My Donor Egg Baby Is Five

by Robin Silbergleid

Before I took the plunge into becoming a single mother via donor gametes, well-intentioned friends (and strangers on the internet) told me that once my son was born being his mother on a day-to-day level would eclipse DNA.  My doctor, on the other hand, cautiously warned me she had a patient who never managed to bond with her baby born of donor eggs.  Both these scenarios seemed unfathomable to me.  And, indeed, even as I loved him ferociously from the moment the second line came into focus on the home pregnancy test, for the first years of my son’s life, there wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t think about the years of fertility treatment and anxiety-ridden high risk pregnancy that followed, that I didn’t wonder about the egg donor who provided her DNA.

At some point that mental-spinning stopped.  It’s hard to know when.  But I suspect now, looking back, it was around the time my son turned four, after the fog of hormones and sleeplessness faded, when I published a book about IVF, started participating regularly with the ART of Infertility, and offered to donate my remaining embryos.

candles_lit5My son is now five, and daily I run the gamut of emotions that go along with being a mother to a preschooler.  Impatient that it’s taken a good fifteen minutes to get him into the bathtub. Anger that he’s thrown his shoes (for reasons only understood by small children) up to the ceiling to crash down on the lamp in our entryway.  Delight at helping him climb into a crabapple tree.  Pride that he gives his only dollar to the homeless woman at the entrance to the highway.  Nostalgia for those days I rocked him for hours in glider, at once grateful he existed and desperate for him to sleep.  Our relationship, as all mother-child relationships, is both extremely complicated and pure.

I have not yet told him about his origins, as he’s barely begun to ask about ‘how babies are made’ in the usual sense; using his best preschool fantasy, he’ll talk about how he was alive when I was a baby in grandma’s tummy.  In a more immediate way, we’ve needed to address the fact that he doesn’t have a father, although because we’re not at the sperm-meets-egg part of the story, even the term ‘donor’ hasn’t made it into our lexicon.

It’s not a big deal.  And, indeed, I rarely have the moment that I think about the fact that my relation to him is different than my relation to his sister, conceived the ‘easy’ way via unmedicated IUI.  But I am still caught off guard when someone who knows something, but not everything, of my story observes that this fair-haired boy looks a bit like me (huh?).  It’s in that moment I remember the kind-eyed woman smiling at me in the clinic waiting room for one of those too-early morning ultrasounds in the week leading up to IVF retrieval, the woman I’d never seen before in all the months I’d been there, the woman, as I remember, who, in fact, looks a great deal like my son.

I will never know who she is, as I deliberately worked with an anonymous donor and declined all but baby pictures.  She is not part of my family, although her generosity made it possible.  As my son grows, as that sperm-meets-egg moment recedes in its significance, I continue to rewrite our family narrative.  On my son’s birthday this year, the friend who accompanied me to embryo transfer and–exactly 37 weeks later– his birth, presented me with a black and white photo taken in the recovery room, where I held my swaddled newborn and my then seven-year-old daughter looked on with a soft smile.

This is not an argument for why you should do a donor egg cycle if you’re thinking about it, or even acknowledgment that those well-intentioned strangers were mostly right.  My thoughts on having a child via egg donation have changed many times, and I have no doubt that they will change again, as my son grows and asks questions and as working on ART of Infertility continues to reframe my own infertility story.  Now more than five years out, I can say the gift of infertility is in the relationships it made possible, and for that I am eternally grateful.


Medical Tourism – IVF Abroad

Darla, traveled to the Czech Republic for donor egg IVF and is today’s guest blogger. This post does contain an image of a pregnancy announcement as well as talks about loss. Thanks, Darla, for sharing your story!

An Unexpected Journey

“Journey” has always been the word I’ve used to describe our battle with infertility. (I’m also very deliberate in the use of the term “our battle” because, while it’s most likely that my eggs were the culprit, I can never forget that my husband was by my side through it all, and he is just as battle-worn as I am.)

Our journey to growing our family was an emotional one that tried to takes its toll on our relationship; a physical one that definitely took a toll on my body; a spiritual one that found me begging on my knees for a reason that a loving God would put us through this.

And for us, it was a literal journey. Practically to the other side of the world. But more on that shortly.

When we were told our best chance for success was using donor eggs, we considered it for a brief moment, but realized to do that here at our home clinic would require years of saving, and of waiting. We thought about living childless, but my heart could only take that for about, oh, a day. We looked into embryo adoption, and even had a wonderful and selfless woman reach out to us and offer us her embryos, but it quickly became apparent that it was very important for my husband to feel connected to our children in some way.

Our research into donor egg IVF led us to something we first brushed off as crazy: traveling abroad for an IVF cycle. The number one place to go for donor egg IVF cycles abroad is the Czech Republic. So we laughed and said, “Thanks but no thanks” to that idea, and kept researching. And our research kept bringing us back to a trip to the Czech Republic.

