Dating for DNA: the dish on donor eggs.
Forty is not the new thirty when it comes to the youthfulness of your uterus, fallopian tubes and eggs. Believe me, you cannot Botox this problem away.
Egg donor birth stories are where adoption was for thirty years — in the closet, veiled in shame and secrecy. Whispers of infertility and donor eggs are rarely confirmed with older celebrities sporting baby bumps and skinny jeans. Did they really?…
In 2010, 35,000 women gave birth with their own bodies using donor eggs. It’s become the fountain of youth for older women still dreaming of motherhood. Success rates are increasingly promising and the pool has grown to include younger women with ovarian failure and other fertility issues.
So why are so many women keeping hush about the real story behind their new bundle of joy? And what exactly are you in for when you start searching for donor eggs and abandon the quest to conceive on your own?
How it all started
At 38, my biological clock went off and I hit the snooze button. It went off again and I finally dumped the boyfriend who confessed he never wanted to be a dad. I finally met “the one” who swept me off my feet and wanted a family too.
We met in Paris… well, not exactly.
Truth be told, we met on Craigslist, while specifically not looking for futons or apartments. It took me a while to share that story too…
Two years and one failed adoption later, we jumped into the deep, dark lagoon of infertility treatment. Our love was strong and his swimmers were fast, but my eggs had, well, passed their “use by” date.
It was time to find another path.
I’m not ashamed to admit my former dalliances in the Internet dating world. If you haven’t done it personally, you’ve undoubtedly looked over your cousin/best friend/co-worker’s shoulder to peek at their prospective Mr. Rights.
So it doesn’t surprise me – at all – that my first look at donor egg sites felt strangely familiar. These sites have clever names like “Conceivables” and “Alternative Conceptions.” They list dozens of women with attractive photos and sparkling white teeth. Suddenly, it felt like I was trolling for dates again.
And there are so. many. sites. So many choices, in fact, it’s overwhelming.
We laughed through some of it and broke down more than once. It can unearth some unexpected jealousy and other dark feelings you didn’t know you had on the inside.
I felt shallow when I passed over the girl with the big nose (my honey has a honker and I feared we might have a girl). I felt ashamed when I rejected the one who didn’t go to college – or the pre-med student who revealed her mother’s depression. Trust me — this is one of the toughest choices you’ll ever make.
But that’s only the beginning. Wait till you learn what your partner is looking for.
Education and intelligence were at the top of his list (he never would have picked me, as my college GPA wasn’t stellar – ha!). He swore he could detect happiness in someone’s face and wanted someone with a “spark” like mine.
I wanted an artist with dark hair and eyes like my own. I gravitated toward good writers with warm smiles who volunteered and travelled around the world. I suppose I was looking for a little part of me in these women.
We chose not to meet the donors in person. It felt too complicated and uncomfortable for me. Respect those feelings. Donor profiles are fairly detailed and you can learn a great deal about someone’s personal and health history in just a few pages. Honestly, the whole process is fascinating.
And now for the difficult part: the choice.
After scouring dozens of sites, I kept coming back to one woman. I was drawn into her deep brown eyes and porcelain skin. She was an artist who worked as a nanny because she loved children. She seemed smart and good-natured; I could see us being friends.
Serendipity came into play when the agency we chose turned out to be run by a childhood friend of mine. Only days prior to deciding, we had reconnected via Facebook. She suggested that we pick at least three candidates in case one might not be available.
I was leading the search, but we both had the power of veto. He was far more detached than I pretended to be. It took nearly a month to decide on our three choices of egg donors.
Looking back, I wish we had decided sooner. After all, time is still (somewhat) of the essence.
Here are some lessons we learned along the way
- Prices vary ~ the beauty queen pre-med student might charge you $12,000 (average is $5,500-8,500) for her Grade A eggs.
- Timing is tricky and websites are not always accurate. The girl who’s “In Cycle” (i.e., already committed to someone else for that time period) may actually be available and the girl who is not “In Cycle” might not be. Also, we wanted someone local, which wasn’t easy to determine on most sites. There are lots of reasons why someone may or may not be available at the time you’re ready.
- High-demand eggs ~ Think about this: if you have an “egg crush,” you’re probably not the only one. You might have to wait in line for her next cycle. We weren’t willing to delay another cycle. We were ready now.
It turned out another couple felt the same way about my crush as I did, but they acted one week sooner. I was disappointed, but we moved on. It’s human nature to get attached, but remember that timing is everything and you can’t always control the outcome. Picks two and three were “in cycle” also.
Shit. Could everyone else really have the same taste in DNA as us?
This was getting depressing. It felt like dating all over again. The excitement, then the rejection.
Then I remembered what led me to find my perfect partner match: getting out there again even when you’re sick and tired of being let down. The search was back on and this time, we were better prepared.
We finally agreed on the green-eyed mother with the English degree. We hired a lawyer, signed the donor contract and ordered the long list of meds. Game on!
I was halfway through our cycle of daily meds and in-your-buttcheek shots when I received a phone call that our donor had been in a bad car accident. Thankfully, we learned that she would recover. But would I? My heart ached. Doubt devoured me. The mail arrived with yet another baby shower invitation. I poured myself a giant glass of wine and crawled under the covers. Indefinitely.
Two days later, the phone rang and my husband made me answer it. It was my friend from the donor agency, excited about the news that the brown-eyed artist with the flawless skin (my first egg crush) was now available to be our donor. Time was finally on my side!
Fast-forward six years
Two incredible, healthy boys later, I can’t imagine my sons being anyone other than who they are. And they will grow up knowing how they came to be.
I will forever be grateful for the woman who choose to donate her eggs that allowed me to become a mother. She is a goddess to me. But I am the mother of my boys. They may be miracles of science, but my boys are true family. Genetic or not.
THANK YOU, Karen! I am so grateful to you for sharing your story. We went the egg donor route as well for the same reasons that you did, and I am so relieved that we are able to start ‘coming out of the closet.’ My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me and I am eternally grateful to the anonymous woman who allowed this to happen, but my girl is 100% mine!
Thanks for sharing! I am interested to know how you are sharing this story with your boys. We have a two year old from a donor egg, we plan on telling him but not exactly sure how and when. Thanks!!
This is such a beautiful article. Thanks for sharing! My husband and I started trying to have a baby when I was 32, but learned I had premature ovarian failure and my eggs were sad, shriveled things. It took me a while to come around to the egg donor option (we tried IVF 3 times, but alas, those rotten eggs), but when I did I developed an egg crush on a girl who was beautiful, smart, and had a heart-warming genuineness about her that I couldn’t forget. That was almost three years ago. We just celebrated our two-year-old little girl’s birthday and are expecting a boy in May (same donor). I am so in love with my daughter I can’t stand it, and I too cannot imagine her being anyone other than who she is. I am eternally grateful to our donor for making it possible.