We were Born This Way

It’s been an… Interesting week. Emotional. Extremely painful. Stupid decisions were made. Lots of weird things happened. Some amazing things, too. I’m too tired to write about it properly. But, in highlights…

New running shoes. Yes, they're pink and purple. Look at me not caring.

New running shoes. Yes, they’re pink and purple. Look at me not caring.

WOOHOO. 'Nuff said.

WOOHOO. ‘Nuff said.

View from my seat during The Darkness' opening act for Lady Gaga

View from my seat during The Darkness’ opening act for Lady Gaga

Sunset at the Cape Town Stadium on the night of the Lady Gaga show.

Sunset at the Cape Town Stadium on the night of the Lady Gaga show.

New lace dress and pretty wedge pumps. Cost more than they should have. Love them anyway.

New lace dress and pretty wedge pumps. Cost more than they should have. Love them anyway.

My brand-new Kindle. An amazing gift from an incredible, incredible woman.

My brand-new Kindle. An amazing gift from an incredible, incredible woman.

I got an award at our office function - and a great little speech from my CEO. I may have teared up a little. MAY.

I got an award at our office function – and a great little speech from my CEO. I may have teared up a little. MAY.

Mussells for starters for our year-end office function. Dee-licious.

Mussells for starters for our year-end office function. Dee-licious.

Our main course for our office year-end party. Fillet wrapped in bacon. YUM.

Our main course for our office year-end party. Fillet wrapped in bacon. YUM.

First official beach day of summer 2012.

First official beach day of summer 2012.

So… Who’s up for round three?

This post has taken a lot longer to write than initially planned (it’s been sitting in my Drafts for a few weeks already, how lame) – but better late than never, right?

So on 28 May I did my third round of egg donation – I even hit a personal best, with the doctor retrieving 18 eggs. Hopefully there were some goodies in there – but, as usual, I try not to think about it too much in case I jinx anything. (I’m horribly superstitious. Send out some positive vibes, okay?)

If you want a much more in-depth account of my first two rounds, plus a more detailed description of the process, check out my very first egg donation post.

This donation was for a foreign couple, and while I had been scheduled to donate in April we had to push it back to accommodate her. I must admit, it has been awesome to give my body a little bit of a break after my second donation – during which I was on the stims slightly longer because my body just wasn’t playing the game.

This time, however, it was all smooth sailing. It is a strange thing for the doctor to tell you that you are a “pleasure to work with”, just for doing something your body is meant to do naturally – but I’ll claim it!

I’m free-range, baby! (spiralmushroom/flickr.com)

What was awesome about this couple is that they sent me quite a detailed email telling me about themselves. I can’t tell you how cool it was to have a slightly clearer picture in my head going in – and they both sound like total rockstars! For a number of reasons, I connected so strongly with this recipient – and the chance to help… Well, there’s no feeling like it. Third time down the road and I’m still overwhelmed by this whole amazing process.

So, as for the technical stuff? Well, I’m still – and will probably always be – a little paranoid about the initial tests. HIV, syphilis, hepatitis… Never mind that I’ve not had sex in months, it’s a case of “What if?!” that does my head in. Initial scans, too, are also quite scary. But once the ball’s rolling, well, I know I’m in the best hands possible.

The only different thing this round was that I had started the crazy gym programme. I’d read all sorts of articles from various sources stating why you can/can’t exercise while on the Gonal-F (ovarian torsion, anyone?) but the Amazing Doctor H at the clinic pretty much put the ball in my court – as much as I’m comfortable with – but nothing for the first six days after the retrieval. Which, I might add, I was 100% okay with. Doctor’s orders to be able to veg out for a week? Sign me up!

Me, in kitten form, napping. (PyryM/flickr.com)

So everything went super smoothly – it’s amazing how much better I’m getting at self-injection, only one bruise from myself. An overzealous sister at the clinic and a fuck-off big shot of Cetrotide was another story… Not only was I itching like mad (“The rash is good,” my first doctor assured me. “Means it’s working!”) but I also ended up with a massive bruised spot. She did apologise like mad – because of the size of the shot, she said, she wanted to inject it slowly. And the trigger shots of Lucrin went a lot more smoothly this time, too – largely because I didn’t put them in the fridge and they didn’t freeze!

