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.

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On egg donation number five

Right, so the past week has been insane on so many levels… The Oscar Pistorius story has kinda taken up a lot of emotional and mental energy (and it didn’t help that the increased traffic tanked our site for two days). But finally I get to sit down and do a bit of a catch-up on my egg donation.

As I mentioned, this donation was different – it was at a local hospital instead of the Clinic that I’ve done the previous four at. This meant a lot of things, but mostly a new team and a slightly different way of doing things. Mostly, it meant a lot more waiting than usual. After one of my scans, where I lay in the examination room in a robe for about 10 minutes before the doctor arrived, I decided to bring my Kindle to do some reading while I waited.

But otherwise, things went smoothly – bar one hilarious (okay, not really) incident where, while trying to remove an air bubble from my Lucrin shot (read more about Lucrin here), I forced the plunger down too hard and squirted about 2 units of the precious mixture out and across my bedroom. At 9pm.

I would have loved to have seen my face.

No harm done, though – the nurse in charge of my cycle let me come in for a 2 unit top-up – though I did feel terribly, terribly guilty because I felt as though I’d put everyone out.

Anyway, then it was go time. I was scheduled to check in for 7am and the wonderful X picked me up at the crack of dawn (both of us still yawning our heads off) and dropped me off.

And for the first time, I managed to snap a pic of my snazzy hospital arm band. Look at me go:

Hospital tag

Then I was led to the day ward – oh, I wish I’d thought to take photos of it, it was such a wonderful, vintage institutional feeling place, very 1970s with the cream walls, though they did have a super cozy bedspread! – and was given a theatre gown and a robe to put on while I waited. It was very quiet – just me in the ward for the most part – and I didn’t bring anything to read, so I memorised the anaesthesia pamphlet that had been left on the bedside table instead.

Then, the anaesthetist popped by to ask me the usual questions (allergic to anything/have you had a reaction to anaesthesia before/when was your last operation/are you feeling well etc etc) and check my chest and heartrate, before I was called up to walk down the hall to where the little operating area had been set up. I was just about to go in when I met the doctor that was to perform my retrieval – not the doctor who performed my scans, oddly, but I was happy to go with it. The anaesthetist was absolutely wonderful about making me feel happy and relaxed, talking to me and teasing me a little and making sure I felt safe and comfortable. Then he warned me that “If I started feeling funny, it was just him” and I remember thinking that I felt absolutely fine – then I woke up in recovery.

I had a wonderful nurse taking care of me – though in my semi-unconscious state I managed to completely forget her name – who made sure I was well-equipped with a hot water bottle, a pot of tea and a mildly awful toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. And then the best surprise of all – my donor liaison popped round to hang out while I was recovering! In my stoned state I may have been a bit random and possibly quite annoying, but it was great chatting to her and getting a bit more of a “behind-the-scenes” look at the donation agency (who have just opened a branch in London, and it’s really interesting how differently they do things there!)

And she came bearing a gift – a charm that I am already wearing, though I will need to get a stronger chain for…

Nurture necklace

Anyway, they managed to get a pretty decent haul for my recipient – which I was quite happy with, because I was on a slightly lower protocol of the follicle stimulants than I usually am – and I should hopefully find out in the next few weeks whether or not the pregnancy was successful. Keeping fingers and toes crossed!

And so this is either my last or second-to-last donation. Either way, I’m a little sad at the thought of my journey with Nurture ending – I can’t begin to tell you how this experience has changed my life, in so many ways.

The fact that I’ve (so far) helped two women become mothers has been something that I wish I had the words for.  It’s an incredible feeling, knowing that you have changed somebody’s life – undeniably.

As always, if you’re looking to donate – or if you want to become a recipient – visit the amazing (seriously, they’re amazing) women at Nurture. And feel free to either visit my previous FAQ post or ask any questions that you may have here – I’m more than happy to help answer them to the best of my ability.

