On episode 50, we have Sonia sharing her pregnancy at 44 using donor eggs. She recently moved to Arizona with her husband, her two bonus kids: Diego and Delilah, and their eleven-week-old daughter. Sonia is originally from Canada but moved to Texas for grad school. After graduation, she found a job in her field in the North Texas area. In 2015, she met her husband online when she was 37. She said she was very upfront on the first date that she wanted to have a baby. If not, she’d to move on. He had a vasectomy, but he was open to getting it reversed. A year into their relationship, she tried for a baby. She had to put a pause on everything when she got into a cycling crash that set off a chain of complications. She had reconstructive surgery on her jaw in 2018 that included pulling out most of her teeth on both sides of her mouth, implants, and sinus surgery. The doctors promised her everything would be done in a year, so she could go back to trying for a baby after she healed. Looking back, she wishes she had frozen some of her eggs, but she trusted her body would be fine. She expected getting pregnant would be the easy part after what she went through. There were complications with the surgeries that caused her to be on heavy pain medications. She started trying again in 2019, but the doctors said that was pushing it.
Oh my god, it’s me.
After only three months of trying, her OB recommended she see a fertility doctor for testing because of her age. Sonia was convinced it was because her husband’s reversal didn’t work. After lots of testing between Sonia and her husband the doctor sat down to review the results. The doctor first started with saying her husband had super sperm. She forgets the medical term for it, but her uterus is tipped, so the sperm can’t find the egg. They get lost. The doctor explained it makes it harder for the sperm and egg to meet for fertilization to happen. She doesn’t remember much from that appointment because all she could think about was that she was the problem. She reflects on all the surgeries her husband helped her through, all the money that was spent on the surgeries, and now there is still something more.
Surely this has to work.
When she was 40, she started out with IUI’s and thought surely this would work. She regrets not going to IVF sooner, but she was also nervous to spend more money. The first IUI didn’t take, but she found it helpful to see how her body reacted. Of course, she was disappointed but not devastated. The second IUI technically worked, but she miscarried right away and caused a lot of bleeding. She went to the ER because she was filling a pad in twenty minutes. It was at the hospital they confirmed she was pregnant with a really low HGC. She was really upset, but at the same time it gave her hope because it worked. She wanted to try it again, so she did. The third IUI didn’t take at all in 2020. She started taking her meds for an egg retrieval when the whole world shut down. She felt selfish for being upset her journey was being put on pause. She hoped for a ‘COVID baby’ but it didn’t happen. She started back with the meds for an egg retrieval in September of 2020, but her body wasn’t responding well to the medications. Instead, she wanted to do a fourth IUI. She became pregnant again but miscarried. This time it was devastating. This time it broke her.
Now Sonia was ready to go 100% into IVF. They told her she wasn’t responding well to the medication, but she also wasn’t monitored closely. This time, she had twelve follicles forming but only one was growing. She thought about how much money in medication she was pumping into her body without any results. Her doctor called her to let her know he wanted this so much for her, but it didn’t make sense to do an egg retrieval for maybe one egg. The doctor canceled the egg retrieval and said maybe another clinic would perform an egg retrieval for one egg. She felt like she got all the side effects that were possible from the medication. She got headaches, felt like a zombie, felt bloated and had to lay on the sofa she was in so much pain. She felt sick because of the medications. She couldn’t do it. She started to question herself if she waited too long. She wanted to consider another option.
I’m so sorry I’m so broken that we have to try something completely unconventional.
Together, she and her husband considered adoption but her husband wasn’t open to that. She didn’t want to explore embryo adoption because they already spent so much money with the vasectomy reversal. Before talking about donor eggs, she yelled at him that he didn’t even want to try donor eggs with her. What she really meant was, “I’m so sorry, I’m so broken that we have to try something completely unconventional.” When it was time to consider donor eggs, her husband left that decision up to her. Choosing to use donor eggs was emotional and another thing to unravel.
The whole family played a role in choosing the egg donor. First, she wanted to explain to her bonus kids why they were going to use a donor. Diego worried her husband had to have sex with the donor to make the baby! Then he asked how the sperm got out. She and her husband had a fun time with the kids explaining it in a very scientific way. The kids thought it was weird. She got upset with her husband’s donor choices because they looked nothing like her. Not that she had to replicate herself, but they weren’t even remotely similar traits. She was jealous. That made her realize how much she had to reconcile with her age. There were no embryos created when they tried with the donor’s eggs and her husband’s sperm. That was also devastating. This was supposed to work but it didn’t. The egg bank guaranteed at least one embryo, but they advised choosing a different donor. She hesitated because it was something her family chose together.
