Cancer of the Soul...

Anita Stokes

"Well there's no point putting you on chlomodine to kick start your periods, you've gone through menopause". Those thirteen words changed my life, and I remember each one of them like it was yesterday.

I am always a really positive person, a goal setter. My life had been unfolding just as I'd planned. Get School Cert, and sixth form Certificate, get into Teachers College, graduate, get a Teaching job, buy a house, travel overseas, get engaged ... in my Book of 'dreams' I had proudly ticked off each achievement I had set myself. And next on the list was to have children. Words can not describe how it felt to have this 'right' taken from me. Once I came off the pill my periods had been very irregular, and then just stopped. Blood tests revealed I had gone through menopause at just 29.

At that very same appointment, which I attended alone, I was bundled up with information about 'menopause' and sent off to the Fertility clinic. Once there the Nurses tried to explain the options I had, and asked if I would like to put my name down on the list for an egg donor. I replied that I would like to at least discuss it with my fiance first!

I felt cheated. Like I wasn't in the drivers seat of my life anymore. I didn't want to tell anyone, not even my immediate family at first. I guess looking back that was part of the grieving process - denial perhaps? Well meaning people would joke 'it's your turn next' when they heard news of yet another pregnancy. If only they knew... I had cancer of the soul, slowly dying inside. But gradually over time I came to terms with it. We really only had 2 choices if we wanted a family of our own. Put our name down on the adoption or egg donor list. We were asked if I had a sister or close friend that we could ask, but I only have a brother, and didn't feel comfortable asking a friend, as it felt too bigger burden for them to carry if a friend didn't want to.

Paul and I continued to live our lives, and tried to think more of the donut, not the hole. We were ecstatic just 4 months later (on my birthday), to be informed that a donor had been found. Unfortunately that was short lived and just 2 weeks later that person pulled out for personal reasons. I still thank her to this day for at least getting as far as she did for us. Not long after that we were presented with another profile of a person who was interested in donating her eggs. I didn't even need to read the form, how could you say 'no' to someone willing to help you give the gift of life?. We met this wonderful couple at the Fertility clinic in Hamilton, and 1 1/2 hours later we left feeling really excited to have met Wendy and Shane, who have 2 daughters of their own. We liked them instantly and got on well. Obviously there was a lot of counselling to go through, and issues to discuss, but before long Wendy had started injected herself with the drugs to stimulate her ovaries, and I had taken drugs to prepare my body, too.

On November 7 2001, two embryos – which were made up of Wendy's eggs and Paul's sperm – were placed inside me. I then had to wait the twelve longest days of my life before undertaking a pregnancy test. It was positive – and more blood tests soon after confirmed that I was pregnant with twins. I did have a couple of bleeds early on which was really scary, but on Xmas day 2001 we unwrapped (in front of our family) a mysterious 'video' addressed to us, that showed firstly a 4 cell embryo (how cool is THAT?) and a scan revealing two little heartbeats ... our families were overjoyed because we had kept the fact that a donor had been found a secret until then.

I worked up until my 34th week of pregnancy, and then went into hospital to wait their arrival as the babies were both breech, and I had grade 4 placenta praevia. In the early hours of 4 July 2002 I started bleeding and was rushed to theatre, where Joshua Thomas , weighing 5lb 8oz was born, followed by Cameron Paul at 5lb 2oz. Both boys went into respiratory distress and spent some time in the Newborn Unit, and I was rushed back into theatre due to haemorrhaging, but that is all water under the bridge now.

The boys are now nearly 5 years old. They are such a delight and have made our family complete. Josh looks very much like my husband Paul, while Cameron has features more like Wendy. But they always were, and always will be 'our boys'. We started seeing Wendy and Shane around the anniversary of their 'conception', but now see them more regularly. We just spent New Years Eve with them, and have recently enjoyed each others house warming. We have chosen to be completely open with the boys and others about their 'making' and have written the boys a book which they often ask me to read. For us we feel that they didn't choose to come into existence how they did, so by being open with them it is the least we can do.

Each time I now see an advertisement asking for an egg donor in a magazine my heart aches for these people who were in our position not long ago. My wish as I now sign off is that if someone out there reading this even goes the first step in finding out what it means to be a donor – this story has been worthwhile.

Anita Stokes

Personal_Stories