Retrieval day I managed to wangle a lift from my dear friend T, who bless his socks is an absolute dear about something completely foreign to him. I was feeling a little nauseous (no drinking or eating AND a case of nerves is no fun at all) but he managed to chatter away and distract me. I was whisked pretty much straight in and got right to it. By the third time, everybody keeps telling you you’re a total veteran – which is awesome, I do like feeling good at things! – and the whole process goes a lot more smoothly. Checked in, dressed in gown, tagged, consent forms signed and checked by the anaesthetist and we’re all A-for-Away. I’ve had a different anaesthetist each time I’ve donated – this one placed the cannula in the crook of my arm as opposed to my hand – which was oddly more painful.

Syringes. Not that scary, actually. (hitthatswitch/flickr.com)

Anyway, the amazing nurses do a great job of fussing over you and with a reassuring arm on my shoulder from Dr H, I was out. Woke up this time with very little pain (apparently after the first time, when I hurt so badly, they’ve now started giving me painkillers while I’m out) and no nausea – in fact, I recovered super quickly this time.

My wonderful colleague B was there to pick me up – she’s been a trooper every time – and I was back home and out for a nap.

Aside from a little more bleeding than usual that led to a trip back to the clinic a few hours later (hey, rather safe than sorry, right?) and a few less-than-subtle questions from the staff as to whether I’d be donating again, we were all done. I sneakily took an extra day off work the next day, and by the time I was back in on Wednesday, I was back to normal.

Am I doing a fourth round? Well, I haven’t officially confirmed with the agency yet, but honestly my belief is that I will donate as many times as I’m legally allowed to. If I can, why not? I’m not being melodramatic when I say that this entire process has changed my life.

It’s changed my life, made me more aware of my body and what a freaking miracle it actually is, and – yes, kickstarted my desire to have a family of my own someday.

If you and yours are in South Africa and think that egg donation is something you want to do, I won’t hesitate to recommend Nurture. Tertia, Melany, Lee and the rest of the team are absolute angels.

I am an egg donor. This is my story.

Originally published on iafrica.com.

Pic by Offbeat Photography (flickr.com)

I have been asked so many times since I started all of this: “Why donate your eggs?”

I don’t have one specific answer – I have dozens of reasons, and you’ll probably get a different answer every day. Yes, they pay me. But mostly I’ll say it’s because I want to do something spectacular for somebody else. I want to give somebody else the chance at a family. I can think of dozens of reasons why I do donate – and not a single reason why I shouldn’t.

I’m 24 and single, although not a Bridget-Jones-cry-into-my-wine kind of single (well, not often at least). Do I see children in my future? I hope there will be. But my family is without a doubt the most important thing to me. I get family.

Egg donation, in a nutshell, involves harvesting a number of healthy, ripe eggs from a donor before fertilising them and transferring them to the mother – where, all fingers and toes crossed, they hang around for nine months.

My journey to Nurture – the organisation that has facilitated my first two donations – started almost a year before the first time I donated. I had a boyfriend who had donated sperm before we started dating, and I was inspired. I started investigating egg donation agencies but it was Nurture that “clicked” with me.

Founded in 2008 by Tertia Albertyn (a recovering infertile) and Melany Bartok (herself a past donor), Nurture has become one of the top agencies in South Africa. I was in good hands, though I didn’t really know it yet.

Getting started

When I finally got my act together, filled out my entire medical history and committed to Nurture, the process was almost entirely smooth-sailing for me. Firstly, I met with two of the Nurture women – Melany and my donor liaison Lee, who became my apparent stand-in sister – for a coffee date at Cavendish. We went through the process, they explained the risks and the procedure, and double-checked that I was keen to sign up. After meeting with them, I was extra keen.

From there, I scheduled a psychological evaluation at the Cape Fertility Clinic – which would be performing the egg retrieval. Every donor is required to have an hour-long meeting with a psychologist to ensure that they understand the process, but my meeting became a wonderful chat with the psychologist Leanne, who thankfully decided I wasn’t entirely crazy and signed me off.

I also had an initial appointment with Dr Le Roux, the doctor who performed my first retrieval. This appointment was, in my mind, quite daunting but I shouldn’t have worried. A quick internal check-up to make sure everything was okay inside and another chat about the procedure, and I was packed off to the pathologists to be tested and cleared for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. Obviously, if you are HIV positive or have hepatitis, you cannot donate, and so these blood tests are compulsory. This physical examination is repeated every time you donate – so if you donate four times, you’ll be examined and tested four times.

