Why you shouldn’t wait to donate your eggs

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There’s (almost always) no time like the present… And the same holds true for egg donation.

Nurture donors are required to be between the ages of 19 and 32 – and there’s a very good reason for this age limit!

A woman is born with a set amount of potential eggs – around 2 million. Each month, our body preps a certain amount of these egg follicles for ovulation (estimated by doctors to be upwards of 1000 per month) – but (usually) only one egg takes centre stage and is released from the ovary.

This egg is the superstar of that month’s batch – basically the Beyonce of your ovaries. It’s the one that the body decides has the best chance of being fertilised, becoming an embryo and then a happy, healthy baby.

The rest of the unused follicles are reabsorbed by the body and lost – unless you give them a boost with fertility medications to help bring them to maturity.

However, as you age, two things start to happen: The number of follicles that your body loses each month accelerates, and the body’s stockpile of superstar eggs starts to decline.

That essentially means that a woman loses more eggs each month and has a higher chance of releasing an egg that is chromosomally abnormal – which could cause things such as Down syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis.

Starting around age 32, a woman’s chances of falling pregnant each month start to decline. And, at age 35, that monthly decline starts becoming steeper. That doesn’t mean that as soon as you pop the bubbly on your 35th birthday you won’t be able to get pregnant – just that it won’t necessarily be as ‘easy’ as it could have been in your 20s.

(This is where we remind you again that fertility is different for every woman, every time!)

In a nutshell, you’ll be producing the highest number of ‘quality’ eggs before you’re 32 – which is music to ears of the intended parents looking for a donor!

So, what are you waiting for?

A glass of Chardonnay with Tertia

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Tertia Albertyn

The other half of Nurture’s dynamic duo, Tertia Albertyn co-founded Nurture with her BFF Melany Bartok in 2008.

A recovering infertile (who gave birth to now-teenage twins after her ninth IVF, and had one ‘freebie’ baby), Tertia has poured her heart and soul into this business.

Lover of Chardonnay, fruit chutney chips and Pokemon Go!, we get to know the fabulous Tertia and the “no-brainer” that was founding Nurture… 

 

Describe in 10 words or less what you do at Nurture. 

Look for new opportunities to grow the business

What does a typical day at Nurture look like for you?

Open my laptop and try to get on top of my emails.  Which is a pretty daunting task.  The emails never stop!  And by the time they arrive in my inbox, it usually means it’s a tricky or difficult situation. Sorting out problem cases or tricky situations is the least favourite part of my job, but it needs to be done. Things can’t be all sunshine and roses all the time.  I love numbers and figures and spreadsheets so as a reward for doing the difficult stuff, I spend some time invoicing and recording information in spreadsheets. I often have meetings, which is another not-so-fun part of my job.  Not only because the travel time and the meeting time takes up so much of my valuable working day, but I am a bit (VERY!) antisocial so having to look up from my computer and actually speak to someone face to face is always a bit daunting for me.

What has been the highlight of your Nurture career?

There are so many!!  I always say that I have the best job in the world.  We get to help others have their ‘happily ever after’.  Every single baby born through our program is a highlight for me.  Whenever I am feeling particularly stressed, I go to our photo album and look at all the gorgeous baby pics sent from our happy recipients.  Makes my day each time.  Another thing I absolutely love is following the day to day lives of our recipients who I have become friends with on Facebook.  I look at the shiny faces on the first day of school and the parents’ proud faces and my heart wants to burst with happiness.  Having suffered from infertility myself I know what it is like to want to have a child and not be able to. When I read the seemingly ordinary day to day lives of our recipients, I know just how grateful they are to have all those usual ‘firsts’ and big moments as parents, moments they thought might never happen.

What was your day job before Nurture? 

I worked for IBM as Communications Manager for one of their divisions.

How did you and Melany come to the idea of starting Nurture together? 

