Joanna: Navigating IVF & Egg Donation

This month we feature Joanna @ivf_tribe from Melbourne Australia, who is sharing her experience of navigating IVF & Egg Donation. 

Joanna has been so open about her struggles to conceive and her miracle journey to beautiful baby Charles. Her social media platform has provided a safe support space for others and for the raw honesty of the path to motherhood. 

Joanna Q&A

1. How would you describe your experience with infertility? It was tough and heartbreaking. I did 10 IVF egg collection cycles with my own eggs over a two year period. 

2.  At what point did you realise you need to consider Egg Donation as your path to parenthood?

Egg donation was suggested to me quite early on in my journey when we were not getting any PGT normal embryos to transfer. I was always transferring fresh and testing the remaining embryos and we never got a PGT normal one back. We realised that we needed to seriously consider an egg donor when we finally fell pregnant and that baby wasn’t meant to be at 13 weeks. This was our 10th IVF cycle and I think 13th or 14th transfer. It was egg quality that was the issue and I needed to try something different if I was ever going to be a mother. 

3. Was your transition to Egg Donation a difficult stage for you emotionally & mentally? Was there a period of grief and did you seek counselling to help you prepare for the journey ahead? 

It was a very difficult time for me emotionally and mentally. One of the hardest decisions I have had to make. To “give up” my genetics, to give up my “dream” of my own genetic  baby. There was months of grief and many tears every day. I had a psychiatrist who specialises in peri and post-natal women’s health who I was seeing throughout my IVF journey so he helped me process all the emotions and feelings that came up for me. I wouldn’t have moved to the point of egg donation without his help. 

4. What were the steps you took to start looking for an egg donor? And what clinic did you eventually choose for your egg donation cycle?

I joined Facebook forums and posted my story in these forums. Here, I connected with many ladies whom I chatted to and got to know which clinics in which countries had good or excellent reputations. I knew the type of donor I wanted so it made the search a little harder but I eventually chose a clinic in Malaysia called Alpha IVF. 

5. What factors were most important to you & your husband when it came to your chosen donor?  Your “non-negotiables” as far as her ethnicity,  background, family history etc. 

There were a few non negotiables for me. Her ethnicity had to be Asian but I wanted Chinese Malaysian as I am of that heritage. I also wanted a certain height, weight and also her age was a big factor. I wanted someone who had a University education as well as a broad range of interests. Her medical history and her family medical history also had to have no red flags for me. 

6. Anonymous or Known Donor .. Did you always know which direction you would go & why? 

It didn’t bother me either way. My donor could have been anonymous or known. 

7. Have you decided if /when you will explain the Egg Donation story to your son Charles & future children? 

We will explain to Charles how he was conceived and the story of how an egg donor helped me to create him. As to when, I am not sure. Before having him, I was certain that I would tell him “as soon as possible” but now, I think I will wait till he at least has more comprehension of language or can understand a story book about egg donation. I am not opposed to him knowing his “story” at all but when or how I will tell him is still a working progress. 

8. You have created a wonderful community via your own Instagram account (@ivf_tribe) what key advice would you give to the many other IVF sisters on this journey?  

To those still in the wait for their babies, I would tell them to always advocate for themselves. If your specialist isn’t listening to you, or you are doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Or they are not open to exploring more testing/procedures/investigations, find a specialist who will. 

Sometimes our journey to motherhood may not look what we thought it would be. It is okay to grieve this, but be open to other ways of being a mother. I can 100% guarantee that you will not regret it.

9. Motherhood – how are you navigating the many layers of this important role & being a stay at home mum (SAHM)? 

Being a stay-at-home mum (SAHM) is a lot like being the CEO of a company. But without anyone working under you and without receiving a wage for your efforts. Quite crazy when you think of it like that, huh! Motherhood is the most important role of my life. One that you are really not prepared for. You learn something new every day about yourself and your baby. 

I have chosen to be a SAHM for the moment, and it is one of the hardest jobs I have ever done. I am by no means downplaying the experiences of working mums (or dads for that matter), but acknowledging that whilst most SAHMs love their role, it can take a toll. It’s a stressful job that I can’t take a break from since it requires feeding, cooking, bathing, changing, cleaning, soothing, playing, entertaining Charles and more all day. 

Staying home with Charles is fulfilling and wonderful, but that doesn’t decrease the amount of work motherhood takes. I don’t get a break from the emotional, mental, and physical energy it requires to care for Charles. 

Motherhood is hard whether you’re a SAHM or a working mum. It’s a blessing to have to have this time with Charles and I am forever grateful I have this opportunity. Parenting is never easy, and I always try to always focus on doing what is best for my family because at the end of the day, that is all that matters.