When Camille Guaty first stepped onto the set of “The Good Doctor” to play an expectant mother, she thought it was a preview of her near future, not the beginning of an arduous struggle with infertility. In a Q&A, the “Prison Break” actor talks in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg donation, foster care, and the journey that brought her to her son.
What advice would you give to couples who are struggling to make ends meet yet are desperately trying to become parents?
No one ever thinks infertility is going to be their struggle, unless they have a pre-existing condition. I remember when we were in escrow on our first home, my financial advisor told us to hold off on buying if we were starting IVF. I was genuinely confused. Surely it would work after the one round. Well, five years later he was right. IVF is very expensive, and most health insurance policies don’t cover the procedure or baseline testing to gauge a women’s fertility. It’s a conversation that needs to be started and a change that has to happen. With IVF, different clinics have different prices, and some offer half price on the second round. There are some organizations that offer grants, but those are hard to come by. Also, if you’re willing to travel, most clinics in other countries offer IVF at half the cost. It’s not for everyone, but something to consider if you’re financially strapped.
When choosing an egg donor, I made some big mistakes — choosing donors that weren’t the right fit and signing on with an agency that wasn’t reputable.
For those who are struggling financially on this journey, enlist the help of a fertility concierge or sign up for TULIP. The coaches there are so knowledgeable about egg donation and how to navigate the system. Fertility clinics often have in-house donor programs, so you don’t have the overheads of an agency. There is also embryo donation, which is becoming much more popular. But most of all, I’d say don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. The fertility community is full of people who have walked in your shoes — people out there who understand what you’re going through.
Did your professional career of playing a mom to a newborn impact you while you were trying to become pregnant?
My husband and I had decided on an egg donor. We were at the last stage of the process when I had booked a role on “The Good Doctor.” I was playing a character that was 38 weeks pregnant. I remember wardrobe strapping on my pregnant belly, feeling like this was a preview of what was to come in the next few weeks. But I soon discovered the procedure didn’t work, and we had to start all over again. There was a scene where I had to hold this newborn in my arms and I just lost it. I cried five years of silence and heartache take after take.
Luckily you were able to conceive, but there are many who aren’t. What would you say the role of fostering and adoption play in the fertility journey?
It’s hard for me to answer on a path I didn’t take, but what I can say is that if your desire is to be a parent then you will be. We started to embark on fostering a child in Los Angeles County and while we chose donor conception, I can tell you that there are thousands of beautiful children waiting for a loving home. We will certainly foster-to-adopt our second child.
Did you seek any emotional or mental support throughout this journey? Would you recommend others seek this type of support?
I absolutely did! For five years I was convincing myself that IUIs, IVF, specialty diets, acupuncture, reflexology, and praying would make me pregnant. So, when that didn’t happen, to say I needed help was an understatement. I had one-on-one therapy, along with couples’ therapy. I also recommend finding an Infertility community online. It’s one thing to get support from friends and family, but to have the support of people who have walked before you is comforting and encouraging.
There is a lot of stigma around IVF, donor eggs and sperm, and fertility challenges. How have you worked to start this conversation and actively try to break some of these stigmas?
To conceive is an inherent part of being a woman, so when that didn’t happen naturally, I felt such intense shame. I was broken and no amount of praying or medication could put me back together, and the world became one giant trigger for me.
After I worked through the emotional turmoil of it all and realized that egg donation was likely the best path to motherhood for my family, I moved forward with as much positivity as I could.
It was after I had my son that I realized going through IVF, and specifically donor egg treatment, was loaded with so many negative stigmas. It dawned on me that as a public figure, I had a perfect platform to help people understand that this path is a beautiful one. My son’s existence is not down to my failure, but he is here thanks to a community of people, especially the donor, and that is an amazing thing to celebrate.
As I started to publicly open up about my journey, I was approached by an amazing company called TULIP Fertility, which is an online platform for third party family building. As a spokesperson for TULIP, I realized I could break down the stigma around using donor eggs. I knew that I wanted to take what I’d experienced and reach a wider audience to speak out and to help other women and families feel that they are not alone. Partnering with Tulip has helped me reach a community that is desperate for understanding. I’m creating awareness around an issue that has traditionally brought much stigma. It’s almost like this is truly my calling.
One of the reasons I’m very outspoken is for my son’s future. I’m normalizing the situation. I want to help bring egg donation out of the shadows so that it’s not something that is a stigma — it’s about something that is beautiful.