Last week I shared my sister-in-law Jane's story (if you missed it, check it out here).
These are the same questions, and the same situation, but told from my side
- as the egg donor.
Jane and her hubby Ev, now have (identical) twin girls, and thankfully,
things have worked out pretty bloody well. But, when we were
going through the process, we couldn't find any stories of egg donation
between family members, which is why we've shared our story here.
How did you come to be involved in egg donation?
I’m at any age where all of my friends are having babies, so it is the topic of conversation fairly often. I knew my sister in law (Jane) and her husband (Ev) were trying, but one night when I asked about it, she got really upset. They’d already began seeing specialists and had been told it was unlikely she would be able to conceive naturally, or even without an egg donor, as it appeared she had gone through early menopause (unknown due to being on the pill).
I remember in the instant that I found out that they needed an egg donor, that I would definitely do it. I didn’t say anything straight away, as I wanted to researched it and chat with Poss (my husband) first. I wanted to be 100% sure before I offered. I also knew that they would never ask, not just us but any of their friends, they’re just not those kind of people.
That I would find a reason to back out.
Even though Jane and Ev had told us that it was totally ok to pull the pin at any point for any reason, I think it would have been so hard and heart breaking to do that.
There was a small fear of the unknown, mainly the emotional side of things. What if I felt a really strong connections to any babies and wanted to keep them? What if Jane got PND and shut me out? All of this was stuff we talked through in counselling, and I was told to trust my instincts – if I felt like I could go through the process, it was likely the outcome would be ok.
And even thought we hadn’t decided at that point if we had finished our own family (obviously we hadn’t!), it honestly wasn’t part of the thought process. If something happened that meant that we couldn’t have anymore children, we would still be happy with our decision to help give Jane and Ev a chance to experience what we already had.
Pros and cons of knowing the donor?
Pros – we knew exactly what we were in for. It was so nice going through the process with people who are pretty much on exactly the same wave length as us. We talked so much and so openly about every angle of the process, and could also laugh about it together too. We actually laughed about things A LOT! So many conversations that could have been awkward, just became another thing we could all share and laugh about together. It really brought us all so much closer.
Cons – being so close it was sometimes hard to know boundaries and what we could talk about – when the doctors were monitoring me for Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, I didn’t tell Jane as I knew it was one of her fears was the physical impact that the process would have on me. I secretly told Ev (he’s a doctor), but the case was only mild anyway. We ended up telling her the night before the egg retrieval, she was only slightly angry 😉.
As mentioned above, I also would have found it really hard to pull out, even though they would have understood why. And any negative impact it may have had on our relationship. Luckily, neither of these things became an issue. Because we had developed such a strong relationship, we talked very openly even after the twins were born. I still remember Jane texting me the night I met them, asking me if I was ok – it was so lovely that she was worried about me and I knew at that point that everything was going to be fine.
Would you do the process with anyone else?
For me, probably not.
I was really lucky that both of my sisters had either had kids or were pregnant, so that took a lot of pressure off when I offered my eggs to Jane.
I understand how huge it is to be able to help people conceive, but I think I would also be uncomfortable with doing it again. Not only is it a beautiful gift, but I also see it as a lifelong commitment and take my role in it really seriously. I think I would struggle to be able to give that level of commitment to anyone else.
What was the counselling process like?
Much better than I thought it would be. I’m an ex Social Worker, and Jane is a psychologist, so we were sceptical that it would just be box ticking and not very thorough.
Luckily, we were wrong, and the counsellor we had was fantastic. She really got us to think about every aspects, informed us of the legal decisions we would have to make, and actually involved the boys in the conversation. It was easy at times to forgot that Poss really needed to have a voice – I was going to be making babies, for his sister, with her husband – it’s not exactly normal!
I was able to talk through my worries about the unknown – what if when they were born I felt a huge attachment to them? The counsellor was not only great at working through this, but was also open to any of us coming back at any stage to chat again, which was really comforting.
What was the physical process like?
Full on!!! I take my hat off to anyone who has had to undergo IVF, especially those who have had to do it multiple times or over a long period.
I only had to do it for 2 weeks (because Jane did the second half), and it definitely took its toll.
I couldn’t fit into my jeans – my ovaries literally exploded with eggs and my waist just blew out; I was moody and had no tolerance for my own kids, it was PMS x1000. Plus, there was the fact that I don’t really like needles, and had to inject myself.
To be honest, once I started the injections, it was totally fine, but that first one made me pretty anxious! We discussed Poss injecting me, but I decided it was better if his job was to distract kids while I did it. We weren’t keeping it a secret from them, but figured they didn’t need to see me shoving needles into my stomach. The weirdest time was one day when I was on the way to Melbourne, and I had to pull over and inject on the side of the road (as it was better if the needles were done at the same time). I was so paranoid that the police would drive past and I’d have to explain what I was doing.
I also had to go under a general for the egg retrieval, but luckily, as soon as those eggs were out, I felt a million times better. I literally bounced out of recovery ward to Jane, Ev and Poss all waiting nervously. I could tell by their faces that they were shocked at how good I felt. (Because of the GA I totally crashed later and slept pretty much all day, but physically, I was great).
Also, when I first offered to donate, I was still breastfeeding, which I had to stop before I could start IVF. Jane and Ev said that they didn’t want me to stop on their account, but bubs was already 12 months old at that point and was down to one feed a day anyway. It totally felt right, and I didn’t feel any pressure to finish up early.
Any advice for people considering or needing to go through this?
It’s hard to give advice because every situation is so different, but make sure you use the counselling to really open up about any fears and worries you have – no matter how trivial they may seem.
It a really huge deal – your body goes through a lot at the time, but more than that, you could create humans and you need to be comfortable with that. All of the laws make the process so transparent now, so being able to talk about it openly with your family is a must – you don’t want them to find out in 18 years that they have half relatives they didn’t know about.
But – it’s also a really huge deal for the other side – you can help someone have a baby, which is such an incredible gift to be able to give someone.
Anything else you hadn’t considered before going through this?
A couple of things, but mainly the legalities.
We’ve had to change our will (ok, let’s be honest, actually make a will) to state that, if I die, Jane is entitled to the eggs. The current law still states that, until they are ‘inserted’ into Jane, they are mine, which can cause issues if anything happens to me. We wanted it to be really clear that they are absolutely hers to use.
The other thing we had to decide, was what to do with any left over eggs, once Jane and Ev decide they are done with them. But, there may not be any left anyway!
Will you tell the girls?
Definitely, and it isn’t even a plan to ‘sit down’ and tell them, it will just be something that they know.
My kids know, although to what extent they understand is something else. We got Z a book about where babies come from, it has a really good section on IVF and donors. Even though she was only 3 at the time, she a curious kid by nature, so found it all really fascinating. We were looking at the book again recently and she was more interested in just making babies (she has decided she will never get married because there is NO WAY she will be having sex – ha!).
We will continue to talk about it openly, but also not make a huge deal about it. It is what it is and I will clearly be their favourite aunty forever, but outside of that, they will always still just be my nieces and the kids cousins.