‘I donated my eggs to a stranger’
Four years ago, Charly Suggett, 28, decided to give an infertile couple the chance at having a child. This is her story…
Most 25-year- olds dread their first smear test: young, terrified and, in many cases, exper i en c ing an incredibly intrusive procedure for the first time. But I was relaxed about mine. That’s because, a year earlier, I lay back nervously in a hospital operating theatre, hitched my legs into stirrups and underwent anaesthesia to have some of my eggs removed so I could donate them to strangers.
I didn’t do it after watching a relative struggle to conceive or because I was offered a financial reward. It’s illegal in the UK to pay someone for donating their eggs, apart from compensating them for time off work. I got £750 in total. I did it because I woke up one day with the urge to give something to someone – which, in turn, might help to give my life a bit more meaning. You might find it strange that, at 24, I chose egg donation. I could have volunteered at a soup kitchen or kept an elderly person company. But I knew it had to be something bigger.
I’d just moved to London and was feeling unfulfilled in a boring retail job. The idea first popped into my mind when I was particularly down one night. I thought the best thing I could do was make sure someone else felt pleasure in their life. Despite having a happy upbringing, I lost my dad at 11 and I wanted to be able to help someone grow up in a happy family home.
I began research and pored over the overwhelming details of what it would involve: pumping my body with hormones for four months, an invasive operation, adult acne and no sex throughout, as I’d be extremely fertile. Undeterred, I sent off my application form. I was asked to delve into the darkest corners of my personal life and mental health on a questionnaire and, when I passed, I was invited for an appointment with a specialist at the Harley Street clinic I’d signed up to. This meeting really tested my mettle: I was told the child could look me up and contact me when they turned 18. Could I really face a young adult who I helped create wanting to be part of my life? How would I feel if the child was a boy who grew up to look exactly like my dad? And what if my egg created a child but, for whatever reason, in later life I wasn’t able to conceive myself ? Would I be angry? Bitter? Sad? These were questions I didn’t know the answers to. But I knew that I still wanted to go ahead with it.
Within two weeks, I was linked to a couple who had viewed my profile and decided I suited their ‘expectations of future offspring’. Before I knew it, I was sharing my menstrual cycle with the anonymous woman so we could synchronise our periods to prepare her womb for an embryo created from one of my eggs. I did this for six months. It’s a procedure not too dissimilar to IVF. I was given hormone injections during each appointment to stimulate egg production, and underwent internal ultrasounds.
But I focused on the end result: I was going to give a couple the greatest gift of all.
As our cycles synced, I started injecting myself with the hormones every day. I fumbled with the needles, bruising myself badly and constantly having to navigate new patches of skin. My hormones were through the roof, I developed severe acne and was restless and agitated at work. This went on for over two months. By now, everyone in my family and at work knew and were very supportive.
Finally, our cycles were synchronised to the day and I was in the operating theatre ready to have my eggs extracted. With my legs in the air while five medics buzzed around my groin, I felt terrified and vulnerable, but never once regretted my decision.
I was unconscious for the procedure but was very tender for a few days after. I felt a deep, throbbing pain every time I coughed. It was strange making my way home from the hospital; my mum came to help but I was in a world of my own. Could this be a new beginning for two complete strangers? I felt positive and excited. A few months later, though, I found out from the clinic that my donated eggs hadn’t resulted in a pregnancy.
I’d set out to do something. I’d made it my mission. But after hearing this news, I was back to feeling inadequate again. I had so badly wanted to help and, despite knowing it wasn’t my fault, I felt I had failed miserably. I’m 28 now and haven’t donated since, but it crosses my mind regularly. I work in fashion and spend my days fussing over shoes and handbags. Dreaming about a successful donation gives me a sense of purpose.
I still plan to have kids of my own one day, but I’m in no rush. If I have a successful donation, I’ll definitely tell my future partner and children. However long it takes, I want to try again until I get that happy ending for someone out there.