Let’s get fertile

After you’ve got the all-clear, the next step is to synchronise your menstrual cycle with your recipient’s and then start the daily fertility injections. All donors are placed on a short, light course of a medication that stimulates follicle growth. In my case, this was Gonal-F, which stimulates the ovaries to produce more eggs.

I know that the daily injections put off a lot of women and honestly, they were probably the worst part. But you’d be surprised how quickly you get used to them! During this time, you have a further two or three scans with the doctor to make sure everything is A-okay. Near the end of your fertility injections, you’re also given a shot of Cetrotide – a medication to ensure you don’t spontaneously ovulate – before being given two “trigger” shots to ripen the eggs 36 and 24 hours before you donate.

The first time I donated, I was fortunate in that I responded beautifully to all the medication – Dr Le Roux was always so pleased with my scans and I realised I was quite proud of myself. Strange, seeing as women are “supposed” to ovulate, but hey, I like being good at things. The second time, I was a bit of a “slow starter” which goes to show: It’ll never be the same for every woman, every time.

The actual donation procedure takes place around 14 days after starting the fertility injections – depending on how you respond. I have also been asked so many times “Weren’t you terrified? Aren’t you scared something will go wrong? What if you can’t have your own babies later on?” Honestly, the thing I was most scared of the whole way through was not being able to give my recipient what she’d been dreaming of. I was never truly scared of any complications (although obviously it has to be in the back of your mind) but I had so much faith in Dr Le Roux and his team that I was more worried about not being able to bring my side to the party.

Donation day dawns

So what happens on donation day? You’re admitted sometime in the morning, and get dressed into possibly the least sexy hospital gowns of all time. You’re checked out by the anaesthetist, a nurse fusses over you, and you’re led through to the theatre. You’re then put under a “twilight anaesthetic” – enough to knock you out long enough for them to do the retrieval so you won’t feel a thing.

During the retrieval, the doctor performs an “ultrasound directed needle aspiration”. A needle is inserted through the upper portion of the vagina directly into the ovary – and the ultrasound allows the physician to guide the needle into each follicle – where the egg is sucked through and collected. This takes about 15 to 30 minutes.

Following the retrieval, you hang out in the clinic for an hour or two while you recover from the anaesthetic. The first time I donated, I was in a fair amount of pain – the second time, barely any pain. Different every time.

And yes, this is when you get paid. Nurture pays R6000 for each donation on the day of retrieval. Following that, a delicious day of bed rest is prescribed. In my case that meant time spent catching up on cheesy movies.

After the retrieval, the egg goes to the laboratory where it is fertilised and “grown” for a few days before transfer. So far I’ve been really lucky – both of the women I have donated to are pregnant! I’ve also signed up for a third donation – there’s nothing more amazing than that phone call or email saying “SHE’S PREGNANT!”

Do I ever think about meeting my recipient’s children? Of course I do. I’d like to see that they’re healthy (and don’t have three arms or something!) and obviously I’m curious about how much they resemble me. But that’s about it. A good friend of mine was shocked that I wouldn’t want to be involved in “my” children’s life – but they aren’t my children. They never were. As cheesy as it sounds, they always belonged to my recipient, who walked a terrifying, difficult road. I’m just glad that I could help, and hopefully make the rest of the way a little smoother.

Originally published on iafrica.com.

A brief catch-up – and the Tale of the Wandering Laptop

The last few weeks have been pretty insane, I’ll give you that. Awards Season is finally done – and hey, look! My 100% prediction rate still stands! – I started doing a part-time course entitled “Applying Social Media to Business Challenges” and my mom flew down for a weekend for my brother’s 21st. (Yes, he’s 21, and I have NO idea how that happened).

I’ve been reading a lot of “mommy bloggers” recently, partly because there are some amazing, amazing mommy bloggers (both locally and internationally) and partly because I like the way that they balance the public and the personal.

I’ve also started to tinker around with the idea of getting a new camera and a new laptop. My camera died about a year ago and I haven’t got round to replacing it (I could always just get a decent phone with a decent camera at some point. Two birds, one stone, etc) and my laptop – which I got in late 2005 – is on its way out.

