Just days ago, walking out of a university lecture, my friend Laura looked tired, beaten. ‘I’m exhausted.’ She said, tears glistening in her eyes and her lip quivering. ‘I almost dropped out last week. I’m tired; my kids hate me because I’m a total bitch. I’m failing at being a mother. I don’t know how other people actually do this.’ She trailed off, looking defeated.
‘What? You can’t work, raise kids, keep house, maintain a relationship, friendships, have a job AND a juggle a university degree? What’s wrong with you?’ I laughed, shaking my head. She looked at me with that knowing look and a slight smile.
No wonder we are all so tired. Why do we expect so much of ourselves?
Recently I was chatting to lady in her mid seventies. She’s both old fashioned and an open-minded, straight shooter and I respect that. We discussed women’s roles 50 years ago and modern times and her thoughts blew me away.
‘I don’t know how you do it love. I raised 3 boys and looked after the home while my husband worked and that was hard; but you girls today, you’ve always got so much going on at once. Times have changed and so has what is expected of a lady. Though, I wonder if you all do it to yourselves sometimes.’
Damn. She was right.
We are so busy fighting the patriarchy for the advancement of women; but wonder sometimes if women are their own worst enemies when it comes to our own expectations- of both ourselves and of other women.
The thing about us independent, free-thinking, modern super women is that we want it all. Far more than just wives and homemakers and we have stuff we want to contribute to this world.
Yes, I’ve felt the pressure of motherhood often; juggling a career, raising kids and trying to making it look effortless.
Then there’s the ‘mumpetition war’, where mothers battle against each other, trying to win the Pinterest war for the picture perfect life and the motherhood crown. The images of expensive children’s birthday parties, clothes and toys that are so over the top, that I often wonder if it’s more for the benefit of child or their parents. I am also guilty of this. We can be invested in selling a story of perfectionism that can feel impossible to keep up with.
Gone are the days where your achievement was in how you kept house, and raised babies. And while I’m a feminist- I’m sorry- but some days the domestic drudgery of the 50’s and its cookie baking, floor scrubbing existence sounds like a sweet gig. Hell yes, If that’s the total of my responsibilities, Where do I sign up?
Several years ago, at a busy time in my life, I was juggling a degree, a job and various other responsibilities on my own while raising the kids. I was tired and hanging on by a thread.
My only ambition was to get the kids to school on time, myself to work, pick up the kids, dance lessons, homework, dinner, shower, kids to bed, study. The same mundane Groundhog Day routine; day in, day out. The kids were happy, I was exhausted- you know the drill. It was a soul destroying existence some days. I was depleted and had nothing else to give.
So, one day I decided I was going to be kinder to myself and stop being such a martyr.
I hired a cleaner to come fortnightly to help me with the house. I decided to take better care of me and to actually spend money on small things getting my hair done instead of taking the kids to theme parks. Instead, we went to actual parks and they loved it just as much.
I also signed up to school lunch orders online a few days a week. This felt like a win/win scenario. The kids were getting fresh sandwiches, fruit and snacks and I wouldn’t have to brush my hair at the traffic lights anymore.
Then one day, I was informed, I had it all wrong.
The women in one online mothers group descended on a mum who had dared share that she had done the same. Apparently those lunch orders made her a lazy, terrible mother and a shitty human being.
They filled the thread with pictures of their beautifully packed, colourful, bento lunch boxes, to show her how motherhood was supposed to be done. That was the day that I opted out of the ‘motherhood race’. I was done. I knew it was a race I was never going to win and I refused to exhaust myself trying to compete with other women.
Since then, it seems there’s been a revolution. I realised more and more women have felt exactly the same and jumped ship, sparking a movement.
There's Queen Mums leading the anti-perfectionism rebellion like Constance Hall and Kristy Vellely; women who also got tired of the expectation to be perfect and have accepted that they are imperfect humans with a hell of a lot of responsibility and even less time. They call for women to be more about ‘more love, less judgement’. And that includes loving ourselves as women and mums. And women have joined them in droves.
The critics ask ‘is good enough really good enough?’.
Valid question. And one that I pondered just this morning.
On the phone to my daughter’s teacher, upset after sitting for hours helping her write a speech on famous explorers; I discovered that she had already delivered the said speech to her class- in typical wing-it-like-her-mother style and unprepared- YESTERDAY.
When explaining my fatigue, my guilt and my want to be able to best support my daughter, she stopped me short.
‘She comes to school clean, fed, happy. You are doing a good job.’
And just like that, all was good in the world.
And when my daughter Emily was born, I sat struggling to breastfeed and balled my eyes out. I had not slept in days and had hit the point of sheer exhaustion. A young midwife, (who I will be eternally grateful to for this gold nugget of a life lesson) sat with me said something that I will always remember. ‘Sometimes what’s best for the child is what is best for their mother’.
I wholeheartedly agree. I believe that in looking after ourselves as women and in learning to better love ourselves; that we have more in the ‘tank’ and therefore, more energy and love to give our children and significant others.
This is a revolution I could get behind. One not where we give less to our children, but one where we value ourselves, leaving more for us to give as mothers, wives and partners and women who have something meaningful to contribute to a world that our daughters and sons will someday go out into.
Good enough IS good enough.
This information is courtesy of Egg Donation Australia.
Egg Donation FAQ's
For many people, the only way they can achieve a successful pregnancy and create their family is with the assistance of an egg donor. Below is some general information for egg donors – a guide only as practices differ from clinic to clinic.
Who requires donated eggs?
Women with premature menopause.
