On the train home. Nauseous, exhausted, uncomfortable, in so much pain… but happy to go home. Our whole trip felt like a whirlwind. I feel like I was asleep for most of it. Ultimately, I was just shocked at what the whole experience was like. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything like it.
All I had ever heard about egg donation is what had come up during my Google searches - and something tells me that agency testimonials aren’t quite as honest as the information I was hoping to find.
I’m not sure whether it’s justified or not, but I almost feel as though I have been deceived by the health care professionals who were involved in my donation.
I recall the conversation I had with my doctor about OHSS, the one where he brushed me off and said it was a "rare" syndrome.
I found his response to be almost dismissive. He brushed off the idea of me having to deal with OHSS, saying it’s a very rare syndrome and reminding me that I would be closely monitored in the week leading up to retrieval with blood work and ultrasounds.
I feel as though a lot of information goes unsaid until the patient’s condition worsens and suddenly they need the info that could’ve been provided as a preventative measure. The fact that the doctor put me on Dostinex two days before the retrieval even happened probably should’ve been a red flag for me that I was in for a rough recovery. I was a little confused how he could downplay OHSS so much when a single Google search had revealed that a young woman around my age could have died had she not seeked treatment for her severe OHSS due to the fluid accumulation impacting her breathing. But, he was the doctor. This was his specialty so I put my trust in him that he would inform me of anything I needed to know.
Update, Four Days After Surgery
My retrieval took place on Monday, February 15th at 11am at the Create Fertility Clinic in Toronto, ON. I am now 4 days post-procedure and just starting to feel a bit better. My bloating has been awful, to the point that it’s putting pressure on my diaphragm and making it uncomfortable to breathe. It seems to be getting a bit better every day but I am still very sore. I’ve been living on Gatorade and I am so incredibly sick of eating salty soups and noodles. My appetite has decreased a lot - just the thought of food makes my stomach turn. I never expected that I would feel this awful…. probably because the doctors downplayed how common OHSS actually is. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so unwell in my life. I spend most of my days sleeping on the couch and drinking Gatorade in between naps. I would give anything to feel like myself again. I miss going to the gym and eating however I like. My body doesn’t look the way I’m accustomed to it looking and that has been a bit of a struggle for me. Despite the fact that I have two other IPs who want me to donate, I will not be donating again. I feel very guilty for having to turn them down, but there is no way I can let myself go through this again. It has had such a huge impact on my health and my day to day life and it’s unfair for those around me. My boyfriend has been absolutely phenomenal throughout this process, taking time off work to stay with me because he does not want me to be alone. As an independent person, I’m not used to needing so much help. I had to ask him to help me put my boots on the other day. That’s how bad my bloating is. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I’ve (hopefully, potentially) helped my IPs grow a family. They are using a surrogate so I am looking forward to hearing if a pregnancy has occurred.
Update, Three Weeks After Surgery
It has now been three weeks since my retrieval, and I am so thankful to say that I finally feel like myself again.
The week following my retrieval was absolute hell.
I honestly was scared that I would never feel better again, but day by day, my condition improved. I returned to work exactly one week after my retrieval, but due to my bloating and abdominal pain, I started with 4 hour shifts. Within 4 or 5 days of returning to work, I was back to working my normal 12 hour shifts with no discomfort whatsoever.
Emotionally, though, the most disheartening part of my recovery has been finding out about things that have been said about me behind my back.
While the vast majority of my friends, family and acquaintances have been exceptionally supportive of me, there have been a few outliers. I just recently found out that a friend and coworker of mine overheard a couple of our other coworkers discussing my situation at work. More specifically, when one coworker asked when I would be returning to work, the other coworker responded with, “I don’t know, maybe she’s going to go lay more eggs first,” resulting in hysterical laughter.
Thankfully my friend stood up for me, notifying them that it really wasn’t a funny situation - I had been dealing with severe complications of donating, and that could have led to even more serious health issues.
I try to shake it off, telling myself that they didn’t mean it in a nasty way and that they simply do not understand (after all, ignorance is bliss), but I’m a sensitive person and still found it really hurtful. They obviously had no understanding of how time consuming, invasive and emotional the process was. Or maybe they just didn’t care.
But I try to remind myself, that’s their issue, not mine. My donation story is one that I take great pride in and I will continue to help educate and inform those who are interested in donation.
However, potential backlash from peers after donating (something I never expected to happen), is something I will definitely be mentioning to potential donors as I can see how it could be very damaging to a donor.
As of today, I have not yet received an update on my eggs, but I am hoping to receive one in the near future.
Deciding to Become an Egg Donor and Signing Up in one of the fertility clinic's sites about egg donation.
I donated anonymously.
I first signed up with a few agencies who match donors and recipients.
in-depth profile, including physical characteristics, detailed medical history for immediate and extended family, personality traits, feelings on the donation, and more.
It took about two weeks to complete profiles with three different agencies
I included pictures of me throughout my childhood -- infancy through the present. For one agency, I was required to attend an informational session make sure I fully understood the process.
The first time I was chosen, the agency contacted me to see if I was willing to donate and sent me some biographical info on the intended parents (IPs). After saying yes, I was referred to the intended parent's fertility clinic, who had their own medical history form for me to fill out.
