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My gift

From BBC - November 15, 2017

Why would anyone donate their eggs to help a stranger have a child? Elaine Chong explains her reasons.

I first heard about egg donation when I was at university in the US. We studied the sociology, psychology and biology of sperm and egg donation, and I was really inspired by the gift-giving nature of it - I knew it was for me.

The professor told us that egg banks wanted young, healthy women who were well-educated, but that there was a real shortage of women of colour.

I thought about people like me - from a Chinese background - who might have fertility problems and want to have children really badly. I thought about my gay male friends who spoke at length about wanting to be good parents and how my gift could help them, too.

The professor talked about how each egg could be worth up to $3,000 (2,280) which made the lecture hall go: "Ooooooh!"

I decided to give it a go and registered via a website decorated with pictures of cheerful, chubby babies.

Unfortunately, I failed the screening process almost immediately- anyone who lived in the UK for more than six months from 1980 to 1997 is ineligible because of the possible risk of transmitting the human form of BSE (vCJD). This also meant I could not donate blood, or be put on the organ donor list.

But the idea stayed with me, and when I came back to the UK for my postgraduate degree, I decided to try again here.

One big difference is that donors here receive a one-off compensation fee of 750 ($990) to cover costs - but I was not doing it for the money.

I registered through another website decorated with cute baby pictures and was invited to take part in a rigorous screening process.

They asked me lots of questions - the administrator, the nurse, the doctor - everyone wanted to know why I wanted to donate my eggs.

I boiled it down to: "I want to make families feel complete."

I found out that in the UK there is also a shortage of donors from ethnic minorities.

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As far as I know, there's nothing in Chinese culture that prohibits egg or gamete donation, but it still took me ages to tell my mother that I wanted to do it.

My mum has always insisted that if she were to die, she wanted to donate any organ that could be useful to people. Eggs though! That's a bit different, because people would be walking around with our genes. Would my parents think of them as their grandchildren?

When I eventually told her, her immediate reaction was, "Let's not tell your dad."

When I was approved as a donor, they explained that it was not like in the movies and that after the donation I really would not get any news about possible offspring until they were adults - and then only if they asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for information about their egg donor.

I thought that seemed reasonable.

I found myself thinking a lot about how I was presenting myself to the potential parents. On the forms I filled in my height, my weight, my eye colour and medical history, but that does not really capture me as a person.

How would parents know if their kid might turn out to be sporty, fond of Thai food, kind to animals or like wearing black?

The clinic did ask about my hobbies and whether I played a musical instrument, but it felt like I was writing a pretty dry CV, to be honest.

Over the next few weeks I had lots of medical tests. I really hate having blood drawn so I always treated myself to a samosa afterwards - as a consequence, samosas now taste like cheering myself up.

I had to inject myself with hormones twice a day, which was a bit like playing doctor. I kept the needles in our family fridge - nobody asked me what was in the strange-looking pack.

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