This week we got some bad news and some bittersweet news from the fertility clinic. The bad news is that the appointment we need before we can start superovulation isn’t until 14 May. I suspected it might take that long – when my miscarriage finally resolved, they also expected us to wait over a month to find out what the doctors made of it all and what the next steps would be – but it’s a bitter disappointment. It means that not only do we get no treatment this month, it will be too late for May as well, and because we’re on holiday in June, that takes us to July. I’m so frustrated, especially when I compare our experience to that of couples treated in private clinics. I sometimes feel that as private patients in an NHS hospital, we get the worst of both worlds – financial costs and NHS bureaucracy. (Although on the plus side, some aspects of our treatment, such as investigations, are free. And OH will disagree, but how I wish we hadn’t booked that holiday!)
The bittersweet news is that we’ve definitely reached the top of their sperm waiting list. At first, I was really pleased about this. In fact, it’s something I’ve been counting on – there is simply no room in our budget to go on paying for sperm, and we need the 75% refund of our ‘pregnancy slot’ too. (This is a fee charged by the sperm bank to customers in countries such as the UK where only a certain number of women are allowed to use the same donor; it’s mostly refundable if there’s no viable pregnancy.) But I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Fritz. In part, this is because we selected him so carefully for his physical resemblance to OH, whereas now we’ll only get a choice of two or three donors. And mostly it’s because he’s the biological father of our baby May. I didn’t expect that to matter to me, but it does. He and I and OH are linked now, and I wish baby May could have a full sibling here on earth.
I was thinking about all of this in bed last night, and it occurred to me that there is another way. When OH and I first looked into becoming parents, we made a choice: we opted for the less invasive protocol of the NHS clinic rather than use egg sharing – donating half of my eggs – to fund IVF in a neighbouring town. At the time, we believed the costs were similar, so it was a toss-up between the higher success rates of IVF on the one hand, and the invasiveness of treatment and inconvenience of travelling on the other. I was terrified of egg collection – in fact, back then I even took diazepam for transvaginal ultrasounds (hard to imagine now!) – so we decided to stay local. But now, my feelings have totally changed. I’m far less scared of medical procedures, and far less willing to go through yet more treatments that have a low chance of success. Superovulation will boost our chances a little, but IVF would boost it a lot. Add in the facts that it now looks as though egg sharing would be substantially cheaper than superovulation, we’ve realised that driving to the private clinic wouldn’t take much longer than getting the bus into the city centre, and we’d still be able to use Fritz – and you can see why we’re reconsidering our decision.
For me now, the downsides of egg sharing are different. The biggest hurdle would be for me to get accepted as a donor in the first place. Although one cycle of IVF as an egg sharer would cost only about a sixth of one cycle of IUI with superovulation, there’s an up-front consultation fee to pay, and further tests needed which I may or may not be able to persuade my GP to do on the NHS. If my hormone levels aren’t good enough, if they decide my depression is a problem, if they can’t find a couple to match us with or if we’re excluded for some other reason, we’ll have paid all that money and still have to find the funds for superovulation at our current clinic. Realistically, that would mean stopping after two more cycles of IUI – which would be devastating given that after three more failed cycles, we’d likely be eligible for IVF on the NHS – unless I can find some other way to make savings. (With all these budget cuts, I’m starting to feel like a Tory.) And of course, between investigations and the matching process, there is no way we’d be starting IVF before July either, so the lack of NHS red tape would only benefit us further down the line. Finally, there’s the unknown – to someone who finds comfort in familiarity, the idea of changing to a different clinic is very daunting. And how will I cope if my egg recipient gets pregnant and I don’t?
OH and I had a long discussion this morning and her preference would be egg sharing, with its lower costs and higher chance of success. However, she’s happy to leave the final decision with me and will fully support me either way. I need a lot more time to mull this over and pray about it, but I’d love to hear about other people’s relevant experiences – of IVF vs. IUI, of egg sharing, of private vs. NHS clinics, etc. What would you do if you were me?