Most women dread their first pap smear. We’re young, terrified, and in many cases, experiencing an intrusive procedure for the first time. But I was relaxed about mine. A year earlier, I lay back nervously in a hospital operating room, hitched my legs into stirrups, and underwent a procedure have some of my eggs removed so I could donate them to strangers.
I didn’t donate because I had watched a relative struggle to conceive or because I was offered a financial reward. It’s illegal in the United Kingdom to pay someone for donating their eggs, apart from compensating them for time off of work. (I received £750 — about $1,000 — for my time.) I did it because I woke up one day with the urge to give something to someone, which might help to give my life a little bit more meaning. You might find it strange that at 24, I chose egg donation. I could have volunteered at a soup kitchen or kept an elderly person company. But I knew it had to be something bigger.
I’d just moved to London and was feeling unfulfilled in a boring retail job. The idea first popped into my mind one night when I was particularly sad. I thought the best thing I could do was make sure someone else felt pleasure in their life. Despite having a happy upbringing, I lost my dad at 11, and I wanted to be able to help someone grow up in a happy family home.
I began research and pored over the overwhelming details of what it would involve: pumping my body with hormones for four months, an invasive operation, adult acne, and no sex throughout the process, as I’d be extremely fertile. Undeterred, I sent in my application form. I was asked to delve into the darkest corners of my personal life and mental health on a questionnaire and when I passed, I was invited for an appointment with a specialist at the a fertility clinic.
The meeting really tested my mind. I was told the child could look me up and contact me when they turned 18. Could I really face a young adult who I helped create wanting to be part of my life? How would I feel if the child was a boy who grew up to look exactly like my dad? And what if my egg created a child, but later in life, I wasn’t able to conceive myself? Would I be angry? Bitter? Sad? These were questions I didn’t know the answers to, but I knew that I still wanted to go ahead with the procedure.
Within two weeks, I was matched with a couple who had viewed my profile and decided I met their “expectations of future offspring.” Before I knew it, I was sharing my menstrual cycle with the anonymous woman so we could synchronize our periods to prepare her womb for an embryo created from one of my eggs. I did this for six months. It’s a procedure very similar to in vitro fertilization. I was given hormone injections during each appointment to stimulate egg production and underwent internal ultrasounds. Although it was difficult, I focused on the end result: I was going to give a couple the greatest gift of all.
As our menstrual cycles began syncing, I started injecting myself with the hormones every day. I fumbled with the needles, bruised myself, and constantly had to navigate new patches of skin. My hormones were through the roof; I developed severe acne and was restless and agitated at work. This went on for more than two months. By this time, everyone in my family and at work knew and were very supportive.
Finally, our cycles were synchronized to the day, and I was in the operating room ready to have my eggs extracted. With my legs in the air while five doctors moved around my groin, I felt terrified and vulnerable but never once regretted my decision.
I was unconscious for the procedure but was very tender for a few days after. I felt a deep, throbbing pain every time I coughed. It was strange making my way home from the hospital. My mom came to help, but I was in a world of my own. Could this be a new beginning for two complete strangers? I felt positive and excited. But a few months later, I found out from the clinic that my donated eggs hadn’t resulted in a pregnancy.
I’d set out to do something. I’d made it my mission. But after hearing this news, I was back to feeling inadequate again. I had wanted to help so much, and despite knowing it wasn’t my fault, I felt I had failed miserably. I’m 28 now and haven’t donated since, but it crosses my mind regularly. I work in fashion and spend my days worrying about shoes and handbags. Dreaming about a successful donation gives me a sense of purpose.
I still plan to have kids of my own one day, but I’m in no rush. If I have a successful donation, I’ll definitely tell my future partner and children. However long it takes, I want to try again until I get that happy ending for someone out there.
This post was written by Charly Suggett . For more, check out our sister site Grazia.