It’s a bit sad, my poor laptop. My dad sold his bike (he bought it when we first moved to Botswana) to buy my brother and I each a laptop – I wanted one so I didn’t have to walk to and from the computer labs at night – and my brother and I were positively thrilled, as you can imagine. My laptop got stolen out from my house – and from the bed that my then-boyfriend was sleeping in – in 2007 while I was at a birthday party. Somebody opened the front door, walked in, unplugged the laptop (left the cable) and wandered off. I was heartbroken and reported it stolen, assuming that I’d seen the last  of it. It was during the year that my father was in his coma, and so it was even more heartbreaking at the time. All of my photographs of my dad were on there, the speech I’d been working on for his funeral (a bit macabre, I know, but I needed to be prepared) and all of my music and work assignments.

A few weeks later, I got a call from the police station. Somebody had bought a laptop on the side of the road in Grahamstown, and when they took it home (assuming it was second-hand) and booted it up, they saw that it was password-protected, realised it was stolen, and handed it in. My silly little Windows-startup password, setup more so that the girls in res couldn’t get in while I wasn’t in my room, saved the day.

I booted up – everything was still there and not a single thing had been deleted or wiped. Only one thing was different.

The thieves had cleaned the laptop before selling it.

The Devil Wears Woolworths*

*Well, no. But I’m a fashion-blogging virgin and wanted something spunky. The Devil wears Prada. And I love Woolies. Truly, I do. Okay, I’m going to stop rambling now.

This is only going here ’cause I don’t have anywhere to put it. Plus it means that I get to create a “Fashion” category. Plus it was also my first ever real-life ramp show. (No, sorry old school friends trying to relive your glory days – the ones at school don’t count).

Anyway, Woolworths SA have done a massive relaunch of two of their major lines – Studio W and Re: – and our Lifestyle Ed tagged me into going. It was all very wonderful, spotted some of South Africa’s self-proclaimed fashionistas (included in the off-ramp fashion was an actual fascinator, far-too-many bad printed jumpsuits and heels to make me weep) and Top Billing‘s Jeannie D was the MC. Our Lifestyle Ed was beside herself with joy – she’s got a massive “girl-crush”, she says.

We were also subjected to the world’s longest, most badly rehearsed version of I Love Rock & Roll – Joan Jett would be ashamed. Thankfully, there was more than enough sparkling wine to go around and we did our best to relieve them of the burden of carrying around trays full of glasses. It was, of course, our civic duty.

Anyway… Some pictures below. Snapped off the rather bad camera on my phone. My next contract upgrade, I’m getting a decent camera. That is all. I was in love with their Re: line – super sexy, very funky and very rock ‘n roll.

An afternoon with the kids at Mirriam’s

On Saturday afternoon a group of friends and I spent the afternoon with Mirriam House in Paarl.

Mirriam has spent the past fifteen years providing a refuge for orphaned and abandoned children in the community – and besides providing shelter for them she she helps to educate them, feed them and clothe them – and she is the legal guardian of most of them.

On 17 July this year, the house that Mirriam and her children lived in burnt down – apparently after a neighbour’s paraffeine lamp was knocked over. They lost everything – and one of their toddlers, an 18-month-old boy, was killed after trying to return to the house. One of our friends, who works with Greater Capital, alerted us to the situation and the appeal for donations – and so we organised to cook up some lunch (and whip up a batch of cupcakes) and take them through to their temporary shelter in Paarl.

Friday night saw us industriously peeling potatoes and carrots, chopping up onions and garlic, and grating ginger. The resident chef among us managed to whip up a 12-litre pot full of curried mince (I would never, ever have attempted to cook en masse like that – I stand to be corrected but I think there may have been about 5kg of mince involved). Saturday morning and fifty-four rolls later (did you know that unsliced bread is really, really difficult to come by on a Saturday morning…!) and we were on our way to Paarl… with three big trays of cupcakes on our laps.

Mirriam's House

Me and "Storm Trooper". It's widely agreed upon that he is the coolest kid in the universe.

