Egg Donations: A Honolulu Woman's Story
A Good Egg: Why one Honolulu woman has donated her eggs, six times.
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Although tedious, it is fascinating to fill out family-history forms and personal questionnaires. One must be a model of a couple’s future child; prospective parents want to feel a connection, when genetically, there is none. What was my favorite book as a child? Truth: A Wrinkle in Time. Answer: Thus Spoke Zarathustra: I read it nightly while in diapers, pacifier in one hand, nothingness in the other!
I become less me, trying to fill in the blanks to questions I cannot answer, such as my favorite season, color, food as a child. For family-history questions, I want to fill pages with memories instead of simplistic, one-word answers. What was the eye color of my maternal grandfather? Answer: My sister (eye color, brown) and I (also brown-eyed) would travel to Kelowna, British Columbia, to spend childhood summers in the back of his tractor; we picked apples, cherries. When what we wanted was out of reach, it just was, without metaphor. My grandfather towered, had tall arms, leaner each year that ALS dismantled his body, nerve by nerve. It was how I first learned the word, but not the meaning of, disease. And I don’t remember the color of his eyes, but my mom tells me they were blue.
It takes me a month to fill out all these forms and explain myself through a series of prompts, when all I really want to write is, Trust me, I’m worth more than the sum of my eggs.
It’s Not Over Until It’s Ova
1) A couple (“Intended Parents”) who cannot get pregnant can select a female donor for her eggs. When IPs and donors have matched and chosen a fertility clinic, Donation Month (“DoMo,” as I like to call it) begins.
2) Gay male couples, and many female Intended Parents, must also select and compensate a gestational carrier for her time and the use of her womb.
3) Most of my donations have followed the same protocol. Inject Lupron subcutaneously in my belly for about two weeks. Lupron is a synthetic hormone that kicks off DoMo by reducing the amount of estrogen in the alcohol-, drug- and semen-free temple of my egg-donor body. (As a fertile woman on fertility drugs, any sexual intercourse during DoMo could have consequences about which I dare not nightmare.)
4) After about two weeks of Lupron injections and their intended faux menopause—headaches, hot flashes, insomnia and all—stimulation hormones known as gonadotropins are added to my cocktail of crazy. In a normal menstrual cycle, approximately 30 follicles, the fluid-filled sacs that contain and nourish minuscule oocytes (eggs), will compete to become the one dominant follicle that matures and releases its single egg during ovulation. During ovarian stimulation, however, reproductive endocrinologists control the maturation of multiple eggs using drugs such as Gonal-f, Menopur and Follistim, so that all follicles mature into ovary-crowding globs in about 10 days, resulting, as in my case, in the retrieval of up to 35 eggs.
Poking one’s belly with small needles to inject Lupron and the stimulation medications is not physically painful. However, gonadotropin-induced “mood swings” are really just surface tremors from the predatory sadness swimming circles around my heart, waiting for the slightest sign of fatigue to devour me whole. Yes, hormone injections make me miss the emotional stability and happy-happy-fun times of typical PMS.
5) After about 10 days on stimulation drugs, ovulation is triggered by an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). About 35 hours later, it’s harvest time. A nurse inserts the IV, an anesthesiologist administers a light sedative and the fertility clinic’s all-star baby-making team collects as many eggs as possible.
6) A few hours post-procedure, donor eggs meet sperm in a romantic, five-star petri dish. Embryologists develop the burgeoning new life in a laboratory. A few days later, fertilized embryos are upgraded to a womb of their own and, if embryo transfer is successful, I add a positive pregnancy to my egg donation resume.