15 Years of Unmatched Service

April 5th, 2011

This article originally appeared in Everything Conceivable, the official newsletter of ConceiveAbilities.
Click here to view the original version.

As ConceiveAbilities enters its 15th year helping to build families through collaborative reproduction, I am naturally retrospective on the many changes in the field of egg donation, gestational surrogacy and ART in general. Back when I first opened my humble doors, I was a biologist working in a fertility clinic and looking to advance the cause of egg donation. I saw it then as I do today: a win-win collaboration between a smart, young, healthy woman and intended parents hoping to build the family of their dreams with her assistance. In 1996 there were only a handful of us recruiters working tirelessly to find appropriate donors. Here in the Midwest, where finding ideal egg donors proved even more difficult than on the coasts, it often took 8 + months it took to find a good candidate. During that time we spoke in reassuring tones to prospective parents explaining that, yes, in the not-too-distant future, a donor would come along. Of course, in the current world of dense databases filled with wonderful, immediately available women, it’s hard to believe the lengths we had to go to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack.”

These days, we all know someone who has openly shared details on a journey through infertility and has perhaps gone on to build a family with the assistance of an egg donor, sperm donor or gestational surrogate. Any stigma attached to these technological advancements is quickly eroding. Celebrities, when they are honest, show us that using an egg donor to overcome infertility in your 40s or a gestational surrogate as a single or gay man is widely accepted and even celebrated. Movies tout the perspectives of both adults and children who navigate life with the knowledge that children created via third party efforts are a bit different than most, but, increasingly, are not as uncommon as we used to believe. As we’ve come to understand and embrace more than ever before: The Kids ARE Alright.

Taking cautious, careful steps has been a hallmark of my work within ConceiveAbilities. I started small, grew steadily - not hastily - networked with like-minded professionals and always took pride in a reputation built on conservative practices. As I’ve watched my cottage industry morph into a category in which publically traded companies take part and agencies spring up like weeds, I feel it is a responsibility as well as a challenge to protect intended parents from many of the unscrupulous practices (of some) currently marring our field. Whether well-intentioned or not, agencies are opening and closing every day and often taking with them the hopes, dreams and, incredibly, the never to be returned hard-earned financial resources of intended parents. I firmly believe the two biggest predictors of an agency’s soundness, when coupled together, are 1) the longevity of operation and 2) the level education and licensure of the staff. They go hand-in-hand.

Over these 15 years, I have watched trends and ‘big ideas’ come and go (cytoplasmic transfer, anyone?) and technological advancements like ICSI, Assisted Hatching, and PGD catapult success rates beyond anything we could have imagined. With egg freezing on the horizon, it’s still an exciting and provocative field to be a part of and helping build families proves to be a just reward for hard work put in every day. My entrepreneurial spirit has allowed me not only to come up with innovative approaches to the egg donation and surrogacy process, but also to experience something more than pride in a career. It provides a humble understanding of what it is to have a hand in another’s unique story of how their family came to be.

What a great privilege and equal responsibility.