“You have a Skype date with your Intended Parents Friday at 2 o’clock. Please be sure to look nice (i.e., hair and makeup, nice shirt),” your agent wrote.
A nice shirt? All you had was a stinking (literally) red polyester polo shirt. Made you look like a chump. Your black V-neck bodyFi tee wasn’t much better. And the hair?
Man, you’re terrible at being a girl.
You “jzzuuushed” your hair to the left, then to the right, and back again. None the better. You flipped your head upside down and right side up, and scoffed at your poofy mane.
Whatever. It is what it is.
Makeup was a much easier game to play. It didn’t frizz in humid bathrooms. Then again, you’re such a serial face-rubber that your mascara gives you a perpetual sort of whorish morning-after look. You touched it up.
Your Intended Parents arrived in the Skype window after a brief introduction by your agent.
Mom and Dad struck you as a typical upper middle class couple. Mom was 43 years old and had Crohn’s disease. Her chances of bringing a healthy baby into the world with her own eggs were–as your doctors would later say–marginal. Mom studied philosophy (or something like it) in school, and your own degree in the subject helped sway her decision.
And Dad… a pleasant looking fellow who used to be a body builder. You stared intently at him through the screen, idly wondering what sort of human specimen might result from your coupling with him--and then of course, wearing a neutral expression, you played all kinds of made-up scenarios in your head involving an older man and a sleazy one-night stand.
They lived in Seattle, your hometown. They loved that you were a health professional.
You made sure to smile a lot. “Oh yeah, these are my teeth. Never had braces.” What else? “I have absolutely no allergies. None at all. My vision is twenty-twenty. My feet are very healthy, too. And I’ve got insanely strong bones.”
You’re such a dork.
But you felt like showing them your pedigree. You had papers, man! Papers somewhere. Documentation that you were a supremely healthy specimen of homo sapiens.
The were working with pictures only. Pictures wouldn’t show them cardiac stroke volume, your impressive facial muscle control and animation, your… your iron stomach (digestive capacity, that is;you felt this would be a bonus point to Mom with Crohn’s disease).
But the pictures were a damn good starting point.
End Photo Tour of your gene pool.
You told Mom and Dad a little about yourself. Your personality characteristics, your talents, your strengths, your (lack of) weaknesses.
–Readers forgive! You are necessarily very self-involved here. One has to be when donating one’s eggs. The application process is literally digitalized Darwinian fitness. You needed to sell the concept of Maria version 2.0!–
“Is there anything you’d like to know about us?” they asked.
You paused, somewhat taken by surprise. But of course. This process was an agreement between two parties, and you had rights to know where your little gametes were headed. You thought for a moment.
Then, “What are your feelings about organic food and, we’ll say, fluoridated water?”
They took less than a second to answer. “We eat a 100% organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly-vegetarian diet, and we only drink distilled water.”
Holy shit! Wow!
You weren’t even that good. You stared with eyes wide, mouth agape. Then, slowly, closed your trap and raised your eyebrows in an expression of impressed approval.
“That’s all I need to know. You are welcome to all of my eggs.”
Seriously, man. What a sweet deal. These folks were going to raise, pay for, nurture, organically feed and hydrate your “offspring,” and hold you for not the slightest liability. And probably do a way better job than you ever could. Done!
The Skype interview ended with a bad connection, while you were in the midst of telling Mom and Dad about the benefits of thorough mastication and dietary mineral load, and its implications on the jaw development of their would-be child.
The next part of the egg donation process was the signing of a few documents, and a genetic screening and psychological evaluation.
The genetic screening was nothing more than a phone call with some broad who tried desperately to make sense of your family tree. You’re quite sure no one has ever made her draw a diagram for a sister/aunt. It’s also difficult to fit in the cousins resulting from so many aunts and uncles. Your grandma’s seven sets of kids from more than half-a-dozen husbands; your dad’s three sets of kids; your mom’s two sets.
There were so many half-siblings and half aunts and uncles that you were raised thinking that full-blooded relationships were rare.
And your sister-aunt… interestingly enough… shares more genes (75%) with you than even your parents.
