IVF Journey — Donor Eggs

Egg production in the human ovary

Oocytes and egg production

[cont’d from How our IVF Journey Began]

While we waited for husband’s second attempt at providing sperm, we started looking for a good egg donor. It’s kind of the Wild West, with little regulation and some donor agencies placing ads in college newspaper to entice young woe=men with promises of large fees (as much as $100K!) for “suitable” donors — there is great demand for certified excellent donors, with advanced degrees, Ivy League schools, being Asian (much IVF business in LA serves Chinese clients, who want a baby with US citizenship but are wary of having a child who doesn’t appear “different.”) The LA IVF clinics do a thriving business with the Chinese who have their IVF babies born in LA for US citizenship. Not to mention the thousands of Chinese birthmothers who fly in for a few week stay to have their babies here. Few countries would allow a mother to fly in as a tourist to have their children with automatic citizenship; various moves to limit birth citizenship in the US to those who have a permanent tie to the US (legal residence, employment in the US, etc.) have been floated but are quickly shot down as “xenophobic.”

IVF was pioneered and perfected in several countries, but LA has become a world center for intended parents from around the world(from Vogue): How California Became the World’s Fertility Treatment Destination “For a growing number of women worldwide, the often emotional struggle to get pregnant is leading to Los Angeles. With its top-notch tech and liberal laws, is California changing the business of giving birth?” Yes, it did.

July 4 2019

Spent the morning looking through egg donor listings. One was trying to impress with her educational accomplishments but used an apostrophe wrong — “Not today, Satan!”
Most impressive so far — young lady who grew up in the Central Valley / Fresno area, first to go to college, now at UCLA grad school in neuroscience, statistics. No glamour shot with eye makeup like most, no desire to stay in touch, cites Steven Pinker as her fave author. Swoon!

That egg donor did not pass further screening. We were looking for someone as intelligent as we are, to give the children the best chance at good genetics for learning and accomplishment. The egg donor sites are full of heavily-made-up and processed young ladies who pick glamour shots to represent themselves; Instagram and the like have trained young women to strive for this look. It’s a bit offputting.

July 12 2019

There are apparently 500,000 frozen embryos waiting for disposition in the US. This article jumps off a celebrity court battle to make some ethical comments: [Sofia Vergara’s Embryos Join Father Nick Loeb In Suing Her To Let Them Live]

Some Hollywood women have their children by surrogacy to avoid career interruption (they are paid enough so I hiatus results in lost income and career damage.) But the Intended Parents [IP] are treated the same in Family Court, so such children are given child support from the wealthier partner. A situation with divorce followed by one parent disowning the embryos and another wanting them decanted gets into ugly territory.

Note also the egg freezing that young career women are advised to do if they want to have children in later life. Eggs begin to deteriorate after the age of 30, so women, correctly believing they will be viewed as less serious and reliable if they pause to have children, postpone becoming mothers for a more convenient time. By waiting until they are well-established to bear a child, they can avoid loss of career momentum before they have established themselves. You can have your cake and eat it too by freezing your eggs when they are most viable and bearing them much later — much less risky than waiting to 45 or 50 to try for natural children. Many older couples end up doing IVF because of male factor infertility or poor quality eggs.

July 17 2019

The IVF clinic had a notary on staff to help you notarize a flurry of legal documents via Skype. 75 pages of legal and disclosures, initial every paragraph, sign about 10 times.
Very Brave New World. Reminds me of Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer with the frozen lives and contracts at the cryosleep place. Was strange visiting westside LA and seeing all the street names Heinlein had borrowed for characters, like Sawtelle. I remember them all from when I was 12.
— quote —
We understand that under California law our unused cryopreserved embryos, eggs and sperm are our property, subject to disposition under California Probate Code §6400 et seq., and California Family Code §2010, and that we jointly have the right to exercise decisional control over the disposition of our frozen embryos, eggs and/or sperm. We further understand that this Agreement is required to be provided to all IVF patients by CFP pursuant to California Health and Safety Code §125315, and that the possible choices for disposition of our embryos are dictated by that statute. We also understand that the disposition choices for our frozen eggs and/or sperm, although not specifically referred to in California Health and Safety Code §125315, will be treated in the exact same manner as our frozen embryos. We further understand that the legal status of cryopreserved embryos, eggs and/or sperm, and the use, custody, and ownership of said embryos, eggs and/or sperm is complex and unsettled in the law. We are making the choices indicated herein to avoid the complexities and ambiguities inherent in the process, and to ensure that our joint written directives regarding the disposition of our unused cryopreserved embryos, eggs and/or sperm are followed.

