This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Kathy, her husband, and their twin kiddos.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a 41 year-old high school teacher from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I live with my husband of nearly 18 years and our four and a half year old twin miracles (that half year is extremely important to them). Most of our leisure time is spent outdoors enjoying family activities such as biking, hiking, exploring various parks across the city, and spending time with our extended family and friends.
How long had you and your husband been trying to start a family before you found your embryos?
After buying our first home in 2000, we began trying to have children. In the beginning, it was so exciting to plan for an impending conception. We spent many nights reading baby name books and discussing nursery ideas. When months turned into years of failed attempts, the excitement turned into sadness and hopelessness.Seeking help from the medical field was trying and lacked the romance and surprise of creating a child with candlelight and soft music. But, we soldiered on because in the end, having children was more important to us than the way in which they were conceived. After many failed Intrauterine Inseminations, In Vitro Fertilizations, several horrific miscarriages, and an almost decade-long wait list for domestic and international adoption (we were in the China adoption program) we were at a standstill. We were told, by two prominent doctors that our next course of action would be to use donor eggs. In Canada paying for donor eggs is against the law and we knew no one who was willing to donate her eggs to us. We were grief stricken.
How did you find out about the embryos?
In 2008, I came across a non-profit organization called “Miracles Waiting”. Its main goal was and still is to pair couples that have completed their families (yet still have frozen embryos in storage) with those couples who are in need of healthy embryos to create a family. We posted a profile on the site in July of 2008 and hoped that someone with healthy embryos would choose us. By the end of the month, we were contacted by the woman who would change our lives forever.
At what point did you guys decide that yes, you were really going to do this?
I don’t really remember it being a decision. We wanted to have children and it never mattered to us, from the beginning, how we created our family. Genetics were never an issue for us, as we were already knee deep in both international and domestic adoption. Embryo donation, like adoption, would not guarantee us a family, but it would definitely give us a better chance at a child sooner.
Can you tell us about the logistics of getting pregnant through embryo donation?
Our donor had five embryos to give to us that were stored at a fertility center in Nevada. Being from Toronto meant that we either had to ship those embryos to a lab here (and risk damaging them along the way) or fly to Nevada and do the transfer there. We opted to fly to Nevada. Luckily the fertility clinic I used here in Canada was willing to help with blood work and ultrasounds before I headed to Nevada. Both clinics worked to communicate results so that by the time I flew to Nevada, my body was ready for the transfer of the embryos.
Doing a frozen embryo transfer with donor embryos is a very simple month-long process (compared to a full IVF cycle). The actual time it takes to transfer the embryos is less than a minute. I had to give myself shots of Lupron to shut down my reproductive system in order for the clinic to manipulate it. Once the transfer of the embryos was complete, I had to have an estrogen patch and take progesterone in oil shots to mimic a real reproductive cycle.
The first time we flew to Nevada, we transferred two embryos, but that cycle failed. We went back two months later and transferred the remaining three embryos and discovered we were pregnant on Christmas Eve of 2008.
In January of 2009 we found out that we were carrying twins and, although it is considered a high-risk pregnancy, my entire pregnancy was perfect. I had lovely bouts of morning sickness, had wonderful blood pressure, got perfectly huge, and felt all those miraculous kicks and punches I had waited 9 years to feel. I was even able to deliver both babies vaginally at just over 37 weeks.
You went from having zero kids to two! How has that been?
It has been exhausting, scary, wonderful, and miraculous. I love that they have each other to play with, that they are independent and funny, and that they have brought so much incredible joy to our lives. We don’t take a moment for granted because we know how miraculous their existence is.
Are your children old enough to understand the story of their conception?
They know that our donors gave us the “ingredients” to make them because Mommy and Daddy were missing the parts needed. They know that they have a brother and a sister who live in Nevada, and they know that blood is the least of which makes a family. As they get older, the description will get more complex, but we are leading by their questions for now and in ways they can understand.
Your kids are full, biological siblings with the children of your embryo donor. Do they stay in contact?
Absolutely. Our donor really left it to us to decide if we wanted to stay in contact and it was incredibly important to us to do so. To deny our children this relationship is not something we could live with. So, we communicate constantly through emails, Facebook, and Skype.
Do you think your kids will ever meet their siblings in person?
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that they will meet someday in person. Our hope is that they develop a lifelong, meaningful relationship with their siblings and we have been doing our best to foster that relationship from the beginning.
What’s one thing you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
So many lessons! The biggest lesson of all, I think, is to never give up on a dream. There were so many times we thought we would have to stop trying and just give up the idea that we could have a family. Being tenacious and finding unorthodox avenues to create our family worked for us and I forever changed because of it. Two pretty amazing kids call me “mom” because of it. How lucky am I?Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kathy. So sweet and so inspiring! Have any of you started families in less-traditional ways? (My sister is adopted from Korea!) Do you have any questions for Kathy?