Liv’s story: miscarrying with egg donation
Liv has experienced 3 miscarriages. Her first 2 losses were after IVF, and here she talks about her third miscarriage which happened after using a donor egg.
I wanted to write this story particularly for women like me who have miscarried a donor pregnancy... It’s a vicious and lonely setback, when you’d hoped that your grief and struggle might finally be coming to an end... But I am determined to stay hopeful for myself and my husband, for now, and I am hopeful for you too.
My name is Liv, and I have just had my third miscarriage.
My husband and I began trying to start a family seven years ago; unfortunately – after a lot of delays and misplaced optimism from GPs – I was finally diagnosed with severe endometriosis, which had damaged my ovaries. I needed surgery and IVF to become pregnant.
I did conceive twice via IVF, but each time, I miscarried, first at seven weeks, then a missed miscarriage at nine weeks, diagnosed at twelve weeks. Both, they thought, were due to damaged eggs.
After that, I felt utterly crushed. I was unbearably sad that our babies would never know us, never hear the birds and feel the grass, never feel our love.
The seasons changed, time moved forward, but I felt stuck in grief, like it was the only thing left of my babies and I couldn’t bear to let it go. I was also scared, because everything had been tried to support my second pregnancy, but it still hadn’t worked. I didn’t know if I would even be able to conceive another pregnancy.
It took us a long time to feel able to try again. When we did, our best option, the consultant said, was to try through the generosity of an egg donor: my egg quality was now too poor to attempt more IVF.
Once we had decided we were comfortable with this route, I felt positive, but also anxious that I might feel differently about a potential donor pregnancy, because of my miscarriages. I worried that I would always long for the babies that I lost, that another baby would be ‘different’ – a difference compounded by donor conception. But a friend who had had children after miscarriage reassured me that she had experienced some of these feelings too, and there would be ways of coping with them if I were expecting another baby, ‘however that baby may make its way to you’. Her words helped me enormously: talking through my feelings made them feel less frightening and more manageable.
With a mixture of fear and hope, we embarked on a donor cycle. I conceived again… but again, I miscarried. As it was confirmed on scan, I felt a strange form of relief within the devastation. My anxiety levels about miscarrying again had been constantly high, and they would spike unbearably before each scan. Hearing the worst was less bad than fearing it. I was also relieved that I did feel such devastation, too: I felt exactly the same about this baby as my first two.
The consultant diagnosed the miscarriage from the scan image as the likely result of a sporadic genetic anomaly in the egg. Unlike my previous losses, we were able to discuss a specific cause, which was probably, on this occasion, simply chance: random bad luck. This was another moment of relief-within-grief: I was terrified, if I lost a donor pregnancy too, that there must be another, unsuspected problem with me in addition to my damaged eggs. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I might miscarry simply because of a chance problem with the egg.
One of the most surprising things I have found after this miscarriage is just how angry we felt, alongside the sadness – not with ourselves or the donor, but just with the appalling bad luck. That anger helped us to keep going. It carried us through miscarrying at home while waiting for medical management, the pain and stress of collecting tissue for testing ourselves, and resolving to try again with our remaining frozen embryos.
I wanted to write this story particularly for women like me who have miscarried a donor pregnancy. I know first-hand how upbeat and positive (sometimes relentlessly so) the general discourse is around donor eggs (the donors will be under 35, and will have undergone relevant testing: statistically, the miscarriage rate is lower than average). After my miscarriage, I searched for stories of women in the same position as me – I was desperate to know that this had happened to other women, and that I was not alone in having lost a donor-conceived baby, in a situation where, statistically, my pregnancy had a greater chance of working out. But these stories weren’t easy to find, so I want to say to those women who find themselves on the wrong side of this equation, you’re not alone. It does happen sometimes, it’s sadly inevitable (after all, nobody has 100% perfect eggs, including egg donors).
It’s a vicious and lonely setback, when you’d hoped that your grief and struggle might finally be coming to an end, and you’d made the already very hard decision to turn to a donor. But I am determined to stay hopeful for myself and my husband, for now, and I am hopeful for you too.