Women who carry a genetic disease they do not want to pass on.
Women who have no ovarian function due to medical treatment or surgery.
Women who continue to respond poorly in IVF cycles.
Women whose egg quality and quantity has declined due to age.
Who can donate?
- Varies from clinic to clinic, but in general, women 35 and under can be anonymous donors, 38 and under can be known donors.
- Clinics generally prefer donors to have finished their families.
- Women whose families are free of certain genetic problems.
- Having a tubal ligation does not stop you from donating.
- If you are breastfeeding, you will have to wait for a few cycles for your hormone levels to return to normal.
- If you are married, your partner is required to attend the counselling session and sign a consent form. He will also be required to have his blood tested.
What types of donation are there?
Regardless of which donation you choose to pursue, be aware that your decision will impact on your own family. A successful pregnancy and birth will provide your own children with genetic half-siblings, and it is wise for donors to think about how they feel about this and how they will manage this dynamic within their own family.
Known donation is where the donor is a friend or a family member, or a growing number of women who meet with and get to know recipients with a view to donating. This second group of 'known' donors are usually want any people concieved from their donation to have access to the other half of their genetic story if/when they need it.
Anonymous donation is where the woman donating does not know or have any contact with the recipient couple or any resulting children. Recipients are given non-identifying information such as build, height, eye and hair colour etc. Depending on which state you live in, actual identifying information is available upon request to any people conceived when they reach a certain age.
Depending on which state you live on, laws differ as to what kind of donation you can undertake.
Victoria: Victoria currently has laws that prevent completely anonymous donation. To advertise for a donor, recipients must have their ads approved by the Minister of Health and each ad must contain a blurb from the department. People conceived from donor egg, sperm and embryos in Victoria have the right to know the identity of their donor when they reach the age of 18. Each party to the donation has to lodge their details on a database.
NSW, ACT, TAS, QLD and NT: No legislation. Anonymous donation allowed, although some clinics will only do known donation.
SA: Non-identifying information available when donor conceived people reach the age of 16. While there is no right to access identifying information there is also nothing in the legislation which forbids access to identifying information if all parties consent.
WA: Legislation in WA means a donor conceived person's right to know their genetic background is protected and they can access the identity of their donor. Known donors have a six month waiting period while anonymous donors can donate immediately. A donor can donate up to a maximum of five families.
Do recipients get to match their looks with their donors?
There are so few donors that matching looks is usually not possible, particularly with anonymous donation. The only time this is a consideration is where the donor is non-caucasian - their eggs would be offered to a non-caucasian couple or a couple who had already indicated they were not concerned about this issue.
Will the child know who I am?
Again, check your state's legislation. In most states, unless the family chooses to tell the person of their conception (and thankfully growing numbers do), the donor conceived person will not know how they were conceived, let alone who provided half of their genetic material. By choosing to pursue a known donation, you can in some way try to ensure that the person you help concieve knows their genetic truth.
How do I find a recipient couple/person?
Please read 'Seven Steps to Sensible Donation'. Once you are ready to donate, there are a variety of ways to find recipient couples. Start right here, read through the classified ads of Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane/Adelaide/Canberra Child and sometimes even your local papers. You can also approach your local clinic and ask to be matched with one of their recipients.
The internet is an increasingly common place to find recipients, particularly for known donation. There is a list of boards and groups at the end of the FAQs.
Do I have to do anything special during donation?
You are asked to avoid cigarettes and alcohol during your donation cycle, as well as taking extra contraceptive precautions during and after the cycle.
Does it matter what contraception I am using?
While most donor cycles will commence with the birth control pill, women who are using other methods of long term contraception may have to wait a couple of months after stopping before they can donate, to ensure that hormones have returned to normal. The clinic will advise you what to do, and it is important to let your IPs know as they will have to factor in this delay into their own schedules if necessary.
Will I get paid to donate?
Egg donation in Australia and New Zealand is altruistic and it is illegal to either offer or request payment. Generally, depending on the clinic and recipients, donors are reimbursed for travelling expenses, any medical costs incurred in their name, time taken off work for appointments, egg pick-up and a day's recovery as well as child care if necessary. Donors should not be out of pocket because of their donation.
Who "owns" the embryos I help create?
A donor can withdraw consent for the use of her eggs right up until the time of fertilisation - until that time, the eggs are legally hers. Once the egg is fertilised, it is considered to be the legal property of the recipient couple. Donors have no rights whatsoever over any children conceived, or any legal obligation.
Is there any counselling available?
The emotional issues of egg donation are perhaps more important than the medical aspects. All donors and their partners usually have a mandatory counselling session, and known donors will usually have another counselling session with the recipient couple. Most clinics have a counsellor available either at the clinic or over the phone if you need to discuss something.
Some of the things to think about before making the decision to donate...
You are donating genetic material to assist a couple to CREATE A LIFE that will be carried, birthed and brought up by another couple - this child will not be yours.
You are providing your own children with genetic half siblings - how and when will you tell them?
You are providing your parents with genetic grandchildren, your brothers and sisters with genetic nephews/nieces - how and when will you tell them?
Who else will you tell? Do you have someone in your support network who can support you through this?
Even in a known donation, with the child knowing how they were conceived and how they are genetically related to them, they may not want to contact or meet you or your children - how would that make you feel?
The recipient couple decides what happens to any embryos they do not use - let succomb, leave to research or donate on to another couple - how do you feel about this, given these embryos will have genetic links to you and your children?
If you wish to have more children in the future and are unable to, how will you feel about this donation?
If you have not yet started your family, how do you feel about your future children having genetic half siblings?
