This personal story was written by Jeanette in 2018.
I had to keep pinching myself as I started writing this. Our eldest daughter, Coralie, is now nearly 4 years old and our youngest, Imogen, is coming up to a year but I still can’t quite believe we’ve come through the other side of all those struggling years and that I’m here writing a story similar to those I read about and dreamt we’d be able to tell when we first started out.
Stepping back 11 years - I was 35, happily starting out on the road (okay, a bit late) to starting our family with my husband Matt. Stopped popping that pill and wham. End of the story. While I was busy preventing myself from becoming pregnant my body had slipped into early menopause underneath me.
It hurt. The little child I always saw walking hand in hand with me in my head disappeared in a flash. I couldn’t see a future without a small hand in mine, so a lot of tears and research later we found ourselves at a DCN Preparation for Parenthood workshop, which soothed all our irrational fears, all our sensible and frankly daft questions and convinced us (especially me) that conceiving with the help of an egg donor was for us. We also knew that we would be completely open with our child from day one if we were lucky enough to have one. We chose a UK based clinic as it was important for us that any child we had would be able to trace their donor if they wanted to and we wanted to make that as easy as it could be for them without actually knowing our donor.
At our first meeting at the clinic we completed the matching form for our donor requirements. I remember it being particularly important that we shared the same ethnicity and skin colour, and eyes were also very important to me. Hair, not so much - I have mousy blonde/brown, fine, flyaway hair which has resulted in many, many bad hair days and I was quite happy not to pass that on. Our first match was very like me - weight, height, eyes, ethnicity, hair (eek), educational background and even interests and we, happily, amazingly, fell pregnant.
Sadly it was not to be and we lost our first little hope at 8 weeks. This went on to be a tragic recurring theme with a further 4 cycles - 2 frozen and 2 fresh. We fell pregnant on 2 of those cycles, once with twins, and again, tragically, none of our 3 further angels made it past 9 weeks. I didn’t know if I could carry on.
We decided to try one last time, expecting it to end the same and to be the one that would close the door, proving that I couldn’t carry a child… and we’d move on. Then the clinic called to say they had an altruistic donor who was from South America, olive skinned, dark haired, much shorter than me, eye colour being the only thing we had in common. Were we interested? Yes, without a doubt. By this point I understood that for me, the second we had the call to say we had fertilised embryos, those embryos were mine. They were part of me, I was hopefully to be their mother. It didn’t matter a jot to me anymore whether we looked alike. Love and nurture were what mattered.
We fell pregnant, we sailed past our 7 week scan, and our all important reassurance scan at 9 weeks. 12 weeks all good, 20 weeks it’s a girl - this was actually going to happen! We might actually make it this time. Oh my gosh, how olive is our little bean going to be? When she was born I had never felt such contentment and overwhelming love. All I saw was my baby girl, with a huge amount of dark hair and a loud scream wanting, needing her mother’s arms and milk. Still in hospital 3 days later I said to my husband, “Look, she is olive after all!” The midwife popped in and we were whisked off to the sun lamp - nope, those South American genes hadn’t popped out overnight, jaundice had!
She’s nearly 4 now and her frozen sister - they look astonishingly similar - is now almost 1. As they sleep they look like their dad. I can watch them for hours. I’m not sure if Coralie understands anything about the donor yet, although we’ve been telling her and using the Our Story book since she was born. She loves reading it and talks about her and her sister being in my “nice warm tummy” a lot. As Coralie grows her face is changing, maturing, and I see new features that I don’t recognise. It makes me think of our donor - are they her features? And it makes me want to know her because if she shares anything of the amazing warm, funny, kind, charming and fiercely determined independent natures of our two girls then she is one fantastic woman. She can be proud of her eggs - they’ve turned out alright.
Their eyes? Both hazel, just like mine. People tell me we look alike. I grin. We don’t and it really doesn’t matter. Love matters. Nurture matters. And not having fine, flyaway hair matters.