P.C. is a grad student from LA. P.C. is of Korean heritage. Here she discusses her experience doing an open donation with a Korean couple through AsiaWest. She also talks […]

January 14, 2023 // Evan Billups // No Comments //

P.C. is a grad student from LA. P.C. is of Korean heritage. Here she discusses her experience doing an open donation with a Korean couple through AsiaWest. She also talks about the importance of being open-minded as an egg donor, and how it can impact couples in need. P.C. currently lives in Brooklyn.

Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself, your background, where you’re calling from?
I’m originally from LA. I have a Bachelor in Human Services at Cal State Fullerton and then moved out to New York, so I’m in Brooklyn right now. I’m here to complete my Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. So I should be graduating in the spring.

I come from a fully Korean family. I’m the first gen here. I have one little brother and my family’s all back in LA. And then I have other family in Toronto, New York, and Korea.

Did you talk to your family about the donation process or no?
Kind of. So my little brother’s been completely fully supportive, so that’s been nice – I’ve been able to talk to him about that. I didn’t tell my parents initially, just because they’re very old fashioned, very traditional. Which was interesting, because I actually met my intended parents and the woman is Korean, and we spoke a little bit about that culture and how [this kind of thing] is very frowned upon.

But I finally told my mom over the summer. She was not necessarily the most supportive – she couldn’t fully understand why I was doing it. I haven’t talked to my dad about it just because usually if my mom is pretty supportive or understanding about something, my dad will be too. But because she didn’t necessarily react the way that I thought, I was like ok maybe we shouldn’t tell dad!

So my mom and my brother know, and I have friends that I’ve been able to lean on so it hasn’t been a lack of a support system – it’s just more of my extended family and my dad who doesn’t know.

That makes sense. How did you initially find out about egg donation and AsiaWest? Did you see something online?
I believe it was an ad. Like randomly I saw an ad on one of my social media platforms… it was specifically an AsiaWest ad so I thought, “That’s interesting… are they specifically looking for Asian donors?” So that piqued my interest and then I started to do a little more digging and then it just kind of went from there. I was like this is actually really cool, and then when Amber reached out obviously I was completely uneducated on what the process is like. I had no idea what it entailed, other than the fact that I’d be donating a few eggs, you know?

And did you have any specific worries or concerns or questions that you had?
Initially I was definitely curious about infertility, and if that’s something that it causes, because I’m in my late twenties and after donating would that affect my chances of having children? So that was something on my mind – not that I’m having kids anytime soon! Just out of curiosity. So I had that cleared up.

I think that was genuinely my most concerning question… everything else I was kind of like I’m down for whatever you guys want to do – no restrictions really. It was interesting too with the process of the bloodwork and testing, and seeing if I come back negative or positive with the genetic testing that they did. Getting that done was also really cool because I’m learning more about myself in this process.

How was the donation process for you?  How was the clinic that you worked at? Did you experience any physical side effects?
So my first appointment at the clinic they actually forgot about me – it was kind of funny! They put me in a room, did my bloodwork, and they were like ok you’re just going to have to take off your bottoms and then sit here and the doctor will be in here shortly. And I was like ok! So I prepared and then I sat in there half-naked for like 40ish minutes waiting for them, and then someone came in surprised to see me and was like, “Hey, has the doctor seen you?” And I was like, “No!”

But I was talking to Mara [my case manager] about it and apparently that clinic took over another company and they might just be a little chaotic right now. So I’m like I get it, I wasn’t upset – it was more like confusing? So that was my first appointment in early October.

It was a really interesting process because me personally, I’m terrified of needles. Anything with blood I get nauseous. I used to donate plasma and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the needle for plasma donations – they’re very thick. I actually almost passed out the first time. Knowing that I’m weak with blood and needles, I was definitely nervous about the IVF process. But I also have four PA student roommates here, so all of them were obsessed! They were like, “One of us gets to prick you each day!” And I was like. “That’s fine!” because injecting myself was like a petrifying feeling in the beginning. So they helped ease me into it for sure.

