Friends, family and children have questioned Carla about her surrogacy process. In response, but mostly as a gift to her daughter, she wrote and published a children’s book, Why I’m So Special (AuthorHouse, 2010). “I wanted to tell my baby how she got here. When I started looking for [children’s] books about surrogacy, I couldn’t find any. So I decided to tell my own story,” says Carla.
DONOR EGGS: THE GIFT OF A LIFETIME
Most African-Americans who have undergone assisted reproductive treatments are not so forthright. We canvassed fertility clinics to find an African-American couple who would share their story about having a baby through egg donation, in which case a relative, friend, or stranger donates an egg, which is then fertilized with the intended father’s sperm, and the resulting embryo is transferred into the intended mother’s uterus. Not one black couple would agree to go on record, not even anonymously.
“I’d be surprised if you find anyone who is willing to be associated with that level of public disclosure,” says Dr. Thomas Butler, of the Columbia Fertility Associates, who worked closely with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning team who produced the first IVF baby in the U.S. “People don’t even want to disclose to friends, colleagues, or even to doctors or the child that they [conceived] by IVF, much less with a donor egg,” adds Dr. Butler.
“Some people have concerns about bonding with a baby that is not genetically linked to the intended mother,” says Corey Whelan, program director at the American Fertility Association. “Those considering using an egg donor should ask themselves, ‘What can I pass down to my child if it is not my genetic heritage.’ Think about the things that make you uniquely you. Is it the color of your eyes? Your passion for sports? Think about the things that currently bond your family together. Is it your shared experiences, your shared genetic traits, or both things?”
“The chance of conceiving with the use of donor [eggs] is usually always higher than patients undergoing IVF because the eggs not only come from young donors, but the women donating are not patients struggling to become pregnant,” says Dr. Vaughn. “There are many reasons why some couples transition from IVF to a donor egg IVF cycle,” says Whelan. “Funds may start to run out after going through three or more cycles of IVF without success.” Others may not have any viable eggs.
Regina Townsend, 28, is the executive director of The Broken Brown Egg, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that raises awareness about infertility and reproductive health in African-American women. Her advocacy group first started as a blog about a year ago as a vehicle to address her feelings about being infertile. Townsend has hypothyroidism, in which her underactive thyroid doesn’t produce the requisite amount of hormones, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (enlarged ovaries with cysts), both of which cause her to be infertile. “My focus is on African-American women because I didn’t see any blogs or groups representing them. We weren’t talking about infertility,” says Townsend who has been married for five years and wants to start a family.
“The biggest hurdle in our community is that African-Americans tend to suffer in silence, not realizing that this makes our fight even harder,” she says. Weigh your options and discuss your family plans with your mate. Knowledge and conversation can go a long way.
Special thanks to everyone who participated in this article, Dr. Tanise Edwards in Great Falls, Va., and Dr. Elan Simckes of the Fertility Partnership in St. Louis, Mo.