“I want to be the kind of person a recipient family would be proud of”
One woman writes about how she’s become a better person because of donation
You’re probably a little miffed at me. I’m in my mid to late twenties and still haven’t conceived a child.
But this is a different world from a few decades ago. Women don’t have to have kids by 30. Women don’t have to have kids at all.
I’ve realised I’m happily child-free. But some women do want children, and I’m lucky enough to live in a time where women can be child-free or childful without being judged.
And thinking of you poor things, unfertilised and unfulfilled, I thought I’d do you guys a solid. I’m giving some of you away. To go sit in someone else and maybe help them get the one thing they’ve been wanting.
And yes, my little oocytes, it might be painful. Even if it is, it’s a pain I’m okay with. Because after a few hours, I’ll be fine. But the emotional pain of not being able to have a child, when that’s all you want, doesn’t go away. And hurts a lot more.
You know what? You’ve made me want to be a better person. I can donate five times. That’s a lot of families than can be helped, so I have to keep myself in tip top shape. I’ve been exercising more. Drinking less. (Let’s not talk about the “trying to eat less chocolate” thing, okay?).
I also want to be the kind of person a recipient family would be proud for their child to share the genetic material of. I’ve been working harder. I’ve started on my honours degree. I’m even trying to be happier, in general. I don’t know if there have been studies done on the effects of happiness on oocytes, but it can’t hurt, right?
And anyway, I know if I change my mind about wanting kids, you’ll still be there for me.
Go forth and help someone make a family.”
“Now I know what giving back to the world feels like”
Lori* hadn’t heard much about infertility, but once she started exploring donation, she realised how many suffered from it
“I had never given infertility a thought in my life, it was something which never crossed my mind. We had family friends who battled with infertility for a long time, I remember asking my mum why they had not had kids as all of mum and dads other friends had kids, she explained to me what infertility was all about and I was intrigued. I thought about if for a long time after that – why wouldn’t a lady be able to have a baby?
Time went on and I found this super-awesome company called Nurture!
I wanted to be able to help people who battled to conceive as I am young and healthy and I felt it was right for me. I had to fill out the application form which truly made me dig deep into myself; I learned I had talents and a history that I would never normally talk about. I sent off my application form and I was chosen!
I got a phone call from Melany telling me about my recipient couple, where they came from and that they had matched me. I was so excited! It was one thing filling out a form telling people about yourself, but to be REALLY chosen by someone is so mind blowing, like there was someone out there who truly needed me. I always took my red hair and fare skin for granted; Melany assured me that I was a rare treasure as I was not the run-of-the-mill blonde hair and blue eyes or brown hair and brown eyes. I was so, so excited to do something so new and so different.
Back at home, the more I told people I was becoming a donor, the more stories I heard of people who genuinely battled to have kids. This world I was about to enter was not a world of fun and excitement – these couples had given up their savings, their homes and their dreams of becoming parents. I felt almost sacred as I would be able to give a hint of a chance of happiness to someone who really needed it.
Questions do go through your mind, which really are frequently asked questions. Is this child going to be half mine? Is this anything like adoption? Am I giving up the chance to have my own kids one day? What if this kid wants to find me one day? Do I want to contact the parents in the future?
All these questions made me a bit nervous but as I walked into the clinic it felt like I was walking into a church, so peaceful, so many different people. While sitting in the waiting room, I heard American, English, Australian and French accents. Infertility is huge, it’s all over the world, it affects thousands of people, and I felt honoured to be part of something bigger than myself.
I met Dr. Heylen and within three minutes of meeting him, he had answered all my questions. This is not a child you are giving up; you are merely helping someone in their quest to conceiving a child. But it can be a bit off-putting when those around you do not understand what you are trying to do so they bombard you with negativity.
I was astounded at the level of efficiency and service from both Nurture and CFC – any questions I had were answered. I was a bit apprehensive about taking the medication but I had zero side effects, because it’s not harmful to you at all. Once a day to have a tiny injection was truly nothing to stress about and getting back into sync with my period in the following months was so easy!
As my donation date was getting closer I felt a serious emotional connection with my recipients. I had never met them nor would I ever meet them, but our bond somehow (very supernaturally) was incredible. I woke up after my donation so full of excitement, the same excitement which had filled me when I heard I was chosen. Something awesome is on the way! I think of my couple every day, and I thank God for how healthy I am in that having kids is not an issue for me at all. My experience with Nurture and my donation was out of this world, the love and care given by Melany and the CFC doctors and nurses was unforgettable.
