Part 2 begins with a referral letter and appointment at a local hospital which specialises in infertility. I am lucky in that I live fairly close to one of the leading institutes for reproductive medicine but most major cities and large towns should be able to cater to all the requirements. Before reaching this stage though, you will be required to attend at least 1 session with a counsellor and in some instances a psychologist this is for your own good so please make the most of it. Below I will describe my session as best I can recall it so that you know what to expect.
I arrived at my hospital and was met by a lovely and warm lady and I was made to feel very welcome. The aim of the session was for both parties to cover any questions/issues and to discuss the general aspects of being an egg donor. Many of the questions centred around the logistics of the process and as these may differ from place to place, I am not going to describe them in detail but suffice to say that it is almost exactly the same as the first half of IVF. The remaining questions were far more personal and I hope that by sharing my views and answers I may be able to allay some of the fears which some of you may have.
(Please note that these are not the exact questions and aren't in any particular order :-))
What does Egg Donation mean to you and what has drawn you to it?
For me, it is an opportunity to do something tangible that I can be proud of and which may help someone else achieve parenthood. I have always wanted to do something and have always felt that I should do something for those less fortunate for me. Unfortunately, when I had the chance to I spent my time being frivolous which was fun but left me with a lingering feeling that I had somehow failed to fulfil an ambition. This feeling, coupled with the overwhelming sadness I felt towards woman who had been less fortunate than I was and who couldn't fall pregnant easily and without help led me to investigate what, if anything, I could do. I was initially going to fly back to South Africa as I knew people and places which specialised in this process back home but when I discovered that the UK was desperate for donors I decided to get involved here instead.
How do you feel about the idea that your eggs may result in a child?
The honest answer is that I can't imagine a feeling about this because pregnancy was such a horrible experience for me that I do not associate my eggs or pregnancy with being maternal. I wish I had the glowing stories that so many woman do about how they bonded with their babies in the womb and so were instantly in love with the newborns because that is the fairy tale. The reality for me was so different and it took me a while to realise that the 2 infants in NICU were more than just my responsibility. As an extension of this, I feel no connection to my eggs and I don't mourn when they pass, unused from my body every month. Much like donating blood, I would prefer to give what I don't need away in the hope that someone else finds a better use for it.
Question 3: (the BIGGIE)
How do you feel about the removal of anonymity from the process?
Obviously the change in the act means that I need to consider the possibility that in 16 years time one or more children may knock on my door wanting to know more about their genetic identity. Although potentially an issue for others, my husband and I have come to the conclusion that this possibility is not in itself that scary a prospect as long as we ensure that we are always honest with our children and our family about it. We feel that the very worst thing that could happen would be to keep it from everyone, only to have them faced with a genetic sibling somewhere down the line. Instead we will include this in the discussion (in a basic sort of way) when our children start asking about where babies come from. Both the RO and I are adamant that our children need to understand from an early age that babies are made in a number of ways and that all of them are equally important.
The above question is the one which I have been asked the most whenever I have discussed this outside of my family. I am often surprised by the number of misconceptions that seemingly educated people have about the changes in the act and how often their emotions cloud their judgement. The biggest misconception is that children born from my eggs would have a financial claim to my estate and this is completely untrue. If you're struggling with the lack of anonymity, try and think about how similar changes have positively affected children who were adopted because ultimately it is their right to know their genetic connections if that will help them to form a complete identity.
The counsellor and I spent well over 2 hours talking through these areas and she was really amazing at illustrating all the small things which I hadn't even considered. For me there never was any doubt that I would do it but there were some things which she touched on which helped me to formulate how I felt about the process and the impact it could have on the people who I love.
Before I left, she gave me a large pack of documentation to take away with me so that I could refer back if there was anything which I later became unsure of. I was also given the forms to complete to enter into the program. Right at the back of the form was a special section which was by far, the hardest part to complete and also one of the most important but I'll get into that in part 3 of this riveting saga ;-)