Donor Conception

8 things I wish I knew before becoming an egg donor – Shelby’s story

Emma Harpham, in partnership with Shelby Carpenter from Cloud 9 Conception  |   11 Jul 2023


Egg donor information, from lived experience

Becoming an egg donor, and the life-changing impact donation can have on families going through IVF treatment, is becoming more and more widely acknowledged and accepted. As part of the process, donors take a sequence of fertility drug injections, aimed at stimulating the ovaries to generate a larger quantity of eggs. Following this, they’re retrieved through a minor surgical procedure. 

But what does becoming an egg donor actually involve? What is the process really like? And what are the rewards in store? These are all things that Shelby Carpenter, two-time egg donor and founder of Cloud9 Conception, is no stranger to. 

Cloud9 Conception is an egg donor agency on a mission to change the narrative of donor egg IVF while empowering women throughout their journeys. Priding itself on its community-driven approach, Cloud9 Conception provides personalized matching services to assist in the selection of egg donors, and combines clinical expertise with integrated personal support for both donors and intended parents.

We sat down with Shelby as she shared some surprising benefits of being an egg donor that she wishes she knew earlier, and reveals why it’s one of the most fulfilling and empowering experiences she’s ever had. Here’s her story.

Being an egg donor is no small thing – how did you decide it was right for you?

There were multiple reasons why I decided to become an egg donor. I was working in the field at the time of my first donation, so I really got to see the first-hand experience of an intended mother finding out she was pregnant with a donor egg child after years of failed pregnancy attempts. 

I had considered the idea previously when I was in college, but it was being one on one with this particular patient and seeing the impact of the gift of egg donation that made me realize I wanted to provide this opportunity to someone – the opportunity to become a parent.

Egg-donor-story-shelby-carpenter

How was your egg donation experience?

The process wasn’t quick, and I do think there’s a misunderstanding that egg donation is easy money. There was a lot of bloodwork as well as quite a few scans. The self-administered injections were a little nerve-wracking the first time, but I felt supported by the fertility staff the entire way. I worked with an agency for my donations and I loved the feeling of having a friend in my corner. 

I don’t know how to describe the feeling of recovering from that procedure and knowing that I quite possibly just changed someone’s life. I knew I wanted to donate at least once more, so after a few months of getting my schedule back in order and discussing a second cycle with the agency, I was on board for helping another couple.

What do you wish you knew before becoming an egg donor?

I was working in the field of IVF at the time of my donation cycles, so not many of the practicalities surprised me. However, it brought so many unexpected joys and rewards that reached (and will continue to reach) far beyond just the process itself. Here are eight things that I wish I knew earlier.

Appointments didn’t need to impact work schedules

The appointments were frequent but quick! It actually didn’t impact my work schedule as much as I’d thought it would. My IVF monitoring set-up really worked in my favor, and was quite convenient for me as I was able to get monitored first thing in the morning and head right into the office afterwards. 

The symptoms can vary

I did underestimate the symptoms. I definitely experienced moodiness while on injections, as well as a lot of cravings! Working in the field, I knew of women who went right back to work the day after their retrieval… I was not like that. Because donors are so likely to produce higher numbers of eggs, it’s pretty common for those gals to feel a little yucky after the procedure. I remember wearing oversized sweaters to hide my unbuttoned pants because I was pretty bloated. I also binged Netflix for a few days and drank more Gatorade than in my 26 years combined leading up to that donation!

Self-advocacy is so key

Fertility is such a specific medical field and it’s not easy, but the medical team for both of my cycles were excellent. I knew I was working with a team of very passionate people who cared about my outcomes and health. It was also helpful (and I recommend this to every woman considering donation) that I’m a huge self-advocate. If at any point I experienced discomfort that felt out of the norm, I could ask and trust that they would take care of me.

Lots of beautiful feelings will come up

Both of my egg donations brought their own unique feelings. The first cycle I went through with my significant other at the time, and I’m not sure if he entirely understood the sense of female community that arises from this type of teamwork. I spent a lot of time journaling and savoring my experience on a more private level, which was incredible. My mother supported me throughout my second cycle, which was equally incredible. I had the woman who birthed me and cheered for me right by my side while I was letting someone else take a swing at motherhood. We both cried together after I woke up from my retrieval, and just basked in how lucky we are to be healthy, and to have this opportunity to help those in need. 

It helps build closeness and community

I was incredibly surprised by how supportive my amazing mother was. I come from a very blended family; adoptions, half-siblings, step-siblings, full-blood! I don’t know why I was nervous to share this journey, but once I was selected I immediately disclosed the process to my mother and sisters. The support was overwhelming, and it really solidified that I was making the right choice. 

It gives you a complete picture of your own fertility profile

The free medical testing was awesome! It gave me a chance to get a well-rounded view of my fertility health without paying a dime. I was given access to all of my medical records free of charge, so all of this information that isn’t provided by a general practitioner was just given to me – it was extremely insightful.

IVF offspring can reach out

So as we know, egg donation is not as anonymous as it used to be. In fact, the industry has recently shifted its terminology and now refers to donors who don’t personally know their recipients as non-identified, to more accurately reflect the era of social media and more readily available genetic testing. There is a strong chance that at some point in the future, I will be contacted by an IVF offspring that resulted from my donation. I’m excited to provide my point of view to those young adults and give them the answers to questions that they may have. 

It’s an achievement like no other

My feelings towards egg donation really intensified after that first cycle. I think there’s a taboo concept around this type of service – a misunderstanding that women only do this for monetary benefit, despite studies that show otherwise. It’s easy to say what the data shows, but the feeling that wells inside your heart when you take this journey… it’s incomprehensible. It’s fresh and new and unique, and like nothing I’d ever achieved. I wasn’t expecting the impact to be that grand, on my own sense of self and the gratefulness that I experienced. There were a lot of happy tears throughout the process!

Thinking about becoming an egg donor, or just want to find out more about the process and how it can help you achieve your goals? 

Cloud9 Conception is here to give you the tools to make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you, help you figure out if you’re eligible, and give you end-to-end support throughout the whole process. 

Learn more about egg donation and apply for this incredible journey here.

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