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! 😛

Advertisements

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.

Angelina vs. Jennifer. Let it go, guys. It’s over.

You know, it’s been six years. But there is always, always, always somebody who brings up the Jennifer Aniston vs. Angelina Jolie debate/feud/comparison/whatever.

The most recent was a reader on my site. On an article and poll on Angelina’s Cannes gown – where really, all you had to do was say whether or not you liked her outfit – a reader managed to wangle in the Jen-and-Angelina thing (Jengelina?). “Anistons toned body would have done greater justice to such an awesome dress [sic]”.

*facepalm*

And then I thought about it a little more. The media still makes SUCH a thing out of it. There are regular references to the Angelina-Brad-Jennifer triangle. And honestly, there probably will be references until the day they die.

Honestly, people were so moved by the situation that you would have thought that they were the ones that had been divorced. There are still people who call Angelina the “whore of Hollywood” – even though she’s been with the same man for the past six years. And we’re always talking about “unlucky-in-love Jennifer”… We cast these wonderful roles for them to play and we expect them to do so for the rest of their careers. It’s typecasting, really.

Why did we have to pick sides? Why do we assume that Brad was “tricked” into falling in love with Angelina, or believe that she ruthlessly seduced him? Why do we always cast Jennifer as the victim and Angelina as the villain? Surely the bad guy here is Brad? Still, after six years we refer to Angelina as the h0mewrecker where it appeared that Brad did a pretty good job of wrecking his home all by himself.

At the end of the day, he picked Angelina. Now can we move on and stop comparing the two (they’re hot in entirely different ways, can we not accept that?!) and feeling sorry for Jennifer (especially as she has said that it irritates her beyond belief).

I’m not dead… I promise

Right, well seeing as I could be in the running for the Most Useless Blogger, Like, Ever award I thought I’d just post an update. It’s a little different to my usual updates… although this could be partly because I’m in one of the weirdest moods ever.

I always have fantastic intentions when it comes to this blog. I’m always convinced that I’m going to change the whole world with my blog posts… And then stuff like that little wedding that happened and ten billion movie reviews and that new movie about sparkly vampires comes along. Oh, okay, and mostly lots of rereading old  Hyperbole and a Halfs and Hurricane Vanessa’s blog. But mostly work. I promise. And a lot of Facebook. And New Scientist and… well, you get the picture.

But mostly it’s being sad, having no energy and in general just losing my joie de vivre. Break-ups have this horrible way of infiltrating every.single.aspect.of.your.bloody.life until you start feeling like some tragic heroine in a cheap paperback novel. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

[You can duck out now if you’d rather wait for something fun and relevant to the entertainment world. Like my planned piece on the Lady Gaga video which is dropping this Thursday night.]

Continue reading

‘The Hobbit’ finally on the roll…!

I’m currently man-down with a radical cold, and am therefore not up to much else other than a) My basic day’s work b) Drinking lots of tea and c) Playing as much Dragon Age 2 as is humanly possible before my fingers seize up. But – much excitement – production has finally started on The Hobbit! After years and years of delays, they’ve finally kicked off – and are still aiming for a December 2012 release date for part one, which is apparently subtitled There and Back Again.

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson poses on the set of 'The Hobbit'. © Warner Brothers

These cool promotional photos have been released by WB – and wow, is Peter Jackson looking a little trimmer than his Lord of the Rings days! Compare:

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson poses on the set of 'The Hobbit'. © Warner Brothers

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson in a promo image for 'The Lord of the Rings'.

 

I’ve had a bit of a Hobbit overdose today – working on a feature to accompany the news. And now, I want to reread the novel for the zillionth time. With more tea, and sympathy.

Reviewed: ‘Blue Valentine’

For a number of reasons, one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever had to write. Originally published on iafrica.com.

Blue Valentine“What’s the point of it all? I’m going to die alone, anyway.”

Possibly not the feeling the average cinemagoer want to have when leaving the theatre – and so seeing Blue Valentine on a day where you’re feeling a little down is probably not a great idea.

But despite the fact that it’s a melancholic, ultimately exhausting viewing experience, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is one of the most hauntingly beautiful films of recent years.

The film traces the disintegrating marriage of Dean and Cindy, a working-class couple with a small daughter. Cindy is a hard-working nurse at a local hospital, Dean is a housepainter who cracks open his first beer at 8am. Within the first few shots of the couple and the way they interact, you’re already wondering what happened. How did they end up together, when it’s obvious that they’re so badly suited?

The film tells their past and present through a series of flashbacks, from their first tender dates to the moment they realise their marriage is over. It’s a slow disintegration from the heady days of an early love – and a rushed marriage – to a bizarre tryst in a seedy sex motel. Ryan Gosling strums along to his “goofy” rendition of You Always Hurt The One You Love, and it’s a tragic reminder of the future you know is coming.

That’s the overwhelming sense of the film – that you know what’s coming, the bitterness, the tiredness – it ultimately feels futile. Yet there’s still a part of the viewer who begs for a happy ending, some sort of cathartic resolution for the pair and their once beautiful love. Continue reading