A remarkable gift of life: Egg donors and recipients

A recent article published in The Guardian provides a glimpse into the experience of egg donation from the perspectives of an egg donor, two women who underwent fertility treatments with donated eggs, and a fertility specialist. Consistent with recent studies of both known and anonymous egg donations, the women discussed in this article were all very positive about their experiences. The experiences of egg donor Shelley Lawson, aged 36, and egg recipient Sarah, aged 45, are described below.

When asked about her motivation for donating her eggs, Lawson – who was already a mother of two prior to the donation – says,It was no more profound than ‘I can help…I knew I was young enough to be able to donate eggs – I was 33 and you had to be under 35. Because we didn’t have any problem conceiving, I thought it would be likely to be successful.” Prior to donating her eggs, Lawson engaged in counselling with her husband. After deciding to go ahead with the donation, Lawson underwent a process very similar to the first half of an IVF cycle. She was required to inject herself with medications every day for a period of three weeks. She was informed of the possible side effects of these medications (e.g., nausea, headaches, mood swings, hyper-ovarian stimulation). She then underwent a minor surgical procedure during which 11 of her eggs were retrieved from her ovaries. These eggs were then donated to other women who were unable to conceive using their own eggs.

Lawson is aware that one of her eggs helped another woman have a child, and says she thinks of the child every few months. She wrote a letter to the child conceived using her eggs, and another to her own children, explaining why she decided to become an egg donor. She feels that being an egg donor and therefore, “a part of someone else’s life…is a privilege.” When asked if she felt as though she had a child somewhere out in the world, Lawson said: “I wouldn’t use those words. If we were ever to meet them, I think we would feel they are part of the family, but I don’t feel maternal towards them. That would probably be the biggest thing for anyone contemplating this to reconcile themselves with.” 

In terms of Sarah’s story, after having a miscarriage at the age of 38, and following several subsequent failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts, her fertility specialist suggested she and her partner consider using eggs from a donor. She talked to other women online who had become pregnant and are now mothers to children who were conceived using donor eggs. While it was helpful hearing from these women, Sarah still worried about what it would be like to have and raise a child who she would give birth to, but have no genetic ties. Thinking about what the donor – a perfect stranger – was willing to go through so that she could have the chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother was a turning point for Sarah. “[The donor] is someone who doesn’t know me, might never know me, and yet she is prepared to go through all this to help a complete stranger. If I wanted a child to inherit a characteristic, would it be my hair colour, or would it be being that selfless and wonderful a person?” This realization, and Sarah’s desire to be a mother won out over her need to be genetically related to her child. The anonymous donors eggs were fertilized with Sarah’s partner’s sperm to create embryos. After a few unsuccessful transfers, one embryo successfully implanted in Sarah’s uterus, and nine months later Sarah gave birth to a healthy baby girl who she and her husband named Emma.

In reflecting on the woman who so generously donated her eggs, Sarah says, “I think of my donor every day…Our donor didn’t just bring joy into our lives, but into the lives of everyone who means the most to us.” Sarah and her husband plan to eventually tell Emma that she was conceived through the gift of an egg donor. In the meantime, Sarah loves being a mom and has absolutely no regrets about her decision to create her family through egg donation.

Read more about Shelley and Sarah’s experiences here:

‘I think of my egg donor everyday’ [The Guardian]

Read more about egg donation here and here.

Read research conducted on egg donor’s motivations and the egg donation experience here and here. You may also want to check out the following research article:

“They were my eggs; they were her babies”: Known oocyte donors conceptualizations of their reproductive material by Eric Blyth, Samantha Yee, and Ka Tat Tsang (2011), published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

Tags:, ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *