When we called for personal experiences with egg donation, readers responded — with tales of intense screening processes, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, guilt, and fulfillment.
A former donor we'll call "Alexis" (all the names below are false, as the donors requested anonymity) wrote that she sold her eggs to pay for a move and get out of debt, but also "I wanted to see how the system worked, and in a sick way, I wanted to learn what value people would place on my genes." She continues:
I tried to be scrupulously honest in filling out the extensive questionnaires on my personality and academic record and family medical history: Yes, I aced the SATs (a perfect score — which the agency verified, by the way), but I was also treated for anxiety attacks during college. I have musical ability (I majored in piano performance), but I'm also about thirty pounds heavier than the willowy size-four beauty the discriminating parents might desire. I described myself as an extreme introvert with neurotic tendencies, which isn't the ideal profile either, but in the end, after a few couples considered and rejected me, I still got paid a premium. My conclusion: My grades (I was a valedictorian), IQ, and test scores were always of primary importance. Everything else was just a perk or a minor debit by comparison. (That said, I am white. I suppose grades might not have meant as much to the egg recipients without that prereq.)
After the experience, her feelings are mixed: "they objectified me for my intelligence, reduced me to raw demographic data, and I spent weeks screwing with my hormones and abstaining from sex and alcohol to let them do it. The whole ordeal made me feel a little bit guilty, like I was profiting off something I hadn't earned, but I didn't feel too bad, I guess, since I did it twice."
Donor "Betty" had a more positive experience. Even though she experienced ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome as a side effect of donation — which caused bloating and difficulty breathing and "added 10 days to my recovery" — she says "it was a very interesting experience that I feel showed me another side of being pro-choice." She elaborates, "how can one say that a woman has a right to end a pregnancy and not to pursue one?"
Still another reader, whom we'll call "Carrie," wrote to tell us of her experience working for an egg donation and surrogacy agency: "Part of my job was helping Intended Parents find their "perfect donor" and I've seen it all, from people who want an Ivy-legue, 5'7" or taller, blonde, blue eyed, musical, artistic pet-lover to those who only want to be parents and will chose a donor they feel connected to as a person, race be damned. It was an often exasperating, always stressful job, but in the end, when those babies were born, I cried with joy just as much as the parents did."
And finally, donor "Denise" wrote us with a full account of her experience, which you can read here. Perhaps the most thought-provoking part is her 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?