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Paths to Parenthood: Melissa's story

Paths to Parenthood: Melissa's story

I never dreamt of the perfect wedding day or  fantasized about an ambitious career. My happy place was simple. I just wanted to be a mom.

Just. A. Mom.

My first memories are playing with my dolls, pretending that they were my babies. Carrying them from room to room, feeding them, bathing them, loving them. Being the oldest of four kids I often was the surrogate mommy. It’s a role I loved.

My plan was to have a large family. Be a stay at home mom, a homemaker, by choice. I studied art and did extensive graduate work in early childhood education always knowing that I ultimately would be working in the home.

I was 27 when my husband and I married in 2013. After a year of traveling around the country to all our friends weddings we started trying. And trying. And trying.

You know that gut wrenching feeling, that whisper in your ear, that silent echo that’s telling you that something is wrong. That Inner voice that you know isn’t “just” your anxiety.

I knew something was wrong. I knew that I should be pregnant already.

My husband persisted that everything was fine, and that we just needed time for the pieces to fall together. However, I tend to lean on the hyper emotional anxious side of life insisted that we go to the fertility specialist after 6 months.

They ran the tests. Took the blood. Poked and prodded me. And we waited. Until the follow-up consult where they told us that my husband suffered from severe male factor infertility. The doctor told us that, the semen analysis had shown the my husband’s sperm was extremely low in motility, mortality, and morphology. To be blunt; the sperm was slow, dead, and or deformed.

We would never get pregnant naturally and at this point were told our only chance of having biological children was through IVF with ICSI.

This news was devastating. I was so young, how could IVF be our only option? But it was a clear plan, and we wanted a family, so we scheduled our first cycle.

Everything was going according to the new plan; stims, retrieval, and now we wait for the embryo count. 11 to 4 to 2 to 1 until we walked into the office for transfer and were told there were none. ZERO embryos for transfer.

We were told my husband’s sperm was too abnormal.

Our world collapsed. My dreams were shattered. I didn’t get out of bed for days. I had suicidal thoughts. I was lost. We would never have children together. At the time I believed I would never be a mother.

The idea of something so primal being taken away from you is soul quaking.

And then my kind, self sacrificing husband gave me hope. He suggested we use another man’s sperm to build our dreams of a family.

Donor sperm.

Shortly after this decision, we selected a donor that met our criteria and moved forward with another cycle. This time we had 3 perfect embryos conceived with donor sperm. We transferred one and froze the other 2, and 9 months later in 2016 our son was born. Our miracle boy. And I was finally a mother.

Two years later, we decided we wanted to grow our family and transfer our frozen embabies that had been in storage. We would do a frozen embryo transfer, and it would be easy and far less invasive.

Unfortunately with infertility nothing is ever straight forward. Within six months I had had one hystereoscopy and 2 failed FETs. And we were not only out of embryos but our donor no longer had vials available.

Having made the decision to use a donor once before, choosing a second donor was not as difficult. While I initially hoped for children that were full biological siblings, we felt as if a second donor was not as big of an issue since they would ultimately have the same father.

2 IVF cycles later we were pregnant again, with a baby girl due in March of 2020.

My second pregnancy was filled with heightened anxiety and fear. Fear of loss, genetics mutations,  fear of death. And unlike my first pregnancy I started seeking out support from other heterosexuals couples using donor sperm. Surprisingly there was very little support out there, but I happened upon a small online forum and connected with another woman using donor sperm.

This was the first woman I had ever spoken with who was living with the complexities of male factor infertility and we quickly become daily pen pals. And while I still have never met this woman she is one of my closest confidantes and dearest friends. With this stranger I have shared my darkest thoughts and fears around infertility and marriage. Hopes around motherhood and the cruel unpredictable nature of fertility treatments.

This friendship made me realize how important it was to connect with other people in my community of donor conception. And how important it was not only for myself, but for my children. I wanted to be a voice to help others like myself who felt isolated in the realm of third party reproduction.

As a parent of donor conceived children I am passionate about transparency and being there for my children through all of their social emotional development around understanding their origins. This passion coupled with my hope for broadening a greater network of similar family models led me to creating @mypineapplefamily.

This is my path to parenthood, it has been long and filled with heartbreak and great joy. While I don’t know what my family will look like in 5 years from now, today I can proudly say I am a mother of two donor sperm conceived children.

I’m not “just” a mother. I am their Mother.

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