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"You don’t need DNA to love someone”: Victoria's Journey through Egg Donation

11.04.2020 / Isabella Brown
"You don’t need DNA to love someone”: Victoria's Journey through Egg Donation

“The easiest thing you’ll do is love your child. And that child will love you back,” Victoria said, reflecting on her experience with motherhood and egg donation. Victoria wrote her book, “Why I’m Glad My Eggs Didn’t Work”, to share her story of pregnancy through egg donation, and help give hope and encouragement to women going through the process. “I wrote my book because I wanted women to know that there can be this level of love. You don’t need DNA to love someone,” Victoria said. 

Victoria’s fertility journey began soon after she got married at 29. “You’re so naive when you’re first starting out, you just think it’ll happen when you want it to happen. Especially when you spend a large portion of your adult life trying not to get pregnant,” she said. They tried naturally for about 3 years, and nothing happened. She tracked her ovulation, put her legs in the air after sex, and did all the things she thought she was supposed to do to get pregnant. Throughout her adult life, Victoria had had extremely long and painful periods. She’d have periods lasting two weeks, sometimes staying in bed for four days because her pain was so debilitating, and passing large clots of blood. “Every OB I’d seen had always said to me, that’s just how you’re made, you just have to live with this,” Victoria said. She was told again and again that this was “just her body”. Meanwhile, she was bleeding for half of the month, and experiencing chronic pain. It impacted her whole life.

Victoria went to an RE who ran a lot of tests. They found her FSH levels were significantly lower than expected for her age. She was 33 at the time. She ended up doing five IUI’s back to back, but none of them worked. The doctors did a laparoscopy, and found that Victoria had stage three endometriosis. “I know that I lived with that since my freshman year of college, but no one was there to advocate for me, or tell me that something was wrong. Everyone just told me that’s how my period was. But I know I probably never had viable eggs.” After being told by many OB/GYNs that her symptoms were “just how her body was made up”, it was disappointing to discover that she hadn’t received that reproductive health care that she’d needed.

They moved on to IVF, but Victoria didn’t grow enough follicles to be successful. She got two eggs during one cycle, and only one was healthy. The egg didn’t fertilize. At this point, Victoria had begun to research donor eggs on her own. She wanted to understand a potential next step, if IVF didn’t end up working for her. Eventually, her doctor brought up the idea to Victoria and her husband. Her husband was not excited at first. He had imagined his child being half of Victoria. Victoria herself had already gone through a grieving process, after coming to terms with not passing on her genetics. Her husband had to go through a similar process, on his own time, before agreeing that egg donation was the right path for them. “We all grieve differently,” Victoria said. She had told her husband, “I want to become a mom. The DNA is not the most important thing.” 

They found a donor that looked exactly like Victoria. Even the way she talked, laughed, and acted reminded the doctor of Victoria. Victoria and her husband both thought it was crazy that they were able to find this woman. She was a first time donor, so they weren’t sure what her fertility would look like- but she was young, and the earliest tests had not shown any issues. Victoria was super excited to embark on the process. However, things took a turn right before her donor’s retrieval. “The day before her retrieval, the doctor called us and said, I have good news and bad news. The good news is she is just like you, Victoria, but the bad news is, her eggs are like yours too,” Victoria said. This was devastating for both Victoria and her husband, who felt like they had been through so much already. “After that happened, I was at my darkest,” Victoria said, reflecting on how hard it was to deal with this news.

After this, Victoria and her husband took a long trip around the world. “We were skipping everything fertility for an entire year,” she said. There was one moment, when they were in Thailand, when Victoria decided to sit next to a monk who was sitting in a temple by himself. “It was pouring rain, it was like a movie,” Victoria joked. The monk handed her two bracelets, gesturing that one was for her, the other for her husband. Something about this moment was very powerful for Victoria, and she realized she needed to try again: “I said to my husband, we’re putting on these bracelets, and when we get home, we’re going to find a new doctor, and a new donor, and give it one more try.” 