How will the recipients treat/love the child/ren I help them conceive?
Will I still be happy with this decision in 20 years' time?
What happens if I don't have health insurance?
If you don't have health insurance, recipients will pay for all of the gap that is not covered by Medicare. If anonymous donor, your recipients will be made aware of this. Be aware that if you experience any complications after EPU, you will have to cover your hospital costs and associated care, unless this is something you have discussed with your recipients.
What if my husband doesn't want me to donate?
Your partner is an important part of your decision making. In order for you to donate he will have to attend a counselling session, have to sign consent forms and have a blood test. As well as this, you might require his emotional support during your donation.
How will I tell my own children?
Research into adoption and some recent research into donor conceived children, shows that telling children early on in their lives in child-friendly language and concepts at the appropriate time, actually enables children to accept the information much more naturally into their lives. Be prepared that they might "play out" this knowledge in the company of other children and adults, which may impact on who else you choose to tell.
What tests will I have to have?
You will have blood taken to test for a variety of diseases, and your hormone levels (usually day 3 of your cycle). You will have an ultrasound using a wand inserted vaginally (transvaginal inducer) to assess the health of ovaries and access to them for egg pick-up and to provide a baseline scan to refer to during your treatment.
How long does a cycle take? What sort of time would I need off work or away from my children?
You may be on the pill for a few weeks before starting the cycle and then the actual cycle takes about four weeks. Be aware that depending on how well your body responds to the drugs, the cycle may be shorter or longer by a few days.
For initial appointments with the donor co-ordinator and Doctor, you will probably need to go during work hours. Blood tests are done early in the day for same day results so could possibly done before work (clinics open quite early). Ultrasound times will depend on clinics. Counselling can often be done in the early evening or after initial appointments, via phone.
Be aware that if you respond poorly to medication and the follicles need more time to develop, you may require one or more extra blood tests and scans to see how they are developing.
What does a donor cycle entail medically?
The clinic will devise a protocol for you and the recipient which is a regime of timing, drugs and dosages to follow during the cycle. Once you are given the go ahead, the idea is to synchronise your cycle and the recipient’s cycle so that when your eggs are ready for pick-up, her body is ready to accept them. Most donors will go through a cycle of 'down regulation', where your ovaries are suppressed from producing eggs before being over stimulated. Your cycle will start with the pill, then generally a period of "down-regulation" (approx two weeks) where your body is prevented from ovulating, followed by a period of "stimulation" (approx 10/12 days) where your ovaries are over-stimulated to produce more than their usual one egg. A day of rest follows the trigger injection to release the eggs after the stimulation stage, and then EPU is 36 hours or thereabouts after this injection.
For the down regulation part of the cycle, most donors have to sniff a nasal spray (Synarel) twice a day. This drug tells your brain to shut down activity in your ovary and prevents your body from ovulating. After about a week on Synarel, a blood test is taken to ensure that your body is not ovulating. Then you begin the stimulation phase, using a drug called Purgeon or Gonal F, where your ovaries are over stimulated to produce more than one egg. This drug is injected into your tummy and you are taught how to do this at the clinic...once you know how to do it, it becomes very easy to do and hardly even stings.
After 8-10 days of stimulation, an ultrasound of your ovaries tells how may follices are developing and their sizes. Depending on this information, a date for egg pick up is decided. If the follices are too small and need more stimulation, another ultrasound date will be set and EPU moved backward. Sometimes the follicles are ready to go, and EPU is moved forward. Some cycles may also be cancelled at this stage if there is not sufficient follicle development, or in some cases, over-stimulation which can lead to OHSS.
After a final date is made for EPU, you will give yourself a 'trigger' injection at a particular time, for eg, exactly 36 hours before EPU. This trigger injection of hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin)is a drug that mimics preparation of the uterus lining for embryo implantation, thus tells the brain to release any eggs formed. It is given either in the tummy (subctaneously) or in the thigh (intramuscularly)...it stings a little more than the FSH injections and can remain a little tender at the injection site.
Day surgery admission for egg pick up, with fasting both food and drink after 12am the night before. You will talk to the anethetist and the nurse before the procedure. You will be given a light anesthetic and be out for about an hour while the doctor picks up your eggs. This is done using a needle and needle guide through a vaginal transducer. The fluid in the follicles is drained, and the eggs are then taken for fertilisation.
When you wake up from surgery, you may feel quite groggy. You will need someone to take you home and expect to rest for the rest of the day and the next day after pick up. You may have some spotting and your ovaries may be quite tender. Clinics advise Panadol forte for pain relief, heat pack for your abdomen. Very important is to drink an extra two litres of water to help your body heal and to help with constipation after the GA. Metamucil or the like is also recommended.
What are the side effects of the IVF drugs?
The job of the suppressant drugs, such as synarel, is to force your body into a temporary menopausal state where you will not ovulate. As such you may experience some menopausal symptoms such as spotting, hot flushes, headaches, breast tenderness, discomfort in lower back and abdomen due to increased ovarian activity. A full list of symptoms and what to be aware of is available from the clinic.
Stimulation drugs, such as Puregon and Gonal F, ask your ovaries to produce many more eggs than their usual one. The worst side effect of these drugs is Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) where the ovaries are so over stimulated that fluid leaks from the ovaries... in very rare cases some patients require hospitalisation. However, most women get some minor signs of OHSS during their treatment - swelling, tenderness - which is all treatable at home. Clinics are very careful to monitor anyone who may be prone to over stimulation, usually women who produce 15-20 eggs plus. Although rare, OHSS is a very real risk and must be taken seriously - please make sure you consult your clinic for a list of symptoms to watch out for.
