Several of you guys are really good guessers! Much better than I was at this game! When I'd imagined the acceptance rate for egg donors at the Denver clinic, I'd guessed something like 20%, which I thought sounded really strict...but turns out is really lenient, or more lenient at least than the Denver clinic people are. So a shout out to those who guessed the true number: Only 5% of people pass the screening process to donate eggs at the Denver clinic. Kudos to Nikki, Strong Blonde, and Anonymous for their correct guesses.
Now, when I think about this 95% rejection rate, I wonder just who are these people who are applying? I fantasize that like maybe half of them really have no chance in the world of making it anywhere (sort of the medical/genetic analogue of someone with a C or D average applying to Harvard). Like maybe many of them are 37-year-old chain smokers, or were born with six fingers on each hand, or have parents or siblings with medical histories longer than mine... probably not, but maybe...
We've started looking at the Denver in-house donors, but seriously? Kind of slim pickings there. And then the photos of these women as two to seven year olds - 1987-1990ish vintage, usually small and dark and grainy - make it impossible to tell what each donor might have looked like as a kid, let alone get a sense of how their features ended up later. So we aren't ruling this avenue out and will keep checking back on Thursdays, but we weren't really drawn in so far, despite these women's obvious genetic, medical, and fertility superiority to me and the general population.
In the meantime, we are moving forward with my sister as a possible donor. She is 31 years old and single, and lives about four hours away. I'm going to call her Marina here, which is something I used to call her when she was about three years old, when her favorite story was Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.
My sister looks remarkably, incredibly like me, including features, posture, mannerisms, voice. As in, when I went to see her while she was studying abroad in Europe, people in the neighborhood where she lived set eyes on me for the first time not knowing I was coming or even that she had a sister and said, "You must be Marina's sister." At her recent graduate school commencement, a professor came up to her and asked if her sister was there. She said she saw me from behind and heard me speak and just from that was absolutely certain that Marina and I must be closely related. We have even been asked if we are twins (although this seems like a stretch). Not in a while, mind you, but very heartening when you are 8 years older than your sibling. Probably tough for her to hear, though! We also share a similar sensibility, similar wry sense of humor, similar ways of speaking and moving through space and waving our hands in front of us when we talk. We aren't identical by any means, but definitely sisters through and through.
Perhaps having someone who is so similar to me physically and psychologically is part of what has made it hard to go the third-party reproduction or adoption route. I like this added connection, enjoying looking back through old family photos and seeing various family members' features reflected in ourselves and our relatives. You are guaranteed to share 50% of your sibling's genes, and our child (Will and mine with my sister's egg) would have the same grandparents, and same relations throughout the extended family, which seems good for the child from a "Who am I?" perspective. The child would in fact be at least 25% related to me and so if you think of relatedness and parenthood as a Venn diagram, both Marina and I would share relatedness to the child, which is a comfort to me, and seems like it wouldn't be so hard to adjust my mental image of what immediate family is and include her in the genetic parenting picture. Sort of a "motherhood as a shade of grey" rather than a black or white you're either the genetic mother or you're not.
Because she's my sister and will always be close in our lives, using her as a donor would also be more complicated than using an unknown donor. We would want our child to know from the beginning that Marina played an important role in bringing them into our lives and realize they might feel a stronger attachment to her for it than they otherwise might.
Which often feels wonderful, and occasionally feels a little scary. One of the scarier 3:00 am thoughts is: What if my child prefers Marina over me? She is after all, younger and definitely the cooler, more fun, more dramatic, more artistic, let-it-all-hang-out sister. I'm the overachieving, overresponsible, more subdued one (and who in the world would prefer that?!). Whether she donates her eggs or not, Aunt Marina is likely to be the favored Aunt. And I reassure myself that alas, my child would be stuck with me, and be rewarded with visits to Aunt Marina on a regular basis. I am joking about the "stuck with me" part. Mostly.
Marina has no children yet and is unsure if she wants them. We've offered to pay for her to do a cycle, freezing her eggs if she would like, and at least for right now, she is not very interested. She thinks if she does decide to parent, she'd probably like to adopt. Which is funny, right? That a genetic connection is so important to me and here she is likely able to have such a connection and really doesn't care? The world is an ironic place.
We've thought of using her as a donor since she approached us and offered us her eggs a couple of years ago, but I always held off because of all of my "What Ifs." Being the older sister, I worried that her giving us this gift might somehow cause her suffering later, or maybe she'd regret it, or maybe it would complicate our relationship in some negative way. We will explore all these areas with her and with a mental health professional, but somehow it doesn't seem so difficult to imagine anymore or so fraught with danger. Maybe opening our hearts to E. as a donor has made us more open to alternative paths in general, I'm not sure. I am sure that this seems the right path to take at this moment in time.
Here's hoping my sister can be in the Denver's 5% - or at least be deemed suitable to donate to me. They've already approved her family medical history, despite the fact that we all have six fingers on each hand and her older sister Mo has a medical record a mile long.
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