Last year, I decided to donate some of my eggs.
The idea occurred to me almost overnight, and from that moment it was an incredibly quick decision. For others, this probably isn’t the case (and nor should it be, it requires a lot of thought and not everybody for it). But for myself, my mind has always been very clear – primarily because I do not want children. I cannot see that changing, but for all you sceptics out there who believe that as a woman I absolutely MUST and WILL want children as I grow older, rest assured that donating my eggs does not in any way affect my ability to have my own children if my mind does change.
Let me quickly dispel that misconception: The thing is, we are born with more follicles that can turn into eggs than we will ever go through in the course of our lives between puberty and menopause – or something like that. A woman begins puberty with around 400,000 follicles – all of which contain an immature egg. Of these, one or two mature each month until we reach menopause. So basically, we have far, far more than we need. The idea of ‘using up all of our eggs’ is totally inaccurate. The hormones used in egg donation stimulate the development of eggs so that more than one or two eggs mature that month. Women don’t stop being able to conceive as they reach menopause because they run out of eggs, so donating eggs has no bearing on my ‘supply’, I guess.
Can I just address the previous point for a moment, though? I don’t want children. Ever. I have absolutely no desire to have a human being grow inside me (it grosses me out to an unbelievable extent), and even less desire to bring up a screaming, smelly, snotty child, who will rely on me and belong to me forever-forth. I am an aunt, and very much like my niece and nephew, but at no stretch would I ever wish they were mine. I am totally uninterested in the thought of dedicating my life to a child or multiple children.
And it is incredible how many people do not believe me when I say this. Simply being a female does not make me maternal. With all the advances in gender equality (although we still have far, far to go), I cannot fathom how the majority of people still have this ‘female-must be a mother’ idea stuck in their head. Oh, people have no problem with you thinking you don’t want children when you are young, but rest assured, they tell you, ‘you’ll change your mind when you meet somebody and get married’.
I would like to bet that actually, I will not. Please, give me some credit. That is so unbelievably patronising. All I need is a nice man and all my opinions will change, yes? I’ll suddenly realise what it right and natural? Can I just shout out loudly that this idea that all woman have some innate mothering instinct and are just dying to be mothers eventually IS A MYTH? It isn’t true! For many women, there is nothing further from the truth, and yet society still pins this quality onto us, making these perfectly normal women who don’t want children feel as though they are…not quite female because they don’t want children (more on that here).
Anyway. Back to my story. Why did I donate my eggs? The idea occurred to me, and it was almost as though as soon as it did, I couldn’t not donate eggs. I felt as though I had a duty to do it. I don’t want children, yet I know I can have children. I have perfectly healthy eggs, going to waste month after month, and they are going to keep going to waste month after month..
And just because I don’t want children, that doesn’t mean nobody does. So many men and women are just desperate to be parents, and brilliant parents they will make with a desire so strong. Yet, so many of those, for one reason or another, simply can’t have children naturally. And imagine that? The one things as a women society tells us (totally incorrectly) we should be able to do, they can’t do. So us women need to help each other out. And I know, when you can’t have something, you want it a million times more. And that some women really are born to be mothers. For many, the key to life is to create life. So, after suddenly realising all of this – how could I not donate my eggs?
I came to the conclusion that it was incredibly selfish of me to hoard these perfectly good eggs inside of me, and that I should definitely let somebody who needs them use them. So that was reason number one, the primary, overwhelming reason I donated my eggs: I believed, in the circumstances, it was selfish of me not to donate my eggs.
I would like to say my decision was entirely selfless and altruistic. But, to be perfectly honest, one part of not wanting children that upset me was the fact that after I die, well..then, that’s it. There will be no tiny part of me still alive when I’m gone. Nothing to live on. That’s the only part of having a child that has slightly appealed, and I have always found the thought quite hard to bear. But actually…now it’s more than likely that there will be. And that was the slightly selfish element of my decision, but a miniscule, miniscule factor. More like an added bonus.