General Anesthetic - although a light anesthetic is used, the usual side effects of a general anesthetic apply and some people may experience drowsiness, nausea etc.
How many eggs will I produce?
There are so many factors that impact on the number of eggs produced and as yet no one clear method to foretell how many eggs will be picked up... age, health, BMI, smoker or non-smoker are some of the things that might make a difference. Most donors are given the minimum dosage of drugs necessary and then it is up to how their bodies respond to these drugs. A woman doing an IVF cycle may produce anywhere from 0 to 30 plus eggs, with the average being between 5-15. It is the quality of the eggs that is important as well, the ability of an egg to become fertilised and divide into two cells, and then four so on. Any left over eggs will be frozen for future attempts of FET or Frozen Embryo Transfers.
What is the chance of a pregnancy?
Pregnancy rates are anything from 15-60% depending on clinic, age of recipient, existence of other fertility problems eg. male factor etc. The clinic can provide you with a list of their pregnancy rates. Research has shown that donor egg embryos have the same success rates as "normal" embryos.
What happens after the egg collection? What will I be told about any pregnancies?
Depending on what relationship you have with your recipients, your journey may end here. You can contact the clinic to find out how many eggs were successful, and by law the clinic must tell you if there is a successful birth, the sex of the child and if there are any disabilities. However, clinics in general do not appear to be very apt at taking care of their donors, so you may have to remain in contact with them. Down the track, if you or family members contract any hereditary diseases, it would be prudent to contact the clininc so they can alert the family. Likewise keep them informed of any address changes in case the family or children conceived would like to contact you when the time comes if you have agreed to this.
For known donors, your recipient will probably keep you informed of the outcomes up to pregnancy and hopefully beyond.
For more information, contact Egg Donation Australia on its website or on Facebook.
In the past few days, I have received so many messages from so many amazing young women whose heart strings have been pulled by hearing stories of others who can’t become Mums without a little help. Many have asked, How do I become an egg donor?
So I wanted to put this post out there for those considering it.
Firstly, in Australia, there are 2 ways to donate eggs; by known donation or Identity release. Identity release means that it is initially anonymous but that your information is given to the child at age 18. You cannot be totally anonymous in Australia.
Personally for me, I chose known donation for several reasons. As I began talking to these ladies, a friendship developed. I was able to choose who I wrote to after reading about them to choose someone I felt that I would get along with.
I wanted the excitement of watching these women become mums. It was the best thing about the process for me. We developed a friendship and watching them pregnant and become mums was one of the most satisfying things I have ever experienced.
One of the biggest misconceptions by intended parents is that donors feel some ‘ownership’ of the children or similar and we would want to raise their children. I laugh and tell them I am busy. I have a family, a job, a university degree to complete and a life of my own and don’t have time to raise their kids but they are welcome to raise mine if they would like to. lol*
In reality, it’s a gift. My affection is for the people I donate to and seeing their children is like seeing a friend’s child. They are just another child that I don’t share any huge bond with, but they’re a bit cute and I really like their Mums, they are incredibly inspiring women. And that’s that.
For the FAQ’s that answer some common questions, please click here.
For me, it was as simple as no longer needing my eggs and knowing there were women out there whose lives would be changed by the gift of egg donation.
People often ask if I still keep in touch with those I have donated to. I do. Although some are in different states, we keep in touch on Facebook, during visits, we have meet ups. I was their donor but now they are my friends, and for some, like extended family.
My children have special aunts and cousins. They know who they are and we have a really good relationship. I feel that known donation and everyone knowing the truth was best for my children as well as for the children born via the donations.
For anyone considering giving this beautiful gift, I could not recommend it enough. I have never felt richer than when I have given. It’s a gift that gives back every single day.
A few weeks ago I gave birth to a baby boy. This is me holding him.
He was perfect- a screaming newborn mess, lifted off my stomach and put gently into his Mother’s loving arms.
Those arms were not mine. She’s next to me in this picture.
I’m a surrogate, and he was the second baby I placed in another mother's arms.
Being a woman is so much more than having children. But for many women, being a mother is the most important and satisfying role that they will ever get to play.
Mothers are often expected to do it all and make it look easy. But it's not easy.
I've learned it’s not always simple to become a mother. 1 in 5 couples have some issues with their fertility.
I fell pregnant with my children easily. It never occurred to me that it might not be so easy for everyone. While working as a nurse, one day I came across a woman in tears. She was devastated after yet another round of failed IVF. All I wanted to do was fix it for her.
I first donated my eggs to a woman who had been trying to conceive for 13 years.
18 children have now been born using my donated eggs.
Last week I sat through a university lecture on feminism. Perfect timing. A bra burning crash course on the incredible things we women can achieve when we come together.
While supporting women through infertility, I am constantly amazed at the strength, resilience and determination of these women. Most of all, their endless capacity to love and care for their sisterhood.
I now understand how similar we all are.
Just everyday women, who love other women. I see the fear, the sadness and yet the hope and excitement etched on their faces as we make plans- often after a long journey of multiple miscarriages and repeated IVF attempts. Their dreams of cuddling their child seemingly closer. Knowledge that joining a mother's group or doing the school run could soon be a part of their story.
They are fierce and bold and determined to keep trying, even when they are scared and feel let down- over and over. For many, their perseverance paid off. Now they're Mums who get a rainbow macaroni necklace on Mother’s Day just like I do. But it wasn't easy.
