“SEEKING EGG DONOR to add to family. Prefer: Age 18-28; Caucasian; tallish; good personal and family health; very athletic and personable. Compensation and travel expenses provided.”
My egg donation journey began when I sifted through the advertisements and classifieds of the newspaper you are holding in your hands. These advertisements are placed strategically — in college newspapers, especially in prestigious ones with good reputations, to attract intelligent young women who could maybe use an extra five or 10 thousand dollars.
It was the fall of my freshman year, and I had just turned 18 and had taken out about $30,000 in loans to cover my out-of-state tuition. I contacted the agency through which the advertisement was placed and received eager emails from lovely women who supplied me with about 30 pages of preliminary information to go over.
Egg donations primarily take place through third-party agencies to ensure anonymity between donors, surrogates and intended parents, or IPs. IPs sift through hundreds of profiles and tell the agency who they choose, then the agency does all of the communicating and coordinating between the parties, including the in vitro fertilization center that the IPs choose. It is a grand puppet show mastered by the delicate hands of people who have dedicated their lives to making families possible.
The thought of making a difference in someone’s life in such a serious way resonated with me. I had been a regular blood donor for some time, realizing that while I lacked time and money to give to those who needed it, I was fortunate to have good health, and I could give that to someone who needed it in a similar way. But egg donation required some serious commitment.
I felt overwhelmed, and while the money was enticing, I decided to wait a year before making such a huge decision to move forward. I saw another advertisement and I fit the description perfectly, so I thought, if I’m going to do this, this would be the one.
The application and screening process included an extensive genetic questionnaire and family medical history, an FDA screening not unlike the one for blood donation, a personality profile including everything from my life ambitions to my favorite food, a video interview and photos of myself and my family from infanthood to present.
Suffice to say, it would have been impossible to attempt this alone. I had wanted to keep everything a secret in the beginning, using the scanner for my some dozen signed documents only when my roommates weren’t home. I worried that people might judge me negatively or think I was only desperate for money. I was so very wrong, and slowly realized that my support network would be greater than I ever thought, starting with my mother and sister. I initially told them because I needed help compiling my family history, but I know I would have told them eventually regardless.
They were immediately ecstatic about my decision and jumped to help me compile childhood photos and family medical history. I dedicated a weekend to binge watching American Horror Story on my boyfriend’s projector while typing up my answers to the seemingly infinite questions. But when I was finally finished and then accepted by the agency, it was so worth it.
After all that, my first donation wasn’t even through my agency but ended up being a private party donation, as they call it. This one was not anonymous — I met the intended parents and coordinated with them without an agency, an experience I am thankful for but relieved to have behind me. Between scheduling numerous ultrasound and blood test appointments, traveling to and from the IVF center in Southern California, dealing with the contract and just generally being inexperienced with the process, I am ever so grateful for my agency during my current donation.
The biological part of the process started with heavy regulation of my menstrual cycle, which doctors eventually manipulated with hormonal birth control depending on the schedule for the egg retrieval. Then I started ovary stimulating hormones that mature all of the egg follicles for that month as opposed to a single one that would be chosen by my body during a normal menstrual cycle.
The hormones hardly affected me, but everyone is different. I struggled in the beginning to get into the routine of mixing medication and then injecting myself, but after doing it every night for two weeks, I gained the necessary confidence.
After a few weeks of hormones, I went under general anesthesia for a minor surgery involving a needle through my vagina (seriously). Then, it’s a couple days of recovery and at least two “normal” menstrual cycles before another donation can take place.
Obtaining as many eggs as possible increases the likelihood of getting a successful embryo and pregnancy. It is a numbers and probability game: the IVF doctor usually retrieves more than a dozen eggs, get a half-dozen good embryos and put about three in a uterus and hope that one takes.
My first donation took, and I now know that the surrogate mother is currently pregnant, my DNA swimming and growing inside of a woman I have never and will never meet, to be raised in a family that neither I nor the surrogate is a part of.
I was and am fine with this. I spent months thinking about how I would feel, and I am aware that those feelings could change at any time over the years. But I found myself thinking I should feel something profound at the notion that there would be a little piece of me “out there” more often than actually feeling weird about it. It’s the excitement and joy that I feel knowing that I can help a family in such a special way that means the most to me.
My next donation is already scheduled, and I plan to continue donating as long as IPs continue to choose me. Though this was a hugely personal and potentially life-changing decision, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome thus far. It is imperative that anyone considering egg donation prepare themselves for months of commitment and timely emailing, some physical pain, minor lifestyle changes and the absolute thrill that is helping someone build a family when they otherwise may not have been able to.