I always wondered what it was that I could give back to the world, and now I know.
“It’s not about the money”
In part two of her blog post from Kathcake, regular donor Katherine answers some common questions.
Q1: How much do you get paid as an egg donor?
A: that would be the first question! I get R5000* for each donation and it is paid to you in a cash cheque immediately after the egg retrieval procedure. I have had one donation which didn’t work, I got paid R5000 regardless. It was the most awful feeling for me though. Almost like taking from someone and giving nothing in return. I also couldn’t imagine how upset the recipient would have been, it was no one’s fault though and a small portion of this whole process seems to be luck. Anyway, after that donation I felt like a failure! I hate that feeling. A few days later I found out from the agency that the same couple had asked to have me as a donor again. The second time was a success! I’m glad to say!
*Editors Note: The fee paid to the donor is now R6,000. Donors are NOT paid for their eggs, they are paid for the time and effort in doing the donation.
Q2: How much does the whole process cost the donor egg recipient?
A: I actually only found this out the other day! A little birdie told me that the recipient pays between R20,000 – R70 000! Jeepers. So it’s big bucks, more than I even thought it would be! It is also not including flights and accomodation costs if you don’t live in the area. There are many international recipients – which to me makes sense, I would go looking overseas for a donor if I was in that position I think. In my mind I have this bizarre day-dream, in it I am the recipient and selected an egg donor, I’m walking through the grocery store somewhere near the frozen foods and suddenly seeing a woman I could swear was the mother of ‘my kid’. Yup, it’s a bit strange. Then I think how silly that thought is, I’ve been asked so many times, when I was dating this one boy, if we were brother and sister? OH! Then the darling 8 year old I babysit told me I look like Jessica Alba (SCORE!). So what I’m getting at is the whole idea that looks can be deceiving, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and really, if I were to ever have a baby from an egg donor, that would be the last thing I care about.
Through this year I have also really tried to understand why someone would pay that amount of money to have a baby. I guess parents spend huge amounts of money on their kids anyway, but the real thing I want to understand is why it has to be an egg donor instead of adoption. Apparently the process of adopting costs a fair amount too, I’m not sure how much. I chatted to the gynaecologist at the fertility clinic and he said that in his many years of experience with his patients, it appeals to partners alike to use an egg donor. Basically the guy gets to use his sperm and the woman gets to experience the bond and process of pregnancy. I’m trying my best at this time in my life NOT to have a baby. It’s ironic really, me and the recipient are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Q3: Doesn’t it freak you out thinking of someone having ‘your baby’?
A: Haha. No. This has been a battle to explain and I realise now that you can’t try make someone understand your viewpoint when really, they’re far too convinced with their own. I used to keep it all hushed up that I was a donor, like it was something to be ashamed off or that I would be judged. I think it was in part the result of the first person that I told, it was my boyfriend at the time, his opinion wasn’t judgmental at all but it wasn’t supportive either and instead rather sympathetic and patronising as if I was coaxed into the idea of becoming a donor for the money. I suppose he wasn’t the only one who thought that. His parents even felt a bit sorry for be ‘having to be a donor’ and all. No no, I am fortunate to be part of this and I see that now. I couldn’t be more grateful for the perspective it has given me how valued having a baby is someone, as well what people are willing to go through to achieve that. It’s made me respect birth (yes, those words I used to cringe saying) and labour, babies and just the works, much more. I think Obs and Gynae is something that I might be interested in specialising in, this has made me realise that. I have gotten into some heated debates about the approapiateness of giving someone your eggs and even resorted to the classic argument-ender of ‘it’s my body and my choice’. Well, dear person reading this, here is my answer and opinion if you care to consider it…
First up – I am grateful that I study medicine and also I should mention that I’m not religious. These two things out the window means that fears of the actual procedure are gone and the whole battle about natural conception, and so forth is eliminated. That leaves just my feelings toward this then.
So hear is the first opinion against me, ‘you’re young and naive which means that one day you will regret this’. Yes, I have heard that and my answer was, ‘no, you’re naive for thinking that you know what I will think one day’. Aha! Then the other thing I realise is that I’m no longer on the debating team and there aren’t points for who wins the argument. In the end, I don’t need to convince or persuade anyone of my decision to be an egg donor, the beauty lies right there – it’s mine.