Melany and I have been friends for over 20 years. In fact, I’ve known Melany longer than I have known my husband who I have been married to for 18 years!  As I mentioned before, I suffered from infertility for many years.  During this time Melany could see how much pain I was in, which obviously made her really heart sore too.  She asked what she could do to help me.  At the time my problem wasn’t my eggs, so she couldn’t help me, but I told her she could become an egg donor and help other people. Which she did.  A few years later Melany worked for an international egg donor program.  One day Melany and I were chatting and we realized that there was a need for a local egg donor agency who could provide excellent service and good quality egg donors to the local and the international market.  Melany and I had worked together in the past, we shared the same passion and enthusiasm for life.  Plus, Melany had personal experience as an egg donor and I had personal experience as an infertility patient.  It was a no brainer.  That was over 10 years ago and we have taken our ‘baby’ Nurture to great heights locally and internationally.  We are very proud of our team.

Nurture recently celebrated its tenth anniversary – how different is the fertility landscape now from when you first started in the industry?

Some things are quite different, and others remain the same.  Infertility still affects so many people.  And there is as much of a need for donor eggs as there was back then.  However, some things have changed.  The technology has improved in leaps and bounds.  The most exciting innovation has been around egg freezing.  Sperm banks have been around for ages, but in the past egg banks weren’t an option. That has changed in the past few years and now Nurture has partnered with the country’s leading fertility clinic to offer frozen donor eggs to our recipients.  Very exciting stuff!

If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question – what would you ask?

Wow, that’s tough.  I would want to know things like: Why do babies die?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why haven’t we found a cure for cancer? But if I had to pick one, it would have to be:  How does one survive the teenage years and stay sane?!  (I have twin teenagers, and it is a pretty scary ride!)

What is in your picnic basket?

Chardonnay.  More Chardonnay.  Fruit chutney chips.  Dip.  Those yummy crackers made with lots of butter and sun-dried tomato from Woollies.  Some stinky cheese.

What’s your superpower?

Doing a million things at once:  Running a business, raising a family, surviving the teenage years, supporting my parents, serving on the PTA.  All at once.

What gets you going in the morning?

Coffee!  Plus getting 3 kids up and ready for school.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?

Playing Pokemon Go!  My husband and I are big Pokemon addicts, and we spend most of our weekends meeting up with our Pokemon friends and playing the game together.  It’s very social.

What is the one piece of advice that you have for a new egg donor? 

Don’t be shy to boast about yourself on your profile.  Donors with detailed, interesting profiles get chosen quicker.  Recipients love to read everything you’ve written.

Describe the average Nurture egg donor in five words. 

Amazing, strong, committed, giving, caring.

You and the team have scanned through hundreds of applications – what are the first things you look for in a potential donor?

By now we know which donors get chosen quicker.  Donors with detailed profiles where they share a lot of info about themselves – their interests, hobbies, achievements, likes/dislikes etc.  Recipients love that.  Then, donors with a tertiary qualification are in high demand.  Lastly donors with cute childhood pics definitely get chosen quicker.  In the absence of meeting the donor face to face (because egg donation in South Africa has to be anonymous), all the recipients have to go on when they make their choice is what the donor has written about herself, what she has achieved academically or in her career and lastly, how she looked as a young child.

What is the one misconception about egg donation that you would wave a wand to clear up?

That donating your eggs uses up your own store of eggs, making it harder to have a baby one day.  We are born with all the eggs we will ever have, and every month these eggs go to waste.  Egg donation is using the eggs that would have gone to waste anyway.  Instead of wasting them, you could be blessing future parents with the baby they long for.

What do you think the future holds for Nurture? 

Lots of exciting things!  Growing the frozen egg bank, and expanding internationally.  Helping even more people have babies!

 

Four reasons to consider signing up to be an egg donor

 

DC comics - Superheros

August is Women’s Month in South Africa, which commemorates the 20 000 women

who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest the extension of Pass Laws to women.

Over the years, Women’s Month has grown to celebrate strong women from all walks of life – and we just so happen to think that our donors are some of the most amazing women of all!

If you’re still on the fence about donating, here are four reasons to consider donating.

You can (literally) make someone’s dream come true

For many of Nurture’s recipients, the decision to use donor eggs is another step in an often incredibly difficult journey to become a parent. By donating your healthy, beautiful eggs to a person who needs them, you could help them to achieve their dream of becoming a parent.