That’s exactly what they did- they got home and started working with a new doctor. He told them, “You don’t need to find your twin. You need someone who is fertile and healthy.” They found a new donor who didn’t look much like Victoria, but they didn’t care. The donor had helped families in the past, had a high success rate, and even had children of her own. With this donor, they did a retrieval and transfer, which was successful. This is how Victoria and her husband had their daughter, Florence. They welcomed their daughter with so much gratitude, and so much love. 

They had gotten three embryos from the initial transfer, and last March they decided to try for a second child. This transfer didn’t work, which shocked Victoria. She had done the same protocol as she’d done to have her daughter, so she had felt sure it would work. “It wasn’t just my loss. It was a loss for my daughter, as a sibling.” This was hard on Victoria. They plan on trying again soon, and Victoria feels like she’s going in with a better mindset. “I feel emotionally strong. I feel like whether it works or doesn’t work, I’ll be okay,” she said. 

Victoria is passionate about advocating for women’s health, and improving the education surrounding fertility. “I do believe there needs to be education around types of symptoms, and things to look for, in terms of reproductive health. Young women need information about what fertility is. If you have a dream of becoming a mother, you should learn what to look out for within your body,” she said. By the time women are looking into learning more about reproductive health, it’s usually because they’re facing fertility challenges. By then, it may be too late for some. In Victoria’s case, she knew something was wrong- she’d experienced chronic pain and debilitating period symptoms her whole adult life- yet she was told it was normal. She wishes she had known that the symptoms she experienced were actually indicative of endometriosis. “I wouldn’t change anything, because it led me to my daughter. At the same time, though, I was robbed of my fertility because I didn’t have that advocacy or education for me and my health,” Victoria said. Reproductive health can impact someone’s entire life, and it’s important that women are given the information they need to take control of their fertility. 

Victoria shares her story online in the hopes of helping women who are going through similar things. “I was so tired of hiding. Also, I thought if I shared my story, maybe I’d help one woman who was going through similar things.” Now, years later, she has made real friends through the fertility community. “We’ve bonded over this very specific path to motherhood,” Victoria said. She hadn’t known anyone who had gone through the egg donation process. She knew some friends who had gone through IVF, but it wasn’t quite the same. “It’s a totally different grief than infertility in general. There’s a lot of commonalities, but it’s also very unique, and I think that you need other peers who have experienced what you’ve experienced to support you,” Victoria said, “Unless you’ve lived it, you can’t truly understand what it feels like. To carry a baby in your body that’s not your genetics. You just can’t explain what that feels like to someone who hasn’t been through it.” She shares in order to find others who have gone through this, as well as support women starting the process, and give them hope. 

Victoria wrote her book, “Why I’m Glad My Eggs Didn’t Work”, to share her experience with the whole process. From the grieving of your genetics, to finding your donor, Victoria is open about it all. “I think there’s a lot of people who obsess about finding their twin, because ultimately you are kind of in denial. If you’re trying to find your twin in your donor, you have to ask yourself why. Why is that important?” Victoria was forced to lose that “twin” donor, but in the end this led her to her daughter. She wouldn’t change a thing about her journey, because everything she went through brought her to where her family is now. “At the end of the day, we don’t have control of genetics anyway, even if they are ours.” She feels like the whole process ultimately gave her a special connection with her daughter.  “It’s really bonded us. It’s created this relationship with my daughter that I don’t think I would’ve had otherwise,” she said. “We wanted her so badly. She’ll never have to question how wanted she was. All that we went through for 8 years, to get to her, led us to her. I still cry almost every day when she smiles at me. I’ve never loved anything like I love her.” Victoria wrote her book to show that there can still be this love, even if your baby has different DNA. “It was always meant to be her- I really believe that. I think our babies always find us. She’s the perfect match to me,” Victoria said. She still feels a biological connection to her daughter, because she did carry and give birth to her. “It’s a really beautiful and magical situation. Three people made a human,” she said. Victoria’s book has helped other women who are navigating the egg donor process. Her book has inspired women who thought they would never be mothers to try egg donation. Ultimately, there are women who are pregnant, and women who are mothers, because of Victoria’s book. “I wanted to let people know that this is a beautiful way to become a mother,” she said. Victoria’s journey to motherhood was long, and different from what she expected, but in the end, she wouldn’t change a thing. It brought her to her daughter, and that’s what matters most.

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