However I needed to understand this before I did it and I went through it in my mind to try sort out how I feel before I even considered the medical stuff to do with becoming a donor. These are some of the things that came up in my mind. I thought about how I look after 6 families, who I babysit and au-pair for on a regular basis. That includes four-month-old babies and an autistic kid. So that’s 11 children and it’s been years that I have changed nappies, been to petting-zoo parties, had to bandage up after bike falls, watched their first steps, and I’ve even been called ‘mummy’. So I can understand the wonder of children all too well and I love my kiddos! I kiss them goodnight and tell them they’re wonderful. They add something to my university-student life that I am so grateful for! I yak on about their achievements and their pronunciation blunders to the point where people think I have kids (er, even 11?). I think your own child is something different and maybe I will feel a kind of fierce love for my own one day but right now I’m pretty sure that in many ways my babysitting kids are my cherished kiddos! I reckon being pregnant must be an experience of a lifetime too, must be fun talking to your big round belly when you’re all alone, like a constant nine-month companion.
I delivered 15 babies last year as part of my medical degree, I watched far more than that too. I held those tiny things, measured their head circumference and their length, given them their first injection (vitamin K) ever and just been one of the first things they ever set eyes on. It’s cool. The moment is really nothing of a cliche, it gave me goosebumps every time just to watch a person come into the world. I will always remember the good and the bad experiences from that like they’re engraved deeply in my memory, even though the patients were strangers to me.
I am frightened but excited for the day that I am perhaps on the other side and then I’ll be the patient – eek! I appreciate and respect the whole process of birth after this year. I’m also far too comfortable now with the words vagina, breasts and amniotic fluid – I had to say that. Haha. I’ve put many shoes in the washing machine after being on call! Birth is, in my humble atheist opinion, the closest thing to a miracle because just so much can go wrong, holy shit, disastrously so, and when it doesn’t I just feel a sense of relief, wonderment and gratitude. Newborn babies are incredible special little gems.
So my long winded answer is basically saying that I love all newborn babies, they provoke a protective and almost natural love. Then all the children I have ever had the privileged of watching grow up, I feel a love for them too. So those are ‘my babies’ and not a few of the millions of eggs in my ovaries – who I have never had the privileged of meeting (jokes) and really in my mind accumulate to nothing more than some DNA – like my strands of hair, which I shed all too much. When I donate eggs, it’s the recipient who goes through 9 months of pregnancy and I go through an hour retrieval process. After seeing births, up close and personal, it’s something of a remarkable bond between a mother and baby – it’s hectic and takes team work. So what’s far more chilling to me is giving babies up for adoption, I mean I fully support it and think it’s a bold and often selfless thing to do, but after seeing a newborn look up at their mother for the first time – you know? That really freakishly teary moment when their eyes meet – it is effing beautiful and I’m not a very sentimental person. That’s when I get all sad about separating mom and her baby, for whatever reason. Actually wait, an even more chilling reality (I take back the last one) is when a mother doesn’t want her baby, as in doesn’t love it, and I just don’t get that. So no, egg donoring is very chilled and I think of those recipient moms as the most deserving (tricky word to use but you get what I mean), appreciative and caring people who go through more than your average woman just to experience pregnancy and having a their own baby. In my mind the harder it is to achieve something the more you appreciate it. Plus studies have shown that egg-donor kids do better than general population – they are lucky kids and im sure they’re very cherished.
Q4: What is the whole procedure?
Right in the beginning you get selected as a donor and the agency contact you by e-mail to inform you. In my experience it is usually about two months from then until the day of the egg retrieval. Within that time you have scheduled appointments with the gynae. The first visit is to do a tranvaginal scan of your uterus and ovaries to see that there are no abnormalities before proceeding with the donation and on that day, you also have some basic blood tests done for Hepatitis, HIV and cytomegalovirus. You have another appointment later, usually a few weeks, to recieve your injections. These are the small Gonal-f injections that you get, to read more about them click HERE. The best way to desribe them is like insulin pens, they really do look like pens and are designed for self-injection…so it’s easy! The needle is so tiny, and the dose it contains so small, that the injection is also relatively painless.
