An Egg Donor’s Personal Story

One woman's experience as an egg donor changes her life in unexpected ways.

| Fall 2014

  • Human egg magnified 400X.
    Photo by Flickr/Ed Uthman
  • Eye and orbit of human embryo.
    Photo by Flickr/Ed Uthman
  • Pelvis and lower spine of human embryo.
    Photo by Flickr/Ed Uthman

If you’ve checked out the [ETC] category of Craigslist’s jobs section, you’ve seen them, interspersed between dog-walking gigs and ONLINE SURVEYS IN ALL CAPS: the ubiquitous call for egg donors.

They’re looking for Jewish women, Asian women, East Indian and Italian women, women with blue eyes and high SAT scores. Most ads promise compensation in the $4,000–$10,000 range, and in the summer of 2011, I was a postgrad who had just moved to New York City with only a $1,000 tax refund and a suitcase to my name. So I clicked the link in the ad with the least amount of wacky capitalizations and sketchy-looking claims. The listing was looking for a female aged 21 to 29, a non-smoker, a non-drug user, neither significantly overweight nor underweight for her height, with some formal education beyond high school. I was redirected to an egg-donation agency’s website decorated with shades of muted lavender and pictures of smiling families, where I filled out a very long application that asked me very personal questions. It was like crafting a résumé and cover letter, except that it included my family’s health history and the age at which my grandparents died. I became hyperaware of my privileges as I literally checked them in boxes on the screen; I wondered why queries like “favorite movie” and “favorite color” were relevant and subsequently wondered if my answers (Harold and Maude, black) would disqualify me. I finished the survey in about an hour. Then I waited.

Within a month, I received an email notifying me that my application had been accepted, and the agency invited me to take the next step in the process: attending a seminar for prospective egg donors. I went and was pleased to see a diverse variety of young women there, rather than the sea of tall, blue-eyed blondes in Dartmouth sweatshirts I’d half expected. Afterward, I uploaded photos of myself at various ages to my donor profile, including two current images, one with makeup and one without, just so the mysterious people out there perusing my stats could see what they were really getting. And I told my friends and family that I had applied to be an egg donor, asking for any input they might be able to offer.

“If no one chooses you, then I have no faith in this world,” one of my friends declared, and several others agreed. I voiced my concerns about whether egg donation just contributes to overpopulation, when so many kids are waiting to be adopted. I also talked out my misgivings about parents trying to create designer babies, and my worries about what effects the hormone treatments might have on me. An acquaintance who had donated her eggs once told me she would never do it again; her agency was unhelpful when she needed assistance, and it took months for her to “feel normal again” after the cycle of hormone injections and egg harvesting was over. As part of my research, I also watched Eggsploitation, a 2010 documentary by Jennifer Lahl that explores the pressure that the multibillion-dollar fertility industry puts on young women who are enticed by the reward they are promised upon egg donation. Even the term “donation” as a euphemism for what the process actually is—the sale of body parts—icked me out a little. “How do you feel about the possibility that you might have a kid you’ll never get to meet?” my friends asked. “Pretty great,” I replied. But there was, deep down in me, a selfish desire to one day witness, from a safe distance, an experiment of life that had come from my own body.

So when I got semiannual emails from the agency asking if I was still interested, I always clicked Yes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never wanted children of my own, but I saw no reason why I couldn’t use the material my body had already made to help someone else’s dreams come true. When friends expressed their concern that egg donation might affect my fertility in the future, I wryly responded that I hoped they’d make a mess down there. But truthfully, I saw the act of egg donation as an almost-sacred duty that I’d be happy to take up, if someone thought my genetics would be ideal. I just didn’t think I’d actually be chosen. (I was sure I should have selected a more flattering photo to represent my adolescence.)

9/12/2014 12:51:45 PM

I have no problem with egg donation or selling eggs or sperm for that matter. Nor do I have a problem with "designer babies". It is the parents who will raise the child there is no reason not to get what you want in today's and tomorrow's technology. What does bother is the privacy issue. England ended he privacy of sperm donors. That has led a lot of British couples to go to France for sperm donation. The what about the people who are middle income? What about a woman's right to choose the sire of her children with out involving him in a financial or parenting role?

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