I keep dancing on my own

So, I’ve maintained radio silence for far too long now – and it’s time to shake the dust off the blog and get my shit together. Seriously, I haven’t even written in my journal recently – largely because for the last two weeks or so I’ve either not been home very much or have been curled up around myself in a ball zoning out to old episodes of Modern Family. I didn’t say it was pretty – it’s been exhausting, for a multitude of reasons that I will have to self-censor for now. Nothing serious, don’t worry. Just, well, yes. Whatever.

So, let’s play catch-up…

After the great Tiger Tiger fail of 2012, I redeemed myself by having just one drink and dancing my ass off on a random Saturday night. It was awesome. I’d gone out with X and C to see Silver Linings Playbook (which, by the way, um, WOW) before rushing home to change into somethin’ purdy and racing to Tiger, where a drunk guy started grinding up and down me while I was at the bar and trying to stick his tongue down my throat. I was simultaneously flattered (it’s been a while – and hey, at least someone thought I was attractive) and outraged. I compensated by slipping out from behind him while he started trying to grind up against me, ass-first.

Tiger Tiger Claremont

Then, I’ve been filming reviews in the forest for work. ‘Cause we’re creative like that. I still need to make time to edit the f***ing things. But it should look pretty cool. Not much else to report, I just like the picture, really.Filming in the forest

You may recall my raving about Black Chandelier in my last post. The album is now in my collection 😀 And in my car. And on my work laptop. It does wonders for blocking out office noise. Also, it’s a pretty damn amazing album.

Biffy Clyro - Opposites

Candace vs. Kettlebell. We did some crazy, awesome new exercises with the kettlebells at gym this week. New positions = new bruises. Also, I nearly dropped a 12kg on my head. Thank god the trainer was lurking. This was the bruise in the evening after the session. I had a matching one on my left arm. They’re currently very dark blue.
Kettlebell bruise

Red. Hot. Chili. Peppers. In Cape Town. Went with my brother and one of his friends – Sean’s a MASSIVE fan. They played almost all the songs I wanted to hear, and I rocked out so hard my calves were sore the next day and my feet were blistered. Great night. Again, just one drink – donation day is (currently) on 11 February – eeek 😀 Will do a full catch-up post post-procedure.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Cape Town

If I ever write a memoir about my egg donation experiences, I think I’ll have to devote a whole chapter to “Fun with Cetrotide”. Note the mix-it-yourself-at-home kit… The first time I had to mix my own Cetrotide was during my first donation, and “fiasco” would probably be the best way to describe it. In my quest to get all the air bubbles out, I ended up spritzing a chunk of the meds across my bedroom floor, panicked and injected myself with said air bubbles (air pocket would probably be more fitting) and ended up with one heck of a bruise and worries that I’d ruined it all. However, I generally follow my first doctor’s rule of thumb: If it’s itching, it’s working. I’m getting more professional now. Though there’s always at least one effing air bubble somewhere.

Cetrotide injection

Then, this week’s musical obsession is Icona Pop’s I Love It – as seen on Girls. Love the show – even though it makes me so uncomfortable sometimes that I have to hide my head under the pillow temporarily.

On midnight injections and other such fun

So, we’re officially in the Home Stretch now. I had my final scan this afternoon, and now I’m waiting to do my first of two trigger shots – which only happens at midnight (in other words…  one hour and five minutes from now).

I was booked in for my last scan at 12.45pm today, and the waiting room was positively packed. The Amazing Dr H and his equally amazing assistant – also H, for the purposes of this blog – were rushing up and down the corridors, and I only managed to get in around 12.55pm. Dr H says all is looking “beautiful” – there are fifteen little follicles ready for harvesting (“Strange things us doctors get excited about,” he said – but it’s not just doctors, I’m excited too) and I was booked in for retrieval at noon on Wednesday. He wrote out my instructions, organised my two trigger injections of Lucrin, and off I went.

Fast forward to about 3pm. I get a frantic email from H – “URGENT: CETROTIDE”, it read. Between Dr H and myself we had forgotten the second shot of Cetrotide – the drug that helps the eggs mature and prevents premature ovulation – and H had been trying to dial my old cellphone number. You can see how this could have been bad. So into my car I hopped and positively nailed the 20 minute drive into around 15 minutes. H shot me up – it’s my favourite, itchy and rashy medicine – and off I went on my merry way.