Then there was the psych evaluation: a one-hour self-report TRUE/FALSE bubble test.
- #97: Sometimes I feel like I’m no good at all. FALSE
- #145: I hear voices that nobody else can hear. FALSE
- #182: I enjoy crowds and parties. TRUE
- #201: I talk to myself. TRUE.
- #227: I am just as good-looking as everyone else. FALSE
You’re way better looking! Oh shit, now not only do you talk to yourself,, but they’re going to think you have low self esteem. That was dumb. Why do you take everything so literally?
And on it went…
But you passed both evaluations, and had to then plan a quick trip to Seattle so that the selected fertility doctor could give you the “initial medical screening.”
You hopped on a plane (all expenses covered) to your hometown and crashed with your siblings–borrowed Lorelei’s car and drove yourself to the clinic, feeling very familiar with your surroundings.
Your doctor was a former Yale Medical School graduate, and seemed pleased to be working with you. After shooting the shit for a few minutes about New Haven, Yorkside Pizza, the Commons Dining Hall, Science Hill, and a few other pretentious memories, you talked about your history of injuries and infections (extensive), surgeries (three), chronology of piercings and tattoos (after five minutes, you and your doctor gave up trying to get it all down), history of pregnancy (none), and more.
You submitted to an ultrasound of your uterus and ovaries.
“Looks really good,” the Doc said, maneuvering her nifty rod. “Wow, you have a lot of follicles.”
For those who are about as ignorant of the female reproductive cycle as you were, “follicles” are little egg factories. A group of follicles looks like a bunch of grapes, and those grapes are contained within the ovary and grow over the course of your cycle.
“You have 20 follicles on the left… aannd….” she took some time to count, “Looks like 17 on the right. That’s a lot.”
“A lot? What’s normal?”
“It varies quite a but, but I’d say like 10-12 per ovary.”
Rockstar! You have above-average reproductive organs!
“See these measurements here,” she asked, indicating the a little cross section she’s traced out on the monitor over one of the follicles. “The diameter is 5 millimeters.”
“Is that good?”
“Yes, that’s great. They probably won’t get much bigger. You’ll be getting your period any day now. When we have you on the follicle-stimulating hormones, they’re going to get much bigger.”
You waited for the clarification.
“Like, each of your follicles will be stimulated up to about 20 millimeters–or more.”
“But that’s like four times the size! And I have twice as many follicles than average? I’m going to blow up like a balloon!”
“Bloating is definitely the number one complaint for the egg donor. You’re going to feel very bloated, but there are things you can do to control that. You’ll be fine. And it looks like we’ll be able to extract a lot of eggs from you, if everything goes well.”
She removed the probe and extracted it from the silicone-slicked condom. You liked your lady doctor. She was super stealthy with that thing, and she made you feel like a superhero with powers of fertility.
At the end of the visit, the assistant nurse drew 9 vials of blood and asked you a peculiar list of questions regarding your contact with livestock and needles.
Some time passed. Your body took 20 additional days to start menstruating (as previously stated, you’re all over the map), which obviously pushed back your extraction cycle. First, you had to take birth control pills–only the active ones–and you did this for 5 consecutive weeks.
This was not a nice experience, and you have to wonder how so many millions of women take these pills for much of their adult lives. You bloated up like a cow, you felt tired and weepy much of the time, and your tits felt like they were about to burst.
Next step: the legal end. The egg donor agency kept a lawyer on retainer.
“So like, just so we’re clear,” you said over the phone. “Am I selling a commodity, or am I providing a service?”
It was an important question! If your ova were a commodity, than you might potentially be held liable for a “damaged product,” (i.e., haywire kid).
“No, you are not selling your eggs. You are volunteering to provide a service for the Intended Parents, and they will compensate you $7,000 under what’s called a “pain and suffering” clause, which is tax-free.
You read over a 17-page contact regarding your rights before signing the copies and using your handy-dandy brother to notarize them.