So you take about 1-2 weeks of daily Gonal-f injections and see the Gynae more regularly during that time for transvaginal scans to see how the ovaries are producing follicles. These appointments are usually quick and about 15-20 minutes. The scan will help the gynae determine how large the follicles are so that he can anticipate the right day to do the egg retrieval, they need to be large enough but not rupture and ovulate. If you aren’t sure what a follicle is look it up here on Wikipedia (click HERE). In a sentence though, you have a proportionally large follicle encasing the tiny egg and normally each month a number of follicles enlarge and grow which results in the biggest one rupturing and releasing an egg which finds its way up into the fallopian tube – voila! That’s ovulation in a nutshell. In egg donation you do not want the egg donor’s follicles to burst but you want them to be mature enough. Once the gynae thinks that you are ready to go for the egg retrieval procedure he gives you two more different and slightly larger injections. These taken at specific times the day before the operation and make sure the follicles are just right for the op.
The egg retrieval itself is a quick procedure that takes just over 30 minutes. You arrive and get prepped for the operation by chatting to the anaesthetist and putting on a gown. From there it’s really just making your way into the prodecure room and then the anaesthetist puts you under general anaesthetic. By operation though, I don’t mean cutting and full on surgery. It is far from it and they use a fine needle that goes through your vagina wall into the ovary and pricks each follicle to withdraw the contents (the egg!). The needle is guided by an ultrasound so it’s precise and quick. The needle gains access by a probe that is inserted into the vagina, it’s very similar to the one used in transvaginal scans so you’ll be familiar with it. The bleeding is minimal and the healing time is rapid, I usually don’t experience any pain after the operation although there is some aching discomfort that lasts about 2 days – this is mild though and nothing compared to a ‘bad’ period pain though. Then as you leave about 30minutes after you wake up from the anaesthetic you go to the reception desk and collect your cash cheque. The nurses where I went, at the Cape Fertility clinic are lovely and always take such good care of me – breakfast, tea and just a good chat.
“I just finished my fourth donation”
Straight from her blog Kathcake, Katherine writes about why she keeps on donating
So! I have been an egg donor for a year now and finished my fourth donation. It’s a process and part of my life I never knew I would reach but looking back I have no regrets. It’s a surprisingly personal journey too – despite the anonymity between the donour and recipient. For each donation I felt part of something rather special and just being able to give something back made me feel like I left a positive mark somewhere in the world. Yes, there’s some hype about the process and sadly some rather offish misconceptions. So here I am! Still alive and fertile! I’m going to attempt to educate people because I feel like it’s something worthwhile knowing about. In a way it changed my life for the better.
I first considered becoming a donor when I came across a magazine article on surrogacy. My immediate thought was – this is amazing. A woman, who was already a mom of two, signed up to become a surrogate for a couple who couldn’t have their own baby. Hearing her account of the pregnancy and becoming the part of another family gave me goosebumps. I also realise my medical background has a huge influence on my outlook – I’m thinking, ‘hey your womb wouldn’t have anything to do otherwise’ and I part of feels like the surrogates body is engineered for the incredible process of pregnancy so why the hell not make the most of it. Whether you agree or disagree, no one can argue that didn’t she changed three lives forever and for the better.
So that was last December and I then went on a research mission to find out about egg donoring. I don’t think I’m ready to be a surrogate. The first pregnancy, for me, will have to be my own little gem! Egg donouring was definitely in my mind – I knew I would do it 100% but I was worried about infertility and truthfully I thought it might involve something of a c-section type surgery. My mind raced to possible death and future infertility. Yes,I know – it was a bit extreme but what’s that they say about ignorance and fear being rather intimately connected?
I searched the internet for real life accounts, medical research and companies before I settled on an agency that looked legit. The website was beautiful and what struck me was the owner of the company had struggled with infertility herself. She understood what it was like to feel and to experience the process. This sold me. The company she had created was something she gave ‘birth’ to and designed to be good enough for her and any woman.
I sent in an email out and a few days later planned to have coffee with one of the team. I met Mel and she was a NOT a businesswoman! Not for a moment did I feel like I was being recruited. She hugged me when she greeted me and I was reminded, again, that this is not an corporate company and the nature of its business is so personal. I hadn’t made my mind up completely about the whole thing. It turned out that Mel had been an egg donour too since joining the company – just to be part of it! She answered my rather silly but gory questions.
That was it – I said yes. Just so you know, I’m not going to say the company, I guess half of me doesn’t want this to be an advert for them.