There are also many contracts required for egg donor agencies and donors, gestational carriers and their agents, escrow companies (where intended parents deposit what is promised to carriers and donors so that they can proceed without worry someone won’t be able to pay as promised.)

July 22 2019

Another fresh new experience – went to an IVF clinic in Palm Springs to have a sperm count done. 11 AM is too early for this kind of thing, and a white room with a foot-thick selection of reading material (on top: Hustler. It’s still a thing?) is hardly romantic. We survived, though. Results to be faxed to LA doc tonight or tomorrow. BTW, I tried to schedule this through my official doctor, and it took them days and they only found a LabCorp place in Riverside, an hour drive each way. This place I found myself was $140 cash each and you got an appointment the next business day. I’m guessing the insurance route would have cost $300.

Other patients there for IVF were about half foreign. Not obvious where from, but not Chinese. One couple was speaking Italian.

We found a new egg donor candidate at one of the more mercenary agencies. She was 29, had an impressive background at a well-known B-level STEM college, and was in mid-career in the video game industry. She was motivated by a desire to help people without herself having to go on hiatus before she was secure, plus of course the fee for her egg donation. We had a Zoom call with new egg donor (who lives in another state.) She was extremely impressive on call, polished and intelligent. Looking like a great choice.

August, 2019 – Deciding to try IVF

We did a lot of research before starting the IVF process. The difficulty of adoption in the US in this era is comparable to or worse than IVF, and it’s almost as expensive, so we didn’t go that route — and besides, no one in my family is carrying on the family name, so we’d prefer to have my ancestor’s genetic threads continue.

We searched online for an egg donor. This is still an unregulated business, with some effort made to provide a code of conduct from a nonprofit organization of donation agents, but couples looking for Only The Best eggs clamor for Ivy League, Asian, accomplished concert pianist donors; which means a donor with those desirable characteristics can charge far more for her donation. Some agencies advertise “$50-100 thousand dollars for your eggs,” which is well beyond the guidelines.

We found a great donor but at one of the more mercenary agencies; she’s a graduate of a great but not Ivy League science-oriented college, she has a high IQ, and she was not that expensive as a first-time donor. “Proven” donors (after at least one successful donation) can charge more, but this was her first time. We had the agency’s help and did Skype calls to see if we liked her and vice-versa. Contracts had to be drawn up (there are lawyers for both sides at every stage of the process!) and signed.

Recognize that this isn’t easy for donors — they have to put up with medical, psychological, and genetic screening, making many visits to clinics, taking precisely-timed drugs to mature their egg follicles in abnormal numbers for a carefully-timed harvest. Our donor had to fly cross-country twice. The harvesting procedure can be painful and the wrenching-around of body chemistry can result in bad reactions. Fortunately, none of that happened and she was very successful. (And we had to have her back for a second donation when only one embryo came of the first, for reasons that I’ll describe in a later post.)

Our IVF doctor is semi-famous: “IVF doctor to the Stars,” kinda, with past clients like [redacted] and numerous Hollywood types. His office is in West LA on Wilshire, almost to the Santa Monica border, so we visited several times.

Genetic screening is a big part of the matching process. Both egg donor and sperm donor are screened for genetic abnormalities; many people harbor genes that can produce syndromes or diseases that would cause miscarriage if combined with similar genes from the other parent.

My Counsyl gene tests showed three more-or-less damaging flaws; fortunately, none of these overlapped with similar flaws in the egg donor, so we were cleared. I had two recessive conditions, plus a third which apparently is held back from the report for laypeople because it’s too diffuse a danger (sufferers live long enough to reproduce but are extra-susceptible to emphysema and liver failure.) I carry one copy of the good gene and one half-good gene (S) which means it would be wise to avoid hooking up with another carrier (and even wiser to splice it out for good, but we don’t do that yet.) https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/…/alpha-1-antitrypsin…

Then I got my first sperm count of zero! That will be the subject of a later post — male factor infertility and remedies.