Examples clauses from the contract:
3. The Parties further agree that pursuant to RCW 26.26.101, [Mom] shall be a parent, as defined by RCW 26.26.011(14), of each child or children born to [Mom] as a result of the Assisted Reproductive Technology procedure contemplated herein. RCW 26.26.101 provides in relevant part that “the parent-child relationship is established . . . between a child and a woman by . . . “the woman’s having given birth to the child[.]”
6. By their signatures below, [Mom] and [Dad] acknowledge this advisement and release Maria from any liability should any child born to [Mom] as a result of the Assisted Reproductive Technology procedure contemplated herein suffer from a condition that is multivariate in nature and/or an environmentally induced condition.
13. Maria agrees that she shall have no rights to or ownership interest in the eggs immediately upon their retrieval from her. Maria understands that if fertilization of some or all of the retrieved and donated eggs occurs, [Mom] intends to gestate some or all of the resulting embryos after they are transferred to her reproductive tract. Maria will have no ownership interest in any eggs which may be cryopreserved. Maria further understands that in the event [Mom] does not gestate some or all of the embryos which may result from the use of Maria’s ova, any remaining embryos may be cryopreserved. Maria agrees that she shall not assume or acquire any rights to any such embryos which may be cryopreserved.
It was long, and took over a week to draft. But the papers were signed, and you began your medications after an additional ultrasound, blood draw, and genetic screening (since your Intended Parents tried to skip it the first time).
After legal, it was back to the clinic. At this point, you were already in Seattle, having packed up all yours and Katie’s things into the little car and shot up I-5. You doctor did another blood draw, and another ultra sound of your reproductive organs.
“Everything still looks good,” she said. “Go ahead and get dressed, and I’ll meet you in the other room to instruct you on how to take the medications.”
In the next room, on the table, sat a huge bag of goodies. Doc unloaded them one by one.
“This is your Follistim pen, which is what you will use to inject your follicle-stimulating hormone every day. It works like this–” she gave a complicated demo. “It’s a lot to take in at first, but you went to Yale, and you will be able to figure it out.”
Fyi, every ivy-league graduate should be prepared to have that line used against them for the rest of their life.
“In this vial, you have your hCG medication, and a separate set of syringes. You’ll take each of these injections at the same time every day, any time after four o’clock.” She grabbed a fat roll and pretended to inject herself. “Anywhere below the navel is fine. Make sure to keep these injections in the fridge. If you don’t, they’ll be damaged, and you’ll have to reimburse the Intended Parents.”
“How much is it worth?” you asked, giving the big bag of meds a critical eye.
“This here?” Doc said, placing her palm on top of the stack and then giving it a little pat. “This is about $5,000 worth of medication, which is why we ask you bring all unused medication back to the clinic.”
Your stomach dropped, as you tallied up the costs for your Intended Parents.
- Maria’s fee = $7,000
- Agency fee = $5,500
- Lawyer’s fee = ???
- Parents’ health insurance fee = ???
- Maria’s health insurance fee = ???
- Maria’s travel and medication reimbursements = $300
- Genetic screening = $350
- Other lab work = ???
- Fertility clinic fee = ???
- Medications = $5,000
- Intended mother’s medications = ???
You couldn’t even imagine….
“In a few days, you’ll be given another injection to take, but that one must be administered in the morning–early–and it cannot be refrigerated. And then there will be another injection–a trigger shot–that you’ll take right before your extraction.”
“Here’s some Gatorade and some protein powder. This will help with the bloat and your fluid balance. The Gatorade has the right mix of sodium to potassium. Make sure to drink one of these per day, and four protein shakes per day. There should be 25 grams of protein in each shake. And an additional 32 ounces of water on top of that.”
You eyed the teeny tiny can of protein powder, thinking this woman was terrible at math. The whole can contained 200 grams of protein, which was only a two-day supply.
“You cannot have any sexual intercourse while on these medications, and you should not engage in any kind of impact activity or exercise.”
“Your fallopian tubes are about as thick as a strand of hair–” she pulled at one of the hairs on her head to demonstrate–“and your ovaries are going to swell to four or five times their normal size. If you go running or twist around, you risk having ovarian torsion.”
That sounded really bad.
“You’ll know it if it happens. The pain will be debilitating.”