A dear friend of mine, who I met through an online infertility community, was dealing with a similar situation to ours at the time. She texted me one day and asked if I’d heard about this Czech Republic thing. I said I had, but before I could say we just weren’t on board, she said, “I think we’re gonna do that!” Her excitement about it was infectious, so I asked her to share her research.

Before I knew it, I was emailing clinics in Prague and other Czech cities to ask for more information about their program. My husband was intrigued, too, and he started making spreadsheets to compare stats. And one night, I sat in a bubble bath and he sat on the floor next to me. We ranked all the stats of the clinics abroad, and our own clinic in Texas. We averaged the rankings. And we found our clinic. I’m pretty sure I cried the next day as I emailed the coordinator at Zlin IVF and asked for an available transfer date in February. I KNOW I cried when she responded with the date that our babies would be put into my womb: February 9, 2016.

The time leading up to the trip was a crazy mess of coordinating with clinics here for meds and monitoring, planning a two-and-a-half-week jaunt through Europe, and talking friends and family down as they mildly freaked out about what we were doing.


The trip itself was a whirlwind. We went to places we’d only ever dreamed of going: Florence, Vienna, Prague. We were standing outside one of the most famous classical music venues in Europe, the Musikverein in Vienna, when we got the call that our donor had 12 mature eggs retrieved and 9 had fertilized. I’ll never forget standing in the rain with my husband outside this gorgeous building and crying over these embryos. We’d never gotten this far before. And though that number was down to only two by the day of transfer, we were so grateful for this chance, and we had faith in our two “little embryos that could.”

Family-photoTwo days after returning from the trip of a lifetime, I told my husband over dinner at one of our favorite restaurants that I’d caved, had tested, and he was going to be a daddy. A week and a half later, we found out that both our little ones had decided to snuggle in!

And now, we take each day as it comes and remind ourselves that we’re farther each day than we’ve been before. Being pregnant after an infertility battle is a battle in and of itself, but like I tell myself daily, “Today I am pregnant, and I love my babies.”


I wrote this blog originally back at the end of March when I was 10 weeks pregnant. We found out not long after I wrote this that we were expecting two little girls who we named Olivia Adele (baby A) and Catherine Sophia (baby B). We spent 14 glorious weeks as the parents of twins, 11 weeks as the parents of our twin girls. We had dreams for them, we had a picture of our life as a family of four.Announcement

And then, sadly, the unthinkable happened. At our 20-week scan, we found out our precious Catie-bug was very, very sick. She hadn’t developed normally – she had an encephalocele on the back of her skull (which turned out to be an open neural tube defect), a very large cleft lip/palate, small brain structures, and one doctor classified her head size as being in line with microcephaly. We were devastated to say goodbye to little Cate on June 22, 2016, a day shy of 22 weeks’ gestation. I am now carrying my sweet little angel and our survivor, Liv, and hoping and praying we make it to October with no further issues. While our hearts are broken for our loss, the excitement we felt at finally finding a way to become parents and our joy in our daughters is not dampened. This is all just a part of our very unexpected journey.

#startasking About Parenting After Pregnancy Loss and Infertility – Lauren’s Perspective

Lauren of Rainbows & Unicorns, a site about parenting after pregnancy loss and infertility, reflects on mothering her daughter who was born after donor egg IVF. This story does include an image of parenting. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Lauren!

I scoop up my toddler and carry her upstairs to begin our bedtime routine. Diaper, pajamas, teeth, goodnight Daddy, books, and then — my favorite part — songs and cuddling.

She lies on my belly, her head against my chest. “Saaah!” When one song ends, she looks up and asks for another. And another. And another. Eventually my little ball of energy goes limp in my arms. I hold her for a few minutes, treasuring her chubby cheeks and the smell of her sweet, malty little head before kissing her goodnight until she wakes up to nurse at four in the morning.

Lauren with her daughter at bedtime.

Lauren with her daughter at bedtime.

Although singing the same limited repertoire until my throat hurts and not having more than a five-hour stretch of sleep for almost two years grate in different ways, I remember how it wasn’t always like this. In the tough moments — like trying to console a teething child having an hour-long exhaustion tantrum at 3 am — I somehow find inner strength. I get to do this.

I am a mother thanks to many people, including a younger mom who donated her eggs so that I could experience the same joy she felt when she held her son for the first time.

It wasn’t joy that I felt when I met my daughter. By then, I’d been through too much to let myself feel anything so big. After miscarriage, infertility, being told I would never have a healthy genetic child, and a high-risk pregnancy requiring me to deliver via planned cesarean, I couldn’t allow myself to believe that I was finally a mom. Not until I heard my daughter’s first cries. Not until I held her. Not until she was furiously suckling did it dawn on me that I was out of the trenches.