You will have the best ice-breakers

Trust us, we’ve used the “I’m an egg donor” fun fact more often than we can count! Apart from the fact that it’s a great conversation starter, it is also a way to start getting other people to think about issues around infertility and LGBTQ+ parenting (particularly if you have donated to a gay couple or a single gay parent), as well as conversations about reproductive health.

You learn AMAZING things about your own body

As you go through the egg donation process, you will get to learn some pretty mind-blowing stuff about your own body, your own fertility and your menstrual cycle. You will have access to some of the best doctors and nurses in the fertility industry, so ask EVERY question you can think of.

After doing a donor cycle, you’ll almost certainly never look at your body the same way.

You will feel like a superwoman

You have truly given one of the most generous gifts that a woman can give – and this is something for you to look back on with pride later in your life.

Without a doubt, you are someone’s superwoman.

So, what are you waiting for? Click here to get started!

How on earth do recipients choose an egg donor?

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As a potential Nurture donor, we know that you can’t wait to help fulfil someone’s dream of becoming a parent.

You’ve finished your (very lengthy) application and your profile has been added to the database for the recipients to choose from. But, you wonder as you click ‘submit’, HOW do people choose an egg donor? And how can you make sure that they choose YOU?

For many recipients, egg donation is a step in what is often a long, difficult journey to parenthood. Many of Nurture’s recipients have endured years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, and the decision to use an egg donor is not always an easy one.

But what does a recipient look for in their donor? Honestly, it’s different for every single one.

In South Africa, unless an egg donation has been arranged with someone you know personally (for example, a sister or a friend), the entire process remains strictly anonymous. That means that the recipient will never know your name or identity and will never see a picture of you as an adult (so you can cancel your photo shoot!).

Their decisions are based entirely on your answers to the questions in your profile questionnaire, and on the oh-so-adorable baby pics you share with Nurture.

Recipients might look for a donor who could look like them. Things like eye colour, hair colour and height might be important – if the recipient is a short, blonde woman with green eyes, she might look for someone who could resemble her.

For other recipients, physical characteristics aren’t really a consideration at all. They look for women who share similar interests and hold similar values – basically, someone they could see themselves being friends with.

Do you like running? Play guitar? Does curling up with a good book sound like the best Friday night you could imagine? Do you love cooking? Often, it’s how your personality shines through in your profile that helps a recipient to decide on you – so let your flag fly!

And for some people, all they want to know is that their donor is healthy and (probably) not a serial killer.

Sound like a lot? While we’re taking care of our donors, we’re also helping to work some matchmaking magic behind the scenes to make sure our recipients find the perfect match for them!

So how do you make sure that someone chooses you?

Simply put: This is absolutely not the time to be shy or modest. Be honest, be open, be thorough… Be unapologetically YOU!

And, pick ADORABLE baby pictures.

It’s not about the money, but let’s talk about it anyway…

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One of the biggest misconceptions about egg donors is that they are only in it to make some quick cash –

but after 10 years in the business and over 2400 donor cycles, we can comfortably say that it’s simply not true!

Most of Nurture’s donors sign up to donate not because of the money, but because they want to do something incredible for another person – and that’s what makes them superwomen.

But yes, let’s talk about the money.

South African egg donors are compensated after their donation – an amount that is, by law, limited to R7 000. No more, no less.

If that number is making your head spin and you’ve already counted how many pairs of shoes you could buy with that, sit back and take a few deep breaths. Becoming an egg donor takes time, effort, and commitment. It is by no means a ‘quick buck’.

You will need to travel to and from appointments with your doctors, inject yourselves with fertility medications, and take a day off work for the egg retrieval.

(Side note: You will need to make sure that you have enough money available to get yourself to and from the clinic for your appointments and retrieval. You won’t receive any money upfront, so no Uber Black for you!)

Remember: You’re not selling your eggs, and no matter how many happy, healthy eggs are retrieved on the day of your donation, you will receive the same amount from the clinic that handles your donation. You are being rewarded for your time, effort and dedication – not your eggs!

A day in the life of Lee-Ann Owtram

Lee-Ann Owtram

Lee-Ann Owtram

After almost two decades in the corporate world,

Lee-Ann Owtram found her way to Nurture after being asked to “help out” on a project. That was seven years ago! We caught up with her to get to know the superwoman behind the cape.

