All of these lines across my face. Tell you the story of who I am. 

So many stories of where I've been. And how I've got to where I am. 

 -Brandi Carlisle

Sally and Murray

North Carolina

Est. Read Time: 5 minutes


From Conception to Embryo Donation: Our IVF Journey

Although Sally and I grew up in different cities and attended different universities, we met as eighteen year old college students in Boston. We fell in love and married at the age of 22 on a snowy night in March. We went on our honeymoon that summer in the form of a ten week camping trip through northern and central Europe.

After graduate school, we tried to start a family the old fashioned way. We never thought we were going to have any trouble getting pregnant. It just wasn’t something that crossed our minds. We didn’t know anyone who had trouble getting pregnant (at least, not that we were aware of) so we just expected it would happen for us.

Month after month went by and frustration began to set in for both of us. It was difficult for me but it definitely took more of an emotional toll on Sally. I was there to support her as much as I knew how and our love and connection for each other grew over this time. It was difficult not to be sad and not to feel jealous of other friends around us who were getting pregnant-seemingly very easily but we remained very positive and focused.

Although a couple of years went by, we did not consider consulting a fertility expert. It was the early 1980’s and there weren’t nearly as many “fertility clinics” there are today. And the ones that did exist did not have a fraction of the options that they have available today. The first successful attempt at IVF wasn’t until 1977 and this was in the very early stages, so doctors were learning a lot and the process was not nearly as streamlined as it is today.  Furthermore, going to a fertility doctor certainly wasn’t something that we heard anyone talking about. Basically, if you didn’t get pregnant the old fashioned way, you didn’t get pregnant and you didn’t have children unless you wanted to explore adoption. We discussed adoption, but together we decided that this was not an option that we wanted to move forward with. So, we continued trying on our own and we stayed focused on our careers.

And then one day, it finally happened. We were almost in disbelief about it, but after years of trying we were pregnant. Our excitement ended almost as quickly as it began when we found out that it was an ectopic pregnancy. Sally lost one of her fallopian tubes because of it and for the first time we feared that we may never have our own children. This was a difficult and dark time for us, but again, we grew closer because of it and our love for each other grew deeper.

This is about 8 years into our journey-trying and failing to get pregnant. It was a lot to go through. So, now it is around 1984. We considered In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), but it had a relatively low success rate, and was beyond our means. We decided to accept our lot in life and so we traveled the world and focused on living life to the fullest.

13 years later, in 1997, a close friend of ours offered to be a gestational surrogate. We had known this friend for quite some time and she had even joined us on part of our honeymoon as we went camping in Europe. This rekindled our dream to become parents-something that we came to accept was just not in the cards for us. When she offered we began to reconsider IVF and hoped that maybe now was our time. This jolted us into action! By now, Sally and I were both 45 years old. We couldn’t believe that we were on a 20 year journey to become parents, but we knew that if we didn’t give IVF a chance, we would regret it.

In the 1990’s, California was one of the few states with both liberal adoption and surrogacy laws and cutting edge IVF clinics. We heard about a fertility clinic called Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco that specialized in IVF and surrogacy. Our doctors at PFC gave us hope that Sally could actually get pregnant, and they were partially right. Sally achieved three short-term pregnancies in six IVF cycles with donor eggs. But as time was running out, we realized we had to go to the next step and move forward with a gestational surrogate.

We found out that the friend who offered to carry for us, was not approved by the agency because she had never been pregnant nor delivered a child. Of course we were disappointed but we knew it was important to find the appropriate match for us. Two years later, we were matched with a carrier in the San Francisco area, achieved a pregnancy, but later miscarried.

There was no way we were going to quit now. We had come too far and at this point the thought of making a will that left our worldly belongings to our two siamese cats was downright depressing! We matched again, got pregnant on our third FET cycle and finally, after a 25 year journey, we received the call that our child was about to be born. We made it to California in time for the birth and were there to welcome our baby girl into world.

We tried to get pregnant on our own for 20 years and then devoted 5 years of our lives to nine IVF cycles, which included hundreds of injections and laboratory procedures and trips all over the country for bizarre treatments like paternal leukecite immunization. But we would happily do it again to have the healthy and beautiful child that we have today. Anyone entertaining the prospect of IVF is clearly committed to having a family - whatever the personal cost - and after all that we went through we can say with confidence that it is worth it.

Our daughter turned 14 in May, and we were both 50 when she was born. While we would have liked to have had more children through IVF, demographics and finances were limiting factors. We felt that it would be unfair to an unborn child not to provide parental guidance and support into adulthood.

Three years ago we donated our four remaining embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. And after her own difficult journey, a single mother in Rhode Island gave birth to a beautiful girl as a result. We had the opportunity to meet her and her daughter last year. It was a remarkable feeling to have our families meet and to know that our journey helped to build not only one but two families.

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