Continuing with Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, one of our donors talked to us about her experience, touching on her Chinese heritage. Donor M. lives in Long Beach, […]

May 17, 2021 // Evan Billups // No Comments //

Continuing with Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, one of our donors talked to us about her experience, touching on her Chinese heritage. Donor M. lives in Long Beach, California and works in entertainment as a model, actor, and businesswoman. Here she discusses her experience as an egg donor during the pandemic, and as a someone of Chinese descent.

Can you tell me a little bit about how and why you became an egg donor?  Where did you hear about it and what prompted you to go through with it?
Well, I saw an ad on Snapchat so that’s how I got in touch with AsiaWest in particular. But I did consider it in the past, especially because I don’t want to have kids until later in life. And even before, I thought, you know a lot of people do struggle with infertility. Like for instance, my aunt miscarried. And my mom is from China, back when they had that One Child Policy. When she was having a second child they were thinking of coming here to do that and it was kind of a traumatic thing, and I felt really bad so I wanted to also be able to contribute philanthropically in that sense. 

And I also have my own experiences. I was in foster care for a little bit as a teenager so I do have this kind of urge to give back. But at the same time of course, it was attractive knowing I could get compensated pretty well and everything was taken care of and everyone was pretty professional to work with. So I think it ended up working out.

Going into the donation did you talk to your family or friends about it? What was their reaction?
I talked to just a few of my close friends. I haven’t talked to my mom because I know she’s very traditional and she’d probably be judgmental. And I don’t talk to my dad actually. But for the most part I had people support me. There’s a little bit of fear of the “what if” or the unknown, but other than that it’s been pretty straightforward and everything’s been pretty much as expected for the most part.

Ok. Going into it, what specific worries/concerns did you have about becoming an egg donor or about the egg donation process?
I guess a little bit about anonymity, but then I found that there’s different levels of being anonymous. I haven’t done a DNA test before, but I was glad that that was brought to my attention just in case. But I guess really my only other concerns were OHSS, like how my body would respond; if it would affect weight gain, skin, hormones – just like I didn’t know how my body would respond.

Did you talk to Amber and Delcie about those questions? Did that help alleviate some of your concerns?
They were really good with answering my questions and concerns, really thorough. I liked that a lot, because I felt like I trust the agency more when everything is thorough and answered, and everyone is very professional. After I found out that I was pretty low risk, it definitely made me feel better. At the same time, now that I’ve done it I feel like I know how my body responds. I still feel a little random pain in my stomach once in a while, but that’s like really the only thing. I don’t know if that’s affecting anything or if it’s just me in my head, but yeah.

So what was the donation process actually like?  What was the clinic like?  
So I did it all in Portland at ORM. I even did the monitoring appointments there. I actually liked it there because everything was straightforward. The Covid testing center also was really close, really easy, so I’m thankful that I could just do it all at the same place. I don’t know why, but if I had done the monitoring appointments here and testing here, it just would’ve been more of a hassle. So I’m really thankful that they were able to accommodate that. And even with these unusual circumstances, with Covid, they’ve been really flexible and good at readjusting things. 

Really the only thing that was confusing, a minor issue, was the medication. The one they usually use doesn’t ship to California or something like that. The one that they sent me came a little bit different than as described. But once I got to Oregon I could just go to them and get the components that were more necessary as far as the needles.

That was the one thing I was concerned with – injecting myself in the beginning. But it actually got a lot easier of course. My boyfriend was like, make sure you don’t put air into yourself – you’re going to like kill yourself! And I was like, “Don’t tell me that! It’s not going to happen!”

Yeah that makes sense. You mentioned that you felt and maybe still feel some discomfort or pain. How might donors expect to feel physically throughout the donation process?  What kind of pain or discomfort did you feel?
For the most part, the peak of my pain was maybe a few days after the retrieval. So of course it’s normal to feel bloating, even prior to the retrieval. But I didn’t feel that much discomfort until after the retrieval, I would say maybe for a few days. It was kind of hard to get out of bed or just to move. Even moving your legs or anything that involves the pelvic muscle, I would just feel it, it’s just kind of like sharp. I guess I was just very sensitive, very tender. Similar to how you feel on your period, just magnified. I got a little bit of bruising, but I really didn’t get that much, I was surprised. I got like maybe one big bruise on my abdomen area and then just like one from the IV, but that was really it.

After the retrieval, did you go right back to your regular activities?  What amount of time would you recommend a donor take off after retrieval?
I would say at least 3-5 days, maybe the whole week just to be on the safe side. But about 5 days after I was starting to feel more normal. I think it’s good to take the next week off just so you can fully recover because I was feeling very fatigued. Hydration really helped with everything. I was drinking a lot of water. Like I got a Brita in Portland because I was like it’s too many water bottles, it’s going to add up! It made it a lot more bearable.