In all these women, donors, recipients, those who never conceived... I found the meaning of strength. Resilience. And love.
Maybe you can't change the world. But you can give the world to someone, and change their life.
‘EGG DONOR WANTED: We are a loving couple looking for a kind and compassionate young woman to help us have a family. After many attempts at IVF without success, our fertility specialist has advised us to look for an egg donor in the hopes that we might experience parenthood together.’
It’s been almost seven years since I first read that tiny classified advertisement in the local weekend newspaper.
On duty as a young nurse in a regional hospital, I sat in the staff room holding a hot styrofoam cup of instant coffee. Alone with my thoughts amidst the chatter of television infomercials and the beep of the microwave, I was enjoying the short time I had to unwind before I was due back on the ward; attending to the long list of patients who were mine to care for the day.
Flipping through the crinkly edged pages, a small picture of a stork and baby caught my attention. Initially, I mistook the small notice for another birth announcement until I read the words printed in bold, elegant font- ‘Egg Donor Wanted’.
“I wonder what this is all about?” I thought, fascinated. I’d never before heard of anyone needing an egg donor. I lifted the paper closer, scanning each word. Infertility was a relatively new concept to me- it was just a buzz topic that littered the pages of women’s magazines- it didn’t affect me and was something I didn’t understand on any personal level.
Little did I know at that time, that this seemingly innocuous moment in the staff room reading over a tiny advertisement would change my life from that day forward, in ways I never imagined possible.
I always took my fertility for granted. With minimal effort I fell pregnant with my first child and I when I found out I was expecting my first child; initially I wasn’t convinced that I really wanted this ‘gift of motherhood’ to be bestowed on me, despite all that I’d read about the joys it had brought to so many.
As I sat huddled in a small stall of the ladies toilets in my local shopping centre, clutching a used home pregnancy test, I felt like my world was crashing down around me. At the naïve age of twenty, devastated, I sat on the lid of the toilet, crying, inconsolable and silently praying that those double lines were simply a figment of my imagination. The walls echoed my sobs and I reeled from the shock of the news. Deep down I’d known that something wasn’t right – I’d been particularly sensitive to smells and my taste for food had completely changed - the positive pregnancy test had confirmed my suspicions. I was pregnant.
It just wasn’t the best time to become a mother. My life was a mess and I felt I had no place being a mother to anyone- it was enough of a job to take care of myself. My job was high maintenance and the relationship with my boyfriend was even more so - strained and volatile.
I was the reckless one- following my wild heart in often misguided directions. It had taken me on many crazy adventures that I’d thoroughly enjoyed- I was a young woman who had the world at her feet and I was determined to relish what was on offer.
But that moment in the bathroom forced me to make a decision that I didn’t really feel ready to make. I either had to grow up and be a mother to my unborn child or run away. I thought about what running would entail. I could terminate the pregnancy, and no one would be any the wiser- women did it all the time. I knew the available options, these were the standard answers written in teenage magazine advice columns to young women who were in the same predicament. They had always seemed to promise a quick fix solution that would return life to normal, like it was as simple as that. I knew it wasn’t.
I realised, this option simply wasn’t for me. I made a decision. I chose to be a mother. It wasn’t a decision without consequences; upon informing my boyfriend- he lashed out. The next day when I returned from work, the house was emptied of almost all my personal possessions. I was left with nothing.
As I sat on the hallway floor in my empty house; I cried. Alone, I had nothing left except my baby. I was abruptly pointed to a new beginning where I had to start all over again. I had no choice but to, sift through the rubble of my life, with the plan to rebuild, stronger, better. But like many difficult things that happen in life, I now know that this difficult period had a bigger purpose.
My world turned upside down when Emily was born. Her tiny frame nestled in my arms filled me with a type of warmth I never knew was possible. Her needs filled my days and nights; suddenly there was more to life than my own self-absorbed existence. My daughter was everything to me and I now thought of the future with a different lens. Life changed for the better because of the new perspective I held. It seemed that as she grew, I grew. I found motherhood an unexpected fulfilment; looking down into her chubby face and pretty blue eyes overwhelmed me with a strong desire to protect my child and love her as much as I could.
A few years later, Emily’s sister Caitlin arrived; a beautiful blonde bundle of joy who added to my incredible sense of love. Both girls have given me immense joy as they’ve grown. Now, my life is so different to my frivolous youth; I have a family and we fill our weekends with horse riding lessons and spontaneous weekend drives to the beach, happily joining the ranks of families living simply in middle class suburbia. Life is peaceful and easy. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve achieved some great things and played some important roles in my life but the one I’m most proud of is ‘mother’. It has brought a sense of joy and showed me unconditional love- the type that can only be experienced between a mother and her child.
So it’s easy for me to imagine why someone would want to experience motherhood. Equally, the joy I have experienced means that I have empathy for the women who can’t have children without a struggle. In fact, I still remember the first time I met each of the women whose ads I answered.
They sat in front of me with fear, anticipation and excitement etched on their faces; often after a long journey of multiple miscarriages and repeated IVF attempts. There was untold sadness; they were only too familiar with failure and disappointment. Yet as our conversations unfolded over days and weeks, and we came to a point where we made plans for an egg donation that would bring them their much wanted child, their eyes lit up, and the fire of a dream they hadn’t dared to fully dream ignited. They realised that what they’d parked as an impossible reality could actually exist. Their dreams of cuddling their child could now be real, of joining a new mums group or doing the school run could somehow be a part of their future story thanks to egg donation. They could finally be the ones that are given the finger painted card and rainbow- macaroni necklace on Mother’s Day.
