Life can throw you some real curveballs.
When my wife and I decided to join the big leagues of parenting, we soon realized we were playing a game we couldn’t win alone.
We were told our best chance to become parents was through egg donation.
Devastated isn’t a strong enough word for it.
A Tragic Twist
I knew marriage had its inevitable challenges and thought I could handle them. In-laws, petty fights, forgetting to do the laundry – I was prepared for that. But infertility? I didn’t see it coming.
I died a little when I saw how broken the diagnosis left her. I still remember the heartbreaking look on her beautiful face afterward.
“A reproductive disease,” the doctor explained. “More common that people realize,” he assured us.
I couldn’t bear to see her so despondent, and yet there wasn’t much I could do. I felt helpless in every way imaginable. I just wanted to take her pain away - to shield her from it all.
After leaving the doctor’s office, I gently asked what she thought about the doctor’s suggestion of donor eggs. She silently gestured to be left alone, shaking her head in grief and disbelief. I tried to say something consoling, but it didn’t work.
I looked on helplessly, not knowing what to do.
Time progressed painfully… with lots of tears from both sides. I ached for her – and us - daily, but always “kept it together” in front of her as best I could. To show the strength she needed me to have, whether I felt it or not.
After months of doubts and deliberation, while on our way to Olive Garden one Friday night, she announced her resolve to use donor eggs.
I knew it was our only chance to experience pregnancy, but its unconventionality wasn’t so easy to accept. Regardless of how innocent the arrangement was, involving another woman felt like cheating on her. We spent many late nights talking about our feelings – how she felt like “less of a woman,” and how I equally felt like “less of a man” because I couldn’t protect her or fix the situation myself.
The truth is: neither of us were “less” of anything.
During our conversations, she valiantly wrestled with the knowledge our baby wouldn’t share her genes. It was difficult to accept that I would be genetically related while she couldn’t be. Thankfully, thoughts of the intimate physical bond that would exist between her and our baby – whose heartbeat and life would depend on her own – offered consolation. The baby would be every bit hers, regardless of genetics.
The Egg Donor
Selecting our egg donor was the strangest choice I’ve ever been given. We moved forward with eggs from an active, lively, fun-loving teacher who enjoyed Italian cuisine. We were ready to begin the process…
… and everything went according to plan. My wife was finally expecting our first child. Seeing her go from emotional wreckage to excited expectancy was more comforting than I can ever express. My awkward feelings vanished. She was happy, I was happy, and life didn’t seem so bad anymore.
The Unexpected Embarrassment
While we kept the news “under wraps” from most of our acquaintances, we happily disclosed our use of donor eggs to our families and a few close friends. Unfortunately, one of our not-so-sensitive friends soured the experience with a simple question:
“So, it’ll be a test-tube baby?”
Is that what people would think? Was our baby going to be seen as the town’s first lab-spawned Homo sapiens? I wondered and seethed in uncomfortable, silent anger before politely responding with a few choice words.
This was another awkward moment I didn’t see coming.
I began researching his comment more and - true to the doctor’s word - discovered we weren’t alone in our struggle.
The Inevitable Relief
To our relief, IVF has helped more than five million infertile women get pregnant and become happy mothers. Clearly, we’d be lost in the crowd of IVF beneficiaries. Millions of families are leading happy, normal lives thanks to donor eggs. Society had already embraced IVF with open arms - our friend’s callous question was just one insensitive opinion, nothing more.
Being a Donor Egg Daddy
Learning and dealing with the knowledge that you or your partner is infertile isn’t in The Playbook to Life. It was incredibly difficult for both of us to come to terms with it. I felt angry, sad, helpless, anxious, awkward, confused, inadequate - the list goes on. I’m truly in awe of my wife’s determination and own strength throughout the process. Because we persevered and raised to the challenge, we now share in the incredible joy of being parents.
As I watch her tend to our little girl with the deepest love and fulfillment, I believe we’ve hit a home run.
-- Joseph A.