After filling it in and returning it to the nurse working with the intended parents, she called me to go through my responses. In this case, since my sister has ulcerative colitis, this particular clinic would not let me donate since they believe it is a genetic disease (though there is not yet proof that this is the case).
So the process stopped there and I re-activated my profile with the agency, with the caveat that I could not work with this particular clinic, effectively eliminating about half of parents seeking donors in my area.
Surprisingly, I was chosen again just a month or two later by parents working with a different clinic. Again they had their own medical history form that I was required to fill in and return before proceeding with any further medical testing.
Normally at this time, a donor would also meet with an attorney to work out an agreement with the parents.
These parents had opted not to use an attorney, so my only personal requirement was that they sign and notarize a document stating that they would either use all embryos to try to conceive or donate unused embryos to an embryo adoption bank, and that they would not donate them for stem-cell research or destroy them.
Once you were chosen, what was the egg donor process like?
Once the coordinator at the clinic had reviewed my history and pre-approved me for donation, I had to stop taking my birth control pills for a few weeks. (At this time, I was not allowed to have vaginal intercourse with my husband, but he happened to be away for several weeks for Army training.)
Then I was to go to one of their laboratories for a full workup of my blood and an internal ultrasound of my ovaries.
I passed both of those hurdles, so they started me on birth control at the same time as the intended mother (IM) to synchronize our cycles.
My husband also had to go in to have his blood tested at this time.
I was also sent to a psychologist at this time to make sure I was mentally prepared for the donation process and that I was psychologically fit to donate.
After three weeks on birth control (about 3-4 months after the agency first contacted me), I started giving myself shots under the skin of my belly once per day of a chemical that lowered my hormones to a baseline level.
I went in once or twice a week really early in the morning for blood tests to check my hormone levels.
At this time, I experienced a roller coaster of hormones since they first increase before significantly dropping off.
First, I was PMSing, then I was having hot flashes like a menopausal woman!
When the hormone levels were appropriate about a week later, I started giving myself a second shot (very painful and itchy because of the volume of liquid I was injecting into the skin of my belly) of hormones to cause the eggs on my ovaries to mature.
I did two shots a day for about another week, going in every two days to the lab to have blood drawn and an internal ultrasound of my ovaries to check how large each egg follicle was and how many were growing.
My arms were all bruised from the frequent blood tests.
Towards the end of the week, I was very bloated and my ovaries were extremely swollen and sensitive to touch.
When I reached a certain number of egg follicles over a certain size, they told me to stop the daily shots and give myself two shots of a certain hormone at a precise time (exactly 36 hours before the harvesting procedure was to take place) to cause the eggs to be ready to retrieved.
The Egg Retrieval
Thirty-six hours later, I went to the clinic with my husband for the procedure. I was put in a hospital bed and had an IV of extra fluids for about 30 minutes.
Then, they rolled me into a small room with a baby delivery-like table. I was given anesthesia through my IV and fell totally asleep within 20 seconds. I woke up about 30 minutes later when they were rolling me out of the room back to the recovery area.
I had mild cramps and was very cold from the IV drip. They gave me an oral painkiller, and my husband was allowed to sit with me. I stayed there for about an hour recovering and had some painful cramps before they subsided. I walked out on my own about 1.5 hours after the procedure and went home.
I was completely recovered within two days.
The intended parents conceived a week later and were expecting a child in August 2010, my birth month.
Expenses and Payment
Were there any out-of-pocket expenses you had to pay?
No, unless I wanted to get an attorney, which I did not.
Often the intended parents pay for an attorney for themselves and a separate one for the donor.
How much did you receive to donate your eggs?
Thoughts After Egg Donation
Do you ever think about the baby you helped bring into the world?
I first did it because of the money offered ($5,000-7,000 is about the reimbursement for first-time donors, getting higher once you've donated successfully), then because I felt I wanted more of my genetics out there in the world.
My family has always been very healthy and active, and we have several redheads in the family, so hopefully I can help red-heads stave off extinction!
I'm very thankful for all the testing they did on my reproductive system when going through the process.
What advice can you share with women who want to become egg donors?
The process is long. It can take four to six months from start to finish, maybe even more.
You're not allowed to have intercourse for stretches of time,
The recommended process is different with every clinic, so you might have to do three or four different shots of hormones. Or you might only have to do two.
Timing is everything—if you're not good at remembering to stick to a precise schedule, you could mess up the process or cause it to take much longer than necessary.
Don't do this if you can't stand having blood drawn. They must draw a few vials of your blood every other day for a week or two.
If you're not good at details, I would highly suggest making sure you have an attorney for this process, even if the intended parents don't pay for one.
Stick to your gut feelings and if something doesn't feel right, don't let the money draw you into something that you shouldn't do.
Be very honest on your profile, even if it means you can't donate! Do you really want to pass something dangerous onto a baby, or do something that might be too much for you mentally?
You're only allowed to donate up to five times, but be careful and consider the risks of multiple donations.
If the agency doesn't give it to you, ask for biographical info on the intended parents. Their story will reinforce and perhaps change your reasons to donate!