There is a lot to consider with egg donation, and I mentioned earlier that not everybody is right for it. Probably anybody who finds they become easily attached to things may find it hard. But I viewed this almost scientifically. I was totally detached. Not for one minute would I consider any child created from my eggs to be mine. No, god no. The egg may have come from me, but it is the woman who bears it, lets it develop within her, deals with a pregnancy for nine months, gives birth to the child it becomes and cares and loves that child that the child belongs to. And I have no problem with that. I am just providing one missing piece of a hundred-million piece jigsaw. I do not feel any attachment to these eggs that are yet to become anything. And I think that is probably necessary.
The process itself was very straightforward. I had to inject myself with hormones for 10 days to simulate egg production, with a scan every second day to monitor the development of the eggs. Once enough eggs had matured and reached sufficient size, it was time for collection.
Injecting myself for the first time was a little scary – there’s something about doing it yourself. You can just…not do it. I kept preparing the needle, pinching the skin on my stomach, and chickening out at the last minute. Eventually, I forced myself, barely felt it, and after that they were easier. Each day, I reminded myself why I was doing it: a little injection seemed so insignificant to the greater cause that it made me feel silly for dithering.
It would be a lie to say that the hormones didn’t affect me. They did, but not as much as I had thought that they would. I certainly became super tired and lazy, and just pretty weak. In addition, they made me a little bloated – I put on around 5lb in total. However, it was purely short term and I was aware and prepared for that. My boobs got really big – which I hated, my clothes simply aren’t made for that, and it just doesn’t suit me. That was probably the worst part!
On the day of the donation, actually I wasn’t too nervous. I was – cringey and cliché as it sounds – truly glad to feel as though I was actually helping somebody. These eggs were going to make a huge difference to somebody’s life, potentially help provide the best gift in the world to them. And that was a really great thought. I don’t do too much in life to help others, so this felt great. I was wheeled in, put to sleep, then woken up and all was done. The clinic gave me some chocolates as a thank you, and put me in a taxi and told me to rest for the day.
The worst part came later. A few days after the donation when my period began, it was the world’s worst period. Horrendous. Couldn’t really leave the house for a few days. But.. worth it. I can deal with a few days inconvenience if it brings so much joy to somebody else. Let’s just hope it does.
I’m yet to hear whether the eggs I provided – the clinic managed to take 24 from me – have resulted in a successful pregnancy for the recipient. I will not be given with any details, but it will be nice to know that the process worked.
As for the future, do I worry that a potential child will approach me in the street one day while I’m inevitably running late to the office and cause me to spill coffee everywhere?
The answer is no. Before donating, I obviously thought long and hard about the possibility of a potential child tracing me in the future. In the UK, the law changed in 2005 so that all children born as a result of sperm or egg donation are able to find out identifying factors of the donor when they reach 18 – namely their full name, address at the time of donation and date of birth. With the increasing connectivity of the world, it is likely that in 19 years time, it won’t be all that difficult to find somebody with those details.
However, I deduced that there were a fair few things to factor in before arriving at this point: firstly, the parents must have chosen to tell the child that they used a donor; secondly, the child must decide they care enough to actually want to deal with the emotion of finding the person from whom they have inherited a little of their DNA; finally, they must put in enough effort to actually manage to find me from the limited details available.
So, it’s not a guarantee that the child will ever know that a donor was used in their creation. But if this does happen, how would I feel about it? Considering I don’t want children?
Actually: Ok. Maybe I’d like it. By the time any child born as a result of the eggs I donated reaches 18, I will be mid 40’s. Add in a few more years of dithering before they begin to research, I’ll more than likely be nearly 50. With a grown adult approaching me, not a screaming child, snotty toddler, stroppy teenager or the like. Without the burden of responsibility, I think more than anything I will be curious to see how that little bit of my DNA I gave away turned out, without any influence from myself.
Part of me kind of likes that idea. Although not enough to hope for it. We’ll see what happens. As far as I am concerned, my part is over. But if, years in the future, I get an unexpected reminder, well, it’s not going to be catastrophic for me.