Why do women decide to become egg donors? And how does the process unfold? Egg Helpers continues its series of interviews with our donors to share stories from women just like you. Women who decided to take a leap of faith, change someone’s life forever, and make their dreams come true. Christina is the daughter of Egg Helpers CEO and Founder Leia Swanberg, who is a six time egg donor herself. Christina is also our Donor Intake and Support Specialist, and this is her story.
Why did you decide to donate your eggs?
I grew up knowing about egg donation because of my mom and seeing her go through that process. She was a younger mom when she had me, so we had a really close relationship throughout my life and my childhood. Since I’ve been young, my mother and I would have open and candid discussions about assisted reproduction and how she was giving this gift to others through the donation of her eggs. What she was doing really inspired me to take action in my own life and make a difference. When I got older, I felt compelled to help those who were not able to have children on their own and were struggling with infertility.
Did you get paid for your egg donation?
No, I didn’t get paid for my donation, since egg donation is completely altruistic in Canada. This means that you are not paid or compensated in any way. Personally, this is the way I wanted my donation to be anyway. I’ve completed both a known and an anonymous donation, and it was really important to me that it was an altruistic process especially for the known donation. If I knew the family that was utilizing my eggs to have their family, I didn’t want to look them in the face and know they paid me. I wanted this to be a gift, since this form of generosity was instilled in me from a very young age. My mother passed on her belief to me that if you have the ability to give to others, you should always go out of your way to help.
Tell me about the side effects, you experienced while taking the hormone injections.
For my first donation I did experience some side effects such as bloating and discomfort, but I was able to talk it through with the nurses at my fertility clinic. They were able to give me some recommendations to help, such as eating saltier foods and limiting my water intake. These suggestions all really helped with the bloating. I didn’t experience any type of hyperstimulation or anything like that, and for that I’m very grateful. When I was going through the medical process, the nurses and doctors always explained the different symptoms or side effects that I might have, and they were always really clear about what to look out for. If I ever had an issue, I was able to contact them right away to resolve it. For my second donation, I didn’t really have any side effects. I’ve chosen to donate again, and I start a medication very soon.
What are some misconceptions you’ve heard about egg donors?
While I was going through my first donation, the only time my friends had ever heard of anyone else go through this was either from talking to me about the work my Mom and I do, or from the show Pretty Little Liars where one of the characters goes through the egg donation process. I think the biggest misconception I heard was that I was going to be paid a huge sum of money for my donation. There just isn’t very much awareness about egg donation in Canada, and how our model differs from the United States.
Other misconceptions I’ve heard is that if I did an anonymous donation, I would have no idea who my eggs would be going to, which isn’t true. For anonymous donations, I still receive a profile about who the parents would be, but we never meet or exchange contact information. Another misconception I heard was others asking me how I would feel about my children being out in the world and not in my care. But the fact is, while my eggs contain my genetic material, they do not become a child until the baby is born, and that child is not mine since I’m not the one shaping and moulding its future. I believe in nurture versus nature, and once I’ve completed my donation, my eggs are a gift that no longer belong to me and instead belong to the Intended Parents.
Why did you choose a known donation?
I chose to have a known donation for my first because I was donating to people that I already had a relationship with, so it was important to me to continue to be a part of their lives. Afterwards, I knew I still had the opportunity to give to others, but I also knew that for cultural, religious, or personal reasons, they simply preferred an anonymous donation and I wanted to help those who belong to these communities as well.
What did your family think of your egg donation?
Obviously, my family was really supportive. My mom was there for me the whole time and talked me through all of my medications. But it wasn’t just her, my co-workers at Egg Helpers and my other family members and friends were all so supportive of what I was doing. They all thought that what I was doing to help this couple in need was really special.
How much time did you miss from work for your donation?
I missed about two days because I took the day off for my retrieval, and the day after to recover. I was able to work my screening appointments around my work schedule and have them really early in the morning, so I really didn’t miss that much time at all.
What happened with your eggs, did they become tiny humans?
While I don’t know the results of my anonymous donation, I do know that my known donation did result in some tiny humans. They’re really adorable, and it’s cool to know that I played a vital role in creating someone’s family.
Do you have any tips in terms of what qualities a prospective donor should look for in an egg donor agency?
I think the most important quality is communication. As a member of Egg Helper’s intake team, I understand the need for open communication between and agency and their donors. It’s important to have someone advocate for the donors, who will help you communicate with the clinic, the lawyer, and the Intended Parents while also educating about the entire process. Even though I work in this industry, when it came to my own donations, I still had questions, fears and concerns. I understand how important it is for donor’s to be able to have someone on the end of the phone who can answer and address those questions. I’d definitely recommend that anyone looking to doing an egg donation should look for an egg donation agency that values that level of clear and consistent communication.
What did you learn about yourself through the egg donor process?
Through my donation I learned more about my strength of character, and how emotionally strong I am. I’m so proud of the courage I was able to muster during the process. My donation has also taught me so much about the act of giving back to others and paying things forward. I’ve noticed a lot of positivity in my life since the donation. While it may not be a direct result of the donation, going through the process has definitely affected my perspective on life for the better. My donation made me appreciate my body on a deeper level, and I’m so in awe of what both my body and mind are capable of achieving.
What’s the best thing about being an egg donor?
Knowing that I helped someone create one of the most valuable experiences in their life by them becoming parents. Also, my relationship with my mom is so intense and special, and knowing that I was able to give that to someone else is something that is just amazing. There are people out there who are able to share in those special first moments of celebrating birthdays, taking their kids to school, and all sorts of other milestones because of the gift of my eggs. It’s amazing to know that there are families out there that simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for me, which is an indescribably feeling.
Thank you, Christina for taking the time to share your amazing egg donation story with Egg Helpers.