How it began
It was when I was about 28 years old that I started to consider freezing my eggs and perhaps donating some of them. It started during the chaotic time of lockdown, where everyone was doing quite a bit of ‘soul searching’, and I sat down to write out a five year plan, and later came to realise that it didn’t involve having kids.
At the time, I was nearing 30, I was prioritising my career, and was not really looking for a relationship. Despite the fact that I often see-sawed between wanting to have children and not (when I spent time with my nephews), I didn’t want to completely rule out the chances of having children in the future. It’s fairly daunting to be confronted with the fact that at some stage one might not have the option to have them. One never knows what the future holds.
I had always had a slight suspicion that I may have fertility issues, and after a year of haphazard research on the topic, I found a clinic that could help with my egg donation and freezing process as well as testing to confirm my fertility status. I wanted to know the costs associated, and what the process would entail. My sister had undergone a similar process, and she was there to talk me through the entire journey.
Taking the leap
After quite a bit of back and forth, I finally decided to put on my big girl knickers, or take them off, as it were, and start the first step of the process. I had to pay for genetic testing and initial fertility testing. I found the whole experience quite amazing, although my introductory experience ‘up close and personal’ with the camera, and examination gloves were something to get used to.
Initial perceptions and reactions
The entire process takes about two to three months, and as soon as my tests were completed, the clinic contacted me to come in on the first day of my cycle, which was the day before a long weekend.
At this stage I was becoming increasing more comfortable with being examined and I even started dressing more helpfully for the occasions in flowing dresses. With every step of the process I asked the nurses and doctors what they were doing, and whether I could have a look. The concept of follicles was something I seemed to have breezed over in Sex Education during high school, and I was finding it quite interesting to see the full process up close.
The doctor handed over the first batch of injections that I was to administer myself, and that was where reality took hold for the first time, and the seriousness of what I was doing loomed over me. I realised that I would have to inject myself over the weekend. I had made quite a few social plans and the reality was that I would have to take one for team (as I affectionately refer to my eggs), and exist alcohol-free while I was on the medication. The freezing of my eggs, as well as the egg donation would be well worth it.
The injections had to be administered every evening and I was instructed to rotate between ovaries. My entire friend group became involved in the process, as I entertained everyone with stories of my ovary injections. Everyone was incredibly supportive and somewhat fascinated by this new task that I had to carry out, as we are all in similar life stages and I was basically pioneering egg freezing and donation for all of us. The injections became increasingly easier to do as the needle is quite thin and the syringes were prepped beforehand, making it a fairly hassle-free process, all in all. I became quite a pro at it.
Breaking down the basics of the process
To give a brief breakdown of the process, the donor/patient undergoes a series of consultations to determine whether they are ready for the process. Then when they are deemed ready, they are given two separate batches of injections. The clinic provides the donor with a medication that stimulates the follicles and allows them to mature their eggs at the faster rate than they usually would. When the follicles reach a certain size, this indicates a certain level of maturity of the eggs. The eggs are then ready for a process known as aspiration. This is done by using a very thin needle to remove the liquid from your follicles. This liquid houses the mature eggs, which are then extracted and frozen for later use.
The first batch of injections lasted eight days, after which I went back for another consultation. I once again dressed for the occasion in a flowing dress and had my check-up to see the progress of the egg maturation. I was then able to accept my second batch of injections. These were to be administered in the mornings and evenings, rather than only at night, and were not such a joy to administer. While they were not torturous in any sense, the needle was slightly thicker, and they were to be injected into my side, rather into my ovaries. They needed to be done twelve hours apart, and the timing needed to be quite exact. This went on for another six days.
In the last couple of days of this process, daily consultations were necessary to check the maturity of the eggs. The ideal size for a mature egg is 18mm, and a minimum of five eggs are needed in order for aspiration to take place.
Exactly thirty hours before donation, you are required to take one final injection and that gets your body into the right space to rev up your egg maturity to its maximum, right before aspiration. This one, I had to administer at one o’clock in the morning.
The Big Day dawns
I then had a full day of waiting in the run up to my final aspiration appointment. During the final day I felt exceptionally bloated and uncomfortable. Looking back, the fact that I had fifteen follicles in one ovary and twenty two follicles in the other, it’s not surprising that I felt that level of discomfort or heaviness. There was a really strange sensation that I could not fully explain, but I noticed it specifically while walking. I had a very intense pressure on my bladder as I took the train and walked the few blocks to the clinic.
They made sure that someone was there with me to take me home when it was all over, and I proceeded to go downstairs to make my egg donation at long last. The entire process was very quick, a doctor, a nurse were in the room and a anaesthesiologist put me under anaesthetic. The entire procedure took twenty minutes, and when I woke up, they propped me up on a wheelchair while I came to. I remember thanking everyone profusely while I had my recovery cookie and lay down until I was declared as fit to leave.
The doctor let me know that they were able to extract seventeen eggs, which is quite a large number of eggs and I was extremely happy with that.
Worth it in the end? The after effects
I did not suffer any after effects. Some people experience spotting or painful periods straight after the process, but I didn’t experience anything like that. I just felt a bit of discomfort on the day of the aspiration and a bit of grogginess after the procedure. I can safely say that I had no pain afterwards, even though I have heard stories of other woman having quite painful aspirations.
I really have to thank my sister at the end of it all, since she persuaded me to undergo the process, coached me through and provided me with the necessary support and encouragement and laughed her way through all of my strange ‘bloating’ related questions that I could not pose to anyone else.
I now have my eggs frozen, and have performed an egg donation which makes me feel a lot more secure about the future, but also a lot more hopeful that others will do the same.