryo in storage and the fact that there was a very high number of embryos just sitting in storage. I also had a friend who had experienced a long and difficult path to getting pregnant with her child. Embryo donation is not something I had much knowledge of, so I turned to the internet and I was encouraged by the positive stories I read about. My husband and I went ahead with finding a recipient, but I also did more research about the donor child’s perspective.
There are not many sources that describe the perspective of a child born from embryo donation, however there are many adults that were born from sperm donation who are now sharing their stories. Unfortunately, many of these adults were born when donation was completely anonymous and their records have been lost or destroyed. I heard about their search for identity and the loss and grief they felt.
We decided that we wanted a ‘semi open’ donation, where we could have ongoing (distant) contact with the recipient family. In my mind, this would eliminate the potential issues that could arise, such as the potential child growing up feeling disconnected from their family or questioning their own identity. We did counselling through the clinic and were told that, “worst case scenario”, we would be informed of the gender once the baby was born (the details that are available on the NSW Donor Register).
Never did we imagine that our worst fears would eventuate. Contact between the recipient and I dwindled just before she had her first embryo transfer. I didn’t think about it further and was distracted with my own life, until I received a phone call from the clinic to say that she had been unsuccessful after transferring two embryos and didn’t want to use the last one. I tried to reach out to her via email, but when that failed I looked her up on Facebook. It turned out that she did have a baby, who would have been conceived around the time that we had last had contact.
I was completely devastated. I had put all my trust in to a stranger that I met online (which seems questionable in hindsight) and they ended up violating our agreement. We found out that the system only relies on the honesty and goodwill of those involved and there are no checks or measures in place to regulate this. I had two options, to accept that we had been used and our situation was the only (exposed) case where a recipient had not upheld their agreement to the donor and the clinic or I could try to make sure there was no chance of this happening in the future. The reason we donated our embryos in the first place was to give those embryos the ‘right to life’. Therefore, I feel that any children born from those embryos also has the ‘right to know of their genetic origin’.
During my journey in advocating for these rights I have met donor conceived children who have been denied the right to find their origins, donors who had experiences that had not ended in the way they envisioned and people who have been advocating for a long time. Although our situation turned out to be completely heartbreaking to us, we are still happy that a child came in to this world and I know that he is cherished by his parents.
If I could give any potential donors advice, it would be to take your time and make sure that you listen to your instincts. As donors, we are in a very vulnerable position and sometimes emotions (including a feeling of urgency) can cloud our judgement. Take your time and make sure the other person really respects your feelings/needs. I have heard and seen that it can turn out to be a really positive and beautiful experience. My advice to recipients – donors are just that, they provide the building blocks, but it’s you who creates the magnificent miracle of a child. It is that child’s right to have access to information about their genetic origin and this right should not be tampered with. Some states (not all) have put systems in place to make sure that children are guaranteed access to this, but it cannot do this without the honesty of all those involved."
Note: In 2016, the accrediting authority of Australian IVF clinics (called the Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee, or RTAC) recognised the risks of situations like this happening. RTAC recommended that clinics minimise the risk of situations like this by doing the following:
1. Clinics to make sure that counselling explicitly covers potential issues that might come up with agreements between recipients and donors
2. Clinics to get written agreement from the recipient that they will have a pregnancy test after a donor embryo (or egg or sperm) cycle.
3. If a recipient fails to attend such a pregnancy test, clinics to report this to the State Donor Registry (if there is one in that State).
All of this will be documented in the written agreement between recipient and donor, including explanations of why this pregnancy test is so important.*
Embryo Donation Network volunteers are always available to discuss thoughts, fears, concerns and questions you might have about embryo donation. Our chief aim is to help you to make a well informed choice about embryo donation. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to talk.
*Source: Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) Technical Bulletin 8, Donation of Gametes and Embryos, May 2016