And now? Well, I’ve been playing DOTA to keep myself awake (it’s the excuse I’m using! Ha! Eight hours in and I’m only marginally less awful). And why am I awake so late, when it’s way past my bedtime? This guy.


Lucrin – also known as Lupron, says Captain Google – is used as the “trigger” medication before egg retrieval, and it’s pretty much my favourite one (yes, midnight shots aside, and the fact that it makes me WILDLY crampy). I think it’s because of the precision factor – the two shots have to be done precisely 36 and 24 hours before the retrieval. Cool, huh? Lucrin also helps to reduce the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome – which is exactly what it says on the box. Over-excited ovaries, which causes ovaries to swell and fluid to push into the stomach/chest. Most cases of OHSS are relatively mild, but looking at what can happen is quite sobering. Bring on the Lucrin, I say.

And for now, I have 45 minutes to kill before the midnight injection. Another round of DOTA? Okay, if I must.

“Where’s your other ovary?”

Not something one wants to hear from one’s doctor when there’s an ultrasound wand deep in you-know-where, I must admit.

As you may have gathered, I went for my first scan since starting the injections on Saturday. I generally get to the Clinic early enough to say hi to the staff and get rid of my “sharps” – used needles, leftover solution etc – before going in for my appointment.

This is now the third cycle I’m doing with the Amazing Dr H, so we seem to have this whole thing down pat. We chat for a bit before going into his examination room – bottoms off, on the table, blanket for modesty. We quickly located the right ovary, counting eight developing eggs, and then Dr H switched over to have a look at the other side.

“Where’s your other ovary?” he asked. Sorry, what? Not really a phrase you ever want to hear out of your doctor’s mouth. But, true enough, no ovary could be seen on the little monitor. After some exploratory prodding, Dr H asked me to shift my leg a little and poked my stomach, shifting the reluctant ovary into place. I said something to the effect of “Oh, good, so it didn’t disappear after all” – but as I was in a bit of a panic at the time, I can’t recall my exact words.

“Oh, don’t worry,” said Dr H. “I’ve never had that happen to me before.” Well, good, I thought – before scuttling off the table to put my underwear back on.

I suppose my ovary was just shy.

So far, all on track for Donation Day (D-Day, really!) a week from now. Dr H says that I am doing “great as always” and that he’s very happy with how things are going. So, yay! I was given a shot of Cetrotide at the Clinic to help the eggs mature – and to stop premature ovulation – and I’m back in for scan number two on Saturday morning. The IVF co-ordinator (not my usual one) left me with a bit of a bruise, a bit of a rash and a heck of an itch. It’s all for a good cause.

Speaking of good causes – and good things – I found out today that recipient number two gave birth to twins (a girl and a boy!) in October. Hooray!

Egg donation: Some FAQs

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So on Saturday morning – at the crack of dawn, mind you – I started my Gonal-F injections for my fourth cycle of egg donation. I say at the crack of dawn, and it really was – a few of us were doing a trail run in Stellenbosch, and I had to leave my flat at the quite ungodly hour of 6am. I’d forgotten the unparalleled ability of a needle in the stomach to wake a person up. Truly, I’ve probably done this whole self-injection thing around 50 times now – and I never fail to experience that rush of adrenaline that accompanies it.

As donors, our doses are pretty stock-standard: 225 for four days and 150 for two days before our first scan. (Mine is tomorrow, hold thumbs all is looking good!) This time, I’m already feeling a little discomfort from bloating – although that may be all the water that we are encouraged to drink, and all the wine that I’m not allowed to touch!

So, because it’s all early days and I’ve not got much to report, I thought I’d address some of the FAQs that I, personally, get.

1. Aren’t you scared?
I get this a lot, strangely. No, I’m not scared – always a little anxious that my body doesn’t co-operate and that I let my recipient down. But I’ve been through the process three times already and I know the team at the Clinic are exceptional. I’m in great hands, so no – not scared!