This time she chose the egg donor by herself. Her husband was gone on orders and the kids weren’t there to help choose. Of course, she sent everyone pictures but she picked on her own. She found it empowering and terrifying all at the same time. She picked this donor based on three things: First, she wrote an honest reason why she was donating her eggs. Second, she posted pictures of her son which they are required to do. She saw the photos of her son as really personal, and showed Sonia that the donor wanted to show her who she really was. Third, she had quite a few of the traits she was looking for. Sonia had a list of non-negotiables, but she gave up a lot of the traits she wanted on a culture level. She let go of a lot as time went on. She bought one cohort of six eggs. All six eggs fertilized. Four of them grew. She didn’t know when her fresh transfer would be until the day it happened. Her bonus daughter helped with most of the shots when she was only 10. Diego too. They both learned how to load the syringe and give her the shot. It was a whole family affair. Two days after Sonia’s 44th birthday, she had one five-day fresh embryo transfer. Her husband recorded the transfer to show the kids later. Diego was vocal about not wanting to see it. Her husband had to explain he only recorded the ultrasound screen. She took the prenatal vitamins, but she didn’t do anything else like acupuncture. It was too much for her, too many appointments. Eating French-fries is tradition after a transfer for good luck, but she didn’t do that either. Afterwards, her family took a trip to Corpus Christi. It was a great distraction for her. Sonia knew it had worked, but she also wondered if it was because of the medication. On transfer day 6, she threw up. Everyone around her told her it was too early for that to happen, but she knew better. She was pregnant. She went back and forth about doing a home pregnancy test. She took a home test on transfer day 8 because her blood work for her BETA was the next day. She wanted to test at home to know if her symptoms were the medication or pregnancy, and she didn’t want to wait for THAT phone call again. Her bonus daughter didn’t understand why she was taking a test because ‘she had a baby put inside her,’ so she thought. Sonia took that home test and never took her eyes off it. She saw the positive results and ran out to show her bonus daughter. She replied with, “yeah… I know you’re pregnant.” Both kids were confused why she was making it a big deal to tell their dad. This was big for Sonia.
Her first BETA was nice and high. Then everyday after that she thought it’s possible this couldn’t work, but what if… She got hyperemesis which caused her to be really sick, really early on. She knew this pregnancy was strong. Being sick gave her the confidence it was going to work. They didn’t know the gender because she had a five-day fresh transfer. Her and her husband both wanted another girl. At ten weeks, she did the sneak-peek gender test because she didn’t want to wait. She let her husband see it before she did because he’s been so supportive, and she wanted to give him a first for something. He shook his head after seeing the results. She assumed it was a boy. He said, “No! It’s a girl!” She screamed with excitement. The kids were at their mom’s house, so Sonia sent them a package to reveal the gender. They had a video call together while the kids opened it. Diego was so upset, he hung up the phone. Diego later apologized and promised to help change diapers. Sonia finally felt like God… the universe…was finally gifting her what she really wanted. She couldn’t believe this was happening all for her.
The pregnancy was hard, but it was beautiful. She was sick the entire time. She even got pneumonia at one point where she missed two weeks of work. She saw an OB and an MFM, so she saw one of the doctors every two weeks the entire pregnancy. She saw the MFM (Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist) because it was an IVF baby and because of her age. Her OB was the one she’d always gone to. Her OB was supportive and listened to her despite her office not being great. She never felt like a number.
The one thing she was able to drink was Gatorade Zero. She says it’s not the best, but she diluted it with water. Typically, she doesn’t like the taste of meat, but she loved big macs during her pregnancy. Her husband would come home asking if there was another McDonald’s bag in the trash and she would reply, “There sure is!” She was sick so often, she wasn’t able to exercise a lot. She was walking but she was gentle with her body. She walked around the college campus getting about 6,000-8,000 steps a day. On the weekends, she didn’t do much at all. Throwing up all the time took a toll on her body. They baby was putting so much pressure on her bladder, she would pee herself every time she threw up. She wore Knix underwear or pads to help contain things. She liked the underwear for this reason. She hasn’t worn them during a cycle, though.
She was due on March 2nd, but her OB wanted to induce her at 39 weeks. She was going to be induced because she had an IVF baby and her age. She was fine with that. Her goal was to enjoy Christmas and New Years, then spend the next eight weeks meal prepping etc. She made two different postpartum lists on her Amazon account: One was for items if she had a vaginal birth, and the other was for c-section items. That way, her husband could buy everything she needed with the press of a few buttons. January 3rd she had her maternity photos done. On the 4th, her husband took the kids back to their mom’s. Those next few days she started swelling. The doctor said it was normal, but she insisted something wasn’t right. She started taking at-home test for preeclampsia, but there were no signs of it. January 6th she was 32 weeks, 2 days, and her blood pressure was high but not alarming. The doctor wanted her on bedrest. That night she thought her asthma was getting worse, so she slept on the couch. Her inhaler wasn’t relieving her symptoms. She woke her husband up to let him know she was going to go to the hospital to get a breathing treatment, and she’d be right back. He refused to let her go alone. Looking back she knew something was wrong, but she really wanted everything to be ok. Then she started to swell even worse. She didn’t need a breathing treatment after all. Her blood pressure was so high, they worried she would have a stroke. This all happened in a span of about twelve hours. At 11:30 pm that night she checked into labor and delivery.
