My Journey: Elena Ridley The Infertility Warrior
Elena Ridley, an influencer who turned to egg donation to build her family, in an honest and open account about coming to terms with infertility and her battle to become a mother.
We asked influencer Elena Ridley to tell us about her experience with egg donation, how she coped with crises along the way and what tips she would give others who are about to embark on their own egg donation journey.
You describe yourself as an infertility warrior. Can you share some meaningful moments from your battle?
My personal belief is that anyone who is dealing with infertility is a warrior in their own way. It's one of the hardest things I think a person can go through. Because of all of the unknowns and the constant cycle of failure over and over with each month that passes that so many of us endure, I think that makes someone worthy of being called a warrior.
Let's go back to the beginning - tell us about your battle to beat infertility. When did you find out that you have trouble conceiving? How did you cope with it?
We began TTC (trying to conceive) in 2011 without any indication that we would have issues. We tried for 6 months and then we got into a motorcycle accident that put a bit of a damper on being able to try, because I had broken my leg in 5 places.
After 1 year of TTC, at my annual check up my midwife told me we could try a few things - bloodwork, an HSG and even Reiki was suggested, so we tried all of those things. Bloodwork came back normal, HSG showed no blockage in my tubes and Reiki was definitely helping me relax, but I wasn’t sold that it was going to cure whatever it was we had going on.
We tried for another year and at my next annual exam I finally met with an OB and all she could really do was refer me to my first reproductive endocrinologist (RE). Two years of TTC naturally and not one pregnancy, so we definitely knew that something was wrong. We met with our first RE in the fall of 2013 and started treatment from there.
At what point did you decide to stop trying to use your own eggs and look for an egg donor?
The first time I heard the words “egg donor” was at a WTF appointment (a follow up appointment that answers the question "Why did it not work?").
It was after my second fresh cycle with my second RE. With my first RE I had done 2 IUIs (Intrauterine insemination - a type of artificial insemination), a fresh cycle of IVF and 3 transfers and had not gotten pregnant, so we sought out a second opinion.
During my second fresh cycle the outcome was much different than my first. I only had 2 embryos that were viable and they had me transfer them on day 3 instead of day 5, which was an indication that the embryos weren’t of very good quality.
The cycle failed and at my follow up appointment the RE told me that he believed egg donation would be a better route for me. He told me that even if I was his own daughter, this would be his advice based on the appearance and quality of my eggs. I had a very hard time believing this because my first round of IVF resulted in 7 blastocysts and there was no mention of my egg quality from my first RE.
I left my second clinic and decided to seek a 3rd opinion. I wanted to give my eggs one last chance and my new RE told me I had a 65% chance of success with one PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening) tested embryo based on all of my bloodwork. Everything had always come back in the normal range; FSH, AMH, antral follicle count, etc. Things that usually indicated egg quality issues simply weren't there.
We attempted a 3rd cycle with my eggs having 16 retrieved and 11 fertilize, but on day 5, when we were supposed to get the results of how many embryos were going to be frozen and sent off for PGS testing, we got a call that we needed to come in for a transfer that day because our embryos were not progressing as they should and they wanted to at least try with the two best looking ones.
We frantically dropped what we were doing and made the 2 hour drive to our clinic to have an unexpected transfer. The next day I found out that none of our other embryos progressed to the point of being able to be PGS tested and then the day after christmas, we found out that our cycle failed. It was during the TWW (two week wait - the time between ovulation and expected period) of this final cycle that I asked the clinic for their donor profiles and started to consider what my second RE had told me - that I needed to use an egg donor.
What was the process you went through when you decided to use an egg donor?
I was finally opening up to the idea and miraculously, at the same time, during the TWW of my last cycle with my own eggs, I got a facebook message from a girl who had been following our story and offered herself as a surrogate or egg donor to us.
Being a part of the infertility community on instagram for so long, I already knew several girls who were using or had used donor eggs, so I immediately connected with them once I knew that I was ready to move forward with that process.
I knew 2 women in particular who were in a similar situation, where someone had offered eggs to them through finding their blog or social media, so I spent a lot of time asking them questions and messaging them regularly to see how that process worked.
I was very fortunate that sharing my story so publicly opened the door to the opportunity to have an open donation. Although she was a complete stranger to me at the time, her generosity alone opened me up and excited me even more about using an egg donor.
When intended parents start looking for an egg donor - what do you recommend they do? How should they start? What should they ask?
Hands down the first thing an IP needs to do is determine if they are comfortable telling any child they have about their genetics. If they aren’t at that point, then seeking counseling and working through the process of getting comfortable with that is first and foremost.
I don’t have much experience looking for a donor because ours kind of fell in our lap in a way, but I was already looking into donor profiles on our clinic’s site. I think that as an IP, you need to also determine what you’re looking for in a donor as far as family history, looks, education, etc. Everyone has different wants.
You probably went through some challenges along the way. Would you like to share how you coped with them? What helped you overcome them and what would you recommend others do when they encounter similar issues?
You have to have a support system. You cannot go through this alone. Friends and family are always a good start, but finding a community that you can truly connect with and that knows exactly what you’re going through will truly get you through so much of what happens when you’re infertile. Whether it be an online or an in person community - find your community, find your village.
What tips would you give IPs about choosing the right clinic, agency and egg donor?
I don’t really have experience with finding the right agency or clinic or even egg donor but what I will say is that there is a lot of emphasis on the importance of open donation amongst the DCP community and I have to say I agree.
Visit Elena's Blog: https://linktr.ee/lenaridley