I am Juliane, 43 and single.
My fertility journey began when I was 39 and alone again after an unhealthy relationship.
Up until that point, children weren’t really an issue for me. I was firmly convinced that I didn’t ‘need’ children to be happy. My relationship was a lot older, had three almost grown-up children and in my mind that was enough for me for almost seven years.
After this relationship, I reoriented myself. I met a man and we had a great summer.
But then I missed my period. I got my period after just under 50 days. I didn’t take a test.
I wasn’t relieved when my period started. I should have been happy not to be pregnant by a man I liked, but whom I had barely known for a few weeks. There was more of a sadness. The feeling of having lost something. The feeling of having missed something. And then there it was, the thought that wouldn’t go away.
I thought for a long time about how I was going to have a partner and then a child at 39. Let’s be honest, it’s quite a challenge without the time pressure.
The man remained a summer romance, even if it dragged on for a while longer. But it was clear that he wasn’t going to be the partner of my life or the father of my children.
Or is it?
But then one evening, he and I were fooling around and he told me: “I’ve signed up to a sperm bank”. I asked him why: “Because I want to help women have a baby”.
There it was again, the thought. Tangible, but I couldn’t express it. I had to sort myself out first. Sleep on it. Could it be that simple? Hardly. Or could it be? Single mom? Is that what I want? Can I do it?
A few days later I wrote a message and he was not averse. A joint appointment with the lawyer and everything was settled.
Corona, lockdown, everything dragged on for such an incredibly long time. I tracked my cycle. Temperature rises, LH test shows ES. Looks good, why shouldn’t it work?
We met when it was time. Month after month. Nothing happened…
When nothing happened after several months, I took matters into my own hands.
Teas, monk’s pepper, thermometers for indoors and outdoors, meditation, gynecologist …
The gynecologist sent me to the fertility clinic. “You’re 40 and unmarried, there’s not much you can do anyway”.
At the fertility clinic I had a blood test and an ultrasound. I had a cyst. Well, who doesn’t have one? I have a beautiful mucous membrane. That’s nice. So everything is fine.
Then, when discussing the blood results, the shocker. “All values are optimal, but your AMH is 0.1”.
I was told it wouldn’t be so bad if I were 30, but I’m 40. At 40, not only is the value low, but the egg quality is also rather poor.
Tears were streaming down my face. The doctor wanted to take another blood sample. The cyst had disappeared.
The second blood results were also the same. Nothing could be done for me.
Zack, from now on, not a fully-fledged woman. Not able to have a child. The probability of becoming pregnant with IVF (in Germany) is 8%.
I drove home, cried and was devastated. There was no partner to pick me up.
My girlfriend was there for me. She listened helplessly to what I had to say. She has two wonderful little mice herself, who I love very, very much.
We talked about adoption.
I’m single, 40, what are the chances? Probably rather low. I read that there are 7 couples for every adopted baby/child. They’re probably not waiting for me.
My friend told me about two couples she knew who became parents in Denmark using donated eggs.
I’d never heard of it before. I’m a doer, so the first thing I did was google it. I devoured everything I could find out about this topic in no time at all.
From a purely technical point of view, check, #eggdonation is a solution.
But what does that look like ethically? For me, for my family, for my friends? Am I the mother? Can I love it like my own child? How do you love your own child? Questions … more and more questions and I can only answer them myself …
The questions in my head kept growing. Many conversations with my closest friends followed.
After reflecting a lot on what I wanted, whether it was the right thing, whether I was doing the right thing. I made the decision. Decided on an #embryoadoption. From that moment on, I was sure that I wanted to do it, that it was the right thing for me.
Once again, I scoured the internet in search of opportunities. The Czech Republic, where you need a partner, but would be close by. Austria, here too you need a partner, but at 16 the child can get to know the egg cell mother, Spain, a leader in this field and also no problem for single mothers.
I informed the affair, I’ll call him “Tom” now, that I probably wouldn’t get pregnant in the normal way. He was concerned, overwhelmed, because it was likely too close for him. I plucked up my courage: “Would you go with me to the Czech Republic and donate there so that the child has a blood relative nearby that it can get to know”… Phew, it was out, he needed time to think about it.
A time I used to overcome one of the most difficult hurdles, I told my mother about it. I don’t know what I expected when I called her. I will be eternally grateful for my mother’s reaction: “What risk are you taking?” was all she asked. The normal risk of being pregnant at 40.
“If it’s right for you and you’re sure, I’ll come with you if you need me”.
The conversation with Tom was then far less pleasant. “You should let nature take its course and leave it alone”. From his point of view, I understand him. He has two little boys. He doesn’t see how he can help me.
I would have loved to have known some of the genes that would grow up in me. I hung up and we didn’t hear from each other again. I miss him, I had fallen in love with the idea of having him as the “father” of my child. I will be forever grateful to him for giving me the chance to have my #wunschkind.
The supposed “dad” was gone, I was on my own again to fulfill my #herzenswunsch.
Is that better for me? Yes, on reflection it is much better.
My thoughts on this are: how do I explain to the polar bear that there is a dad who only lives 20 km away, but who doesn’t want any contact until the bear asks for it himself? How do I deal with this, as I was already a bit fond of “Tom” if we’re honest? It would be weird. And somehow the thing itself is already different from “normal”.
It was also good that I had the reins in my own hands again. I didn’t have to make arrangements with anyone. I could make appointments with a clinic without having to check everyone’s diaries beforehand? Furthermore, I was no longer dependent. Somehow it was easier that way.
