Another Hat in the Ring: California Conceptions

I read somewhere about a different path that has a lot to recommend it: Embryo “adoption” at California Conceptions. The basic idea is that they create embryos using healthy young donors and match you with an embryo (or embryos if you want to transfer two) based on your preferences (in our case not that picky other than healthy, which they should be anyway with the comprehensive screening). We don’t get to pick, we just give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to profiles they choose. And we don’t get to see photos, which is probably a good thing in a way. It’s better to think of the child as its own little unique life, conjured out of love and healthy genetic building blocks. No expectations, just watching the new life unfold.

You get up to three tries in one year for $12,500 (not including your meds, travel, and health screenings, which will add another $2,500 or so, give or take). If you are healthy enough, you can qualify for the refund option, which means if you don’t get pregnant in three tries, you get the $12,500 fee back. Due to their stringency with donor and recipient health screenings, their success rates are roughly 90%.

And if you’re in that 10%, you can get your money back.

Here’s the thing about going to Mexico: So many things can go wrong. The donor we choose might back out, or she might not be sure how to use the medications, or there might be a problem in the lab, or my husband might be having a bad day when it’s time to make his contribution, or the donor’s eggs might not be as good as they should be based on her age, or I might get sick on the food, or…

Before we did our IVF in Turkey, I would have charged boldly ahead and damn the torpedoes. But now I know what it’s like to be stuck in a foreign country when things have gone wrong. I know what it’s like to fall ill with a miserable summer flu and high fever just before egg retrieval. I know what it’s like to be not quite sure the lab and your doctor are doing all they can (and should). I know what it’s like to sweat through estrogen patches because of a heat wave (and no air conditioning) and thus ruin a cycle. I know what it’s like to get a report that everything has gone wrong and you’ve ended up with nothing despite huge expense and (what seems like) heroic effort, which means you’re going to be stuck far, far from home for another month or more (and pay a fortune to change your plane tickets, and for accommodations) to try again and things still might not work. I know what it’s like to travel through eight time zones dealing with bureaucracy at each step, stressed out and not even knowing if you’re pregnant or not. I know what it’s like to go through a miscarriage just ten days after the most thrilling news of my life.

I felt like I could have dealt with any of the things (and so many others we’ve had to deal with), or some combination. But all of it together, for forty months (and counting), has ground me down. I feel like it’s going to be very hard for me to go through any more high-wire acts at this point. I know I’ve “only” had two surgeries, one IUI, three IVFs, two FETs, and a miscarriage. And we’ve “only” blown through 3+ years and maybe $20,000 when you add it all together. So many women have gone through so much more, so much worse. And I thought that after traveling solo through the Middle East and everything else, I could handle this better. But I feel pretty PTSD about the whole thing. I’m so ready for this part of my life to be over.

So, we can pay in the neighborhood of $15,000 for three transfers and a 90% chance of a baby (and a refund if it doesn’t work) or almost that much for egg donation in Mexico, hopefully at least two transfers, and maybe around a 75% chance (unless things go all sideways), but no refund if it doesn’t work.

I’ve heard great things about IREGA in Cancun (wonderful female head doctor and very friendly staff), and I’ve also heard lovely things about the doctors at California Conceptions. And CC is right there in the Bay Area, where I know people (and know the language) and know how to get around. Of course, Cancun has gorgeous beaches, and lovely Mexican food. 🙂

Either way it’s the end of our savings, and we aren’t keen to go into debt for this. But being child-free has never been something either of us has considered. So if our next try doesn’t work, we feel like we’re really running over a cliff.

Going to Mexico feels a bit like skydiving — thrilling and exciting (we pick the egg donor, and my husband is the bio-father!), but with a roughly 25% chance the parachute won’t open. CC feels more like a gondola ride. More sheltered, not nearly as exciting, but you’ll probably get where you’re going without too many (more) major hiccups or catastrophes.


Of course I have to ask the question, what right do we have to create a whole new life when there are children who already exist who need parents, and embryos that already exist that could become children?

From what I know, the waiting lists for already-created healthy donor embryos tend to be pretty long — which is one of the reasons California Conceptions started doing this thing in the first place: huge demand. And many already-created embryos were, of course, created by couples who (apparently) had issues (and are probably older), otherwise they wouldn’t need to do IVF. And it’s not like you’re getting the best of the lot; you’re getting the leftovers. Sometimes they are wonderful, of course, but it adds another layer of risk.

And it’s a whole headache finding the donors and squaring away all the legal details and transferring the embryos between clinics, etc. As for the cost, one embryo donation place we looked at charges around $10,000 for just one try. The lowest I’ve heard for that in the US is $6,000 for one try, and we’d be damned lucky to find something like that. And still it would be $12,000 for two tries, as opposed to three, and with no money-back guarantee.

So if it doesn’t work, you’re back at square one.

We’re sick of square one.

As for “regular” adoption, it costs $20,000 at the bare minimum, and we’d risk that being “disrupted,” too. (We probably wouldn’t qualify for it anyway, being freelance nomads.) The thought of going through foster adoption, with such long waits and so many unknowns and so many people to deal with and go through makes us both twitch. Especially the very likely possibility that we’d bond to a kid only to have the child returned to his or her biological parents. We might be ready for that after we’ve had our first kid — after we’ve learned how to be parents. After the sting of the past three years has started to wear off. But right now we just want it to be us, and we want a healthy baby.

Hopefully we won’t be judged too harshly for wanting what most couples get for free and choosing not to take on something that feels way over our heads right now.

Of course, I could be wrong, and foster adoption might be our best option — our kid might be waiting for us right now, and the whole thing could go super quickly. Sometimes it works out like a dream. But… sometimes you lose a kid you’ve fallen in love with, and right now it’s hard to imagine surviving that.

Pregnancy comes with its own risks, of course, especially at ‘my age’ (almost 37), even if I look and feel 27.

Sigh. Y’all who just have sex and have a kid within a few months of having the notion have no freaking idea how easy you have it. At least this part of it. No freaking idea.

I wish no one ever had any idea.

But… I feel like we will be parents within the next two years. And that’s pretty thrilling to think about.

One thought on “Another Hat in the Ring: California Conceptions

  1. This sounds like a really great option. I hadn’t heard of them before. I really think we all have our own breaking point and it is important to recognize and work within your own. Wishing you lots of luck


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