The temporary house is attached to a coffee shop in Paarl, and we discovered that not all of the kids had been relocated there. Mirriam herself was staying somewhere else – but by the time we arrived five days after the fire the cupboards were simply bursting with food, new toys and clothes for the little ones. It’s amazing to see how a community can rally around a cause… Working in media and being witness to all the negative things that happen in the world on a daily basis means that we often forget the power of community.

After dishing up for the house’s inhabitants – who range in age from about six months to their early twenties, and of course, for Mirriam and her family – we spent the afternoon playing with a group of the little ones outside, with some of our group pitching in to help with the masses of laundry.

Despite the massive tragedy that had just occurred and their unusual living situation, these kids were so, so well adjusted and so happy – I was blown away. We kicked a ball around, blew bubbles and the teacher among us brought paper, crayons and stickers. We even got involved in a pretty intense water pistol-fight… Which saw me on the ground while the most enterprising of the young girls took advantage of the situation and emptied her entire barrel over me, Geneva Convention be damned…

Now if you know me, you know that I’m pretty much allergic to kids. They’re terrifying – I have no idea what to do with the little buggers. Sure, there have been one or two that have managed to worm their way into my heart but they are very much in the minority. But after spending a day with these kids, well, I can sort of see the appeal in children. (Okay, fine, so I was a little broody. Whatever. No big deal. Jeez, like, get of my case already.)

In all seriousness, I was so taken aback by the amount of love in that household. Honestly, they were a family. These children all come from broken or bad homes and into an environment where along with the basic necessities, they were loved without exception or condition. And these children are smart, engaging, well-behaved and so full of joy that it was a wonder to behold. It goes to show what a proper home can do – I have no doubt that with Mirriam’s careful guidance these children will go on to be amazing individuals.

I was awed and humbled. We live in a remarkable world – which, through our daily hassles and individual  dramas, we so often forget.

Read more about Mirriam House and the work they do – and find out how you can contribute – here.

Watch Die Antwoord’s Rich Bitch

I first posted this on iafrica.com this morning (hey, work comes first).

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet over the past year, chances are you’ve heard of the South African band Die Antwoord. Anyway, they always cause a bit of a splash with their videos (Enter the Ninja, Evil Boy), and their new video is no different.

The only issue is… well… out here in the bush (Cape Town, South Africa) we can’t watch the “official” VEVO version of Rich Bitch. Because VEVO has “blocked it in your country on copyright grounds”. Ah, yes. Even though Yo-Landi sings about shopping at Shoprite and Woolworths, uses Julius Malema-themed toilet paper and is proudly displaying a groovy Mr Price popcorn bucket… South Africans have to use sneaky means to view the video.

And we are sneaky indeed. Massive props to the guys and gals who posted the video sans VEVO-block. Watch it below.

Haul out the holy water for the first Afrikaans vampire film…

You know, I thought we’d have been done with one vampire movie out of South Africa in a 12-month cycle. (Everybody remember Eternity?) But no, there’s another local vampire film – and this one’s in Afrikaans.*

From the two teaser clips posted so far, this film actually looks like it could be pretty cool. You know, in a completely over-the-top, insane kinda way. Lots of blood and gore (I’m unlikely to look at Francois van Coke in the same way ever again). Plus, Rob van Vuuren in a vampire film? Genius. I’m sold. It’s supposed to be pretty rock ‘n roll, really gritty… Bring it on. (Just for the love of all things, please sub-edit your subtitles so that there aren’t glaring spelling/grammar errors like another South African movie I watched recently…!)

Anyway, the coolest thing about Bloedsuiers (that’s the working title, apparently) is not its storyline or its cast. What interests me the most is its plan for funding… They’re working on an idea gaining momentum in the US and Europe called “crowd funding”. And yes, it’s actually exactly what it sounds like.

Basically, fans (potential fans?) pledge an amount to donate to production. In the case of Bloedsuiers it can be as little as R30 (that’s a little over $4 for my American readers) – although I’m sure the larger the better. Obviously the producers aren’t relying only on the generosity of the fans (and with the Budget announced today, I’m feeling distinctly ungenerous and financially very jumpy) and will also be seeking private funding – but it’s a cool concept. Fans who donate will be rewarded with exclusive content and merchandise opportunities – so there’s more incentive than just being able to claim that you helped finance a movie. (And I would totally claim that).

* Anybody else waiting for an SABC version of True Blood? You know that’s next on the list, right?