The Road Less Traveled: A Black Woman’s Journey to Motherhood Through Egg Donation

a Personal Story by Brandi

This is the first story in our Pass the Mic blog series featuring the voices of Black women who are part of the infertility community. Join us as we #passthemic, and please pass their stories on if you wish to share. Together, we can amplify these voices, vocalize and normalize infertility journeys in all communities and help bring people together.

The beginning

HI! It’s always so interesting and sometimes overwhelming when someone asks, what’s your story? The idea of sharing everything can be weighty, but it also brings up good memories that are needed on this journey. My husband and I talked about getting married and starting a family when we were kids. He is one of over 10 kids, and I come from a large family, so he talked about having 12 kids. I always laughed when he said that, and we eventually agreed on 4.  It was puppy love, but marrying each other came to pass a bit over a decade and several life lessons later.

Prior to getting married, my husband and I supported each other through life changes while dating off and on. Around our senior year in college, we decided to try dating again, but this time with the purpose of staying together or deciding we should just be great friends. His proposal was very chill and unorthodox which made sense for us. One day he dropped me off at a job I hated and casually asked,

do you want to get married? I said sure, got out of the car, and went to work. Marriage was never something we played around with but had discussed in a general sense to make sure we were on the same page about what marriage should be. I called him later that day and asked if he was serious to which he said, I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t. About 3-4 months later we said “I do.” We purchased a two-bedroom condo that we moved into right after the wedding; we were ready to let things happen and had space for a baby.

The diagnosis that changed everything

About 3 months after our wedding, I went for a physical and was diagnosed with a fairly rare condition called Premature Ovarian Failure, aka Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POF/POI). A resident asked if anyone ever told me I had POF/POI since she could see my labs and records from when I was a kid (I had been born at that hospital associated with the facility). Turns out I should have been diagnosed at 14 instead of at 26 sitting in front of her as a newlywed.

She said I was infertile and would need to use donor eggs to birth a child. After those words, everything else was a blur. What the hell were donor eggs?  It was like she was the teacher from the Peanuts cartoon and all I heard was “womp-womp-womp-womp.” She handed me some paperwork from the Mayo Clinic and I left.

I broke down in the parking lot trying to recall everything I was told, but “infertile” overtook my thoughts as if it was a loud song playing that I couldn’t turn off or down. Once I could see through my tears, I drove home and just collapsed onto my bed. I am a typically happy person, so my husband knew something was wrong when he got home, and I was pretty much under the bed.

I went from a woman newly married to a man she started discussing kids with over a decade ago to a newly married woman with a diagnosis that single-handedly destroyed our future.

Embraced by a community

We talked and decided we would beat the odds. I would be one of the under 5% of women who were able to birth a child using her own eggs. Whelp, that didn’t work. We tried just having sex for fun, timed intercourse, and everything in-between. I started going to a doctor and we attempted a few IUIs and IVF cycles over the years trying to use my own eggs. My follicles never grew enough so retrieval was always canceled the week of my scheduled transfers.

During this time, I attended a panel discussion hosted by Fertility for Colored Girls (FFCG). It was the first time I was in a room with people who looked like me dealing with infertility or providing fertility-related services. My doctors were never Black, and I was regularly the only Black person in the waiting room. Looking at the pictorial walls of success, rarely did I see Black faces to signal others like me were part of the infertility community.

Sitting in waiting rooms, people stare at you as if you don’t belong in the space. People assumed I wasn’t married although I wear a wedding ring every day. Although for other medical appointments not related to fertility, the idea that I was using private insurance blew some people’s minds so it made me leery of clinics in general. At times I noticed staff acted less professional because I paid attention to their interactions with everyone else and also compared notes with other patients.

Neither friends nor family had fertility issues so although they listened, they didn’t get it in the same way those on the journey did. I was able to process my feelings and really feel comfortable about moving on to donor eggs with people who understand being part of the infertility community as a Black woman. Our big question became: how were we going to move on to donor eggs?

Finding an egg donor

We looked for a donor at agencies, but the price was always a show stopper on top of how hard it was to find a Black donor. When I filtered searches for Black donors, it was a celebration if I found more than five. One site had a grand total of three. Things are a little better now, but it’s still hard, especially if you are limited by location.  The price and available options were so deflating. It was just another roadblock that stopped us and had me question myself and the next steps.

I had already offered to let my husband get a divorce and questioned my ability to still be the wife I wanted to be and the wife he deserved. Hitting hurdles and nothing working out chipped away at my spirit. Over the years we worked with multiple donors on our own which would have saved us money, but they didn’t work out for various reasons. We finally decided to just figure out how to pay for a donor via an agency and picked our top two donors.

Last year, another donor connection popped up that I started to coordinate which put using an agency on the back burner. During that same time, the opportunity to work with Alcea came out of the blue. It was the perfect match to finally make it to the other side of this journey. After letting the donor we had been talking to know that we changed our mind, we moved forward with finalizing things with Alcea.

Our Alcea journey

Coordinating donors on your own is not easy. After speaking with Angela, I immediately felt at ease – like I was in a space that understood where I had been and where I was trying to go. She understood my challenges, and we discussed how best to proceed. Between FFCG and Alcea, we landed in a safe space supported by organizations that were just as passionate about this finally working out for us as we were.

I was no longer trying to schedule appointments, track documents, order labs, or rack my brain with logistics and questions amongst other things. We found a donor who is proven and agreed to be open from day one. This was critical because we want our kids to have access to our donor if they ever have questions. Our donor is very nice and has been a joy to work with. After we spoke the first time, I knew we would pick her to move forward with. 

Working with Angela has lifted a heavy weight off my shoulders since now I am not the person juggling all the plates in the air. We believe in being your own best advocate with your clinic, but it feels good to have someone familiar with the process from the business end on our side.

It was been a continual cycle of disappointment, anger, sadness, and hope. This struggle has tested me personally and tested our marriage in ways those not on this journey can never imagine. The pressure of the outside world expecting kids from us was heavy but is much better now that people understand the delay is not a choice.

This journey has hurt me to the core in ways I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but I have gained some wonderful sister-friends along the way, and I give back by supporting others. My faith is repeatedly shaken even in this moment. I don’t understand many things about the why of this journey and likely never will.  It has strengthened our marriage in ways we never expected and forced me to accept parts of myself that may make me feel forever damaged and broken.

In the end, even a broken crayon can still create wonderful art. Through my broken parts, I hope others know they are not alone and that they too have value and worth to themselves and the world. The steps to get to the life they envisioned might look a little different, but it’s still a masterpiece waiting at the end.