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Donor Egg Love
by Dena Fischer
We were “in cycle.” Our donor was injecting herself and synching with our surrogate’s cycle. My husband had answered a thousand questions and submitted samples. We were good to go . . . until we learned our doctor was under investigation for an embryo mix-up. Whether he was at fault or not, we didn’t want to continue with him while he was dealing with such a complex situation.
Thanks to the facilitator who arranged our surrogacy we were able to quickly switch practices. So there we were, “Team Baby,” crowded into the new doctor’s office – our surrogate, her husband, my husband, me - crammed together on a low couch while the thin-lipped doc gave our chart a cursory look over half-glasses from behind his desk.
One by one, he identified the players:
“So, the embryos are going into you,” our baby-faced surrogate nodded politely, “and,” glancing briefly at her husband, quietly holding her hand, “you’re going to help her through it.” He, too, nodded respectfully. “Let’s see,” he went on, flipping pages, “the donor’s in Hawaii, mm-hmm.” Flip, flip. “And it’s your sperm,” with the most fleeting look to my husband. After an affirmative response, the doc realized there was a leftover person on that tiny couch.
“And you,” he said to me, barely looking up from the charts, “you’ll write the checks.”
My husband squeezed my hand. I gave a courtesy chuckle – after all I have great respect for doctors. As a cancer survivor who couldn’t conceive or carry children, I knew I wouldn’t become a mother – or frankly, be here at all, without them. That respect kept me from telling him where to go; it didn’t dull the sharp edge of his careless comment.
And he wasn’t the only one – there were punch in the stomach moments of insensitivity from many others along the way. Coming from fertility doctors, who, patient after patient, day after day, tend to couples in a state of uncertainty and emotional fragility, it’s especially disappointing. We did our best to keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak. They crossed our path briefly - we weren’t there to be friends. It’s too bad, though, that they didn’t see the whole person sitting before them. Only the parts and the function each served. Womb. Eggs. Sperm. Accountant.
Emotional support wasn’t coming from our doctors -- thankfully I found it from unexpected sources at nearly every turn.
Back then, we had an old blind dog who couldn’t be boarded if we traveled. I’d been given the name of dog sitter and she was coming to meet us. Just as Lisa arrived, I got a call from the attorney handling our surrogacy contracts. I didn’t want to miss the call so Lisa waited patiently in another room, letting our little blind pooch sniff her out. There were a few thorny issues still under discussion and when I hung up, it was clear I was ragged. She politely asked if another time would be better. I don’t know what compelled me, but the whole story came pouring out. She listened, eyes glistening, to every word. Then she hugged me.
She took care of our dog a few times, then, months later, as we prepared for the birth of our twins at a hospital several hours away, I asked her to join Team Baby. I needed her to be on call to watch the dog when our surrogate went into labor. She accepted without hesitation. She took care of him during our hospital stay and joined our family and friends a week later at our boys’ bris. She’d played a role on the rocky part of the journey -- we wanted her to be part of the celebration, too.
Honestly, I can’t remember that doctor’s name. But Lisa the dog sitter will be forever in my heart. As will the woman I told my story to on a break at a work conference; my husband’s client who had teenagers thanks to a surrogate; the couple who cried at dinner when we told of our failed cycle; and the friends who drove for hours to be with us at the hospital.
It doesn’t always arrive when and how you think it should – but compassion is out there. Sometimes you just have to reach for it. The secret is not being ashamed or afraid to talk about what you’re going through. Tell your story and you’ll be amazed by what you get in return.
Dena Fischer is a literary agent with Manus & Associates Literary Agency, Inc. and a freelance writer. In addition to working and raising her children, she is actively involved in education in her community and is a founding member of The Potrero Residents Education Fund whose mission is to improve public education in her San Francisco neighborhood of Potrero Hill. She lives with her husband of 15 years, Brad Rothenberg, and their twin boys Henry & Sam.