‘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.