2016-2017 were very difficult years for us. After a year of testing, drugs, procedures, ultrasounds, and more testing nothing was helping. It was at this point our endocrinologist gave us a list of alternative routes to have a family. They were ICSI (fancy IVF), embryo adoption, sperm donor, or adoption. We had to decide what we were comfortable with and what we were not. I remember being in the car saying we could just cross using a donor off our list. It was weird and kinda creeped me out. So, we went down the alternative routes to having a family we felt comfortable with. Every route we went down felt right until the door would suddenly shut. To say we were confused was an understatement. We felt forsaken and we felt like God wasn't guiding us to anything. I had a binder full of research, journal articles, and data that now seemed like a waste of time. Spiritually, emotionally, and physically we were hurting. We were going in circles. Maybe we just needed to give up.
During this time I was a Beehive teacher ( girls youth group for church). One of the activities was for the girls to go to the temple. I remember being a Beehive and loving going to the temple, but now I just didn't want to go. I really didn't feel important to God. However, my dear friend Amy told me I needed to come and we would do a session. I remember sitting in the temple praying with a wounded and open heart only to receive the sweetest, direct, and profound revelation I have ever received. Am I going to share that with you? No. It's so special and personal to me. What I will say is I received information I wasn't prepared for. In essence, was told we needed to use a sperm donor to conceive a child. That God had children for Sean and I. It didn't matter their DNA or biological connection. Our job was to get them to earth with the healthiest body and mind possible. Needless to say, I will eternally be grateful for Amy, but this new revelation threw me for a loop!
I was stunned and I didn't really know what to do. This was the #1 thing we crossed off our list. How would I go to Sean and tell him that we needed to use a donor? So I dug myself into research, data, and journals. I had been at least a couple months of trying to figure out when to go to Sean, but the timing never felt "right". Although I KNEW what our path was, it was really difficult. I'm not sure if it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I was sitting at my brother's house talking to my sister who is a very in tune with the spirit individual. She asked me if we had ever considered using a donor. I felt like just bursting out into tears. I didn't share what I had come to know with her at that point, but I felt another confirmation of the spirit. I remember telling her I wasn't sure how to bring it up with Sean. It was then when I heard the spirit whisper," he is more prepared than you know".
So hours later I am in the car with Sean driving down Satterfield St. and I just blurted out," Sean I need to talk to you on how to have a family". Sean replied that he too wanted to talk to me. We sat at a stop sign and looked at each other. It's like we didn't need to use words. Our hearts both knew. He started saying he wasn't sure how to come to me about it because I was so against it. He wasn't going to tell me what to do with my body. I told him how I wasn't sure how to tell him about it because I didn't want him to feel less of a man, husband, or dad. The conversation opened and we shared our experiences that we were both individually given months previous. We talked about our fears and hopes in using a donor and agreed we both needed to do some research together. We scheduled more testing and prayed that the results would show us clearly this was the path to take. Our doctor said you couldn't have asked for a clearer answer. The odds of us conceiving even with IVF or even ICSI didn't give us a hopeful percentage. We were SO grateful for the clear answer we got. However, the journey was just beginning.
Using a donor isn't for the faint of heart. There are a lot of factors to consider. Open or anonymous donor? What cryo/sperm bank to use? What ethical standards do we need in a bank? What testing is important to us? What genetic or family history factors will we not accept? Do we want to see adult photos or just baby photos? How many times were we willing to try? (FYI using a donor isn't cheap if you want an ethical bank). We found ourselves discussing our plans with our priesthood (church) leaders and constantly on our knees praying for revelation.
I had a couple binders color coded and full of medical journals and research. During this time we found the bank we felt comfortable in. For 6 months Sean and I, on our own, started going through every profile. There are hundreds of profiles! We kept a list of donors we liked. The whole process is weird! Each donor had photos of them as a baby/child, an audio recording of their interview, a description of their physical looks, hobbies, degrees (that are verified), personal history, medical history, family history, and psychological reports. We both had things we were okay/not okay with when it came to physical and mental health. Those were some open and raw conversations. For instance, I watched my Grandma Cady deteriorate from Alzheimer's. Because I have a choice, there is no way I want to mix more of that in my future children's genetics. It was more emotional to go through those profiles than anticipated.
What surprised me is the number of donors that have a personal connection with infertility. Some donors were married with kids conceived via egg donor. Some had siblings, family, or friends that needed an egg or sperm donor. There is the percentage of college boys who just want some extra cash on the side, but you can weed through those relatively fast. It was important to us that the donor was open to contact and that they had a spouse that was also open to their husband having contact. It was amazing to me the reaction we would have to each donor. In the end, Sean and I compared our top 10. Our top 3 were the same, but most importantly our #1 donor was the same. Our hearts swelled. We knew that God had heard our prayers and that we were guided by the Holy Spirit to know who to pick.
For Sean, it was important that he shared a physical characteristic with our children. I respect that. The donor we selected could have been Sean's brother. They also seemed incredibly similar in personalities and traits. Although we planned on being open about using a donor, I understood that Sean wanted some kind of connection with our kiddos! We ordered our vials and scheduled an IUI with the doctor. The whole process was extremely stressful and awkward. When it came time the vial we had was a dud and was missing .3 ml of the .5ml guaranteed. I broke down. I just sobbed. It took us SO long to get here and this happens? The bank, of course, replaced the vial for free. However, you can't take back the months of tracking and medications. Much to our surprise, IT WORKED! I can't even describe the shock and joy I felt. Our doctor told us it typically takes 3-4 IUIs before success. We were elated!!! However, at 7 weeks I miscarried. It was my birthday of all days. It was awful. We felt lost. We felt abandoned. We were in the middle of moving and a busy wedding season full of traveling all over the west coast. So we took a vacation from infertility and trying. It was time to focus on "us" again.