What do you do at Nurture?

I look after the operations and systems for Nurture and Nurture UK.

What does a typical day at Nurture look like for you?

Making sure our system remains operational providing both the Nurture admin team and our clients with an effective and efficient service.  Managing Nurture UK with a wonderful team – two South African born gems (Kirsty and Gabby) who reside in the UK.

What is family to you?

Everything and more.

What has been the highlight of your Nurture career?

Building the Nurture UK brand, which has been challenging but so exciting. (And seeing George Michael live in 2012 during a business trip!)

What was your day job before Nurture?

I was the Fund Manager for the Wooltru Healthcare Fund at MHG (Metropolitan Health Group).

How did you move from a corporate background to get involved with Nurture?

After 18 years of working in a corporate environment, I felt I needed to spread my wings a little. I took on a business venture that sadly did not fulfil me, and two years later was asked by Nurture to “help out” during their transition from a manual process to a system-driven one. Seven years later, here I am. Happier than ever.

What do you think the future holds for Nurture?

We have the most determined and driven team. We will continue on our journey to help amazing people to reach their ultimate dream of becoming parents.

If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question – what would you ask?

Is there really life after death?

What is in your ultimate picnic basket?

A bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila, two shot glasses, some cherries, salt, and fresh slices of lemon.  Preserved figs (with the thick syrup), cheese and a good home-baked bread.  Strawberries and pineapple. And a blanket for later. (Author’s note: We want in on this picnic basket!)

What’s your superpower?

In my work environment: My attention to detail.

In my personal life: Patience.

What is the one piece of advice that you have for a new egg donor?

If you knew how much you are appreciated and respected, you would do this again and again and again.  It will change your life forever.

Describe the average Nurture egg donor in five words. 

Committed. Hopeful. Selfless. Dedicated. Kind.

What gets you going in the morning?

My 16-year-old daughter who insists that I get up with her in the morning to “bond” before she goes to school.

What is your proudest achievement?

Raising my son and daughter to be strong but caring and kind souls.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?

I spend time with the people I love – my children, my family, my partner, my friends and my two much-loved dogs, Milo and Seth.

You can contact Lee at lee@nurture.co.za.

What to look for when you’re choosing an egg donation agency

Much like trying to find the perfect date for your matric dance, Nurture logo pink

choosing the right egg donation agency for you is a critical step in your  journey.

If it’s not the right fit, the experience is going to be long, drawn-out and painful. But, if you’ve made the right choice and found the perfect partner, it’ll be a dream – and possibly even life-changing!

So here are some things to look for in choosing the right egg donation agency for you.

What’s their track record?

Let’s face it, as soon as you meet someone new, you head straight on to your phone to find their Instagram profile and learn as much as Google will allow you to. If the cutie at the bar looks dodgy online, you’ll be deleting that number, right?

It should be the same for choosing an egg donation agency. Try to find out as much as you can about the agency – from how long they’ve been in operation, to who their employees are. Has the agency ever been in the news? Do they have real references from real donors? Do they mention some of the fertility clinics that they’ve worked with?

Of course, if you can’t find any information on the agency you’re interested in, that should be a major red flag!

Do they play by the rules?

Egg donation agencies should follow the guidelines set by SASREG (which stands for The Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy, in case you were interested), and they must obey all laws set out in the National Health Act regarding egg donation. Consider this essential reading: https://sasreg.co.za/downloads/Guidelines-for-Egg-Donation-Agencies.pdf

Nurture adheres to all SASREG guidelines (and then some!), and we will always put the health and wellness of our donors first.

Can you get in touch easily?

You should never have to work hard to find the right people to contact, and the people that you do get in touch with should be compassionate, professional, and easy to talk to! As with dating, chemistry is always important. If you don’t ‘click’ with your agency, it’s time to move on.

And because no one likes staring at their phone waiting for a reply… It’s important to us that our donors feel supported and loved from the start. We’ve been known to answer emails at 2am and reply to WhatsApp messages at all hours!

Do you get all the information you need, upfront?

One of the SASREG guidelines states that egg donors must be fully informed about the process, including the potential risks and side effects. If you ever feel like the agency is dodging questions or not answering them properly, take that as a red flag. You shouldn’t have to drag answers out of them – you have a right to be fully informed at all stages. And remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!

Luckily for you, here at Nurture we’re chronic over-sharers. Seriously, if you’re interested, you can see which of our team members are dog-mad (Melany!) and what our drink of choice is (wine, please. Chardonnay if it’s going.)

Trust your gut

At the end of the day, YOU are the one that needs to make the decision on which agency to donate with. So, the biggest piece of advice that we have for you is to trust your gut.

If at any stage of your research for an egg donation agency you get a funny feeling about the agency or the people you will be working with, rather let them know that you have chosen not to go with their agency.

  1. Pick Nurture. We’ve been in the business for ten years and counting, and are positively fabulous.

Five tips for a first-time donor

So, you’re getting ready for your first-ever egg donation – exciting times! DonorEggs

By now you’ll have met with one of our fab Nurture women, been matched and are getting ready to go. Here are a few extra tips from a former donor for making your first donation a stellar experience.

Ask questions

Never be afraid to ask questions during the donation process. If something interests you, ask. If something worries you, definitely ask! If you’re not sure, or are sure and just want to make extra sure, then ask! There’s no such thing as a stupid question. This is an awesome opportunity to learn about some

rad science, and your own health and fertility – so take it!

Stay healthy

There are some quick (and cheap and easy) fixes to make sure you stay healthy when you’re getting ready to donate – and help make beautiful eggs for your recipient! Pop to the chemist to find some folic acid (which will boost your egg quality AND make your hair and skin look awesome, total no-brainer) and some good old-fashioned multivitamins. Choose more fresh fruit and veg and fewer processed foods. And (deep breath) – cut back on the alcohol and cigarettes. But especially the cigarettes – smoking has a major impact on your egg quality.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is important to promote circulation throughout the egg donation process. Drink as much water as you can, choose fluids with electrolytes, and cut down on anything that can dehydrate you.

Relax

Let yourself take time off to rest and relax both before your donation, and after! Try to make sure that you’re not scheduling your egg retrievals for times that you know will be stressful for you, and that you take the opportunities to meditate, nap, or bond with your couch and your new favourite series!

Journal and take photos

This is an amazing experience that you’re on – and it has the potential to be life-changing for you. Write in your journal, make notes on your phone and take a million photos. That way, when you’re old and grey and looking back at your life, you can remember all the small details.

Good luck!

Five Questions to Ask Before You Donate

Thinking about becoming an egg donor? Questions-to-Ask

While at first glance you might meet the basic requirements(18 to 33 and a healthy BMI) and you’re ready to jump in feet first, there are a few other important factors to consider.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start this amazing journey. So, grab a cuppa (or a glass!) and find a quiet place to think over the below.

Am I healthy?

We all know that a healthy BMI (body-mass index) is not always a clear indicator of healthy you are. You must be free of any serious medical conditions (including HIV), and mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia before you are allowed to donate. You may also be disqualified from donating if you have a history of major depression that requires you to be on two or more psychiatric drugs.

Speaking of drugs – any donors who have a history of drug and alcohol abuse will not be allowed to donate. A few glasses of wine here and there is fine – just be prepared to cut back a little while you’re donating.

And, of course, you must have regular, healthy periods!

Do I have a healthy family history?

During your screening process, you fill out a questionnaire longer than most nightmare exam papers.

In it, you will be asked some detailed questions about your family’s medical history for the doctors to see if there are any possible genetic red flags to consider. These are important! If you can’t answer questions about your family’s medical history honestly and comprehensively, perhaps now is not the time for you to donate.

There’s a list here of the medical conditions that might disqualify you if you or your immediate family suffer from any of them – so please read through before starting the application: https://www.nurturedonors.co.za/medical-conditions/

Do I have the time?

Egg donation is a time-consuming process. Apart from the daily injections that you need to give yourself (or have someone give you if you’re really scared of needles!), you must be prepared to come in for between six and eight appointments – including initial psychological screenings and health checks, and repeated scans to check out how your ovaries are responding to the medication. Additionally, you must be prepared to take at least one day off from work or varsity for the donation and recovery itself.

