My Egg Donations are Not Selfless Gifts

My Egg Donations are Not Selfless Gifts

Today is baby Silvan’s birthday. He has my eyes, and the enormous round cheeks that I eventually (thankfully) grew into. He has my intense interest in not only how things work, but why.

I hear that he’s stubborn — just like me, through I’ve been working so hard to be less so and to let more life into my plans.

Today is baby Silvan’s second birthday, not so much a baby anymore, and halfway around the world in Zurich, he and his dads and his brand new brother celebrate, while I sit at my desk, sip tea and smile.

Becoming an egg donor was something I first chose to do 11 years ago, when I was just starting out in college, and it seemed a practical, pragmatic way to offset the mounting costs of going to school.

When I began donating, people were curious about what the process was like and why I would ever do something like that. So I made grand proclamations about how meaningful it was to me to be able to give others the gift of a family — to make someone’s lifelong dream a reality. How noble! How beautiful! How sacrificial.

Egg donors, depending on state, agency, family history, previous donations, among myriad other factors, make $4,000 — $12,000 and up for each “donation” cycle. There was nothing sacrificial about my decision to donate my eggs in exchange for a progressively larger check.

And that’s absolutely OK.

But as a 22 year old, I was sheepish, admitting that the money was important but not as important as the gift of life I was providing. I even went so far as to intimate that the money was secondary for me — an afterthought that I often nearly forgot about in the blinding glow of my good deed.

While the truly wonderful science that allows me to help a family have a baby is quite literally awesome, I would not have become an egg donor if not for the monetary benefits it promised to afford me.

Some will say this is a callous approach to reproduction and family, though I would vehemently disagree. Recognizing every facet of the process of in vitro fertilization, IVF, from the science that allows people to create families on their terms to the donors, doctors and nurses that facilitate the procedure, serves to honor it in the highest way.

For those who would rather ignore the fact that I, the egg donor, is paid, also ignore a huge, incredibly daunting part of the parents’ deliberation in choosing a donor, paying the donor fees, entrusting a near stranger to follow her medication instructions to the letter to produce as many strong, healthy follicles as possible, and the nurses and doctors who work with the donors daily to ensure they are comfortable and healthy in their own right.

Others who are skeptical or “weirded out” by the fact that I get paid to give myself injections and let other people use my DNA, object to it on grounds that liken selling my eggs to prostitution (also problematic but that’s for another day). Me choosing to use my body to make myself money somehow triggers objection, if not for ambiguous moral reasoning (?), then for concern over my well-being.

This is the conversation that I’ve had with my mom several times over the years. Certainly there is more to know about the long-term effects of hormone treatments in young women, and there is much progress to be made in valuing the contributions of donors in terms of providing for their long-term health. And certainly there is risk inherent in any medical procedure, including and especially ones that are shrouded in a silence induced by shame.

Glossing over the fact that donors are paid for their contribution to the process of making a new human life contributes to an understanding that women’s bodies are intended for sacrifice — that we should be content to provide support, care and the basic building blocks of a family unit, while expecting nothing in return. And this attitude further relegates egg donation to a dark corner in which those around us will continue to get weirded out by our choices about our bodies.

I’m an egg donor — it’s a part of my personal financial plan and an essential good and service for those who need it. It’s empowered me to take control of my life in ways that I may not have otherwise been able to, and it’s helped fulfill the dreams of future parents around the world.

Profiting and doing good need not be mutually exclusive.

My Egg Donations are Not Selfless Gifts

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