I suppose “advanced maternal age” is better than its former medical term “geriatric pregnancy” – but, I mean, not much. How about “experienced-life pregnancy?” That is so much less offensive. The odds of getting pregnant and having a baby even at prime age are seriously very slim. The odds after forty – miniscule. But there I was. Forty. No husband. No prospects. No babies. When the odds are already that stacked against you and you haven’t met the man of your dreams yet, you start looking at options – adoption, fostering, anonymous donor sperm, anonymous donor eggs or giving up the dream altogether. I chose the donor sperm route first.
So, not unlike an online dating service, I started scouring the sperm donor websites for the sperm of my dreams. Over the course of eight months, I attempted to extract eggs from my own geriatric ovaries, only to find that my ovaries were over-y. And again, not unlike an online dating service, I started another search scouring for the donor eggs of my dreams. And that is how my twins were made.
Here are five lesson I’ve learned from my experience using donor eggs and sperm to conceive my twins.
1. If I had known then what I know now, I would have frozen my eggs when I was younger.
That was not even on my radar though. Why would it be? It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t meet someone, get married and have kids the old fashioned way. Besides, both of my grandmothers had children at forty, so as far as I was concerned, I’d hit the genetic jackpot in the department of reproduction. As it turns out, your grandmothers’ ovaries pretty much have nothing to do with how your own operate.
So, in hindsight, I wouldn’t have waited until I was forty to figure out my ovaries were done. I would have had my FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone – basically an indicator of how many eggs your ovaries are packing) checked earlier in my thirties to see how they were holding up. If it looked like it was going downhill, I would have at least had the knowledge to make an informed decision about whether or not to freeze my eggs for future use.
Having said that…IF I had frozen my eggs and used them, I would not have the sweet, smart, hysterical boys I have now. And, well, that is completely unfathomable. So, I would tell any thirty-something without kids who may want them someday to at least have their FSH checked, and perhaps use that as a gauge to decide if she should freeze her eggs in the event she needs them. But, it’s hard for me to be sad about not having done it myself, given how much I love these crazy boys of mine.
2. If I can give myself a shot of Progesterone in Oil (PIO) in the ass, daily, for sixteen weeks, anyone can.
I thought the subcutaneous belly shots were bad when I first started, but pushing a viscous substance through a syringe into a muscle that has been punctured and saturated with said substance for sixteen weeks is pain like I can’t describe. Some days I would lay on my sofa with an ice pack on the spot to numb it, and cry because I so badly wanted to skip the PIO shot that day. Afterward, I would lay on my sofa crying while massaging the area with a heating pad to try to work the oil through the muscle. Those muscles were knots for months after I stopped needing the shots. What this tells you is that you can do anything you put your mind to. When you want something enough, you will find a way.
3. Having twins that are not genetically related to me is sort of weird.
It’s kind of like adoption, except I carried them in my belly. It’s kind of like surrogacy, except I got to keep them. I chose all the pieces (donor eggs and sperm) based on characteristics that matched myself and my family. One of my boys in particular looks, and is, a LOT like me. My mom is very appreciative that I have a logical mini-me to out-argue me the way I out-argued her when I was four.
The fact that I’m not genetically related to them rarely crosses my mind. But every so often something floats past me that I know is related to their genetic history (which I know some of). I also have to force myself to remember our unrelated genetics when I fill out family history questionnaires at doctor’s appointments. I almost always answer the first several questions about my own family medical history before I remember that it is not the boys’ history. There is benefit in that I know a LOT about their genetics because of the vast testing done on both donors I chose – probably more than most people know about their own kids’ genetics.
4. You need a tribe.
I cannot stress this enough. Find a multiples tribe, or a single mom tribe, or an over forty new mom tribe. Whatever tribe you need, others need it too. It is NECESSARY to seek and find the other moms out there going through something similar to you. The support you receive from others in your same situation will save your sanity when you are at your lowest – downing cold leftover chicken nuggets and yogurt melts with a merlot chaser, as you realize you are out of milk and dry shampoo.
5. The idea of marriage is on hold for now.
I had to come to terms with the fact that my hope of finding someone and getting married was going on hold for a while. That was not easy. I had to give up my notion of how my life should be, how I’d expected it to be, and how I’d always hoped it would be, knowing that the path I was choosing was going to be harder than I could even fathom. The reward was totally worth it. I do still have hope that the guy will show up one of these days and be like, “Hey girl”, and I’ll be all, “YOU’RE LATE,” and we’ll live happily ever after.
I learned not to dwell on how I got to this point. Single or married, donor eggs, donor sperm or both, carried or adopted, children come to us however they are meant to come to us. I had to get over the self-consciousness I felt, and if I’m honest, embarrassment, about not having found my husband and having to go it alone. It still creeps back in sometimes, but fortunately I’m just too damn tired to care about feeling self-conscious about it anymore. I have twins, after all.
Brooke Stearns is a single, working mom of twin boys, who, although she grew them in her belly, are not genetically related to her. Besides her boys, she loves white sand and blue water, new passport stamps, the color pink, and FSU Seminole football. Brooke has a new blog in progress at brookeandtheboys.com, with a corresponding Facebook page here.