Few things in my life have shown me what I’m made of quite like choosing an egg donor. Between the beginning of June and the end of August, I found myself in a position of playing God as I struggled day after day to locate a donor that I deemed “suitable” to be the genetic mother of my future children. As I think about my thought process over the summer, I find myself feeling ashamed: ashamed, shallow, and short-sided.
Note: Every woman has the right to choose her donor according to her comfort level. This is my story, but our experiences are all different and challenging in their own ways.
Before this post starts to sound like we’re delving into Debby Downer territory, please let me share that once you reach the end, the warm fuzzies I hope to communicate should radiate right off your screen and attack you with a big metaphorical hug.
In the beginning of June, my husband and I created a list of characteristics we would like to see in a donor, i.e. characteristics we hoped would eventually reveal themselves in any children born of this process:
- family oriented,
- master of at least one instrument,
- spotless medical history,
- Brown hair, brown eyes, tall.
- Siblings all equally accomplished.
Then one day in July, something occurred to me: I was using my own misfortune, (kaput ovaries) to justify the opportunity to create a human being that I am not, nor have I have been. I was improving upon myself, and then some! This struck me as being problematic. A few things had been thrown in the ol’ wish list that could reasonably describe me:
- family oriented,
- brown hair,
- brown eyes.
That is all.
If I wanted to be really honest with myself, the list should really have included features such as this:
- unable to pick towels up off the floor,
- intolerant of dry material on my hands. You know, like flour, or really dry dirt. It’s icky and I hate it. I do like mud though. Mud is fun.
In other words, what was I doing trying to create a super baby when I, with my many flaws, lead a happy and blessed life. Is mastery of the oboe a requirement for personal happiness? Will I love my child more if he/she excels in rugby instead of limping their way through each sport they try with average achievement, at best? If they develop a medical condition, will I love them a little less because they didn’t live up to the genes I so painstakingly chose off a checklist? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to have a relatively serious conversation about what you are hoping to gain from your genetically engineered baby.
Overwhelmed by over a thousand profiles of potential egg donors, I decided to step back to regain some perspective. As I lay in bed at night running each of them through my head, I began to wonder, Do I really want to know these things about the woman who will provide the genetic make up of my child? If I know that she excels in math and science, will I constantly monitor my kids for emerging mathematic brilliance? If they don’t, am I going to question what happened to that particular strength and wonder if she made it up on her profile? And if she made it up on her profile, what else did she lie about? You can see how this can quickly devolve into a paranoid frenzy of nonsense and the goal to avoid that all costs.
Sidenote: My brother is a mathematical genius. I am not. Not even close. Neither are our parents. My mother is a brilliant artist and my father is a history buff. My strengths lie in the humanities, literature, and writing. Genes are what they are: mysterious, unpredictable, and overall one big crapshoot. Also, I look nothing like my brother. Neither of us look like our parents. These lack of commonalities has not influenced our close relationships as a family unit. Surprisingly, my brother the genius decided to love us all anyway, even though our collaborative math skills are enough for us to balance a checkbook, nothing more.
Near the end of August, my mother made an interesting comment. “I hope this doesn’t offend you,” she began. As we all know, comments that being with preemptive statements absolving one of what is to come next have at least a 97% chance of being offensive. So I sighed deeply and resigned myself to what was coming. “When you do select a donor,” she stated, “I don’t want to know anything about her. I don’t want to see a picture. As far as I am concerned, YOU are the only mother of this child, and I don’t need to know anything else.”
Hmmm. Mom surprised me and fell into that remaining 3%, prefacing what she believed was an offensive comment with one that was actually a brilliant revelation. Well done, Mom. Hearing it was a touch shocking, but it the most thought provoking way possible. Over the next week, I considered her words. I realized that was she was needing as a grandmother, was the same thing I was needing as a potential egg recipient mother. Did I need to know whether my egg donor enjoyed painting in her free time? Was it important that she considered herself a city girl and felt most at peace during her daily subway ride? No, twas not. And that is how I came to revisit my list from June:
- healthy medical record
- brown hair
- brown eyes
All donors have to be FDA approved, regardless of what clinic you choose. This means they have been vetted as being very healthy and very fertile, and they are the unsung superheroes of countless women who could not have children if it were not for them.
The short list above is what I know about my chosen donor, and that’s enough. The important stuff is covered, the healthy part. The hair and eyes are a bit of vanity just for me. I’m not a saint, you know. Our donor/recipient relationship is completely anonymous, and will remain that way unless genetic health problems arise on either side and necessitate the need to share that information both ways.
I feel much more in control of this process. I feel good about myself that I took the time to develop the insight needed to proceed with this process with a clear conscience. This child/children will develop and grow exactly the way they are supposed to; unpredictable little blank slates that may develop a little from nature but a whole lot from nurture. Even then they will surely grow up to be unique wee beings with their own interests and goals. They don’t need to be like me, or their father, or this amazing lady who is donating her eggs. They will be who they will be, and that is exactly the way is it supposed to be.