Matt and I have a good friend who happens to also be an egg donor. We asked if she might write a little something for New Dads, to share a bit of an egg donor’s perspective, and she very kindly obliged. Enjoy!
My name is Melodye, and I am an egg donor. (“Hi, Melodye.”) I also happen to be friends with Matt and Josh, and they asked if I would be interested in writing an entry from the egg donor’s point of view. Here I am, happily obliging.
My first experience donating (yep, I’ve donated more than once) stemmed from wanting to backpack through Europe. I brainstormed on how to make a decent sum of money to pay for this bucket list item, and upon discovering that donating eggs would earn me $8,000, I decided to go for it.
Although I didn’t know anyone who had done it (or anyone whose brain I could pick on the subject), I did extensive research online about the process and which service to use. NYU, Columbia and Cornell were my top choices, so I decided to apply with all three.
After having a couple appointments with Columbia, for some reason I just didn’t feel comfortable. I felt like a number there, so decided to retract my application. With NYU, I had a blood work appointment on my third visit (still during the application process—I hadn’t been matched with a recipient yet, but more on that later). There was a major storm, so I couldn’t make it. Even though I called to reschedule, they deemed me unreliable and declined my application.
Cornell was a welcome contrast to both of these experiences. From the first day I arrived, they were kind, compassionate, and made me feel that I was just as much a part of this process as the recipient.
The first step when applying is filling out extensive paperwork. This includes a full health history for myself and all family members—mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents (some of which can be very difficult to track down!).
Then there is a personality/psychological exam. There are hundreds of true/false questions to be answered. Some of the questions include: “I am troubled by attacks of nausea and vomiting,” “No one seems to understand me,” “I like mechanics magazines,” “I have a good appetite,” “I wake up fresh & rested most mornings,” “I think I would like the work of a librarian,” “I like to read newspaper articles on crime,” “My hands and feet are usually warm enough,” “I have never been in trouble because of my sex behavior,” “A minister can cure disease by praying and putting his hand on your head,” “I am liked by most people who know me.”
After 567 of these, your brain starts to swim a bit.
While they interpret the results, they take you through a series of blood tests to see if you are a carrier for certain genetic diseases. Lastly, potential donors speak with a psychiatrist about why they’re interested in being a donor. The psychiatrist also asks hypothetical questions about the future (i.e., “What would you do if the child wanted to contact you when they turned 18?”). If after all of this they deem you a suitable donor candidate, they walk you through what you can expect as a donor.
Once officially on the donor list with Cornell (and let me reiterate how wonderful it was to work with them), potential recipients can learn all about you. They never know your name or see your handwriting, nor do they see a picture (they will know your physical traits, however). If you want, you can also submit a photo of yourself as a child (totally optional; I opted “yes”).
At that point, it’s a waiting game to see who wants you. I assumed they were picking someone based on the physical and personality qualities the potential parent possessed (who was unable to genetically participate) and wanted in their offspring.
They warned that it could take weeks or months to get matched with a family. But then, by the following week, I had a match.
Once you have a match, they bring you back in for more blood work. Then it’s all about matching up menstrual cycles (donor and recipient), so that once it’s time to harvest the eggs and implant the fertilized embryos into the recipient mom, everyone is on the same timeline. Once we had the timeline synched, I began injections.
The first injection basically set my hormones to neutral, so that when I began taking the fertility drugs, I would start from zero and build from there. The injections were self-administered, and initially I was fairly nervous about it because they’re daily, and I’d never had to stick myself with a needle before. Of course, after a few times it became easier and not nearly as terror-inducing as it was the first time I had to stab myself (alright, drama queen). The needles are actually quite small, and you give the injections subcutaneously, in fatty areas (right below the belly button and the outside of your thighs/hips).
After the first few days of going at it on my own at home with the injections, they brought me back in to check my hormone levels through more blood work. They also did an ultrasound—not the ones you see in the movies on the outside of the pregnant belly, but through a vaginally-inserted wand. They sent me on my way and asked me to continue the injections and wait for a phone call to let me know if I’d need to change the dosage.
After about a week, the follicles containing the eggs grew to the right size and number for harvesting. (This was happening right around Easter, so my friends and I joked about the eggs in my basket.) Toward the end I went in every morning for blood work and ultrasounds, so they could keep a close eye on my physical progress and know the exact date for removal.
Once I got the call to take the final injection—which happened about 10 days from when I started the injections—it meant that the next morning I would show up at the hospital for the surgery. It was timed very specifically as that final injection basically “released” the eggs at a certain time (I believe 12 hours) after I took it.
The following morning, quite early, I arrived for my pre-op. For the retrieval itself, I was put completely under by IV sedation (of which I remember nothing—obviously and fortunately), and the process took only about 30 minutes. During that time, they go in vaginally (no cuts or scarring) and extract the eggs from the follicles.
I woke up in the recovery room, where a friend was waiting for me to make sure I got home safe. (I was required to have someone to sign me out; my lucky companion got to see the post-anesthesia me.) The day of, I went home to rest and was fine the next day. I wasn’t running-a-marathon fine (though that’s never been on my to-do list), but I was able to continue my regular activities.
Throughout the entire process I didn’t experience much in the way of drastic side effects. Most of what I noticed were general PMS-type symptoms (some cramping, moodiness, bloating).
The week after I donated, I began rehearsing for a show. The two female leads were best friends, and I learned that one had donated her eggs to the other, who couldn’t conceive. When the new mother brought in her three-month-old baby girl, I told her I had just donated my eggs anonymously. Teary-eyed, she gave me an enormous hug and said, “You have NO idea what a gift you’ve given someone.”
Since then I have donated twice more. The second time was really just because I wanted to. I didn’t particularly need the money (I actually put it all in savings), but since I had such a positive experience the first time, I wanted to give back (again). The third time was probably a mix of both reasons. (And any more than that I think is probably just greedy.) Although I’m not sure I want kids myself someday, I’d like to not fully deplete my stash.
Egg donation is something I am very happy I did, and I’m glad that I have now been a resource for friends and friends-of-friends who are interested in taking the same path.