The #selfie experiment… What it was, how it changed, what it meant

What started out after one of those office conversations that must have started about something Serious and Journalistic and then turned out into a rant about why-do-people-who-just-post-selfies-get-so-many-extra-Instagram-followers, my “#selfie” experiment was intended as purely by-the-numbers game.

My intention was to post a selfie a day to my Instagram account for thirty days, and count the mundane things like likes and new followers.

And then I realised something pretty fundamental for the #selfie movement: I really, really, really do not like the way that I look.

This is not a fishing for compliments post. There are people that think I’m pretty/attractive/sexy/whatever. Most of the time, I just don’t happen to be one of them. (I’m also well aware that there are people who find me equally unattractive etc etc).

But that is still not the point of this post. It’s about how much I dislike feeling vulnerable. Or judged. (Which, if I ever get the courage to post The Post, will be explained shortly). And so, for me, the biggest discovery about my #selfie experiment was not my physical insecurities, but rather my emotional ones.

Three things, though, to kick you off: I didn’t get a single negative comment on my Instagram feed. Not a one.

Most of my selfies were taken at home – any of the ones I took in public were snapped very surreptiously. As in, look, I’m pretending to take a photo of the scenery etc. Because I was that embarrassed. And that convinced I was likely to be judged by a passer-by. Heck, even my friends.

And as soon as I realised how insecure I felt about posting, I started posting the “anti-selfie”. The idea? Selfies of me as natural and as vulnerable as possible.

When we think of the selfie, we generally think of young women, layered in make-up, cleavage out, in a totally-nonchalant-but-absolutely-sexy pose. Even the not-teeny-bopper selfies are still carefully constructed to show the person in the best light as possible – artfully done make-up, gorgeous hair, hipster-esque shots, oh-look-at-me-being-all-nonchalant (again).

Yeah, I tried. That’s not even a little bit me. And so as soon as I realised this, I started posting pictures of myself in my most insecure moments.

I didn’t make 30 days. There was no way I could. I’m not a selfie person (unless it’s for a very memorable event). But I learned a lot about myself – and the world – in the 15 days I did take them.

I think there are maybe two in which I’m wearing make-up, perhaps? (One of them was for a 90s dress-up – I’ll leave you to spot which one). But there’s me with mussy hair, me on a bus midway through a 14-hour trip, me on the way back (red-faced and exhausted after my hike home), me dying of my cold, in bed, in my dressing gown, soaked to the skin and very grumpy after standing in the pouring rain waiting for a lift back to my car at Smits. And yes, one hipster one thrown in for good measure.

And so, a “real” snapshot of my life, perhaps. Although, of course, all of the selfies are constructed in some way – every photo is.

And, interestingly enough, it was those photos of me looking like – well, myself – that garnered the most likes. Not the ones where I’m dressed up to the nines, or the ones that I thought were the most “selfie-ish” of all of them.

Surprisingly enough, in a world where physical beauty is held up as such a great standard and even the most beautiful men and women alive are Photoshopped to remove a mole or a scar – any defining feature, really – we’re slowly learning to appreciate reality and honesty more.

At least, I hope so.

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A return, a pixie cut, and finding one’s feet

Greetings and salutations, fellow travellers. Welcome to a kinda-sorta-little-bit redesigned version of Down the Rabbit Hole.

After a terribly long hiatus (the longest since I’ve started this here blog) in which so much went down that I don’t actually know where to begin (okay, actually I do know where to begin, I should just probably really think about how to start it all off), I’m back. I think. You know how it goes.

There have been half a million changes – and changes back, and changes-that-aren’t-really-changes-because-let’s-be-honest-what-did-I-expect – and things that have happened, but this week’s biggest (possibly only by a little, it’s been a weird ten or so days) is this…

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Yup, after quite literally a year of threatening to do so, I finally took the plunge, embraced my inner Jennifer Lawrence (and Miley Cyrus and Pink) and cut it all off.

*Warning: This post contains an obscene amount of selfies.

It’s the first time ever that I’ve ever gone to a hair salon with Something in Mind. Normally I’m just like “Erm, make it pretty?” and end up with variations of the same haircut I’ve had since school. No more. Bryony went and her locks chopped off on Friday and made me make an appointment – which I did, for Saturday morning – I went armed with a red carpet photo of Jennifer Lawrence and a mission.

The result… (Obligatory before-and-after)

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My hairstylist – after looking at me for a minute with that Are-you-sure-like-really-sure look – grabbed my ponytail and attacked it with scissors, then unceremoniously dumped it aside. No going back from that point on.

And I feel liberated. More like myself than I have in a long, long time. Fierce, even.

Of course, until I wash it and attempt to let it air dry naturally.