I filled out a long labourious form that detailed my family’s eye colour to their diseases, my handedness and everything to my height. It was the usual medical histories and characteristics of my gene pool. I actually thought I should keep a copy of the form so that whoever I plan to have kids with one day can fill it out too – KIDDING! The form also had some questions for me too, like things I enjoy doing and also the one that stuck out was ‘If you could spend a day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?’ that was a tough one. In the end I chose Leonardo Da Vinci, I guess he was a scientist (genius) and artist which is a rare combination that I totally love. I also had to answer what my last meal would be if I had to choose? er? I don’t know…burger and coke probably?
My first selection! It was only a few weeks before I got notified that a recipient had ‘chosen’ me. I cannot describe the feeling. It was better than winning a prestigious trophy a school. The actual thought that someone had picked me for such an important task was….just. I don’t know? An honour really – and to a complete stranger. I obviously said yes. At the time I kept my new position as an egg donor rather secret. I was embarrassed.
I thought that I might be judged by my friends. I also didn’t want an onslaught on questions about it either. I did tell the boy I was dating and his reaction, although supportive, was…why?? The money I explained was definitely appealing and I’m a varsity student so that just makes any lump sum of cash seem amazing. I just didn’t want anyone to think that was the only reason – seems a bit shallow. It definitely wasn’t for me and surrogacy is something I will always be open to later in my life. Given it’s the right time.
I explained to my boyfriend (and reiterated this to myself) that it was more. I felt like it was something I could do because of ME! Partly my religious ambiguity and lack of emotion to the topic, medical knowledge, good genes and my achievements so far. I felt I should do something about what I have been genetically handed down. I have also since become an organ donor and bone marrow donor.
It’s hard to explain my mumbled thoughts but I wish you would understand how passionate I am about this! I did nothing to deserve my family’s lack of medical history of any cancers, serious disease and rare conditions. I was lucky? I also am a healthy, intelligent and well rounded person (I want to say human here but that sounds impersonal).
The other bit, that emotional part for me thought. I have family and some of them I can’t believe I’m related to? The cousin with teen pregnancy, drugs and drama. Or my dodgy philandering uncle who in my mind is just a bad human being. I’m related to them?! Then closer to home. My dad never wanted children. I knew what a vasectomy was when I was 11 when he mentioned it at dinner that he took some more drastic measures to ensure there were no more surprises- three was more than enough already.
I tried to put myself in ‘their’ shoes. If I’m in the same position one day where I want and need children. I cannot imagine the feeling that some of the woman I have donated for must have. They are all successful and have reached a time in their life where they so badly want to share it with children. Every single donor baby is planned, wanted and so desperately wished for. I’m kind of envious of that. What lucky kids! Studies have found that they also do better than average population across the board, I suppose it’s a bit of everything but mainly they are wanted so much. It makes a huge difference when I did my obstetrics block and delivered babies to teen mothers that had only defaulted on contraception, or moms that hadn’t bothered at all with family planning but didn’t want children? It’s not just poor education in my mind. It’s APATHY! There is free family planning at clinics, Western Cape has a successful public health policy. I have had so many women say, ‘ no more babies after this’. I saw pregnancies that had no antenatal care, the mother had not bothered in nine months to have a check up at the clinic. I delivered an intra-uterine death. Then there are the more drastic scenarios like a baby being dumped in a public bathroom, the mother had given birth to it in secret there and delivered the placenta as well. Both the baby and afterbirth were left there. Naked. Alone. Unwanted. That happens? That’s the other side of the spectrum. Oh yes, and woman who are pregnant them smoke? drink? The full monty. It makes my blood boil. I cannot judge, I am in no position to – really. This is merely my thoughts and feelings toward the topic. I haven’t lived in anyone one of those woman’s shoes and I don’t know how their decisions are made.
This is genes! Not just hardwork… it’s thanks to the wonderful combination of my linage that I have a tall slender(-ish) figure and an above average intelligence. It feels like a passed a huge exam without any work and by just being ME! Cool eh? I consider it lucky (you may consider it a blessing) that I don’t have obesity, ADHD and rarer disorders like myasthenia gravis. I’m just saying – wow, this body rocks and I can much more with it. I saw a 13 year old paraplegic a few weeks ago he had been accidently caught in gang crossfire , and thought ‘fuck’. Instead of thinking he’s so unlucky I rather thought, hell, I’m the lucky one. This life is brief and everything moment, every part of me is something I should not take for granted.
The donor bit. I had my first gynae appointment – ever! I hadn’t been off the virginity market very long at all. Sex, vaginas, gynaecologist – they’re bit in the deep dark realm of scary. That is an overshare that makes me partly wish I wrote this article anonymously. Then I think – hell! I’m nearly a doctor and apart from seeing more naked bodies than I can count, I realise that my awkwardness about the topic of sex is silly. I need to ask patients now, and in the future… ‘do you have sex with men, women or both?’. There’s no room for sillyness is my life. That concludes part one, think I should mention that I’m also a bone marrow donor, blood donor and recently an organ donor. You can save lives in your spare time – the risks are low and the benefits high. So I say why not sign up?! The lack of education is the killer – learn more and then make your decision.
“I wanted to give someone else the chance of a family”
From egg donation to twins, donor Candace Whitehead shares her process
I’ve been asked so many times since I started this: “Why donate your eggs?” I don’t have one specific answer – I have dozens of reasons – and they will change on a particular day. If I’m feeling particularly cynical, I’ll say “Well, the money’s decent” – although I would still do it for nothing at all. Most of the time, I’ll say that it’s because I want to help. I want to give somebody a chance at a family. I want to do something spectacular for somebody else. And because I hope that if I ever needed it, I would hope that somebody else would step up and donate their eggs for me. Honestly, I can think of dozens of reasons why I should donate, but not a single reason why I shouldn’t.
I’m young – 24 years old – and single, although not the Bridget-Jones-cry-into-my-wine-curse-all-men kind of single (Okay, well, not often at least). Do I see children in my future? I think so. I want a family – whether that family includes a four dogs and a life partner, or the more traditional husband and two-and-a-half-kids, I’m not sure yet. But family is, bar none, the most important thing to me. I currently have an extremely demanding career in the media – I am the entertainment editor and social media manager for one of South Africa’s major news websites. And yes, this means I do read celebrity gossip, watch movies and check Facebook six hundred times a day for a living. It also means regular thirteen hour days – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
My journey to Nurture started almost a year before I donated for the first time. My ex-boyfriend had donated sperm before we started dating, and I was so inspired by his attitude that I wanted to do something similar. He mentioned that there was a shortage of egg donors and suggested I look into it. I started investigating egg donation agencies and found some absolutely hellish ones before stumbling across the Nurture website, bookmarking it and promptly forgetting about it.
Then a few months down the line, I was alone in the office working the weekend shift. I found the bookmark and started filling in my details. I think I got about half-way through the scary, long, tell-Nurture-everything-about-your-life form before it was time to go home – and I forgot about it again. (I’m scatterbrained, can you tell?) An email asking if I was still keen to donate came on a terrible, terrible day – one of those “I have achieved nothing with my life” days – so I said heck, yes, I’ll donate.
I had my interview/coffee date with Mel and Lee a while later and that same afternoon, I was told that I had been chosen. From there I scheduled my psychological evaluation with Leanne – we had a wonderful chat that honestly seemed like a lot less than an hour! – and my initial appointment with Dr Le Roux, who was so kind and gentle that any nervousness I had been feeling disappeared within minutes. I have also been asked so many times “Aren’t you terrified? Aren’t you scared something will go wrong? What if you can’t have your own babies later on?” Honestly, the thing I was most scared of the whole way through? Not being able to give my recipient what she’d been dreaming of. I was never truly scared of any complications (although obviously it has to be in the back of your mind somewhere) but I had so much faith in Dr Le Roux and his team that I was more worried about not being able to bring my side to the party.
And then, of course, there were the injections – which so many of my friends said would have put them off donating. Yes, the injections were probably the worst part. The first morning was awful. I needed to do them before work – and seeing as I start work at 7am, it meant pretty much the first thing I did in the morning was poke myself in the stomach. I went from half-asleep and bleary-eyed to wide awake and slightly nauseous in the space of the two seconds it took to flip off the lid of the needle. But once I got the hang of things, the Gonal-F injections (the ones they give you to stimulate your ovaries) were easy!