And then I had a Zoom meeting with my intended parents before that. They had actually gone through IVF themselves, so they gave me some tips about using an ice pack and how to inject – things like that. So that was really nice.

I definitely didn’t feel too bad for the first week on IVF and then the latter half when I was in San Diego was crazy just because by the end I think I had 39 follicles and they were able to grab 24 mature eggs. So that’s a decent amount! So then by the time I did my trigger shot I felt like I had a bunch of mini water balloons inside my stomach just sloshing around. It was a weird feeling!

Did you find you needed a few days of rest or were you able to go back to your normal activities?
So my retrieval was on the 19th of October which was a Wednesday. Usually they fly you back the day after, but I asked if they could fly me back on Friday, just because I had a class on Thursday that I was afraid I was going to miss. I missed my class on Wednesday completely because I don’t do well with anesthesia and I was just out all day. Had class on Thursday and it was weird because I couldn’t lie fully on my back, and walking was hard for the first couple days. By the time I flew home on Friday it wasn’t too bad – I was able to walk without having to hunch over. I think I had some bleeding here and there for the first few days. By the following Friday I believe I was fine.

That makes sense. Can you tell me a little more about how it was meeting the intended parents? Not very many donors get to do that, so that’s kind of exciting!
Yeah, I was actually surprised because they told me that open donations aren’t necessarily like a big thing. I was open to it because it was just kind of like, I don’t care – whatever they want to do! They’re the ones who are putting in all this time and money. There are couples who have had IVF and failed, or like same-sex couples who need an egg donor – things like that. So if they wanted to do an open donation… like I get people who are uncomfortable with it, but for me it was just kind of like I don’t mind, you know?

Meeting them was definitely really weird, because at the Zoom meeting it was kind of like a weird “what do we talk about” kind of thing. Because obviously it’s a very intimate relationship, but it’s also a very confusing relationship. Mara was saying that both the intended parents and myself were like very cautious and caring about what the other party thought. We were very considerate of each other without realizing. [Mara] was like, “You guys are on the same page! You’re going to figure it out at some point!” So that was really funny.

And then we actually went to dinner the second night that I was in San Diego. That was even weirder! It really was like a first date! It was just like, “What do I say? What if I say something wrong? I don’t want to say anything that might hurt their feelings or be inconsiderate!” And so, initially it was really weird. But then I think we ended up talking for like three hours. So it was definitely an interesting conversation. I think because we were overall on the same page, it was easy.

And it’s not like they’re like, “Let’s be best friends, we want you to be the kid’s aunt”, you know what I mean? It was just more getting to know each other a little more. They’re also like the sweetest, kindest couple so it’s really hard to not get along with them! I got really lucky with them.

When you were chatting with them were they kind of just asking about your life, what you like to do – that kind of thing?
Yeah, kind of getting to know me, especially because their child is going to be genetically half me. So I’m not going to sit there and like trauma dump on them, but it was like what I went through as a kid, where I grew up, my hobbies, my interests. They know that I’m in grad school right now – things of that sort.

Obviously I wanted to ask them questions like that too, but it’s like what reason would I have to get to know them? Whereas for them, they have every reason to want to know who I am, how I think, things like that. Me getting to know them is purely out of curiosity. So I felt at some points like it was a questionnaire, like filling in all the gaps for them.

But I also asked them what made them choose me, because I was curious what about me stood out for them. And I guess they’d been at multiple agencies, and they said a lot of the Asian donors didn’t necessarily feel like human? Like a lot of them had videos with filters or non-English speaking or didn’t share too much. Whereas they said with my profile, it just sounded like I was a normal person with a life who was doing this. They said it just felt more like I was a human they felt like they could talk to, [which was important] especially because they wanted an open donation. It was nice to hear that because something I thought about while filling out my profile was I hope I come across as someone who is genuinely just themselves – like this is who I am as opposed to “Pick me!”