In these women I found the meaning of strength. They are each unique, fierce and determined to keep trying even when they were afraid and let down, over and over. They wanted to be a mother so badly; they fought to do whatever it took to get there and I often think they are better mothers because of their struggles.
I feel an incredible sense of pride when I see their family photos fill my Facebook newsfeed or I see them play happily with their children at our yearly catch-ups. On traditional days of the year, I’m often overwhelmed with messages with many photos and messages that say; ‘Thank you for the most precious gift which was my son. I would have never been lucky enough to have this day without your help. We love you’ and ‘Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have my first Mother’s Day. I wouldn’t be here without you.’
To me, these messages are priceless, a reminder of why I love what I do so much.
In essence, what I did was choose to give the gift of hope. My eggs contained the possibility of a family for someone. To this day, the decision to become an egg donor has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I have formed incredible relationships with many people who are now like family to me. When I met them they were people wanting to be parents and now they are parents who are now living that dream because of something I’ve been a part of.
Years have passed and through my donations I have helped create 17 beautiful children. Since better understanding the world of fertility and the challenges faced by so many, I’ve found a new appreciation for being a mother that that has come from understanding that motherhood doesn’t come as easy to everyone, and it can’t be taken for granted. I learned to embrace it and found more patience and resilience in even the more difficult moments of being a parent. With this realisation, it has made me a better mother.
St. Francis of Assisi once said ‘For it’s in giving that we receive’. I have found this to be true. In giving, this part of my life has made me richer in ways I could never have expected.
I gave a gift; but I feel a much bigger gift has been given to me in return; a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude for all that I have. Intertwined in my journey are those of many others with their own incredible lives and miracle stories.
For those tired by the journey of IVF and seeking some encouragement and motivation. This is for you..
A wise man once said "What we do, Miss Ventura, does not define who we are. What defines us is how well we rise after falling". Well, it was the concierge from the movie, Maid in Manhattan- but the poignancy of his words remain.
I wanted to write this to share some thoughts on what many here are going through in the process of becoming parents or finishing their families. Most arrive here not at the beginning of their journeys but having already navigated obstacles on their travels; some are tired and lost- but the thing that unites all of us is hope. Hope that the perseverance will pay off and what we have worked for will become our reality.
I have heard many people hit the crossroads on the fertility road wondering after repeated failures when to call it quits and call it a day.. when is enough, enough?
Over the many years of reading threads and meeting people who have started their journey to be a parent, I have noticed one thing sets aside those that make it and those who don’t.... persistence. Those that after grieving a loss or setback pick themselves up, dust themselves off, re-evaluate their plans, remind themselves of their dreams and continue on… and after they get there I have heard many say when looking at their child that they would do it all over again to be where they are.....the parents of a beautiful child.
I was hoping the following might be food for thought for anyone feeling a little lost or a little uninspired.
1. Stop, Reflect, Recuperate
Sometimes when the world seems a little overwhelming and the weight of your journey seems too much to bear- the best thing is to take a break and look after yourself. Whether it be a few hours hidden away in a good movie or book- or a weekend away doing something you love and letting the past rest for a period of time, while you do some living.
You may have heard the saying “A healthy body is a healthy mind”- Take care of yourself, Get sufficient sleep and eat well- Taking care of yourself physically will help with the emotional and mental health toll that the trying to conceive journey will take on you and then leave you better equipped to deal with each day as it comes. Sometimes a simple perspective change helped by taking yourself out of the muddiness of the journey, can give you a renewed lease on life... ready for the next step.
2. Revaluate your strategy- Keep the end point in mind
Revaluate your plan- when you are ready to try again, take a fresh look at your strategy and revaluate your plan, assessing what worked, what didn’t and what you want to do differently.
Create a plan and break each step down into smaller more manageable pieces. When you identify a roadblock, develop a realistic plan to overcome it.
“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ~ Chinese Proverb
Focus on what you can accomplish rather than obstacles. Direct your energy toward achieving a goal and tackle the problems with an emphasis on edging closer to a successful result. Remember...always focus on what you want...not on what you don’t want.
Keep your priorities in check. As much as keeping your eyes on the prize is sometimes much easier said than done- the end point is your focus and the pinnacle of your journey. Visualise where you are going and keep it in mind as you take each step forward.
3. Learn from your Mistakes
In the world of IVF where there is no “one size fits all” solution to success, learning from your mistakes and using them as a valued learning experience turns an apparent failure to a positive step forward in the right direction. Sometimes its hard when to know when to hold your ground and when to change tactics- I have seen a few on their trying to conceive journey doing cycle after cycle of exactly the same thing with the same FS while going nowhere fast. They say “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time”. It is important to evaluate what is working and what isn't. As reiterated in point 2- Evaluating your plan and taking a fresh look may help you move in the right direction.
Some will remember the archetypal story about facing failure with persistence is Thomas Edison’s experience of over 700 failures to create an incandescent light bulb. He persisted by living with the apparent failures and reframing them as learning 700 things that did not work. His persistence paid off when he was successful, but his attitude and outlook on the situation made him amazing- when many before him might have just stopped and walked away faced with a challenge that seemed impossible.
4. Education and Knowledge is Power-Be your own advocate
I think it is so incredibly important to know your own treatment plan, your goals and be your own advocate on your journey. Know what is going on, know your plan, what you are trying and why. If you don’t understand why something is being done or have doubts- ask.
Read, research, talk about it and ask questions when it comes to your options. Make sure that you are giving yourself the best chance of success.