2. Does it hurt?
Look, I’ll be honest. Before you even get to Donation Day, there is a lot of poking and prodding. A LOT. You do daily injections yourself – once you get the hang of it, they barely hurt at all – and you have an internal ultrasound around four times per cycle, which – as I explained to my long-suffering brother last night – goes up and inside vaginally. And the Cetrotide – to stop premature ovulation – itches like a mofo.

The actual procedure, and the pain each person feels when they come around from anaesthetic, varies. I woke up after my first donation in a lot of pain, while the girl in the bed next to me pretty much skipped out of the Clinic. Now, while I’m out, they shoot me up with a fair chunk of painkillers… And I’m golden!

3. What about your babies? Aren’t you curious about them?
Not my babies. My eggs, yes – but the making and growing babies part belongs to the Clinic and the recipient and her family. Obviously I like to know that the babies are healthy etc – and I’m obviously curious about what they look like – but they were never my babies.

Update A: I actually have more of an emotional connection with the recipient, as a general rule.

Update B: It also comes down to your whole idea of “parenthood”. Is the child “yours” because its yourgenetic material? Is it “yours” because you carried it through pregnancy, gave birth to it? Or is it “yours” because you’re the one  awake at 2.30am for the sixth time this week, “yours” because you love it unconditionally, even when you’re covered in puke, and “yours” because you’re sitting in the front row for its first school play? For me, it’s the third option.

4. And… no sex, right?
Right. Abso-fucking-lutely no sex. Do you KNOW how fertile I am right now?? Thankfully – and I use the word “thankfully” quite loosely – I’m no longer seeing anyone, so the temptation has been removed, so to speak. I’ve actually never been dating anyone during a cycle.

5. What – and how – do you tell your partners?
Well, the only partner I’ve had and told has been J. Just after we hooked up, I was a little tipsy – which I think helped! – and I kinda just blurted it out. He was immensely accepting, though, and seemingly quite fascinated by the thought that there were little people with my genetic material out there. Which is quite cool, if you think about it.

Right, have typed this all out on my phone while waiting for my bro to finish playing soccer. And my fingers have cramped up a little.

But feel free to post any questions you may have and I will answer as best I can 🙂

Blog edited for typos and poor word choice. 

Round four of egg donation – let’s go!

So, it’s all officially official and the dates are set… I’m doing a fourth round of egg donation for the wonderful, inspiring women at Nurture!

Over the past year (wow, it’s been a year already!) I’ve been very open about my work with Nurture and the donation process. I’ve written about it extensively here and on other websites, but I thought that this time round I’d be a bit more proactive about blogging the process – from first scans to Donation Day – and you’re all more than welcome to contact me if you have any questions.

Because it’s been a year since I last saw the psychologist, I met again with the wonderful Leanne from the Cape Fertility Clinic. She caught me just a few days after things ended with J – and I was still pretty beat-up about it, oddly – and so we spent more time talking about life, love and everything else than we did about the actual donation process (although don’t worry, those boxes were covered too!)

Because the Amazing Dr Heylen (hereafter known as “The Amazing Dr H” or “Dr H”) had to shift my appointment, I spent an hour and a bit sitting in the waiting room, catching up on work and people-watching. The energy at the Clinic is always so amazingly mixed – hopeful, anxious, nervous – I love the people-watching there, wondering about their story.

Then, the scans and blood tests. Because it’s been a while, I got the Amazing Dr H to a proper breast exam, and he was wonderful about talking me through it and teaching me how and when to examine myself. The internal ultrasounds are never pleasant, but I’m used to them now – and then it was down to the pathologists for blood tests. J and I had been tested a few weeks before, but you know me, I’m always paranoid – but everything was a-okay and I’ve been cleared for take off.

Injections commence 15 November 2012. Everybody start sending some seriously positive vibes to me, my ovaries, and the woman these eggs are going to.

If you’re South African and think you may want to donate your eggs, I highly recommend you check out Nurture – they’ve been nothing but amazing to me. And, no, they’re not paying me to say any of this! 😛