That is nice! So are you thinking about donating again in the future? Or are you kind of done?
No, I think I will. It’s just because I turned 27 a little over a month ago, so I know that I’m like “running out of time”. [But] because I just started donating and my tests all came back relatively healthy, there shouldn’t be an issue with that. So I’m like if I can donate all six times I will! I’m not going to lie, when I was in the healing process I was like, “I’m never doing this again!”, but now that I’m not going through that I’m like yeah why not!

Well I’m glad you had a good enough experience that you want to donate again! I know that there’s a lot of misinformation about egg donation, or just things that people don’t know. Having gone through it now yourself, was there anything that surprised you or things that people might be surprised to hear about egg donation?
I think the infertility part. When I started the process I was like, I’m not going to hide it because it is kind of taboo to people who are uneducated about it. But I was like I’m just going to share my experience with people and hope to educate them the way I was educated. And so when talking to a lot of people about it and letting them know that I’m going through this process, the most asked question that I got from my friends and family was, “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to be infertile in the future?” Learning that infertility is not possible and educating people on it was a really big factor.

And then the compensation, a lot of people asked about that too because it varies between different places. I was doing a little bit of research on that too and… learning that Korean donors are really rare, that was something I didn’t know about. It makes sense, given Korean culture and how taboo it is. But that made me want to do it even more you know?

Yeah, what would you say was your biggest motivator for wanting to do this?
I know people who have gone through IVF, I know people who have had difficulties getting pregnant, so I think knowing that and then learning more about the process… I was like the compensation is a nice cherry on top, but I’m also helping a couple who can’t have kids. And I’m someone who doesn’t want kids right now and I know that I’m a healthy individual – I know that I won’t have these issues in the future. Maybe if I wait until I’m 45, but that’s a problem for future me! But thinking about how there are people who have tried and tried… one of my roommates has a friend who has gone through IVF fourteen times. They are not giving up. Fourteen is a lot! So obviously people want that, and are doing everything they can to start a family and they’re having difficulties.

And then learning that AsiaWest works with same-sex couples was a big factor for me because I have family who is in the LGBTQI+ community. Even now there are so many people who shun that community – they don’t want to accept them. And for me that just isn’t right. And so a same-sex couple who is trying to have children – they already have so many things against them, why would I not want to help them?

I love that. How was working with AsiaWest?
Oh, it was amazing. Mara is the best. I told Amber, my next donation give me Mara! It was a really good experience because Mara was very hands on and very like, “Anything you need we’re here!” Amber and Delcie were great too. I didn’t have any issues with AsiaWest at all. Any questions I had they were willing to answer. They were not at all like, we don’t care about you. I never felt like I was just a donor.

Good! What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about egg donation and becoming an egg donor?
Make sure you have a strong support system, for sure. I think that’s one of the biggest things. I told you that my mom wasn’t the most supportive, but I had my brother and and then my support person was my best friend from undergrad and she was like 100% whatever I needed she was there. So I think having someone who will be there with you throughout the entire process is really important.

I have a lot of people who were like, “Why would you do this” type of thing, so I think educating yourself so you can educate others as well is one of the more important factors. And then of course think about whether or not you want kids in the future. Because for me I know this doesn’t affect me having children, but I know through AsiaWest I can freeze my own eggs if I wanted to. Obviously there’s money that goes into that, but I learned that I can freeze my own eggs if that’s something of concern to me.

I also think having an open mind when it comes to this is important. I’ve heard of donors who take advantage of the situation or are very close-minded; donors who have said, “I don’t want to give my eggs to a same-sex couple”. That kind of stuff baffled me because it’s like what are you in this for then? That’s just my opinion, but I think having an open mind is really important when it comes to this because this is definitely not an everyday thing that everyone goes through. Being an egg donor, there’s a lot that goes into it besides, “Oh I’m making some money off my eggs”. It’s so much more than that and I think a lot of people don’t think about that. 

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

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