INTERVIEW: Why I am an Egg Donor

RAQUEL: Why do you donate your eggs?

TRACY: Donating my eggs is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 17. To give the gift of life is probably the most selfless act a person could do. It was never about the money and will never be about the money. It’s always about the experience, the people you meet, the families you’re helping. My egg donations have always been 100% anonymous, but the families still manage to find a place in your heart.  June 2013 marked my third donation. Each time I have given around 20-30 eggs.

R: Do people ask you about the money pretty often?

TRACY:  Yes, unfortunately. Usually people respond with something like “Oh wow, thats crazy. Don’t you get a ton of money for egg donations though? I know egg donors definitely make more than sperm donors do – sperm donors get like 50 bucks a pop.”

I try to politely remind them that although it’s a good sum of money, the egg donation process is much more invasive and time consuming. It’s not just “depositing my goods into a cup.”

The process requires self-administered hormone injections, numerous doctors appointments, and unplanned mood swings. That means crying one minute and wanting to kick someone the next. It means gaining weight and giving up at least two weeks of your life. But most of all, egg donation is about helping a family by giving them a physical part of yourself.

R: Tell me about the side effects you experienced while taking the hormone injections.

TRACY: My boobs got huge! Here’s what my boobs looked during egg donation, and about four months after. They were GIANT.  I definitely gained some weight during my first two donations. The fact that they were  back to back made it really hard to lose the first weight. So in the end, I was losing for two donations.

I was really horny during my first donation; honestly, it was ridiculous. I think it was a true hormone shock for my body. I also had a reaction to one of the medications and was itchy in WEIRD places. I did have some bruising from the injections, and they stung a little, but nothing unbearable.

It’s funny how much your personality changes for those two weeks. My guy friends made fun of me because “I finally had feelings”… or at least, was finally talking about them. They always saw me as a “female robot,” apparently. I honestly don’t think the side effects were that bad, although I was always really tired during my third donation.

R: What’s the best thing about being an egg donor?

TRACY: I will never forget the day my case manager called me last year and told me: “The family wants to let you know that they had a beautiful baby girl in November and are over the moon. She is absolutely beautiful.”

I cried. Unknowingly, this family pushed me to be the best that I could be.

They had tried three egg donors before me, and their cycles never completed. This was my main motivation. My second family never conceived. My eggs were healthy, however her body didn’t respond properly. Because my egg donations have been anonymous, I will never know if they try again.

R: Tell me about the connection you feel with the anonymous egg recipients.

TRACY: Picture this: 10 years from now, 5 years from now, or even two days from now- you decide you want to start a family. After hundreds of tries, countless negative pregnancy tests or even miscarriages, you finally make an appointment with your doctor. You sit in that room on the cold table in your unflattering gown and think, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I conceive? Is it my body? Why is it rejecting this beautiful experience?”

Finally your doctor breaks the news: your body can’t create a child on its own because your eggs are not strong enough. You try hormone after hormone and finally you’re only left with your only other options: someone else’s eggs or adoption.

It’s also important to me to help same sex couples conceive. I mean, imagine being a teenage boy or girl, growing up and realizing that you’re in love with someone of the same sex. You try to picture your lives together. You dream of a wedding where it’s legal, buying a house where you’re accepted for who you are, and you even dream of starting a family with them- but how? Egg donation provides these families with a means of growing. I’m not using my eggs right now, so why shouldn’t someone else have them? I do find myself thinking about my families from time to time. I picture what their lives must be like. I picture the joy they must feel and how their first “holiday season” went. But I never wish I was there. I never cross that line.

R: Do you have any tips in terms of what qualities a prospective donor should look for in an egg donor agency?

TRACY: It’s hard to know what company will be good. You can read review after review, but until you put yourself out there and commit, you’ll never know how they truly are. A case manager should be timely with their responses, show care and pride in their work — all while making sure they think about you, the donor.