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The result? Having a “hair-care routine” that went from this…

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… To this. Thankfully styling short hair is actually infinitely quicker. And SO MUCH MORE FUN.

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We’re still learning, still playing around – it’s like having somebody else’s hair on my head, really, which is awesome. I call this the “I saw a tip on YouTube about spraying hairspray in your wet hair before bed” look.  

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So far my favourite look (in all, like, four days of having a pixie cut) is my Miley Cyrus-inspired look. Who knew my hair could do such things?

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But really, it is true. Having short hair is so completely liberating. And it’s also made me feel surprisingly more confident, which – with the last few months in mind – is a pretty big achievement.

Egg donation #6: That’s a wrap

And so. After almost two years, around 80 injections, seven blood tests, 18 internal ultrasounds, six egg retrievals, one missing ovary and a whole lot of awesome, my egg donation journey has officially come to an end.

* I will be back in a few days to post a proper “conclusion” to my journey, but for now, I just wanted to share “the happenings”. You can read all my other egg donation posts here.

I was scheduled to check in to the Vincent Pallotti fertility unit at 6.45am on Sunday morning (6.45am on a Sunday! It’s completely uncivilised!) and my mom was supposed to drive me there and back. She was, however, mildly nervous about the whole thing – so much so that she pretty much needed instructions on how to get out of the immediate surrounds of my flat (love you, mom) – and so the Control Freak in me reared her head and drove us from the petrol station to the hospital, pumping Macklemore at 6.30 in the morning. It was real.

The Sister checked me in, weighed me, blood pressure-d me (I hate the blood pressure cuff, which then ups my blood pressure!) and decorated me. I told her that I secretly love hospital bands, and she told me they were “really expensive pieces of jewellery” which – at 6.50am – I totally believed. Shuddup, it was early. Plus, isn’t everything in a hospital really expensive? I rest my case. (Excuse the red mark left from my hairband.)

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Anyway, then the anaesthetist came round to do his thing – and he was so cool, I wish I could remember his name. He joked and told me that I was “tiny” and asked how much I weighed, then joked about being more used to dosing people twice my size. Then the doctor on call arrived, and I met him briefly, before being taken to the bathroom before going under. But not before taking a Totally Acceptable Selfie and Instagramming it. Hipster egg donations FTW.

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There, I somehow managed to lose the Sister, but found my way to the little operating theatre, and kinda hovered in the doorway while everybody did their thing. Nobody seemed to notice me, so I cracked a joke about “Is this where the party’s happening?” and the anaesthetist settled me on the little operating table. The Sister arrived – she’d gone to look for the After Hours Cellphone – and laughed at how I must have “just slipped past her”. Yeah, I’m a sneaky chicken like that.

The atmosphere in the theatre before this donation was wonderful – I’m so glad I had such a positive experience for my last one. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of joking and teasing. After the anaesthetist asked if I had been “decorated” yet, I cracked a joke about being “Bagged and tagged and ready to go” – and then, after inserting the canula to feed through the anaesthetic – he joked about “Sometimes being lazy on a Sunday morning” and not bringing me back – to which I replied “Well, you guys don’t need me anymore, right? I’ll be off then”. The anaesthetist told me a few times that I was “incredible”, so there was that.

And then there was that slight cold feeling in my arm, and I remember watching the surgical lights blur a little, and then waking up in the recovery room to a pot of tea and some toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches.

The Sister popped past and told me that they had managed to get 14 eggs – she called me a “good little chicken”! – and I was allowed to go home again by 9am. And now again, the waiting game – hopefully in about 3 weeks or so we’ll find out if this recipient gets pregnant, so send all the love and light you possess in her general direction!

And then a bit later on Sunday night, some amazing news. I discovered that one of my recipients gave birth to a baby girl… On my late father’s birthday.

My heart swelled to three times its usual size, and I may have shed a small tear. I’m surprised at how amazingly, amazingly special it feels.

I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing way to have my egg donation journey come to an end.

Egg donation #6: It’s go time

So tomorrow morning I have to report to the hospital bright and early at 6.45am. Yep, on a Sunday. The theory is that I’ll be admitted to theatre by 7am, have the retrieval performed and be out and on my way home by 9am. Which is round about the time most people will be waking up!

For the three mornings before my scan, I was taking a combination of 150 units of Gonal F (the medication that stimulates egg production) and mix-it-yourself Cetrotide (the medication that prevents ovulation and helps to mature the eggs).

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Now, if you’ve read my previous posts on egg donation, you’ll know that mix-it-yourself Cetrotide and I do not have a good history. My very first donation I ended up a) Getting overenthusiastic and creating a wonderfully foamy Cetrotide while mixing the water and the powder (guess who’s watched too many episodes of House…) and b) Spritzing a ton of the mixture across my bedroom while trying to remove the air bubbles from the syringe.

Bloody air bubbles. Especially at 7am, already late for work. I just don’t have the co-ordination for that sort of thing.

Anyway, had my final scan on Friday and the doctor was thrilled. Like, I actually got a high five.

So, I was booked in for Sunday morning and given the two shots of Lucrin to take home. As I’ve mentioned before, these shots are my favourites – they’re the injections that trigger ovulation (through creating a surge of Luteinizing hormone in the body). The trigger shots must be done precisely 36 and 24 hours before the egg retrieval – when the doctor catches the mature eggs in their follicles just  before ovulation occurs. It’s pretty hardcore. The only problem is that the Lucrin shots tend to make me very, very crampy – but I’ll take it, as they also bring down the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome way, way, way down.

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I was initially supposed to do the shots at 10pm on Friday night and 10am on Saturday morning, but my theatre time got bumped up – so I had to take them at 8pm and 8am. Much better, because it meant that I didn’t have to shoot up in the middle of N’s lounge on Game Night.

So now, I’m prepping for tomorrow morning. My “kit” for retrieval day looks something like this…

Candace’s Egg Retrieval Day Kit:

Kindle/book/magazine 

They usual request that you arrive at the clinic while before your surgery, so I like to take some reading material. My last donation, I forgot to pack something, and I pretty much memorised the pamphlet on anaesthesia that was left next to my bed while I waited.

Pads
Some bleeding after the procedure is normal, so I carry my own brand of sanitary pad to replace the usual horrendous ones they give you at the clinic. Ones that aren’t just glorified wads of cotton wool.

Water
After having to fast before the procedure, and after coming around from the anaesthesia, I get wildly thirsty. I usually also have a cup of tea or some juice while in the recovery room, but the extra water is a must. I also try to drink a lot of water in the days post-retrieval, as well.

Clothing
Comfortable, easy-to-put-back-on clothing is a must – you may be quite sore or tired after the procedure, so the last thing you probably want to do is squeeze into a pair of super-skinny jeans! Same goes for shoes… No heels and/or fiddly sandals.

The hospital I’m doing my donation at this time also requests that we bring a dressing gown and slippers. It has been freezing and pouring with rain this week, so I’m inclined to think that’s a good idea.

Miscellaneous
The clinic asks that all jewellery, make-up and nail polish be removed for the procedure – so best to not wear any! I bring extra hair ties, just in case.

Home comforts
Resting after the procedure is a non-negotiable. And my number one tip for the day of retrieval? A hot water bottle. Seriously. It’ll ease your soreness and is deeply comforting.

I climb into bed with my hot water bottle, have a nap, watch cheesy (usually Disney) movies, and do as little as possible for the day. I also tend to take the day after my retrieval off as well –  but that’s just personal preference and an excuse to chill out a little if possible!

Egg donation #6: On the inside

So yesterday I blogged about being nervous for my scan, which was scheduled for 8am this morning. The good news is that all looks great – there are six eggs in the left ovary and “many” on the right (which would explain the mild discomfort!)

I arrived at Vincent Pallotti shortly before 8am for my scan – and still didn’t know who the doctor in charge was! I announced myself and – being quite used to the procedure at the hospital now – settled down with my Kindle to play the Waiting Game. I was eventually called in at around 8.15am, led to the ultrasound room, and told to undress and put on a not-very-sexy mint green robe and hop on the bed. I did, however, managed to snap an egg donor’s inside view… Of the object you’re most acquainted with (after the pointy end of your Gonal F!)

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Over the course of your donation, you’ll have around three or four internal ultrasounds to make sure everything’s ticking over nicely. So there is the magical ultrasound machine, with a large number of buttons that I am DESPERATE to push. Just once. Please.

Anyway, after a further 10 minutes of waiting half-naked for the doctor, he arrived. And was awesome. Pretty sure it was the same doctor that performed my retrieval last time – but I wouldn’t put money on it, seeing as I met him very briefly and very soon before I was knocked out for the procedure. But he was very sweet and very friendly, and I warmed up to him immediately.

As I mentioned, he was thrilled with how things are proceeding. I’m back in for the next scan on Friday morning, and in the meantime have been given three more doses of Gonal F 150 and daily shots of mix-it-yourself-Cetrotide (which helps to mature the eggs and prevent premature ovulation).  If all goes well, I’ll be in for my retrieval on Sunday or Monday. Which means I can do the short trail run in Kleinmond on Saturday, if I’m not too uncomfortable by then.

Right, it’s after 6pm and I’m still at work. This is not okay. Will be back in later in the week. As always, if you have questions, feel free to drop me a comment here and I’ll do my best to answer!

Egg donation #6: Getting the ball rolling

So I’ve already completed the first few days of my Gonal F injections – 225, 225, 150, 150, 150… And another 150 tomorrow morning before my first scan at Vincent Pallotti. I’m still not 100% sure who my doctor is this time round, but the formidable Sister and I are all over this one so far, so I’m not worried about who’s officially in charge. Just taking this one as it comes, and only letting my Inner Control Freak out to play for small amounts at a time and letting her set up her medication the night before so that we’re good to go at the crack of dawn during injection time.

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I’m always SO nervous before the first scan – I’m always concerned that my ovaries aren’t doing their thing and that everybody’s time, money and emotional energy has been wasted. So fingers crossed that everything is looking good inside.

I also managed to – after what amounts to probably something stupid like around 60 self-injections – give myself a nasty bruise on my stomach on Sunday morning. SUCH a rookie error, I tell you. I was in a hurry, trying to get through work so that I could join Bryony and co on a trail run in Constantia Nek, and I managed to get a little overenthusiastic with my pen. Fun. But I wear my poky little bruise with pride.

On Friday night, while celebrating a friend’s birthday, I ended up holding an impromptu Q&A session about donating eggs in South Africa. There was a room full of older women – mothers, aunts, a few girls, and three boys. Once we got to the “How are they extracted” conversation, two of the boys jumped up and ran away. But my 22-year-old brother, bless his socks, said something along the lines of “I’ve heard this all before” and stayed. He’s been one of the biggest heroes during my egg donation journey: Fetching me hot-water bottles on retrieval days, running down to the shops for biltong and Energade, and listening to probably-not-so-funny-to-him stories about missing ovaries and internal ultrasounds.

I was asked questions about the process, about how many times, about how many births, the legal issues, do I know my recipients, the egg retrieval procedure and the like. One of the women there knew somebody who had given birth to twins with the help of an egg donor, and wanted immediately to know if my natural hair colour was red. (It’s not. Though I did dye it red shorty after I broke up with The Geologist. And am actually thinking about going red again. Or brown, perhaps.)

I love answering the questions that people have, although I’m still so uncomfortable with people’s praise. I talk about egg donation not so that people will pat me on the head and tell me what a good girl I am, but because I am so desperately passionate about breaking down any stigmas, myths and concerns surrounding egg donation. And hopefully I can encourage other women to donate, if they feel prepared to. I want to show that egg donation can be a wonderful, fulfilling journey for the donor. That it’s nothing to be “ashamed” of, nothing people feel they should have to keep a secret.

I talk about it because I’m so damn proud to be associated with the wonderful men and women that I have come into contact with over the past two years – the doctors, nurses, IVF co-ordinators, donor liaisons, matchmakers, admin staff and theatre sisters. And, of course, the donors themselves.

One last time: Egg donation number six

I’ve been meaning to catch up for a while, but you all know how I am. Work and Life has been particularly stressful of late – much more than I’m used to, and for a while, more than I thought I could deal with. It culminated last week with J attempting to teach a VERY anxious me how to *sigh* and release tension (I’m totally claiming that I was very worked up by World War Z, which we had just been to see). Anyway… 

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flickr.com / Brenda Gottsabend

So here we are. My sixth and final egg donation with the wonderful women at Nurture. I first started this journey in earnest two years ago – but truly, it feels like just last month. At the same time, the women at Nurture – Melany, Tertia and Lee in particular – have become like a family to me over the years, and I shall miss them ever so much.

I have come to know – through anonymous emails sent from my recipients through Nurture – six amazingly strong, exceptional women. Even though I’ve never met any of them, I have shared such a profound journey with them and their partners, that I will have that connection for years to come. As I have said on this blog before – my strongest connection is with the recipients – because of the way many of them choose their donors, I see so much of them in myself – and often aspire to be like them, they really have been that amazing – because they see some of themselves in me.

So, number six…

My final donation is back at the Vincent Pallotti, where I did my previous donation earlier this year. I start injections on Thursday – 225 units of Gonal-F, as per usual.

I’ve already had my blood tests – HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C and, this time, Chlamydia, too. Seeing as I hadn’t been tested for that before, I was a little more nervous than usual. I was all like, “What, do I look Chlamydia-ish?” But Chlamydia-ish I am not, you’ll be happy to know. Nor HIV-ish, Syphilis-ish or Hepatitis-ish.

The Sister and I have been frantically exchanging Whatsapps over the past 24 hours as I waited for my period to start – there’s very little room for being embarrassed in Fertility Land, I can tell you that. In fact, I probably now fall firmly into Camp Overshare, really. Menstruation details for everyone!

So that’s pretty much all to report on that front, for now.

A few months ago I did a mini-FAQ, which you can read here.

And if you want to read up some of my other egg donation-related adventures, check out this section here.

As always, if you have any queries, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it to the best of my abilities.