How I came to donate my eggs

My name is Claire Burns. When I was twenty-two years old I was a student at the University of Toronto, majoring in history and political science. One evening, when I took a break from studying, I headed for the cafeteria to buy a coffee and a bag of Doritos. On a large bulletin board right outside the cafeteria, amidst the ads for tutors and discounted textbooks, was a sheet of paper with a cartoon of a baby and a stork, and tear-off strips at the bottom. The sign read:

EGG DONOR WANTED-20-30yrs old-Caucasian-University Educated-Bilingual.

“Egg donor.” I thought to myself, “I think I can do that. I’m fairly level headed, not prone to paralyzing neuroses over past decisions. Besides, helping people make a family isn’t such a bad thing to do”.  So I finished my Doritos and tore off a tab – eventually deciding to go ahead with the donation.

The donation process was just part of the adventure which is my life. I had lots of things going on at the time. I had just started working at a bar. I had to explain to my colleagues that I wasn’t a square, I just couldn’t drink for six weeks. But then I’d cave in, and do all the shots that they put in front of me. The day of the egg donation procedure I had a party, then flew across the country to see my boyfriend. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to fly, but somehow that information didn’t get through to me. I wonder if a lot of information didn’t get through to me or if it just wasn’t given. It all seems a little foggy. Looking back, I also wonder why I wasn’t given a copy of the legal agreement between the parents, child and me.

After my donation I finished university and went to theatre school. I now live in Toronto, making art. For years I really didn’t think about my donation very much until I started to think about having my own kids. It seemed that every time I opened the newspaper there would be an article about infertility. I started thinking, “what if it turns out that I can’t have a child”? I actually tried to have a baby for a year and couldn’t conceive. I can’t help but wonder if this has something to do with my donation. In the meantime, I have to live with knowing that there’s a child out there with my genetics.

I decided to write a play about my egg donation experience. After two years of writing, in November 2012 I produced my play Hatched. Throughout the development and production of the play I also wrote a blog: www.hatchedtheplay.wordpress.

I never really realized how much being an egg donor would have a long-standing impact on my own identity. I thought it would just be something that I did in my early twenties, that I’d look back on with a wink and a smile – or something. Now I find myself analyzing the fertility industry from an egg donor’s perspective, and I have some questions, like why is there currently no medical follow-up on egg donors? Doesn’t the industry want to know the long-term effects of the drugs that go into our systems? Shouldn’t the doctors, as medical professionals, care more about their patients – not just the ones who are paying them? Why is it that when I went to the fertility specialist and asked about support groups for egg donors they scoffed at me? “Why should egg donors need support groups, you guys aren’t the ones who can’t get pregnant”. Oh yeah, what about the countless women who have experienced Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) – some nearly fatal – or those who now can’t have their own children?

If the fertility industry is simply an industry, an entity that is there to ensure a product is delivered, without much care about the people that are delivering that product, I think we should all be a little afraid. Because that industry is growing, and ethically there is no way that we are keeping up.

Share your thoughts on Claire’s story in the comments section below, or submit your own fertility story here.

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