If you’ve got a stressful time coming up at work or varsity and know that you won’t be able to make the time for any potential donations, perhaps put it off until your schedule clears and you can focus on making beautiful eggs!

(Side note: If you don’t want to disclose to your employer or place of education that you’re donating your eggs, one of the doctors can provide you with a medical certificate to book you off.)

Can I get to all my appointments?

Do you have your own vehicle to drive yourself to all your appointments, or can you catch a lift, take a taxi, Uber or use other public transport? And can you afford to pay out of your own pocket for these trips? While donors are compensated financially for their time and effort, this only takes place after the retrieval has been completed. If money is tight, make sure to budget for up to ten trips to and from the clinic you’ll be working with.

Will someone be able to pick you up after your retrieval?

Another important consideration is the day of the retrieval itself. During the egg retrieval, you’ll be placed under a very light anaesthetic to knock you out while the doctors do their thing. And while you might feel fine, legally you are not allowed to drive yourself home after having undergone anaesthetic. Someone must be there to pick you up after and to take you home.

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then we can’t wait to welcome you aboard! Head to www.nurture.co.za to take the next steps on your egg donation journey.

A day in the life of Tanya Rubin

Tanya Rubin

Tanya Rubin is a qualified counsellor, registered social worker and logotherapist,

and most importantly, one of Nurture’s fab donor liaisons!

This mom of two is also a former infertility patient, with one IVF baby and one “free gift”. Besides her Nurture work, Tanya continues to counsel those struggling with infertility. Talk about a superwoman!

We sat down with Tanya to find out what makes her tick.

 

Describe in 15 words or less what you do at Nurture. 

Looking after matched donors, making sure that the match runs smoothly and efficiently.

 

What does a typical day at Nurture look like for you?

Checking emails every two minutes, chatting to donors all day via email or WhatsApp, interviewing and meeting donors, keeping in constant contact with the co-ordinators and nurses at the fertility clinics to make sure all is on track with the current matches and that donors know what the next steps are, and chatting to the Nurture recipient support team almost daily.

 

What has been the highlight of your Nurture career?

Every positive result we get is like a mini-highlight on a daily basis. I am privileged enough to see both sides in that I get to screen donors and counsel recipients – it is amazing how close the match is even though egg donation is anonymous! Those are my highlights, every day.

 

What is the one piece of advice that you have for a brand-new egg donor?

This experience is going to change your perspective on life and will be forever lasting

 

Describe the average Nurture egg donor in five words.

Dedicated, compassionate, committed, awesome and selfless.

 

If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question – what would you ask? 

Why do good people have to suffer through so much pain and loss?

 

Open up your handbag / laptop bag – what are the first five things in there? 

Chewing gum. Lip gloss. My purse. My phone. Tissues.

 

What’s your superpower? 

My gut instinct. It’s never wrong!

 

Your Nurture profile talks about your qualification as a logotherapist. Can you briefly define it, and explain how you bring it into your counselling practice?

Logotherapy is based on Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. The basic premise is to help people find meaning through suffering. For me, being a counsellor who focuses primarily on grief, loss and infertility, it is vital to help patients find some type of meaning and connection in their life when they are going through so much pain and suffering.

 

A quick Google search mentions that you previously specialised in the field of addiction. How did you move into infertility counselling?

Having been a fertility patient myself, I knew that my experience as a patient had to mean something and so I decided to stay in the fertility world and have never left. It became a part of my soul and I have dedicated every aspect of my world to helping patients – hopefully by making their lives a little more manageable while the world of infertility consumes them.

 

What is family to you?

Family is everything to me! The most important elements in my life, my whole entire world!

 

What gets you going in the morning? 

Coffee and my gym classes

 

What is your proudest achievement? 

My two perfect, beautiful children! I cannot believe they are mine

 

Your profile mentions that you’re still practicing privately as well as working with Nurture. What are you doing when you’re not at work? 

My children keep me busy rushing around all day, but when I have time out, reading, drinking wine with family and friends and going to gym would be my escape from work

 

What is the biggest misconception about egg donation that you would wave a wand to clear up? 

That egg donors donate only for money, that egg donation is dangerous and that donors will lose all their eggs and never be able to have children after.

You can contact Tanya at Tanya@nurture.co.za or call her on 0826001989