I found a clinic via www.eizellspende.de @eizellspende. I took part in various webinars and decided on the ones I liked best.
I was excited before sending the first email. I hope they’re nice. Not a factory. Somehow human.
I was lucky and felt very well looked after from the very first email reply.
The first appointment confirmed this feeling. Now I had a checklist:
Fill out contracts,
Make a down payment
Excellent, I was able to deal with clear announcements. It felt a bit like putting the responsibility for success in someone else’s hands. That’s good. It was good. Reassuring.
I was able to deliver all the results quickly. And there it was, the second appointment. Discussion of the treatment plan. It was outstanding. Things were progressing.
A polar bear had already been found. Despite its strange blood group. I already loved it, but it was only “reserved”. Sounds technical, but coincidence or fate had it that this bear was reserved for me.
Somehow I had naively assumed that embryo adoption was the right thing for me, as one attempt would be enough.
I picked up my little bear in August 2022. Not everything that was promised was kept by the clinic.
What I learned, right from the very first attempt, is that you can’t let go of the reins completely. If you rely too much on the clinic, you are also a little abandoned.
This applies to all clinics. The promised German coordinator wasn’t there, she was on vacation. I don’t begrudge her that, but I would have liked to have known. The replacement was very nice, but preferred to speak English. Normally, not a problem, but at that moment it was even more upsetting for me. A promised call back never came. All the treatment plans always had a date from two years ago on them. Things that irritated me immensely. The German doctor who made me decide to go to the clinic was no longer there.
You put your hopes in the hands of a clinic and, to be honest, we are just one customer among many.
The attempt failed, not because of coordination, but because it wasn’t my polar bear. No matter how good the quality of the embryos is, a little bit of luck is always necessary.
I took positives from it, I had an HCG reading, it was only at 47, but the snowflake was there, saying hello, giving me hope that everything was okay in my uterus. I could get pregnant, an important hurdle had been overcome.
However, a sobering question now arisen: do I stick with embryo donation and give the existing embryos a chance, or do I want my own donor and my own embryos?
The Swabian in me won out, I decided to make my own double donation and yes, this also needs to be mentioned, I did this for cost reasons, in the hope of getting more than three embryos from it. Things turned out differently.
The search for donors was a little more difficult in C19 times, two donors had the infection at the time of the puncture and were unable to take part. It all felt like it took forever.
Then finally a donor. Exactly three embryos were created.
Three embryos on ice. Three attempts. Wow, that gives you some breathing space.
I traveled to Madrid and picked up my first of the three embryos, but it happened what so rarely happens, one of the snowflakes didn’t survive the thaw, so there were only two left. I cried before I could even take my little polar bear to me. One less chance, from now on. It hurt, it was scary, and it wasn’t necessarily good for the attempt. He failed.
An HCG of 5. I felt that there was nothing there.
Now we had to put all our eggs in one basket. We spoke to the new German doctor about Omega 3 and the ERA test.
I started to find out which omega-3 preparation had the highest quality EPA and DHA ingredients, I didn’t want to just eat old fish fat, I started a vitamin D cure and managed to revive my already retired ovary.
I didn’t do the ERA because of the current study situation. But I did have the microbiome tested with a test from a company near Munich. Cheaper and just as good. Everything should be fine here.
When it came to the last transfer, I insisted on additional medication in the plan in consultation with my clinic.
On September 23, a grand old lady made her place on earth free for my little polar bear.
For 10 days, I wavered between everything being over, and it might have worked out after all.
I took a test the day before the blood test, it was Oktoberfest in Munich, I wanted to be sure. I cried for two hours before the test out of fear and two hours after the test out of joy.
My little bear was there. It had come to stay.
It didn’t make the next few weeks easy for me.
In the 11th week a hemorrhage, hospital, all good. But the fear came with full force and remained until the end.
The screenings were ok, but revealed all sorts of scary things.
An umbilical cord with only one artery, a two-part placenta, an umbilical cord fused to the egg membrane and a minimal polar bear.
Nausea, anxiety, heartburn. I had imagined everything would be better.
Dark thoughts accompanied me throughout my pregnancy. Even, and I have to be honest, I would have been happy if it had just been over at some point. I was feeling so bad. I only had social contact via the app. Furthermore, I found it difficult to go out with people, I either felt sick or I was scared because I couldn’t feel him.
But he developed magnificently. My gynecologist was great, I went every week for the first 12 weeks. And every two weeks after that. He supported me wherever he could. He always remained calm and put me on a 50% work ban, even though I didn’t want it so that nothing would happen to the crumb.
I told my family about it in the 20th week. It was my Christmas present. They were all delighted. No one asked how it had come about. Apart from my mother, no one at home knows about the egg donation.
My crumb Keks was born by caesarean section at 37 + 2 after a rupture of the membranes in May, as expected he was small and petite. Today, 16 weeks later, he is lying here next to me. He is kicking while I write this report.
I look over at him and can’t help but grin. He’s a dainty little cookie crumb. He is my sunshine.
Sometimes I feel guilty towards him because I deprived him of the chance to get to know his donors. I hope for a change in European law in the next 18 years. He will grow up knowing that he grew under my heart, drank at my breast and is loved by me from the bottom of my heart, but he will also know that he has a genetic mother and a genetic father. I thought long and hard about the names. Mother and father are rather impersonal words for me, so I can use them well. I’m his mom and who knows, maybe mom will find a dad for the cookie crumb.
Family is a feeling of trust and love, not a genetic connection.
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