I’m sitting in a coffee shop across from a woman I haven’t seen in 25 years and I’m struggling to hold back tears. This woman was my best friend in 5th grade but we lost touch in high school as interests and friend groups changed and life moved on. We reconnected through Facebook several years back and one day while I was pregnant with my boys I was randomly scrolling and noticed a post where she mentioned her egg donation. My jaw hit the floor. I sat, stunned, for several minutes trying to manage my thoughts and feelings and I finally just wrote to her and laid it out. I told her I was pregnant through egg donation. I thanked her on behalf of the women she donated to. I told her she was a hero to me. And I had a million questions but I didn’t want to to pry. But here was a real live person who could give me some insight into the mystery woman who was always in my thoughts, the anonymous woman had donated the eggs that let me have my babies.
Last month I finally had the chance to sit down with my friend and hear her story. It moved me to tears. And this childhood friend, my hero, has agreed to share her story with us. So thank you B, for everything.
Why did you decide to donate?
I never wanted kids. And, spoiler alert, I still don’t.
But my friend E did. Desperately. And it wasn’t happening.
So that’s how my donor adventure started. Just kinda exploring the options, a little bit on behalf of my friend, but mostly because she made me aware of the need out there with the nights of heartbreak and tears and hugs and feeling utterly helpless to do anything for someone who meant the world to me. And when she got pregnant and clearly didn’t need me and my eggs, I thought, well, everyone has an E in their lives. So even though SHE didn’t need me anymore, someone’s E did. So I would do it for them.
And I won’t lie. The money was nice too. I’m no saint. I’m not sure I would have been altruistic enough to do six rounds of daily shots and blood draws and ultrasound wands up my junk and days off work on behalf of a multitude of strangers if I hadn’t been getting a nice wad of cash for it.
But it started off with wanting to help.
What was your donation experience like?
It’s been a while now. I’m 41 and the last time I donated was when I was 33. But I remember in the beginning, lots of tests. Family histories, and forms, and psych tests, and blood tests, and financial disclosures, and talking to my boyfriend (now husband) to see if he was cool with this, and then more forms, and more tests. They vet the crap out of donors, or at least the place where I donated did.
Beyond that I remember bruised thighs and tummy from all of the injections. I remember daily blood draws, to the point where I got track marks on my arms and I was afraid people would think I was an addict. I remember getting really intimate with the transvaginal ultrasound wand –was that daily too? I feel like near the end of each cycle it was–and how I stopped caring who got all up in my junk cause pretty much the entire world had seen it at that point. I remember the nurse drawing a target on my butt for the “trigger” shot, so my husband would know where to jab me—the one shot I didn’t do myself. I remember daily calls with the nurse coordinator, to let me know my hormone levels and how to adjust my shot doses the next day. I’m not sure if the recipients got calls too….I know everyone’s cycles had to be synced up to some degree, but I honestly don’t know much about the recipient side of that, whether they got the info on my progress or not and how that effected whatever process they had. I remember feeling “puffy” as I got close to the end of each cycle. My husband swears you couldn’t tell from looking at me, but I felt like I was wearing a weird heavy water balloon in my tummy. Like I ate too much, but it wasn’t my stomach.
I remember sitting in the waiting room of the clinic on retrieval days. I looked around at the other women there and I felt guilty. I assumed they were women who were trying so hard to get pregnant. I remember crying for them as I waited for my retrieval, and blaming it on the hormones.
The retrieval itself was under anesthesia, so all I remember about that is counting backwards. But every time, my husband said the first thing I asked when I woke up was how many eggs there were. And because I was coming out of anesthesia, I would immediately forget and ask again. And again. And asking if it was ok, if it was enough. Was that a good number? Is that enough? How many eggs? Is that good? How many?
Do you think about the families you donated to?
I do sometimes. Not as much now as when I was going through it, but they cross my mind. But honestly it was a bit like donating blood—once those eggs left my body, they weren’t mine anymore. They weren’t connected to me. Who they went to and what happened to them after that wasn’t part of my experience.
I did six cycles, and after my first round, they classified me as what they called a “high yield” donor, so each cycle after that was split among three women. So that’s sixteen possibilities. The clinic that I donated at won’t tell the donors anything about what happens with the eggs, not even if it was successful or not. And honestly, that isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. They said it was because when they did tell donors, they would get upset and depressed if it didn’t work out. So it is nice in a way to still be able to think of it as 16 possibilities, rather than knowing that for some of them it still didn’t happen. That would upset me.
There was one family that I still think of a bit more than the others. A little while after my last round of donation, I got a package from the coordinating nurse/clinic. I had no idea what it was. But when I opened it, it was from one of the women who received my eggs. Inside was a package with a little handmade neckwarmer filled with rice and some stationary and a card. Which I still have. And which still makes me tear up whenever I think about it, even as I type this. It said “Thank you for helping us make our family.”
That makes it more real for me. Before I got that package, it was just something I did and it wasn’t really connected to real people. But that card made it real for me. Made HER real for me. This woman whose cycle was once synced up with mine, and who received this donation from me, whose family I weirdly became a part of in a roundabout sort of way. Yeah, that got me. It still gets me. And holy shit (am I allowed to curse here?) do I hope it worked for her. I hope it worked for everyone, but damn me I really hope it worked for her.
Would you ever want to meet the donor families?
I wouldn’t object to meeting them if they wanted to meet me I suppose. But honestly I am mostly…unconnected to that.
I don’t have a burning desire to meet the children. Because they aren’t MY children. Not in any way that means anything to me. They have a bit of my biology, but so does that guy who was in a car accident and got some of the blood that I donated. I know it isn’t really the same, but it is to me a bit. I didn’t carry them. I didn’t get excited over seeing a heartbeat in their ultrasounds. I didn’t go through the pain of childbirth. I didn’t feed them or tuck them into bed or yell at them to do their damn homework. Their mom did. I am not their mom.
But I would understand if they were curious about me and wanted to meet me. And I would be ok with that I think. Although I would be afraid they would be disappointed. I am utterly ordinary.
Are you glad you did it?
Yes. Without hesitation, yes. There has never been a moment of regret, even in the cramping and not so pleasant aftermath of retrieval. And there never will be.
I gave 16 women a chance to have a family and I only wish it had been more, that I could have done more.