Driving to IVF clinic

Downtown LA as seen from highway

Evitant (Avoidant) Published in Romania

Romanian Cover of "Avoidant"

Romanian Cover of “Avoidant”

A year or so ago I sold rights to Avoidant to a Romanian publisher. I did a little research into the market — small and almost entirely still on paper. The book has apparently been published now, and I’d be interested in hearing from any native Romanian speaker on how well it has been translated, since I had been concerned the specialized vocabulary might be difficult for them.

The description is just a translation of the author bio, and the error of place of birth (Kansas City, Missouri) being shown as “Kansas, Missouri” is not reassuring.

Evitant at Curtea Veche

Avoidant at Amazon.

Review Roundup: Avoidant, Bad Boyfriends

While I’ve been working on other projects, more reviews came in for Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner. There’s also been some activity on my older book, Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner. As usual, readers are invited to take questions and concerns to the Jeb Kinnison Attachment Type Forum to discuss attachment issues and their own special situations.

Here I’ll recap the better reviews, leaving out the obvious axe-grinding ones. It’s not uncommon for a reviewer to react negatively for personal reasons and then take it out on the book. Those reviews are self-identifying.

For Avoidant:

5.0 out of 5 stars – Five Stars
By Kate on January 21, 2017
Excellent read! Very informative.

5.0 out of 5 stars – Great to read with your partner
By J Harrison on January 18, 2017
Incredibly helpful. Great to read with your partner, to help guide those difficult conversations.

5.0 out of 5 stars – Along with Wired For Love and Marriage Rebranded
By room7609 on January 9, 2017
If you’re reading this then I know you can relate. This book, along with Wired For Love and Marriage Rebranded, saved me and my marriage. Read all three and ask your spouse to do the same. You’re welcome. 😉

5.0 out of 5 stars – WOW
By M. M. Jackson VINE VOICE on December 25, 2016
Fantastic, fantastic book. Very therapeutic and helpful. A window into the soul of these tormented people who, knowingly or not, manage to so thoroughly torment. I’ve read a few treatments of the subject, this has been the best by far yet. Expands upon his “Bad Boyfriends” book (which also applies to girlfriends, in my case) and in fact pretty much includes a lot of the same material, which you will find expanded here. Between the two, buy this one.

For Bad Boyfriends:

5.0 out of 5 stars – Excellent Primer on Attachment in Relationships
By stephen jensen on January 23, 2017
I’ve been reading a lot on attachment theory lately and so far this has been the best summary of the theory and its implications on relationships. It is focused, dense with insight, and unflinching. Highly recommended. Don’t let the primacy of “Boyfriend” in the title mislead you- its intended audience is everyone.

5.0 out of 5 stars – Five Stars
By S. Boydon on January 1, 2017
This is worth buying because it’s hands-on with lots of material.

5.0 out of 5 stars – I would recommend this book.
By Stephanie P. on December 27, 2016
Well written and correlates to other scholarly or reliable books on attachment theory. My daughter is a childhood and adolescent development major so the links between infancy to dating partners made sense when discussing portions of this book with her as well. The percentages of healthy attachment style adults over 40 was a bit depressing, yet makes me feel better about how hard it’s been to find a good partner after leaving a long term marriage. It’s not that my online profile needs help, it’s truly rough out there.

5.0 out of 5 stars – A book like Kinnison’s reminds me that there are many ways to …
By Catherine Coan on September 24, 2016
Attachment theory can seem limited — avoidant, anxious, secure, I get it! — but it’s not. A book like Kinnison’s reminds me that there are many ways to know a thing. In this case, at the level of love relationships, delving deep. Excellent!

2.0 out of 5 stars- There are much better books focusing on men’s relationship issues
By L. A. Duranon on October 9, 2016
This book is NOT for men. Despite the parenthetical attempt to make this non-gender-specific in its subtitle, this book is really geared toward women’s relationships. If you are a man, don’t buy this book. There are much better books focusing on men’s relationship issues.

On that last review, I’m guessing the reviewer finds it disappointing that I see the attachment types as largely independent of gender — the sexes differ on average, and in particular avoidant and preoccupied traits are reinforced by sex role stereotypes, but there’s no special “men’s point of view” about relationships. I have run into lots of men whose wives are dismissive and rebuff their attempts at intimacy, inverting the usual stereotype. Dismissive women and preoccupied men are more likely to have developed camouflage to hide their true feelings, since “society” is more likely to disapprove of the needy male and the intimacy-avoidant female.