I think they do tell you, with alcohol, caffeine, or exercise, they don’t recommend it until your next period. And they said my period would come in a week and a half, but it came in like less than a week. I guess everyone’s different, but I was kind of relieved because once you get your period I think it flushes out all the water weight and medication. So I felt…

Yeah! Definitely helps. So just water and diet really helps so you’re not in that much pain. I wouldn’t say it’s like unbearable pain or anything, but some people will take it differently than others. For me I was just concerned because I do have low BMI and those who are thinner, I guess it takes more of a toll on your body. So just things to be aware of, be mindful of.

But all else was pretty good. I did gain like four pounds. Just like the first day and then after that it was fine.

Was it just like bloating or water weight or…?
Right. Yeah, I think just after the retrieval I’m guessing I was inflamed. But that was all. It was just a little bit of pain, but normal. I was just very fatigued. I’m thankful that during this time I can be at home for the most part – it’s just what I needed.

So what choice of contact did you do?
‘m pretty sure I did semi for this one.

How do you feel about your choice of contact, and would you do the same thing, or do it differently?
I guess for me my main concern with being not anonymous – it just makes you uncomfortable knowing too much about each other just in case something weird or out of the ordinary was to happen. But at the same time, I do want to be somewhat open just in case later on, they have important questions or want to do a Zoom just to know who I am or something. I’d be willing to consider something like that. But at the same time, I think it’s important to have those boundaries. So I think unless someone wanted to be fully anonymous, I don’t mind that either, I’d do it the same.

Looking back, what was the best thing about being an egg donor for you?
For me, I will hope that – I don’t know exactly when they’ll update – but if it was a successful pregnancy, just to have it to be able to happen and to know that you made that difference or that all the process wasn’t for nothing. For me it seemed like a really good match because the intended mom is also from China, both from Shanghai which is where my mom’s from, so I thought that was kind of cool. So I felt like oh, it’s more special in a sense. It’s the little things like that. They had a simple bio about them. They’re both travelers and I think the intended dad scuba dives and I scuba dive – it’s kind of cool. So I think that’s been one of the coolest things for me, to actually have a fitting match and to feel like it worked, it makes sense.

That’s great. Now that you have experienced egg donation, are there any myths about it that have been dispelled for you?  Things that people might believe about it that aren’t true?
Right. Yeah, I guess I’ve heard both spectrums: people having really good experiences and then some people saying oh it’s terrible. I feel like I’ve heard a lot of mixed things, but for me I feel like the main thing I felt like the agency and clinic were good to work with. And I feel like those people who had a bad experience maybe weren’t with that good of a clinic or agency. So I think that’s a lot of what I’ve taken from it, just working with the right people and being comfortable in that kind of environment. That’s my main thing. 

But at the same time, there’s just not enough studies done on biological effects, stuff like that. But I think it shouldn’t be as taboo as it is, if that makes sense.

It’s interesting learning more about it.
It’s a whole new world. I’m still learning so much, especially going through the process. I really did have a pretty good experience so I’m thankful. For me, it’s just thinking is this going to have a long-term effect? But I think it does more good than harm.

So speaking about agencies, you said you found AsiaWest through an ad?
Yeah, a Snapchat ad. I was like oh wow! I thought it was interesting because it was asking specifically for people who were of Asian heritage and I’m half, but I feel like in the last year or so I’ve been connecting more with my own heritage. Last year I signed with an Asian agency so I feel like it made sense, it was a good fit. So I think everything has been pretty suitable.

You mentioned that working with a good agency is important, so do you have any tips that a prospective donor should look for in an egg donor agency? How did you feel working with AsiaWest?
I think working with a good agency, or one you feel comfortable with is important. I think it builds that trust. For me I would say look out for red flags. I notice that other people have bad experiences, like some of their concerns were dismissed, something like that. I mean they are pretty transparent for the most part, but that’s one thing I’d encourage. Transparency about like OHSS, being aware of certain risks before you commit to it.

Another thing, I realized with the paperwork, with an attorney, I feel like the attorney was pretty good too. I’ve read that some people work with agencies that don’t even provide them with an attorney, they’re not aware. So for me I was looking through all the red flags and [AsiaWest] doesn’t meet any, so I was really thankful.

In terms of compensation, how has the compensation changed your life in any way?
I’m thankful for the additional income. For me, I just want to use it to reinvest into my businesses and start a savings, and just be able to have money in case of emergency. I’m thankful for the security and going through a process where you feel respected and well compensated.

Would you say that the money was a big motivator in the beginning and that changed over time? Or was that never the only motivation?
It definitely wasn’t the only motivation, but I think it’s a good amount of compensation for the process that you go through. For me, once I got to a point, I was kind of – I don’t want to say emotionally invested, but I feel like I was doing it for a greater purpose in a sense. Once you get to a point, your time is also an investment. I knew that I wanted to go through with it. But at the same time, when you’re paid well for something, it makes you feel good. It’s like energy. It’s currency.

To wrap things up, what advice do you have for someone who’s interested in becoming an egg donor?
I would say definitely have at least one support person. Also I think it’s really important to get as much information about your family history. They were pretty thorough with everything so when I got approved I felt comfortable with that. But I think it’s really important just to do your research, have support, and just be open with the process. Make sure you have done that research so you feel good about your decision.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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