Somewhat more exciting were my at-home Cetrotide injections to prevent inconvenient ovulation. Dr Le Roux gave me the crash course on how to mix it up and inject – no easy-use pen here! One Sunday morning and with great gusto, I mixed the medication, marvelling at my hitherto-unknown medical skills. I sucked in the mixture with the needle, feeling like a one-woman episode of House, noticed an air bubble, misread the directions and proceeded to squirt mixture all across my bedroom. I stared at the floor for a second, then injected the remaining mixture (plus the air bubble I was trying to get rid of). Then panicked. What if there wasn’t enough medication? What if I ruined this all? I mailed the lovely Lee in a complete state – but within an hour she and Mel had calmed me down, told me not to worry – and the next day, my scan revealed that everything was on track. I was left with one heck of a bruise (air bubbles suck) and a deeper appreciation of reading the instructions.
I was fortunate in that I responded beautifully to all the medication – Dr Le Roux was always so pleased with my scans and I realised I was quite proud of myself. Strange, seeing as women are “supposed” to ovulate, but hey, I like being good at things. We were bang on track for my donation – and suddenly, somehow, the big day had dawned. I woke up in the morning with stomach pain – whether from nerves or from the donation, I’m still not sure – and was surprised that I was rather terrified. No, I wasn’t scared of the donation or the anaesthetic. I was instead worried that the friend that was taking me to the clinic was going to be extra late or forget me entirely. I have known him since university, and so I know that he’s pretty much always late. So, to be safe, I told him to come ten minutes before the time I was actually planning to leave. He was still late and we still got stuck in traffic.
Once I’d been admitted, and dressed in possibly the least sexy hospital gown of all time, I was led to the table where the anaesthetist I’d met earlier was standing by. She asked me what I did for a living, I mentioned my celebrity gossip card, and she delighted in informing me that the medication she was about to inject was the one that “Michael Jackson loved a little too much”. Then – blackness.
When I woke up, I was in a fair amount of pain. It’s different for every single woman – and even different each time, I was assured. The girl in the next bed was pretty much up and tap-dancing straight after her donation, while I was curled up in a ball in tears. Clearly, though, I wasn’t put off by the pain – seeing as I’ve signed on for another round – and I was back at work the next morning, after spending a glorious afternoon in bed watching cheesy movies.
Tertia knows that I’m positively fascinated by the whole process, and she gave me a breakdown of exactly how many “good eggs” and decent embryos they’d managed to get. A few days later, Lee phoned me while I was at the Waterfront– the reception was so bad, but I could make out one thing – my recipient was pregnant. Better news came a while later – twins! (I’m still superstitious and am keeping all fingers and toes crossed for her until her due date.)
Do I ever think about meeting my recipient’s children? Of course I do. I’d like to see that they’re healthy – and don’t have three arms or something – and obviously I’m curious about how much they resemble me. But that’s about it. A good friend of mine was shocked that I wouldn’t want to be involved in “my” children’s life – but they aren’t my children. They never were. As cheesy as it sounds, they always belonged to my recipient, who walked a terrifying, difficult road. I’m just glad that I could help pave the way a little, and hopefully make the rest of the way a little smoother.
After I came round from my anaesthetic on the morning of my donation, Dr Le Roux brought me a card from my recipient. In it, along with a tiny silver charm, were the words “There aren’t enough words to properly express our gratitude. Thank you.” That was all. And that was enough.
“My journey has been nothing short of fabulous”
Having asked hundreds of questions, and after weeks of producing the “perfect egg”, Lebo* had a smooth and rewarding path to donation.
“From that first email saying ‘You have been chosen as a donor’, to the last nervous moments in theatre when the doctor said ‘You’re going to feel a little light headed, but you won’t remember a thing’, my journey with Nurture has been nothing short of fabulous.
The whole process seemed to fly by so quickly. Once the paperwork was sorted and the initial appointments with the doctors were done, there was no looking back – I was on my way to changing someone’s life forever.
The injections initially seemed so daunting, but after the first one, I knew I would be just fine. The next two weeks of doctors’ appointments, healthy eating (a little insanity on my part in trying to produce the perfect egg), and injections went well.
On that Monday morning, after getting stuck in traffic and getting lost a bit because of nerves, I got to the hospital to the friendly staff who reassured me that everything was fine and I began to relax. I wish I could have watched the actual retrieval, that’s how excited I was about doing this, but doctor knows best…so it was lights out for me. After an hour (Im guessing), I woke up to a little pain and discomfort, but it was done. After a few days of bed rest and light activity, my journey as a donor had ended.
I pray that in my giving, a new family has been born. May God guide you and bless you in your new journey as parents and a family. My love and prayers are forever with you.
Look out for more real stories, which will constantly be added here.