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Fertility

Hundreds of Canadian babies are created every year using donated eggs. Often forgotten in that equation are the donors. Here are four of their stories

Kelly Salvador donated her eggs to a same sex couple who had a son in January.

Kelly Salvador donated her eggs to a same sex couple who had a son in January.

Dave Chan/For The Globe and Mail

KELLY SALVADOR, 28

The registered massage therapist, who lives in Ottawa, donated in 2013.

Kelly Salvador donated her eggs to a same sex couple who had a son in January.

Kelly Salvador donated her eggs to a same sex couple who had a son in January.

Dave Chan/For The Globe and Mail

Why I chose to donate

I grew up imagining I would have kids of my own, and if for some reason I couldn't, I would love to know that there were other options available. At this point, I don't have my own, and I'm undecided if I ever will. But I liked the concept of helping someone else.

I signed up with Surrogacy In Canada Online, and my profile was found by the intended parents. They made it clear that they wanted to get to know me and requested open communication, if I was up for it. I said I was.

What my experience was like

Overall I had a great experience. There were a few logistical problems when flights had to be changed at the last minute. But it was quite positive.

The most difficult part

The recovery was harder than I imagined. I didn't know what I was in for. For about a week after the retrieval, I was extremely bloated. I don't doubt I was mildly overstimulated – they retrieved more than 40 eggs. I did the donation in Toronto, then came back to Ottawa and there was no hand-off to another doctor. Because my job requires me to be physically active, I had to take about five days off work, until my energy felt back to normal and the bloating subsided. I'm self-employed, so I don't do that lightly.

The best part

The intended parents were two dads. We get along really well. I even went to their wedding the summer after the donation. I'm very proud of being a part of creating their family.

Meeting the child

They had their son in January and I met him about two weeks after he was born, while he was still in the neonatal intensive care unit. Meeting him felt like meeting any of my friends' children – as expected, I had no emotional connection to their son. They are now trying for another baby, using frozen embryos that were made from my eggs.

What I wish people understood about egg donation

In the United States, it's more of a business transaction. Some women are earning $20,000 there. Here, there's more altruism. My expenses were covered. For instance, my flights when I flew to Toronto, the lost wages to attend appointments and the cost of the extensive drink list they recommended post-retrieval. I didn't want to earn money from it – I believe altruistic donations are better because they remove the monetary incentive – I just didn't want it to cost me anything.

DOROTHY BOOHER, 31

The former software developer, now a full-time mom living in Vancouver, donated earlier this year.

Dorothy Booher, with her daughter Annabella, developed a friendship with the woman whom she donated her eggs to.

Dorothy Booher, with her daughter Annabella, developed a friendship with the woman whom she donated her eggs to.

DARRYL DYCK/For The Globe and Mail

Why I chose to donate

I had friends through church who'd been trying for children for five years. I had a textbook pregnancy at the age of 26 and wanted to help, so I offered my eggs. These friends declined, but I was already pretty excited about the idea.

I thought, if I'm willing to donate for friends, I should be willing to do it for strangers. So I put an ad on a forum called

ivf.ca. Different people approached me. I picked a couple in Vancouver and we agreed on an open donation.

What my experience was like

The paperwork, blood work and agreement all took much longer than I'd expected. But the egg donation was much easier than I'd expected. After the retrieval, though, there was a real change of speed – instead of being monitored every day, you're let back out into the wild, with no further care. There was silence from the clinic. It was like, "Thanks, here's a cookie."

The most difficult part

My family had to eat the cost of doing this. My monitoring appointments were at 7 a.m., for instance, but there was no real child-care option. I would leave my daughter at home with my husband and he would go into work two or more hours late. By the time I got back it would be too late to go to my daughter's school program.

Meals surrounding appointments were also uncompensated. I hadn't even thought about this, but very often lunch or breakfast would happen at a restaurant and this adds up. There was also a four-week period when I couldn't run with my child or participate in her sports lessons due to risk of ovarian torsion. If we'd had a hired nanny and she'd needed all this time off to donate, and was neglecting our child this way, we would have asked her to take time off and we would have hired someone to cover. But I'm unpaid – a mom – so I can't claim for anything.

I wanted to do everything above board and be as easy on the intended mother as possible, financially. I have no regrets about that. But it would have been easier to justify the health and emotional risks, the injections three times a day and all the early morning blood draws, if I'd been getting a bit of money.

The best part

The friendship I developed with the intended mother, and being able to be along for the ride as they added a new member to their family, was great. I saw these people struggling. I heard their stories. I got to share their hopes and dreams. It felt like there was a real purpose to what I was doing.

