Natasha talks about why she decided to become an egg donor, after a sperm donor helped her and her partner have their twins.
If it wasn’t for men who altruistically donate their sperm to families like us, then we wouldn’t have been able to have a family – my partner is infertile. This is what motivated me to become an egg donor. Through our membership of the Donor Conception Network, my partner and I have met lots of couples who’ve had to use egg donors, several of whom have travelled overseas for treatment because they believed they wouldn’t find an egg donor in the UK. So not long after giving birth to my twins, I began to investigate the possibility of donating my eggs.
I became aware of Altrui when we were looking for a sperm donor as they were advertised on the Guy’s Hospital website. Although they didn’t work with sperm donors, so were not of direct use to us at the time, I read a little about their egg donor programme and squirrelled the info away in the back of my mind! So when I decided to donate my eggs, Altrui was the first place I looked. I’m 36 later this year so I knew I needed to move quickly, since the HFEA limit egg donors to those under 36. Since donor conception was already a key part of how our family came to be, we had already done a lot of the thinking around donor conception, so it did not feel hurried.
Thinking about the recipients
I contacted Alison in February and after getting some initial details from me, we discussed who I would be willing to donate to. Throughout our fertility treatment, we’ve met so many people who have decided to use a donor and for each of them it has been a unique set of circumstances and reasons that has lead them to donor conception, so I instinctively didn’t want to impose too many restrictions. Initially I wondered if I might prefer the recipients to be a couple who didn’t have a child already, but my partner reminded me of some friends who have a five year-old boy and although they have longed for a sibling for him, they have yet to conceive one. I was also concerned about whether the family would be open with the offspring about their conception (we have already begun to tell our one year old twins about their conception!), but Alison reassured me they carefully counsel recipients about the advantages of talking and telling. So we settled happily that we would not impose any restrictions. Any donor-conceived offspring would be part of the recipient family who we trusted to nurture and raise the children in the way they saw fit.
Within a month Alison had found our recipients! I requested that we wait until July to start the cycle, since my mum would be able to help out with childcare at that time. Altrui, the recipients and the hospital were all very understanding and happy to work around my request.
My egg donation cycle
I’ve been through the treatment before from having done IVF myself, so the injections, blood tests, scans and procedures were really familiar to me. I am very lucky to live in London, a short commute away from the hospital where the treatment was being carried out so it was quite straight forward getting to appointments. I have felt a bit bloated at times, but otherwise felt fit and healthy throughout the process. One-year old twins keep you pretty busy too, so that stopped me becoming preoccupied with the minor discomfort of it all! I feel incredibly lucky to say that egg collection went really well and the couple ended up with several good embryos. Fingers crossed that they end up with a positive pregnancy test soon.
How I feel about being an egg donor
I naively assumed that many egg donors would be women in a similar situation to me, who had personal experience of donor conception. However I’ve been amazed and surprised to discover that the vast majority of egg donors have not had any direct experience of donor conception. It feels like they’re doing it even more altruistically than I am and I am impressed at what lengths women will go to, to help someone they have never met – overcoming fear of needles, travelling across the country for hospital appointments and introducing donor conception to their families who may not be as understanding and accepting as they’d like.
On the one hand, I know it’s a significant thing to donate eggs. On the other hand, it feels perfectly natural and comfortable since donor conception is already a familiar part of our family. People often say to me “you’re doing such an amazing thing”. Until recently these compliments just made me feel uncomfortable, because it doesn’t feel as big as other people were saying it was, and also I’m not doing it because I want people to tell me I’m doing an amazing thing! A friend of mine said you could look at it another way, ‘I’ve been through fertility treatment and I really never want to go there ever again’. So I am now allowing myself to feel a little proud of what I am doing!
Not their eggs, absolutely their child
Overall, it feels a little bit like full circle for my partner and I – someone helped us to create the family we longed for and now we have given someone else the chance to do the same. Nearly a year into parenthood and I am somewhat surprised at how little our children are defined by how they came into the world. It’s not that I expected that it would play a huge role in everyday life, but I have been bowled over by this overwhelming feeling that they couldn’t feel any more like our children. We couldn’t love them any more than we do.
In the words of the Donor Conception Network campaign “not my sperm, absolutely my children”. And if the recipients are as lucky as we were, that is how we will view the offspring: “not their eggs, absolutely their child”.
Update: We have just found out that Natasha’s couple are pregnant!