As a donor, you are 50% of this process. Without your eggs, there would be no baby. Without your time and dedication, there would be no baby. You deserve to be treated with as much care and grace as the Intended Parents (IPs) are. Just because you are getting “paid” — and not the one “paying” — that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be treated like a person.

R: The US is known for having very few restrictions on the egg donation process, compared to other countries which ban or regulate it.  Here, it’s essentially an open market. There aren’t many safeguards ensuring all egg donors receive a consistent standard of care.

TRACY: All I can say is make sure you stick up for yourself.

R: You mentioned that you’re looking for a new agency. What happened?

TRACY: Oh man. I started with one company that was absolutely wonderful. I went through a lot of steps before I was “active” and able to donate. I really felt like they cared. My first donation was done through their partner company, so I worked with a wonderful case manager who checked in on me almost everyday — she was extremely present to me before and after my retrieval. When they got pregnant, she called me with the news. She was there for me whenever I needed her and always got back to me quickly. I couldn’t have asked for a better case manager.

But then I was assigned another case manager through the original company. She eventually got around to answering my questions but, once my eggs were retrieved, she ignored all my emails. She was nowhere near as thoughtful or timely as the first case manager and never explained why.

My first two egg donations happened back to back — I began pre-testing for the second cycle only one month after my retrieval. This took a huge toll on my body. They kept begging me to do more donations because I “responded really well and am a proven donor” but I felt like I really needed space. I had to keep turning them down.

R: I’m glad you looked after your own health needs first. When did you feel like you were ready to donate again?

TRACY: Six months later.  In February of this year, I finally decided I wanted to be an active egg donor again. Excited to start another donation, I patiently awaited the news of interested IPs. I was matched with a couple and excited to start my new cycle. Unfortunately, I was once again placed with the unresponsive case manager. I received only necessary and time sensitive emails from her- she never once checked in on how I was doing.

The third donation was the hardest and most painful I’ve ever been through. I was sick before, during and after my retrieval. I slept for 24+ hours after retrieval and was not sent home with or allowed any prescribed pain medications, as I had been before.

I could hardly move. I contacted my case manager and the clinic itself — but no one really helped. I was so incredibly hurt and disappointed. I truly felt like I had become just a dollar sign.

R: Did this change the way you viewed your position as an egg donor?

TRACY: Yes. I was asked to do a new donation with them recently, and ended up arguing with my case manager about my “donor fee.” I had done research about what compensation other donors in my position are getting and she refused to give me anywhere close to what I “deserve.” If I was such a “proven donor” as they say, then why can’t I get the compensation to match? If you’re not willing to go the extra mile to treat me the way I should, then why should I suffer?

When I was treated like a person, I was perfectly fine with the (lower) compensation this company gave their donors. But now that I was treated like a number, why shouldn’t I get paid like that number?

Anyway, I later learned that my first case manager — the really amazing one — was no longer with the company. I would love to find her, and follow her as she was the true definition of a good case manager. With her, the compensation wouldn’t even matter. Both she and my first family are prime examples of the reason I started donating.

R: What are some misconceptions you’ve heard about egg donors?

TRACY:  I have heard quite a few myths about egg donors but I think my favorites are: “You get paid way too well to do basically nothing,” or “egg donation such an easy way to make money.” I’ve even heard, “You have a child out there. It’s going to show up on your doorstep one day and expect you to be its mother.”

I laugh every time I hear that last one. I have genes out there, DNA, that’s all. It’s not my child and never was my child. I didn’t carry it or give birth to it, I didn’t raise it or love it. I simply helped a couple to create it. I have no attachment to their child.

Sure, I would love to see a photo of him/her or hear about their accomplishments. It would be somewhat like a preview of what my child could be. It’s an incredible feeling knowing you helped create life. It’s even better knowing your help gave someone else such joy.

I have had my share of joy, but I also understand tough times. Donations aren’t always easy — there are a lot of ups and downs. But in the end, I think the reward outweighs the bad. I plan to continue being an egg donor, but only if the case feels right.

We are not just an expense- we are humans, we are women, we are egg donors.