Months later we found ourselves trying again. 4 times total from the beginning. Every time giving us a positive pregnancy test, but ending in a miscarriage. I knew something HAD to be wrong. I told my doctor I didn't care what the cost was - I needed answers. He ordered a new panel of tests for me and 3 days before my 5th IUI he called me with results and was sending me to a hematologist for a blood clotting disorder that somehow was missed 3 years previously. I tested positive for one test and on the border for 2 others. I had to retest in 12 weeks. BUT I was scheduled for another IUI in THREE DAYS! I had already spent a good 1.5k in ultrasounds and monitoring. I wasn't going to abandon that cycle. I asked if I could just take the shots (blood thinner) anyways just in case. My doctor agreed. We felt hopeful! That night I went to order what was hopefully our last vial for a couple of years. Our donor had 19 vials left. Sean was tired and pleaded that we just order it in the morning. I agreed. When we went to order the vial the next morning our hearts sank. THEY WERE ALL GONE! I called the bank in a panic. They didn't have any on backup. Who was buying 19 vials that night?!?! We had to pick a new donor and FAST. It had taken us MONTHS to pick the first donor. How would we pick another in a couple of hours?
I told Sean we were fasting and praying that morning like we had never prayed before. We went our separate ways to go over the profiles. We came back with our favorite 10 and had 5 in common. However, I noticed the 5 we had in common didn't look like Sean at all! He grabbed my hand and told me he didn't care if they looked like him. They were HIS and he wanted them to have the best physical and mental health we could potentially give them. My heart swelled. I married such an amazing man! We then knew who our donor was. He is half Caucasian and Japanese! So, obviously, he doesn't look like Sean. Something about him just felt right. We ordered the vial and a couple days later hoped for the best.
Here are some baby/childhood pictures of our donor!
Fast forward 12 days later. I didn't feel pregnant at all. However I had some spiritual experiences, and I wasn't sure what to think of them. I didn't even want to test but did one anyways. There it was. It was faint, but it was there. I didn't feel I could trust the test because I never tested out my trigger (HCG shot that basically forces your body to ovulate- thus can give you false positives if you test too early). I called my nurse and she got me in right away. The blood test was positive and the numbers were significantly higher than any other blood test I had! It gave me some hope. I didn't want to tell Sean though. His birthday was coming up and I didn't want to ruin anything. So I told him I wasn't testing yet ( I AM THE WORLDS WORST LIAR! I have no idea why he believed me besides the fact he was also scared). You go in for a second blood test to make sure your levels are rising I told the nurse that my husbands birthday was that weekend and if possible getting those results on Saturday would be greatly appreciated. Let me just say I have an AMAZING team that knows me, our story, and are the best doctors and nurses ever. She called me the morning of Seans birthday (Saturday) to inform me that not only had my numbers doubled they had quadrupled! With a lot of help from my parents and sister, I threw Sean a party themed after The Office, our favorite TV show. You can watch the video below. If you have watched the TV show it will make more sense!
He was in shock. He gave an emotional reaction later that night once he processed the information. It has been a very emotional journey - especially in the beginning.
One thing I noticed throughout this journey is that unknown to many there are a lot of heterosexual couples that use a donor. However, they are not open about it because of the culture and stigma that surrounds using a donor, especially in the church. Our reproductive endocrinologist said that more couples are going the donor or embryo adoption route than the typical IVF route, but many don't seem open about the topic. This hurt my heart, a lot. There is no reason why someone should have to feel ashamed or embarrassed! In the church handbook it says, "The Church strongly discourages artificial insemination using semen from anyone but the husband. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife. Responsibility for the decision rests solely upon them." Our path wasn't wrong. I knew that. But "strongly discourages"..... The wording was heavy for me.
I had to come to the understanding that discouraged doesn't mean forbidden.
Quite frankly I remember judgment that went around when couples were doing IVF 10 years ago because the handbook basically says the same thing. I'm sure they went through the similar feelings that we did. Having conviction in their hearts, but knowing the opinions of others and their lack of understanding could lead to heartache. Yet now its widely accepted for couples to do IVF! It gives me hope for couples using an egg/ sperm donors or embryo adoption. I KNOW it’s not the path for everyone (just like our path wasn’t IVF), but I hate to think people pass up the opportunity that they feel/ know is right because of the wording. I know many couples struggling with it right now. To seek understanding of that wording was a growing experience for us, personally.
I honestly don't see it any different than an alternative form of adoption. Sean in a way is adopting this baby as his own. I know this baby is ours. It may not share Sean's DNA, but I know they will share a special bond that DNA cannot create. I'm grateful for the opportunity to experience pregnancy. I'm thankful for our donor. Without him, none of this would be possible. Most of all we were thankful for God, the Holy Spirit, the atonement of Christ, family, and our Priesthood leaders. We had support and love throughout the whole process. I hope that other couples can be open about their experience using a donor as well. The only way to change the stigma is to help others understand.
I know this blog with bring about a mix of emotions from others and a lot of questions. I am currently writing a Q&A blog. If you have questions feel free to message us! We would be more than happy to answer them :)