I was 23, in law school and working full-time for a judge my first summer. Unfortunately, the popularity of unpaid work hasn’t seemed to budget the student loan industrial complex, which only awards loans and aid in the fall and spring, leaving those of us with “credit-only” summer jobs shit out of luck. Wracked with guilt about having cost my parental units so much already and the high cost of living in Los Angeles, I decided I had to find a non-sex worker way to at least pay some of my bills for that summer.
I explored retail and part-time options, but couldn’t find anything that allowed me to keep my unpaid 9-5 and paid anything more than minimum wage. That’s when I remembered all those crazy egg donation ads from my undergraduate institution’s newspaper, so I went online and lo and behold, “eggs wanted!” ads a-plenty! I went through an agency which, as far as I could tell from the internets, had a good reputation.
The founder herself had used donor eggs for her several children so that seemed less shady to me. I sent in whatever minimal information was requested in the ad—I don’t remember what all was requested initially, but probably some brief bio and probably SAT score, educational history, maybe a photo? Anyway they called me right away and set up an appointment to come to their office for some kind of evaluation.
They gave me a giant application and instructed me to complete it and bring with with me. They wanted EVERYthing—medical history, that of my family members, height, weight, pictures of me as an adult and as a child, SAT scores, favorite book, reason for donating etc. It probably took about an hour to get through that. They also made me sign a contract.
I showed up for my appointment; the office was nice and the staff was very friendly. They reviewed that huge application with me and my responses, gave me an IQ test and one of those personality type tests (like a Myers-Briggs test). Then I had a long conversation with the founder where she asked me all kinds of things about how I was raised, why I wanted to donate, and all kinds of job interview-y type questions and a detailed explanation of the medical process of egg donation.
Obviously the impetus to donate was the money, but I am fairly certain I don’t want children of my own and I’m vain enough to think I have mostly pretty decent genes, so if someone else wants them, I figured why not? I’d had friends and family members who had trouble conceiving, so I had some exposure to the anxiety and sadness that can bring. I was vaguely skeeved out by the attention paid to appearance, intellect and the like, but at the same time if I were going to use someone else’s DNA, I’d want the best money can buy, not gonna lie. Also, this particular agency asked me upfront if I was comfortable donating to same-sex couples, which struck me as a pretty damn decent way to operate such a business (of course my response was an enthusiastic “yes”).
At the end of this meeting, they informed me that I had apparently passed muster to be included in their roster of available donors. They put all our information into an online profile, accessible to their couples only and the process moves forward once you get chosen by a client to donate. Not being able to see what other women doing this were like, I was not at all certain that I would get chosen, but it only took about a week. I went through the hormone treatments, which were mildly annoying, but the upside is I can now inject myself without fear. I tend not to have many side effects to hormones (as was my experience with birth control, anyway) and that bore out in this case as well.
The most annoying part was that I had to go into the doctor’s office to get an ultrasound and have blood drawn every few days or so once I began injecting the hormones, but luckily as well the couple I was donating too had chosen a doctor with a convenient location and the appointments were preferred in the early morning, so I could go before work. The doctor and his staff were also very nice and I didn’t feel skeeved out at all. The final step, when they’ve got enough eggs (I believe usually 5-15) ready to take, is the extraction and they put you under conscious sedation, so it’s like having your wisdom teeth out.
I had my roommate drive me home and rested for the rest of the day with only some cramping. I was paid on the day of extraction (this agency has it set up so that if the hormones don’t produce enough eggs but you still go through all the trouble, you get some portion of the fee), which was successful. They took 8 eggs that had just been sitting there collecting dust or whatever and I was paid $8,000. They also presented me with a gift from the donor couple and a letter from them. Up until this time I did not know anything about them, so it was nice to see who I was helping.
This place allegedly will notify the donor if a pregnancy occurs and I was never notified, so as far as I know the donation wasn’t successful for the couple. The couple seemed nice in the letter and it made me feel better that they said if this was unsuccessful, that they would pursue adoption. I hope they did that.
Conclusion: I had an overall positive experience; my feelings about the whole paying for eggs thing are mixed. On the one hand, it has the potential to exploit women in need of money for the benefit of the upper classes and so much of the selection process does seem focused on superficial qualities like looks and race, as opposed to factors that seem more meaningful, such as intelligence and health history. Then again, I suppose every parent wants the best for their child and god knows attractive people have advantages, so I can’t say I wouldn’t be just as choosy if I were using donor eggs.
This worked out well for me in providing me with a small sum of money that I put to good use in funding my living expenses while pursuing my career goals at a top law school. I did not feel pressured or exploited at any time by anyone, however I can see how the potential is there for less upstanding egg brokers to do just the opposite. It’s also problematic because so many of the reasons that I was likely chosen to be a donor (being white, blonde, thin, straight, smart, relatively mentally stable and able-bodied) are themselves traits which often confer unearned privilege in our society, so by participating, am I perpetuating a cycle where only offspring with a specific list of attributes are desirable?