But am I really a regular parent now? Parenting after infertility is a strange place to be. As I like to describe it, “I’m no longer in the trenches, but I’m covered in mud.”

The grief of infertility is hard to remember. Like the face of someone you loved a long time ago, it’s hard to recollect its features in detail. That is, until a whiff of their perfume, or a pregnancy announcement, or an innocent remark from someone who has no idea why the question “When are you having another baby?” causes your heart to quietly crack a little.

“I’m no longer in the trenches, but I’m covered in mud.”

For many parents like me, we’ve left Infertility Island but we’re moored offshore somewhere else. Play dates with other parents — so many blissfully unaware of everything that can go wrong before, during, and after conception — can have moments that are hard to navigate. How do you relate to another parent who casually announces she plans to get pregnant in March so the baby is born before Christmas? What do you say when someone asks when you’re having another baby? How do you casually explain egg donation when asked where your daughter’s red hair comes from? In time, the answers come.

Don’t misunderstand; none of this is as hard as trying to have a baby. But when you’re a graduating member of a club you never wanted to join, you’re caught between two worlds: the one you had to leave once your child arrived; and the other everyone else assumes you’re in.

I have my “rainbow unicorn” (if a “rainbow” is a baby born after loss, I surmised one born after infertility would be a “unicorn”) and she fills my days with more joy than I thought possible. But joy and pain aren’t mutually exclusive. What a lot of people don’t realize is that having a baby resolves childlessness — not infertility.

You’re caught between two worlds: the one you had to leave once your child arrived; and the other everyone else assumes you’re in.

Even though we’re parents, we’re still infertile. Unless we fall into a small lucky statistic of spontaneously conceiving after infertility, if we want a second or third child we will have to submit to the invasive, sometimes painful, and always expensive tests and protocols we endured a few years before — this is equally true whether you do infertility treatment or adopt.

If we want a second child, we’re lucky to have eight chromosomally normal frozen embryos to choose from. All we have to do is pick a date for transfer. Most of my infertile comrades don’t have leftover embryos, either because they didn’t do IVF or, if they did, they didn’t have any embryos left over. It struck me the other week that some of my friends are going to have to go through the whole TTC thing all over again. They have my full support and admiration.

For me, parenting after infertility has given me some unexpected blessings. First and foremost, I have this amazing little girl in my life. She’s affectionate, smart, talkative, mischievous, and healthy. We might not share DNA, but we share a sense of humor, a love of Marmite, a dislike of tomatoes, and we’re both pretty tall with big feet. Most importantly, she’s here, and she couldn’t have been created any other way. My journey to motherhood was filled with more pain than I thought I could bear, but I’d do it all over again to have this sweet child that I get to call my daughter.

Eighteen months into this parenting gig, I am more or less at peace with a whole lot of stuff that I never thought I’d be able to accept.

I have a chromosome disorder which means genetic children aren’t possible, so I chose egg donation to build my family. I can say that openly and joyfully now that I’m a parent. I can be open about the way my daughter was conceived because the irrational shame of not being able to reproduce has dissipated.

Breastfeeding has been tremendously healing in this respect. I wasn’t expecting much, so I was surprised that it came to me so easily. Being able to feed my daughter they way I hoped has restored faith in my otherwise broken body. My body can’t make a baby that will live, but it’s pretty damn good at growing and feeding them!

Over the last year and a half, I’ve spent days looking into my nursing daughter’s beautiful eyes fixed on my face — the same eyes I admired in our donor. Not recognizing any of my family of origin’s features in my daughter was, at first, strange. Sometimes she looks like her dad, sometimes she looks like our donor. To my surprise, I like seeing our donor’s influence. It’s reassuring to see something of the special woman I chose to replace my DNA reflected in my daughter.

Eighteen months into this parenting gig, I am more or less at peace with a whole lot of stuff that I never thought I’d be able to accept.

You might say I had a crash course in comfort levels, though. My daughter’s hair is a deep red, and every time we’re out three people, on average, stop us to admiringly ask if red hair runs in my family. At first the question made me wince. I didn’t know how to answer the question without also sharing the circumstances of my kid’s conception. I’ve got good at saying, “Nope! But isn’t it beautiful?” When pressed, I explain, “Red hair is a recessive gene, which means both genetic parties have to carry it.” In this way, I’m able to acknowledge my daughter’s genetic origins while not divulging too much to a stranger if I don’t feel like it.

I guess that’s what parenthood is about: constantly being surprised and having to readjust expectations, all the while practicing patience, kindness, and even finding the funny side when something’s gone wrong.

And in that sense, my infertility journey prepared me well.

Lauren is a mother via egg donation, after miscarriage, infertility, and a massive postpartum hemorrhage. She is a writer, editor, and designer at, a community blog for parenting after pregnancy loss and infertility. Originally from London, Lauren lives in San Diego with her husband and their toddler. Follow her on Twitter at @DEIVFmama.