Since Fertile Heart is a community focused on a radically holistic view of fertility, I can’t post this narrative without noting that egg donation, the recruitment of egg donors and the link between birth control pills and impaired fertility are among the most controversial subjects in the field of reproductive health and assisted reproduction.
Yes, I do believe, that getting pregnant through egg donation can be a journey of healing for both the mom-to-be and the young woman who chooses to be a donor. Morgan’s story and the case histoires of many of my former clients are a testament to that. What’s also true, is that we must engage in a much deeper conversation about the ethical questions surrounding this road toward motherhood. May Morgan’s journey and the upcoming Fertile Heart Guest Teacher Teleconference on the subject contribute to a more meaningful dialogue about egg donation as an instrument of healing.
Diagnosis and being a good patient
In early February, 2011, just weeks before my 27th birthday, my husband and I were told I had Premature Ovarian Failure. When the doctor wrote out the POF support group website on a sticky note, the “F” was in doctor scribble. I asked what the letter was. “F” he said. For failure.
That day, and indeed the framing of the diagnosis in that language, marked the beginning of a journey – one in which I have come to see the POF diagnosis not as something that makes me a failure, but as a beautiful gift that has enabled me to become the person I was meant to be.
In the spring of 2009, my husband and I were getting ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime – a year-long trip toEuropewhere I would complete my Master’s Degree in Ethics. All was well, except one thing. I was experiencing night sweats. And I’m not just talking about waking up a little warm. No, these were wake-up-drenched-and-need-to-change-the-sheets-kind-of-night-sweats.
I went to my doctor, and told her that I felt like the change was hormonal and that I wanted to go off the pill. “You don’t want to get pregnant, do you?” was her response. “Not right now, I said, but we would use other protection. And it wouldn’t be the end of the world.” “Let’s just switch your pill,” she said, “that may make a difference”. Being the good patient I was, that’s what I did.
Upon returning home from our adventure in August 2010, I stopped taking the pill. And then I waited… After six weeks and no period, I went and saw my doctor who told me that what I was experiencing was normal and that sometimes it can take up to six months for a woman’s cycle to return. If I’d known that, I thought, I would have gone off sooner. Or perhaps I never would have gone on the pill at all.
Fast forward two months – still nothing. Worried, I went back to my doc, who said, “I’m not concerned, so you shouldn’t be.” Well I was. In January, she sent me for blood work, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Coincidence or miracle?
In a coincidence that I can only describe a miracle, my mom told me about Julia’s book just two days before we received the POF diagnosis. Something in me just knew that I had to find “Inconceivable”. After calling around to countless bookstores, only to be told they had no copies, I decided in a last ditch effort to walk to the used bookstore at the end of my street. And there it was – that little white spine. I devoured the book in an afternoon. It was as if part of me knew that I would need its strength to carry me through.
The day of the diagnosis, my heart was broken – ripped apart and raw. I was shocked that the thing that I wanted most in the entire world – a baby, the union of my eggs and my husband’s sperm – was not available to me. A few percentage points difference in the statistics of various egg donor clinics didn’t seem to matter much when the possibility of having children that were genetically my own had been stolen away – as if by some dark creature in the night.
Yet, even from the very beginning, I began to experience a sweetness. I was in great pain, yet simultaneously experiencing feelings of sheer joy like nothing I had ever felt before.
My Fertile Heart Valentine
There was the feeling of being held, like a baby, between my parents after they rushed home from a trip to Guatemala to be with their devastated girl. There was the connection with the women in my life – many of whom had experienced a loss associated with yearning to have a child that I had not been aware of. And there was a deepening love for my husband, which was highlighted in moments like the one when, between tears, we reflected on some of our more materialistic friends and joked that we would share our decision to go the egg donor route by saying “Oh, you went natural? We went custom. It was more expensive, but totally worth it.”
On February 14th, just 6 days after the diagnosis, I formally entered the Fertile Heart community via Julia’s Valentine’s Day Fertility Support Teleconference. When I hung up after those 90 minutes, I knew that my broken heart could – and would – become whole again. Just six weeks later, my wonderful mom and I were on a plane down toWoodstock,NYfor Julia’s Meeting Your Child Halfway workshop. Being from the Western part ofCanada, this was no short trip – but not going simply wasn’t an option.
The Woodstock adventure
We spent a nourishing weekend inWoodstock; eating beautiful organic food – including an omelette made of eggs from the chickens wandering outside the bed and breakfast where we stayed – and walking through theCatskill Mountains.
The Sunday workshop was amazing. Through the Body Truth exercises, I allowed myself, and my body, to speak its truth. During a visualization exercise at the Fertile Heart circle inNew York later that week, I received the gift of hope. It was an image of me – pregnant – wearing a blue and white checked tunic that I had purchased on our European adventure the year before. That image became my talisman, and I carried it with me for the months that would follow.
In one of Julia’s articles about POF she offers an alternate meaning of the acronym, POF, she says, stands for Plan On Fighting.
I, too, reframed my POF diagnosis saying, My hormones are currently at levels that make it difficult for us to conceive on our own. As the Fertile Heart tools and a new way of thinking of this challenge helped me move through the initial pain of the diagnosis, the decision to go the egg donor route was relatively easy. I wanted desperately to be pregnant, and it felt like the way to go.
Tuning in with the Fertile Heart toolkit
In the fertility support teleconferences Julia often talked about cultivating our inner fertility specialist and being able to receive guidance that we could experience kinesthetically. That idea became very real during our donor selection process.
When we first began the search, it felt as though we would never find a donor we liked. The problem was, none of the women were me! When I finally got access to the donor egg database, I went through the first few profiles without feeling much of anything. Then I opened the fourth and there it was: a shiver ran through my body, I felt a spark, a warmth, like this person could be my “soul sister.”
Confirmation that we had picked the right egg donor came on a Monday morning, five months ago, when we met with our nurse in preparation for our transfer. She said that when she was at the clinic over the weekend, she saw a woman walk through the door and thought to herself, “What is Morgan doing here? She’s not supposed to come until next week.” And then, according to her, she realized it was our donor. When she told us that story, I was filled with the most overwhelming sense that everything was happening perfectly.
Our retrieval and transfer went beautifully. Today, I am five and a half months pregnant with our beautiful little babe. As I write this, I am wearing the blue and white checked tunic from my New York Fertile Heart Circle imagery – accented with a little brown belt to highlight my swelling belly. It’s my favorite outfit.
As the heart grows and what it all shows
Some time ago, I realized that it was almost exactly nine months between the time I was diagnosed with POF and the time we conceived. One day, thinking back on this journey, I received the image of the Grinch’s heart after he sees Cindy Lou Who, in Whoville. Grinch’s small heart, they said, grew three sizes that day. Well, I don’t think my heart was small before, nor would I say I was a grinch, but this past year my heart has grown at least three sizes. In those nine months, I birthed a new Morgan – one who is more empathetic, compassionate, and open than the one who was there before. For that, and for the role that Julia and the Fertile Heart tools played and continue to play in this journey, I am deeply grateful.