She asked the nurses when she would be able to go home. She had no idea she was going to have her baby this early. After almost 24 hours in the hospital, she gained about 30 lbs of water weight. Her skin started blistering because it was expanding so much. It was painful too because the skin was stretching. She couldn’t bend anything. She looked unrecognizable. She remembers being scared more than anything else. She had a catheter put it which was also painful. The next morning her husband went home to feed their pets. As soon as he left everyone rushed into the room, NICU nurse, labor and delivery, and the on-call OB. Her blood pressure continued to rise. She was having this baby today. Sonia wasn’t ready. She begged them to leave her baby in longer. She tried to negotiate with them to come back when her husband returned. She couldn’t call and tell her husband this news. She just told him the doctor has some stuff they wanted to talk to them about. She remembers the look of fear on his face after the doctor told him she was going to have the baby today. The doctor wanted to wait until 3:00 for the steroids that helped develop the baby’s lungs to kick in. By 2:20 they couldn’t wait. Sonia begged again if they could wait longer. The doctor requested to be blunt with her. She told Sonia her life was in danger if they didn’t get the baby out. She would have a stroke and die. She said it must be done. With her body and mind filled with terror, Sonia agreed. They warned her they might not hear the baby cry. She looked at her husband and said, “After everything we’ve gone through, we can’t lose her.”
It wasn’t an emergency c-section, but it all happened so quickly. On January 7th, at 2:40 pm, her daughter was born via c-section. Sonia heard the cry of their daughter. She said it was an amazing sound. She was so grateful. The nurses brought her over so she could give her a kiss, and then her daughter was rushed to the NICU. Her placenta started to deteriorate, so it took them time to clean it out. The way the glass was angled Sonia could see them work on her. She saw the umbilical cord hanging out of her stomach, but she couldn’t look. She was scared. She couldn’t see her baby for 24 hours. Because of the severe preeclampsia, she had a magnesium drip and couldn’t move. Her daughter wasn’t beside her, and she wasn’t inside her. It left her feeling empty. She was also in physical pain. Then the real fears creeped in. Her daughter wasn’t genetically hers. What if she didn’t remember or know her. She knew her daughter was safe, but she missed having her inside her. Her husband brought her videos and photos for her to see which remains special to her.
The first time Sonia got to see her daughter, she was still so swollen and her daughter was still hooked up to so many machines. Because her daughter was in the NICU, they wanted her to hold her baby for at least 45 minutes because it takes such a toll on their little bodies to move them. She wanted to hold her daughter, so bad but she couldn’t. She couldn’t even bend her arms. It was so hard. She questioned what kind of mother can’t hold her own daughter. While her husband held her, Sonia had her hands all over her. It wasn’t until the swelling went down, was she able to hold her for the first time. She cried the first time she held her, and then she settled in her arms. Sonia describes holding her daughter for first time as magical. In that moment, it was clear to Sonia, her daughter was meant for her.
Sonia ended up staying in the hospital for five days. Her blood pressure wasn’t improving, and she still had terrible swelling. Leaving the hospital without her daughter was tough. She had to keep telling herself her daughter was fine. She went home without a baby, but she had a baby. She went to the hospital 2-3 times every day for five and a half weeks. For those weeks, time stood still. Between her visits to see her daughter, North Texas saw ice and some of the coldest temperatures in a very long time. She was only six minutes aways, and she still drove through the ice.
She really wanted breastfeeding to work. She wanted to bond with her daughter. She latched right away. Everyone laughed as this tiny aggressive, five-pound baby latched for the first time. She didn’t have the energy to finish a bottle. That’s what kept her in the NICU. Sonia brought her daughter home on Valentine’s Day. The night before she and her husband spent the night at the hospital to make sure they were doing everything correctly. She bought an over-the-top outfit for her daughter to wear home. Sonia thought she came into this world dramatically; she was leaving the hospital dramatically. The nurse asked if she wanted a wheelchair exit, but Sonia wanted to walk her to the car. She can only describe it as amazing. On the drive home she thought to herself, “here we go.” When she got home, she didn’t put her down. Sonia admits she wasn’t as ready as she would have liked to be since their baby came 8 weeks early.
Sonia describes her recovery as hard. Because she was going to the hospital several times a day, it took her longer to heal. During the recording of the show, she was seven months postpartum, and she is still experiencing discomfort. She plans to start pelvic floor therapy. Mentally, she says she was severely depressed. She remembers sitting in her bed wondering how to keep going. She has been on medication for this her entire pregnancy, so the doctor suggested upping her dosage. It took only one night of feeling that low to up the dosage. She also wants therapy to help process the traumatic birth. In July, they moved from Texas to Arizona.
Sonia continues to see her daughter was meant for her, and she was meant for her daughter. Strangers in the grocery store point out her daughter watching her. She loves to agree and says it’s magic. Seeing her daughter smile at her and feeling all the exhaustion is so worth it, she says. Sonia still has one frozen embryo. Sonia says her pregnancy and birth were hard emotionally and physically, but it’s too soon to decide what to do with the remaining embryo.