It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. Here’s my infertility story and how I became a mother via egg donation. #NIAW #ListenUp
Throughout my life I was led to believe it was no big deal to conceive a baby in my forties. Back then, when people asked me (as they so often do ask women in their 30s) if I planned to have children, I waved them off. Maybe. Eventually. Someday. I’m not sure. Even as I edged into my late 30s, I felt no particular urgency to find a mate and start a family. As an educated, career-driven, young woman, with no potential long term mate on the horizon, I thought I had time.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I learned the hard way. I woke up in my late thirties, partnerless, on the eve of perimenopause, longing for a baby, and fully aware that if I was going to become a mom, I was going to need to do it on my own.
I jumped in to get pregnant via sperm donor, realizing that I was running out of time, blind to the reality of what it would take to get pregnant at 41. Soon after, my doctor advised me that if I wanted to get pregnant I was going to need to use an egg donor.
I refused. I was going to beat the odds and thus tumbled down the rabbit hole of infertility options. Alternative treatments, western drugs, herbs, dietary restrictions, stress reduction — l—you name it, I tried it. But my efforts to defeat the odds weren’t working and I needed to try something different.
Initially, I worried about the lack of genetic connection and had to reexamine what being a mother meant to me. Did I need a genetic connection to feel bonded? Was that an integral part of motherhood for me or not?
It came down to this: why did I want to be a mother? Simple — I wanted to shepherd a life –share insights and wisdom, watch a child move through the stages of life. I wanted to experience the intense two-way street of love between mother and child. And, when I looked into it deeply, none of that was dependent on a genetic connection. In the most extreme scenario I could think of I knew that if someone dropped off a baby or child at my house and asked me to raise it, I’d be thrilled, loving that child with all my heart.
Ultimately, I decided that that being able to carry a child through pregnancy was something I wanted. Now I am the proud mother of a beautiful son via egg and sperm donation. I most definitely got exactly the child I was meant to have. And I desperately want every woman to know that a child conceived via egg donation will be no less loved or bonded to you. This fact will fade into the background forever.
My journey toward motherhood was an alternately harrowing, humbling, liberating, and even exalting trip that reminded me, time and again, that life rarely goes according to plan. In the end, life dashed every expectation I had about how I would become a mother. But through the unfolding of unexpected circumstances, I was pushed to find learning in the hardship and to let go of my firmly-held beliefs so that something else could arise.
How can you reimagine motherhood so that you can have the baby you are meant to have?
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Why Plan C? Well, motherhood rarely comes the way we hoped or expected. Sometimes we have to move well beyond our original vision. In my case, Plan B was to become a single mother by choice, using an anonymous sperm donor. I ended up at what I affectionately call Plan C because I needed to use an egg donor as well.
Even if your plans didn't work out as we expected (psst, it never really does), don't let it stop you from embracing your unique path.
So that we can get to know each other better , I want to share my story with you and why it put me on a mission to help women all over the world do whatever it takes to become a mother--if they decide that’s what they want.
As a child, I was obsessed with babies. If anyone asked me if I wanted kids when I grew up, I would exuberantly respond that I wanted eleven babies (I know, right? Eleven??) I distinctly remember stalking a pregnant mother in my neighborhood, asking if I could care for her child once it was born. She obliged and I spent every day after school at her house. You could basically say that loving babies and kids was my hobby.
But somewhere along the way, I lost my conviction and clarity. I went to college and law school, graduated at the top of my class, and got a job at a prestigious law firm during the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley. I was focused on my career and worked insane hours. Dating, however, was not my best skill, and I wasn’t taking any intentional steps to find "the one." When people asked me if I wanted kids, I would always say, "I don’t know. It’s a decision I want to make together with my partner once I find him."
In contrast, most of my friends who wanted babies were deliberate and intentional about their dating efforts. They spent time on dating sites, went out specifically to meet men, even hired matchmakers. Soon, they moved on to marriage and began having kids.
But I just never found him.
However, I was fast approaching 40 and there was still no partner in sight.
As I faced the closing of my fertility window, I realized I needed to think about whether or not I truly wanted children ... with or without someone to co-parent with. I wasn't panicked though. Friends all around me were having babies in their late 30s and 40s. My own mother had me when she was 39. I thought that, if anything, my generation had proven that having a baby later in life is possible and, in some ways, more desirable.
It took me over a year of contemplation to decide to take the leap into solo motherhood. As much as I loved children, I wasn’t certain that I was ready to give up my freedom and life of spontaneity.
Who would I be if I couldn’t travel the world, go see various spiritual teachers on a whim, stay out late dancing, and sample all the best restaurants and music festivals?
The flip side started to seep in too though: Would life get boring for me if I only had to focus on myself? At some point would I get bored of travel, retreats and dancing?
Already, the last few times I had traveled somewhere exotic, it didn't have the same allure. The intense drive of my spontaneous life was fading. Something else was calling me. I was looking for something ... more.
And then one day, my teacher said to me, "Have you noticed that you cry every time you talk about not having a baby?"
It was true! And that was a startling realization. But, as I considered the idea of solo mothering, I just kept thinking: This isn't the way I thought my life would unfold! I had to mourn the life I thought I was meant to have and re-imagine the remainder of my life unfolding an entirely new way.
My greatest fear was — Would I be alone forever if I have a baby by myself? Who would want to date a single mom?
I was also deeply concerned about financial stability.
How would I manage alone — financially, emotionally, logistically? What if I lost my job? Or couldn’t work again due to physical pain?
My teacher reminded me that nothing in life is ever certain.
People who find the love of their life end up divorced, cheated on, and even widowed. Happy couples remain childless due to infertility. No one's "dream life" is promised to them. And, everyone's job safety is impossible to predict.
I could freak out about having a baby alone and miss my chance at becoming a mother, or I could lean into the uncertainty and let the rest of my life unfold as it was meant to. Having a child alone did not necessarily mean I’d never meet a life partner. It might mean delaying the partner for several years, or it might mean that being pregnant would make me feel amazing and sexy and call in the partner I’d always dreamed about. It was truly impossible to predict.
Then, one day in meditation, I had a vision of a little girl in a frilly, pink dress riding on a swing on a glorious spring day. In that moment, I knew — I wanted to become a mother more than anything. All of my indecision vanished in an instant! I was ready.
I wanted to be of service in some way, and I realized I wanted to be of service to a child. (Of course, at the time, I had NO idea just how much surrender and sacrifice motherhood would entail!)
I researched the logistics and started trying to conceive a child alone with the use of an Identity-Release donor (which is an amazing process, by the way, but that's a story for another day).
But then, my OB/GYN informed me that if I wanted to have a baby, I’d likely have to use an egg donor. WHAT? This was definitely not part of the plan!
I refused to listen and instead spent a year trying to get pregnant with my own eggs (I won’t even start trying to explain the lengths I went to on that front) I finally accepted that I'd need to use both a sperm and an egg donor.
I finally came to terms with having a baby via egg donation and I have no regrets.
On April 3, 2014 my son was born. Happily. Gloriously. A beautiful, healthy, amazing son. And, I can’t imagine a more perfect union. I have no doubt I got the child I was meant to have.
Motherhood is about love, plain and simple ... no matter how complicated the journey is getting there.
You can read my whole story in my new book: Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming A Mother Doesn’t Go As Planned: A Memoir. It’s due out Oct. 17th but you can pre-order your copy now.
All My Best,