The Greatest Gift: Lacey Part I
Lacey (not her real name) is a wonderful young woman who I have had the privilege of knowing through my work. I have asked her to share her experiences as a donor. She has been a donor five times. This is the story of her first donation recounted by Lacey.
The decision to become an egg donor is something that has changed my life. Initially, when I heard about the process from a friend who had donated a few times, I was uncertain it was something I could do. My family has been blessed, so fertility issues and the processes associated with fertility therapy were foreign to my everyday life, and seemed a bit scary. I was consumed with not only thoughts of medicine, needles, traveling to an unknown doctor for a surgery, but also never meeting the people to whom I would be giving a piece of my heart and soul. However, the instrumental factor behind my decision to become a candidate was imagining that I could be helping someone else start a family; the idea of bringing a little life into the world truly captivated me.
However altruistic our intentions, it is true that one motivating factor for donors is the reimbursement we receive for the discomfort and difficulty of the process. I found myself in a very tough spot in my life, having just left an unhealthy marriage and starting over, literally from scratch. I was working three jobs, one full-time and two part-time to cover the expenses of my divorce and new life, and I hit a point where it became too much. My friend suggested I look into becoming an egg donor, as it was an amazing experience that over time helped her to pay for law school. She also told me she loved getting updates on the babies over time, and seeing the families she had helped to create. I decided to call her agency to discuss the possibility of becoming a donor myself.
It must be said that at every point of this process my fears were calmed and I was held in the warm embrace of an industry that serves the most amazing purpose. Although my first donation was anonymous, I did feel a connection with the couple I was helping. They had been through so much while trying to start a family, and choosing me to help them was a total leap of faith, but ultimately the only way they could achieve their dream.
When I dealt with the specifics of the medications, the surgery, and the contracts, it struck me how very serious this process is: someone else’s happiness was completely in my hands. It was a huge responsibility, both ethically and physically, that someone trusted me to do everything correctly, and to be as healthy as possible for the best outcome. I will say I placed a lot of pressure on myself; I was nervous as a first time donor and just wanted everything to go as planned. Little did I know….things would go very well indeed!
As a donor, it crossed my mind: some little soul, who is a portion of me, will be present on this earth a year from now. And as they grow up, and hear the story of how they came into being from their parents, will they want to know about me? Try to find me? Meet me? This is when I genuinely understood the purpose of the contract. The contract is there for good reason, protecting not only my anonymity, but that of the intended parents as well. For every concern I had, that perhaps the parents or future children would try to reach me, there was a concern on their part that the donor may try to contact them or lay claim to their future children. Once I realized that the couple and I both did not want future contact, wanted to preserve the intended parents’ rights and release mine, and that both sides have clearly defined the nature of the anonymous agreement, I felt much more at ease about my good deed! My attorney specialized in this field, and was very instrumental in explaining the specifics of the contract, ensuring I understood it all.
My first donation was an intense experience. I flew to the fertility clinic (which I had visited earlier for an exam and approval) for a pre-retrieval checkup. They informed me that I was progressing well, that I was a highly responsive and productive donor, and that they were thrilled! I had several follicles and I was running exactly to plan. The next night I administered my HCG injection and a day and a half later it was time! My thoughts were completely focused on a safe and healthy procedure. And I will admit, I was incredibly nervous, much like the intended parents, I am sure!
When I awoke, I was greeted with beaming smiles of the clinic staff, who informed me of the large number of eggs that were mature. Even though I was a bit groggy, I remember the intrinsic sheer happiness at the knowledge that I had just given someone the greatest gift! The recovery was not lengthy; I flew home the next morning and although I was uncomfortable, I was able to return to work. Because it was my first donation and the medication levels were initially higher than needed, I hyper-stimulated and had a bit more discomfort than most donors usually experience. After a few days, my agency updated me that things were progressing well.
Throughout the whole process, my agency respected my wishes to not be informed of anything after the donation. I told them that I never wanted to know names, or see photos, like my friend and fellow donor did. I thought it would be too difficult to remain emotionally detached if I received any news regarding my donation.
However, a few weeks later I was getting ready for work and a text message appeared: _“Do you want to hear some good news?” _I thought for a moment. What would hearing “news” be like? Would I feel an emotional attachment, and if I did, how would I deal with it? I decided to test-drive the emotion and answered my agency with a message that I would. A few minutes later, the word “Twins!” flashed across my screen. And I cried very happy, very satisfying tears. Hearing the confirmation of the successful process, and knowing that a sweet couple who put their trust in me was reaping the reward and growing a family was exactly what I needed.
Several months later, the phone rang, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear even more good news! My agency said that the intended parents wanted to share more information with me, if I was open to hearing it. I agreed because I knew they wanted me to know…twin boys! The hospital staff said the boys were the most beautiful babies they had ever seen, they were extremely healthy, needed absolutely no help in the hospital (being early, of course!), and were over 7 lbs. each! Over the last few years, the couple has sent my agency photos of the boys and always asks if the agency will share with me, if I so desire. I am astounded by the level of trust and openness that these parents have demonstrated, and while I never have chosen to see the babies, it is reassuring to me that they are so, so loved by their mother and father!
That was the beginning of my path as a donor-the most impactful and important act of my life.