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.