5. Get the best support team
Support- this is one of most important factors to a successful outcome. It includes your Fertility Specialist, Nurse Coordinator, Friends and Family you can rely on and even other sources of support such as forums like these.
With Fertility Specialists, I have heard women who have little faith in their FS, but are afraid to move to someone else in case they hurt feelings or other similar reasons. I think in a journey such as this it is important to have trust and confidence in the team who are treating you. Your own decision to be backed by the people who you believe will deliver you the best possible outcome is paramount. This is your life and your future family and your responsibility to make the best choices for what you believe will get you to your desired destination.
With family and friends- choose those around you who understand and support you in what you want. Distance yourself where possible from those who make you feel discouraged and second guess yourself. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging and supportive people.. their strength will help keep you strong.
Utilise as many assets as you can- This forum, clinic counsellors, alternative health support services such as massage therapists, acupuncturists, naturopaths- anything that you feel with best help you achieve your desired outcome.
6. Keep Motivated
Keep your end point in mind! Always remember what you want to achieve and what you want the outcome to be when you are starting your journey and each step along the way. When times are tough, remaining motivated is so much easier said than done. Inspiration can fuel motivation- and can be found in the most unexpected places.
It has been said “Inspiration is the purest and most powerful source of human motivation. It is the fuel for persisting and the power to face down the fear of failure.”
Inspiration can come in a myriad of ways- reading stories of others success, books and movies that get you to look at things outside the square. I know a couple of Intended Mums who are now either pregnant or have their dreamed of bubs that kept memento’s at home to remind them why they were still trying. One kept a picture of a baby on her wall and the other kept a pair of baby booties in her room.. while some would see this as a reminder of past failures, they saw it as something to aspire to and hope for the future. It’s all about the perspective that we choose.
The Power of Persistence
Sometimes with trials along the way,bfn's and searching for a donor when it seems an impossible ask, the dream can seem so far away. It seems so many ponder where to draw the line- when to throw in the towel and when to keep trying. I remember a discussion once where a member here sat in her FS's office venting and asking him 'when is enough, enough'? He replied to her " The simple answer is that you either can be go on and be content being without this baby or you can't. if you really want this- all you can do is try.".. which I think was a wise answer. It makes the decision much more simple.
“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
I hope this post encourages a few to change the way they view the journey, inspires others to keep trying and gives others strength to make the most of now and keep their eyes fixed on the beautiful times ahead. Challenges aren't just fixed around trying to conceive but in every aspect of life. We cant always change what happens in life or the outcomes, but we can change how we deal with it.
I admit it. I realised pretty early on that I wasn't like all the other school mums.
In fairness, I'm not entirely sure I gave the whole school mum gig much of a chance. I decided early on from the outer ring of parents that were also hoping to fade into the chalk scrawled walls of the prep class pick up zone that I would keep my distance. There was far too much bitching for my liking and besides, I had better things to do.
It seemed to be the highlight of their day, many arriving 30 minutes before the bell to order to fit in their social life. Not me, if I couldn't wait in the car, I would try as best as possible to blend in, hoping no one would notice. From the wall, I watched with fascination at the food chain of mothers. There were a few I instantly identified as the weakest link as they tried to be noticed. They would get eaten alive.
There was Alison. You could spot her a mile away, dressed in lycra and driving an expensive, black SUV. Her husband had a high paying job that enabled her not to work and besides getting the kids off to school with their perfectly packed bento boxes and wrapped baked goods followed by appointments at the gym, the hair and nail salons and then coffee and a long lunch with other glamourous mums of the same species. Not that I blamed her. I was probably a bit jealous- it all sounded like a great gig to me. Except the gym part. Exercise and I had a rocky friendship.
Then there was Kerry. She had a night shift job and her appearance at the morning drop off was a mystery to me. When I haven't slept, I'm the walking dead. Kerry however looked great and was sharp as a tack. If she fit in 4 hours sleep between drop off and pick up she seemed just fine with that. She had her finger on the pulse of school politics and every detail about the almost brawl that had gone ne in the PTA meeting a few evenings before.
Then there was Michelle. She was the rep for every product under the sun and the only time we spoke was to be invited to a Tupperware/Avon/Educational supplies/Cleaning products/Candles party. To be honest, those things are not really my scene and I was too busy. Although, in fairness, they are really another thing that I haven't given much of a chance. Although, if Michelle started peddling some lingerie or something else a bit more risqué- I may have found my schedule a little more freed up...
Either way, it was easier to avoid the Alison's, Kerry's and Michelle's and keep the drop offs simple by slowing down to ten and allowing the kids to commando roll from the moving vehicle. I just always made sure I was conveniently running late. Worked beautifully, and things stayed that way until this year.
My youngest daughter recently moved schools to join her sister at a private school, my inbox was suddenly flooded with emails about school spirit and parents volunteering. The girls catching the bus meant that I again got to avoid running the social gauntlet and left my superficial, pre existing ideas in tact.
Then, as the school year began, I got a text message from another mother inviting us over for a playdate. My daughter, beaming up at me with her blue eyes expectedly, looked thrilled at the very opportunity. Of course we were going.
So one afternoon, I collected the kids and ventured toward the address she had sent. It seemed like a nice family friendly area. I wondered what she would be like. Somehow, as the school was a religious, private school, I assumed they would be different. Straighter and far more well behaved than I was. That was ok though- I was dressed neatly. Perhaps they would not be able to tell that I didn't fit in and that I was a wine drinking, sometimes swearing mum who took life not-so-seriously enough?
As I knocked at the door, she appeared quickly with a bright smile and introducing herself. She seemed normal.
This is great, She's lovely, great start Mel. I told myself. Keep acting normal.
As we walked to the back of the house, I spotted something unexpected. The walls were adorned with wine memorabilia. Hmmm. "I love your wine decorations" I cheerfully commented, trying to sound casual. 'Shit, so smooth Mel.' I thought,
With a smirk, she responded. 'Yeah, I had about 5 times as many and thought I had better tone them down. Someone might think I'm an alcoholic'.
I couldn't help but laugh. Perfect ice breaker. I already loved this woman.
Instead of offering tea, on the counter she made 4 glasses of sangria, the huge jug still overflowing, The other women took a drink and settled down to chat without hesitation. Gees, this was not what I had pictured at all.
'I love sangria'.. I remarked trying to make conversation.
'Oh yeah, well my sister stayed here and left 6 litres of leftover red wine here. The idea of throwing out wine makes me feel so..... wrong- so- I got onto google to figure out what on earth to do with it all. And now you know...' she finished with a laugh.
And things only got better. Banter continued for an hour on their disinterest in school politics, the antics of their children, their husbands and their own careers- all with some beautifully colourful language littered through out... They were intelligent and there was no bullshit with these women. I instantly wondered where they had been all my life.
Shit, If I had known that there was sangria, and women like this, I would have made more effort.
Meet Miranda. This woman is one of the most inspiring women you'll ever meet. Miranda is a wife and mum of 2 year old Harry, born via egg donation and surrogacy, a writer and lover of life. At age 32; Miranda underwent a heart transplant. This is her open letter to the donor who gave her a second chance at life.
Seven months ago you died. I still don’t know who you were…I don’t know your name. I will never see you smile, hear your laugh or be able to share a drink and chat with you. I don’t know how long you spent roaming this planet, or if you travelled far and wide. I will never know if you had children or if you were male or female.
But I do know how your heart beats. It is my heart song, I feel it beat in my chest while I am still. At first this worried me, I was not used to such a passionate beat, but I was assured that it is because your heart, our heart, is healthy and strong. A fit and healthy heart lives inside me, I haven’t been able to say that for most of my adult life. There are approximately 1400 people waiting on transplant lists at any one time around Australia.
You have given me back to my family, to my friends. I am an active member now, instead of a wallflower, too sick and exhausted from simply breathing to enjoy life to its fullest. I regularly exercise now, down by the beach, I walk 6km from one end of the esplanade to the other. I am addicted to the rush of energy I feel after exercising. After a decade of sickness I had forgotten life’s simple joys. I painted a fence last week, a whole fence. Only a year ago that would have been an impossible task. That’s what you have done for me, given me the freedom to accomplish my dreams. Whether they be to train for a marathon or complete DIY projects.
You gave me a second chance at life….at living.
'Girls like us were never much good at colouring between the lines' quipped my younger sister Lindy. 'We don't do well in the black and white lines, we want to move and change things and colour wherever we want to. My second grade teacher hated that..' she continued with a laugh. 'Lawyers are so... well behaved' she finished, with a chuckle; that was an added hint of an apology in case she had crushed my dreams. She hadn't.
That was her response as I mused over the prospect of ditching my university law degree. I hated the idea of not finishing what I had started, but a year in the courts with lawyers fighting for justice- whatever that was- had killed any desire I had left to continue my studies. The female lawyers I knew seemed quite miserable, warning me off when I questioned them about their choice of career. (though they looked rather smashing in their pin stripe suits). My textbooks sat in a dusty pile on the shelf and I looked at them with disdain and feigned interest. And so there I was at a cross roads. I knew she was right.
Things had always been a bit that way. My sister and I were raised in a strict Christian home, with church like clockwork each and every Sunday. My Dad was a bit of an old-fashioned misogynist and my mother winced with some discomfort at the word 'feminist' and yet- here we were, my sister and I- stubborn as hell and not exactly shrinking wall flowers- adamant that we were going to change the world.
We were and still are still all about empowering women to go get what they want and for changing the status quo.
Our family dinners are often quite 'colourful' and we now have a 'no politics or religious discussion' rule at the dinner table and there's wine. Less of a blood sport that way and at least we still like each other when its time for cheesecake.
I've always been about dancing to the beat of your own drum, living life on purpose and taking risks. Don't get me wrong, I've made some monumental screw ups in my time, but I own them and they are a part of my story. It took me some time to figure out where I fit in the world and to grow comfortable with my own 'fuck it' style of rebellion. It wasn't always convenient, especially when I realised that what I had been taught and what I believed had a few fundamental differences.
I've made choices that haven't been easy, haven't always been popular- but they have been right for me.
I'm proud of those achievements. I've helped 13 women become mothers through egg donation and surrogacy and seeing their posts of their children covered in food and destroying their once white couches fills me with a sense of wicked glee. And pride.
My life is richer for knowing these women who haven't taken no for an answer and have been strong enough to stand back up to fight when life didn't turn out like they planned.
I've also campaigned for change for family violence legislation and stood in Parliament house as the laws were changed. I'm a huge advocate for women's causes and women supporting women. That will never change so if you are a follower of my blog- expect plenty more of this. I'm the first to admit that I'm a stubborn bitch. I have little intolerance for injustice. But I love hard and those around me know it. I've realised that if you're not pissing someone off, you're probably doing it all wrong.
But ultimately, I want to live a life I'm proud of. I want my girls to grow up in a world where they are valued and loved. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it.
They say that showing up is 80 percent of life. and here I am.
Looking forward to getting to know others on this journey.