Every so often I will see a child and do a double take when I recognize my daughter's smile, son's curls, or baby's eyes. I start to wonder, silently, if I might be their genetic mother, which is unlikely but possible. You see, I served as an anonymous egg donor and there is at least one child, and possibly more, out there with my DNA. It's kind of surreal. The whole process was, really, and there are actually more than a few surprising things about becoming an egg donor, starting with the decision to do it in the first place.
It's not really something that I had ever thought about doing. I saw an ad in the paper looking for donors and clipped it out to give to a friend who needed extra money. I decided to do more research, and the more I learned about it the more I felt sure that I wanted to help someone become a parent. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, though. Like, at all.
First, there was an extensive screening and medical evaluation process, which when you think about is a good thing, because donating your eggs is kind of a big deal. Then I had to take several medications (including giving myself shots in my stomach, you guys), which was painful and surprisingly emotional. The retrieval itself was not a big deal, due to the happy, happy drugs they gave me, but recovery was not exactly what I would consider a fun time. And after it was all over, well, that was it. I didn't get to follow the rest of the story, or find out what happened with my eggs, which was probably the hardest part (for me, at least). There were so many things that surprised me about being an egg donor that completely came out of left field, including the following:
The Requirements For Donating
The clinic, associated with a well-respected hospital system in a large city, had very strict requirements for being an egg donor, including age, body mass index (BMI), and willingness to complete an extensive medical and psychological evaluation before you could even be considered as a donor. The first step in the process was to complete an interview with the nurse coordinator, who would be my guide through the process. I had no idea what to expect, but she immediately put me at ease.
The Medical Evaluation Process
I had no idea that I would have to complete a 50-page medical history and questionnaire, which was kind of like an online dating profile. I answered questions about everything from my hobbies, favorite foods, and childhood to my educational background, favorite subjects in school, languages I spoke, and whether or not I was a good singer (I am) or good at sports (not at all). I also answered several open-ended questions about why I wanted to be an egg donor. I had no idea that potential recipients would read these answers and use them to choose a genetic mother for their baby.
The medical evaluation involved a physical exam, pap smear, and ultrasound of my ovaries. I also had to undergo a psychological evaluation and personality test, and surprisingly, so did my husband. Lastly, they did genetic testing for a variety of genetic conditions, STI/HIV testing, and a pregnancy test. To say it was intense is an understatement.
How Quickly I Was Picked
I got a call from the clinic's nurse coordinator within a couple of weeks of completing the medical evaluation. I was shocked. It actually felt pretty good. Someone read my profile, saw my picture, and picked me to be their donor. How cool is that?
That I Would Need To Change Birth Control
I knew it was pretty important that I not get pregnant before, during, or right after I donated my eggs, but I was surprised when they told me I had to discontinue the birth control that I was on and switch to a different one. I needed my cycle to match the recipient's so that they could take my eggs, fertilize them, and implant them in her uterus three days after my retrieval procedure.
How Hard It Would Be To Give Myself Injections
To prepare my body to donate eggs, I had to take a whole tote bag full of medications to stop ovulation, stimulate my ovaries to produce more than one egg during the cycle, and mature those eggs so they were ready to be retrieved and fertilized. I didn't realize that I would have to inject those medications into my stomach a couple of times a day, for weeks, and then have my partner give me a shot in my ass the day before the procedure. My stomach looked like a bruised pin cushion.
How Scared I Was
I'm not going to lie, I was pretty scared the day of the procedure. I was greeted by the nurse coordinator, who had been with me through the entire process, carrying a flower arrangement the size of a small car. The recipient wasn't allowed to know who I was, beyond my first name and age, but she was allowed to send me flowers and a thank you card (which the nurse read to make sure she didn't try to contact me). I still have the card she wrote. Yes, I ugly cried when I read it.
How Complex The Procedure Was
My ovaries started to grow (until they were about the size of grapefruits). I went in for three appointments to receive a transvaginal ultrasound to check how many eggs had developed and were ready for removal, fertilization, and transfer. Each time the ultrasound tech would show me how many eggs were maturing, and tell me to come back in two days for another check and until there were enough to retrieve at least eight.
The day of the procedure, which took place in the fertility clinic, they sedated me and I actually fell asleep. They placed a needle attached to an ultrasound probe in my vagina and suctioned the best eggs out of my ovaries. (They got 29 in one shot, you guys.) I woke up in recovery and was able to go home a couple of hours later. I felt a little crampy and spent the rest of the day in bed.
How Painful Recovery Would Be
While the procedure was no big deal, recovery was not fun. I was swollen, sore, bloated, and no one told me that I wouldn't be able to wear normal pants for a few days. I got the worst headache I've ever had in my life, which ruined a weekend out of town with my mom.
That The Income Was Taxable
I didn't become an egg donor for the money, but I totally didn't know that being compensated would mean taking a financial hit on tax day. Because it's illegal to sell organs in the United States, the IRS treats egg donation as taxable income. I didn't know this until I received a form 1099 from the hospital. Bummer.
How Little I Would Learn About The Family I Helped
Before I became an egg donor, I imagined I would meet a couple (or potentially multiple couples) before they chose me or received my eggs. Nope. I know so little about the person who I helped become a mother. She wrote in the card I received on retrieval day that she was married, had picked me because I looked a little bit like her and loved to sing, and that she was grateful for another shot at getting pregnant after 10 years of struggling with infertility. Talk about feeling all the feels, you guys. The nurse coordinator told me that I would never know whether or not my donation resulted in children. It was, and still is, so weird not knowing.
That I Would Want To Do It Again
Until I became a parent myself, I didn't really understand how big of a deal egg donation was. A few months after I donated I got pregnant. When my daughter was 1-year-old, the nurse coordinator from the clinic called me. She asked, "Are you interested in donating again? The couple you helped would like their child to have a brother or sister." She then got a bit flustered, because she totally wasn't supposed to tell me that. She added, "They named their baby after you. Pretend I didn't say that."
I surprised myself by immediately saying yes and starting the donation process all over again. If you are wondering if it was different the second time around, I can tell you that it totally was. It was even more amazing because I knew what it was like to be a mother. I felt honored to help a family grow again and to contribute to their story, even if I will never know how their story ends.