Our theme for August is "What's Your Superpower?" Have you ever asked yourself that? Every hero or shero has a different path to discovering what makes them exceptional. I firmly believe though that everyone has a special gift to give the world. As we kick this month's theme off, I'd like to share with you my path and how it uncovered my calling.
First, let me share with you that I myself have donated eggs six times, and was a surrogate three times. Yes, you read that right. I haven't just "walked the walk". I've walked the walk as a womb warrior! I even donated my kidney.
While there are so many aspects to my experiences as a kidney donor, an egg donor and a surrogate; in keeping with this month's theme, this post will focus on the beginning of my egg donation journey, which was far from a pleasant one.
It all started in 1998, when I was a kidney donor for my cousin. I didn't know at the time what the future would hold, but this experience turned out to be a true catalyst for me to dedicate my life to serving others.
This is why when I saw advertisement in 1999 from an agency seeking egg donors, I took notice. I am a faith-based person and reading this ad made me feel like this was an incredibly opportunity to help others.
Although I was told that there was no demand for African American egg donors, I applied anyway. It took nine months to be matched with a family in Michigan for what became an anonymous egg donation, meaning that I of course did not know the intended parents, and they did not know me.
After making this match, it was like the agency disappeared on me and offloaded any real contact to the clinic I'd be cycling at. I was referred to a clinic in Atlanta for medical and psychological evaluations. Then, I was provided a cycle schedule that told me what medications to take and when. From there, I began taking hormones and would see the clinic regularly to check my hormone levels and perform ultrasounds to ensure that the follicles were a sufficient size for successful retrieval. It was very perfunctory but the overall objective of what I was doing kept me motivated.
After all the medical and screening procedures were complete, I was sent a plane ticket and made the trip to Michigan. A nurse picked me up at the airport, told me that my retrieval would be the next morning and then promptly dropped me off alone at the hotel.
First thing the next morning, the nurse picked me up for the retrieval where they obtained 27 eggs and placed me in the recovery room for an hour. Despite being a little fuzzy (and still alone), the nurse dropped be back off to the hotel and handed me an envelope that included $3000 compensation. Her parting words? "Thank you and please take a taxi to the airport tomorrow."
That was it: I felt used. After I had returned home my frustration only grew. I simply didn't understand how I could be treated so poorly. How I could literally give a piece of myself to help another family and not be told if it was successful: only that the intended parents were "happy."
At the time, I was sure that this would be my first and last egg donation.
A few years later (around 2002), I came across a website for families with infertility issues who were looking for third party reproduction assistance. People had placed ads looking for egg donors, but I remembered being told that there was no need for African American egg donors. I decided to list my information anyway, and was inundated with emails from families needing a donor: I was taken aback. I found a family in NJ, and ended up working directly with them to do another cycle. This cycle was semi-anonymous: the intended parents knew who I was, but I did not know who they were. After my testing and screening they purchased my ticket to travel and covered my hotel and other expenses.
Although I travelled alone it felt completely different. I felt much more at peace, and that it was something I was supposed to do. The intended mother checked on me daily, and it was a very different experience. Although the cycle did not turn out as planned, the mother got pregnant but then miscarried and then became pregnant on her own: it was an absolute blessing. I found my third family through the same website, but this time we got to know each other. I did the usual testing here in Atlanta, but went to NJ to complete the cycle. I even stayed with the intended parents in their home for much of my cycle! It was the best experience for me, and we remain friends today. While the donation did not result in a successful pregnancy, they were able to have children through another process. My final three egg donations was successful for two separate families (twice for one family). I talk to both families regularly.
Egg donation is such an important and selfless act, but it is not something you can just decide to do overnight. You must realize that you are giving part of yourself, and part of your DNA that will be out there in the world; you must be okay with that for the rest of your life.
It was my initial egg donation experience that made me want to find a way of making the whole process more positive for donors, surrogates and intended parents. If there was no need for African American egg donors, why did I receive so many emails? Did these people really know what they were talking about?
This led me to form my own agency, which evolved into Family Inceptions in 2013. My priority at Family Inceptions is personable, quality customer service and providing an experience that is as stress-free as possible: physically, psychologically, and financially.
I am constantly evolving Family Inceptions to improve the process for our donors and intended parents, and I am truly proud of the work we do.
So, if you were to ask me, "What's my Superpower?", it very much is family building. Not just as an egg donor or surrogate, but by creating the agency and services I wish I had! I can use my experiences, my years in the space to take all that I've learned to teach, guide and support anyone who works with me as they work towards making the impossible family possible.
Take a moment and ask yourself what makes you special. Can you be an egg donor to a couple who can't conceive on their own? Are you the surrogate someone is currently praying for? Are you a loving parent just waiting for your child?
When you find your purpose or goals, please let Family Inceptions know so we can assist you in making it happen!