Ads bombard online community classified sites promising thousands of dollars to women who become egg donors. High dollar compensation is offered to women with advanced educational degrees, diverse ethnicity, uniquely desirable physical characteristics and specific religious denominations. When I became an egg donor, I learned that donation requires more than trading your eggs in for a check. Not only will the experience change the life of future parents, but the donor as well.
Many egg donors feel inspired to fill the arms of childless parents with precious bundles of joy. The opportunity to share something personal motivates their decision to donate. My choice to become an egg donor initially did not have much to do with visions of someone else’s parental bliss. As a teenage mom, I struggled to learn how to be a good parent and sometimes failed. I felt an obligation to right my wrongs; I could accomplish that by giving another family the opportunity to provide for their children the things I was unable to provide for mine. Guilt and the insatiable desire to correct my karma kicked my ovaries into overdrive.
Many donation arrangements are facilitated by private agencies. My initial impression was that agencies were simply egg brokers. I was ignorant about their role and envisioned raised hands holding numbered signs feverishly bidding on my blonde haired, blue eyed, tap dancing eggs. In reality, agencies provide vital support systems to those struggling with infertility. However, the expiration date on my eggs was slowly approaching and I decided to choose a more direct re-homing method. I posted an ad on the Surrogate Mothers Online website www.surromomsonline.com and soon began exchanging emails with a potential mom.
Patty and her husband married later in life. Although she had grown children from a previous marriage, she dreamed of giving her husband the daughter he had always wanted. They looked for outside resources to make that happen due to Patty’s advanced maternal age. They had a story book romance and a comfortable life in a beautiful home. He traveled the world for business and Patty had aspirations of being a stay at home mom and home schooling their child. Initially, they began searching for a semi-anonymous egg donor. During my first conversations with Patty, we mutually agreed to cut all ties after the eggs were retrieved. After weeks of sharing emails, though, our agreement was gradually revised. We found ourselves exchanging personal information instead of hammering out donation details. We shared stories about our families, childhoods, careers, and favorite ice creams. We traded recipes, compared what we were cooking for dinner and similarities in our ex-husbands. We even had conversations about God; she sent books for my spiritual enlightenment. We instinctively knew our bond would continue after donation… we were connected. We became family.
Patty chose me as her egg donor but I was subjected to extensive testing before we could move forward. The first step was comprehensive blood work and a complete gynecological exam. Donors must be STD and communicable disease free. I hadn’t been to the gynecologist for years and it made me nervous. Waiting for a pap smear in the exam room, I had flashbacks of tequila fueled nights with nameless wanna be rock stars. I crossed my fingers and vowed to never again eat the worm. Thankfully, there were no residual effects of from my bad decisions.
Nothing will make you question your sanity like enduring a psychological exam. I analyzed the questions to determine which answer would deem me least crazy. I realized the test predicts that approach and I didn’t want to be crazy and manipulative. Honesty was the best policy. When I tested, I read each question nervously hoping that it didn’t pertain to my fluorescent orange powdered cheese phobia. Fortunately , it didn’t, I passed my test and left restraint free.
Several months of blood work, counseling sessions, attorneys, and exams followed. My private parts had more visitors in a few months than in my entire twenties. I even shaved animal designs into my bikini line, to get a laugh from the medical professionals who prodded down there. I began injecting my stomach with hormones that would stimulate and ripen my eggs. My breasts became tender; I ate like a horse, gained ten pounds and had emotional PMS-like symptoms. My symptoms didn’t affect me as much as those around me. I was oblivious to the emotional roller-coaster I was on.
After cycles of hormone treatment monitored by frequent blood work, it was time to harvest my eggs. Twenty-two chances of life were intricately plucked from my ovaries while I was anesthetized. When I awoke, my side effects were minimal. I was groggy. The day after the procedure, intense pressure made my uterus feel like it was going to fall out; but it subsided. It only took a few weeks for my body to rid itself of the extra hormones. I had no long lasting side effects.
Once my eggs were harvested, they were fertilized. Now embryos, they were genetically tested and sorted. Patty then went through in-vitro fertilization with the viable embryos and we waited to for the results…and waited…and waited and prayed. Her hormone tests varied and for every good result, there was another that was discouraging. I even had my womb on standby, in case the in-vitro was not successful. Fortunately, we didn’t need to use that option. I will never forget the joy I felt when Patty told me that she was pregnant! We did it!
In October, 2006, after a medically complicated pregnancy, Patty and her husband celebrated the birth of their daughter. I was one of the first people to receive the miraculous news. This beautiful baby girl unknowingly brought together strangers to make her extraordinary appearance. When I watch video of Patty’s daughter, I always notice the unmistakable sparkle in her eye and smile that can light up a room. She is the happiest girl in the world, because her mommy and daddy love her. I was just lucky enough to contribute a little DNA.