Guest Blogger: Jenna
Many women struggle with various infertility issues and treatments. Some of these women use donor eggs, fertilized and implanted through IVF, to help carry successful pregnancies to term. Donor eggs are growing in popularity, but very little is said about the women who contribute these donations. Most egg donation companies keep donors anonymous, meaning we rarely hear egg donor stories straight from the women who make it a possibility.
However, I was at a college reunion this summer and the topic of pregnancy came up. One of my former classmates had been an egg donor, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing her story for a larger audience. “Lisa” (not her real name) happily obliged and sent me this post. Consider it a look into a side of the pregnancy story we don’t often see.
When I was a college student, I used to see these ads in the back of our student newspaper. They were looking for smart young women to give their eggs to infertile couples, and they were offering what seemed like enormous sums of money to a starving college student – $5,000! $15,000!
I laughed at the ads back then, especially because they were so specific about the types of women they wanted: tall, blonde, high SAT scores. I was not tall, and I wasn’t blonde – my parents are both Chinese. On the other hand, I did have the SAT scores. Yes, I was a “nerdy Asian” stereotype. Clearly not the type of person to give her eggs to a family who wanted a leggy blonde genius baby.
Then I went to grad school, and I noticed the ads were changing. Suddenly everyone wanted Asian donors. Maybe they finally had enough blonde baby eggs.
So I did what any good nerd would do in that situation: I sat down and I made a list of pros and cons.
Pros: $15,000 plus hospital expenses.
Cons: the procedure is highly invasive and takes a few months to complete.
Pros: I could pay off the debt on one of my credit cards.
Cons: you’re physically wiped out for up to a week after the egg retrieval.
Pros: I didn’t have any other plans for Spring Break.
So in Fall 2011, I contacted an egg donation service that will remain anonymous. I had to dig up a lot of information about my family history, my medical history, and of course the all-important SAT scores. I had to go through interviews to prove that I was in my right mind and fully understood the risks of the process. (No one fully understands the risks of the process – Go Ask Alice’s site, for example, states that risks include “long-term consequences that are not fully known.” However, the odds seemed to be in my favor. I hadn’t seen any news articles about “egg donors suddenly collapsing from mysterious disease” or anything.)
I started the egg harvesting procedure in January 2012. Bad idea. I was already carrying a few extra pounds after the winter holidays, and the procedure caused my waistline to nearly double in size. (It’s because they pump you full of hormones so your body releases multiple eggs simultaneously.) They told me I should expect to wear baggy clothes and sweatpants – they didn’t tell me I would need to buy bigger sweatpants!
It was painful. There’s no getting around that. But it was painful in the way that PMS is sometimes painful. I was swollen, irritable, and retaining water like crazy. I couldn’t eat properly because I was so bloated and uncomfortable. Only a few people knew what I was doing – I didn’t want it to get out to everyone in my department. I kept waiting for someone to ask me if I was pregnant.
Anyway, there are like a jillion injections to stimulate egg production, and then a few weeks later, another billion injections to get the eggs out. It’s totally sci-fi. They literally pull the eggs out of you with a needle. Then they mix the eggs with the sperm and transfer the embryo to the birth mother – but of course I didn’t see that part because I was an anonymous donor.
Today, some families are electing to meet their egg donors and involve them in the baby’s life, but that’s a relatively new trend. I’m glad that wasn’t a question when I donated – I would have felt guilty saying no, but the truth is I didn’t want to be involved in a child’s life.
So after my egg retrieval, I went home, rested up over a long weekend, had to pee every five minutes as my body slowly let go of all the water it had retained, and got back to normal. No, I did not immediately bounce back to my pre-egg donation body; that’s as much a myth for egg donors as it is for pregnant mothers, I think. But I was back into my old jeans within a month or so. And, of course, the check cleared.
If you’re interested in egg donation, here’s a really good resource. Look up other egg donor stories to make sure you fully understand what the procedure is about. Don’t do it just for the money – I had to pay many more taxes on that $15,000 than I expected, and in the end you’ll only keep about 60% of your payment. I probably went into egg donation for the wrong reasons (cash cash cash) but my experience was successful and I would recommend it to other interested women.
Thanks, Lisa! Her story is a reminder that fertility, pregnancy and birth are often more complicated than we expect, and that everyone involved in the process, from doctors to egg donors to parents, has a story to share.