Meeting the child

The baby hasn't been born yet. I'm hoping to meet next year, but my intended mother will need time to bond, so it may take a year or two – or 20. I will be ready whenever she and her child are. In my donor agreement it explicitly says I cannot initiate contact with the child, which I respect.

What I wish people understood about egg donation

You have to advocate for yourself. I was pressing for a medication that would reduce my chance of hyperstimulating. The doctor kept forgetting, right up to the day of the trigger. I wish young girls wouldn't even consider donating eggs. I don't know how much they'd be able to stick up for themselves. Anyone considering donating should go on WeAreEggDonors.com before they decide.

CLAIRE BURNS, 33

The actor, playwright, managing director and producer lives in Toronto. She donated in 2004.

Claire Burns worries about the long-term health consequences of her decision to donate.

Claire Burns worries about the long-term health consequences of her decision to donate.

Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail

Why I chose to donate

I saw an ad on a library noticeboard and thought: I could do that. I could help someone. We agreed I'd be paid $4,000. At first, it was all very open and honest with the clinic, and all of a sudden it became very hush-hush. [The new law, prohibiting payment, came into force that year – after she'd started but before she'd finished the donation process.] I wouldn't have done it if there hadn't been money, but money wasn't the main motivation.

What my experience was like

I didn't have any trouble. I didn't gain weight, didn't have any problems from the drugs, didn't experience any pain. On the day of the retrieval I had my friends over for a party, then flew off to Calgary to visit my boyfriend.

The most difficult part

It has really hit me in the past few years that there may be long-term consequences of doing this. I did ask at the time. I was told there were no known side-effects. I realize now that's because no one has ever done any studies on it. I feel betrayed by the doctor. Now I'm wondering if that is why my period is so strange. Is that why I couldn't get pregnant when I tried for a year, a few years back?

The best part

Knowing there's a kid out there for a mother who wanted him.

Meeting the child

I would have liked to be involved in the child's life, but I'm not. It creeps me out that I could walk by him in the street and not know who he was.

The mom contacted me and asked if I was willing to do it again. I was in a relationship with a man and we thought we'd be together forever. He was just

really against the fact that I'd done it in the first place. I told the mom I couldn't, but I lied about why.

What I wish people understood about egg donation

There aren't any long-term studies or research. So you can't really give informed consent. It's still a human experiment.

SARAH, 30

The phlebotomist, who lives in Winnipeg, donated once in 2014, and three times this year.

Why I chose to donate

I'd always been interested in reproductive health. When I learned more about this, I thought it was something I could do. I have donated four times: once in Victoria, once in Mississauga, once in Minneapolis and once, just a couple of weeks ago, in New Delhi. Getting to travel to all these places – especially this three-week trip to India – is another reason I like to donate.

What my experience was like

In the first one, I stayed with the couple's friends – I was totally included as part of the family – and the doctor was really caring. During my second donation, the doctor kept dismissing my concerns, and I ended up getting mild hyperstimulation. The place in Minneapolis was like a luxury clinic. My New Delhi donation was the only one where I didn't get to directly communicate with the recipient couple. I'm still craving more contact. I plan to donate again. I'll stop if I have any serious medical complications.

The most difficult part

Having to co-ordinate the first three donations, without the help of an agency, was hard. I'm not sure I could have done it without a medical background. I did sign up with a bunch of agencies, but private matches were quicker.

The best part

I got to change these people's lives. That's the best feeling ever.

Meeting the child

I've always said that I would be open to meeting any children that I helped create and were interested in meeting me. I would certainly have genetic curiosities if I had a genetic parent different from the ones who raised me. Even now I think of odd things about myself and wonder if I inherited them, and if so, from who, and I'm glad I can call up my parents and ask them.

So far, only one child has been born. I absolutely want to meet him! I don't want to intrude but I do hope I can meet him eventually.

I don't plan on having kids of my own. I've never really had the drive. My step-daughter thinks it's neat I get to help people. She thinks it's one of my weird hobbies.

It bothers me that I have zero control over what happens to leftover embryos. In Australia, they need the donor's consent to donate left-over embryos to other people, but in most of the world, including Canada, I have no say at all, and those who "own" them have no obligation to inform me of where they end up. I wish that was different, as I want to keep track of my genetic offspring.

What I wish people understood about egg donation

It's a ton of work. But the women who do it really have their hearts in it. I don't want people to think the process victimizes us.

These interviews by Alison Motluk have been edited and condensed.