This is for the college-aged girls. The ones who are in their “prime,” convinced they’re mostly invincible and totally strapped for cash. Because college is expensive — and so are Friday night drinks and last minute-travel plans; both integral parts of the college experience, if you ask me.
This is for you, because I once was you.
It’s hard to believe now. I’m 32, a mom, and probably about 20 pounds (or 25, whatever) heavier than I was back in my college days. I no longer drink all night and sleep all day. I don’t rush to classes after staying up studying until four in the morning. And I can’t remember the last time I randomly hooked up with some guy I met at a bar.
No, really, my life is pretty good now. It’s just different.
I’m older now, wiser even, and sometimes I think about the girl I used to be and how much she probably could’ve benefited from the information I’m about to share with you now.
If you’re a college-aged girl in the United States, you’ve probably seen your fair share of want ads for a commodity you, and only you, have to offer: Your eggs.
The ads all read fairly similarly:
“Wanted: Girls in their early to mid-twenties to help desperate couples build the families they yearn for. Practically no risk to you, and up to $10,000 compensation for your time!”
Or something like that. If you’ve found yourself thinking before that it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. I was you once. And as I neared my college graduation, I decided the pull of those ads was too hard to resist.
Yes, I loved the idea of helping a couple struggling to conceive. Have no doubt about this simple fact: there were absolutely altruistic motivations behind my ultimate decision. But there was also the promise of that money — money that seemed pretty enticing to a girl about to enter the “real” world with a fair amount of student loan debt to her name.
I was 25 years old when I donated my eggs to two different families. That meant injecting myself with hormones for a total of about eight to ten weeks, and submitting to two outpatient procedures that had me under anesthesia for about 30 minutes each time.
My actual donations went off without a hitch. In fact, I was deemed a “perfect” donor.
It wasn’t until about 6 months later that the complications started; complications every doctor who has ever seen my before and after records have agreed were very likely linked to my donations.
Those complications led to five extensive abdominal surgeries over the next three years, the subsequent loss of my own fertility, and around $75,000 in out of pocket medical expenses.
So, if I could talk to that girl I once was — who regrets donating my eggs — these are the points I would educate her on:
1. You are the commodity, not your eggs.
It’s nice to think of the entire process as “donating” your eggs, but the truth is the agency or clinic involved is banking on selling you as much as your eggs.
That’s why they gravitate towards more traditionally attractive donors or those who have unique features to offer. It’s why they care about your GPA and personal passions and talents.
It’s why they will put together a 30+ page profile detailing everything about you, from your family medical history to your goals for the future, while you will never know more about the family who selects you than maybe their relationship status (gay/straight/married/single), and whether or not they conceive with your eggs.
2. You may one day change your mind about the anonymity.
I’ve spoken to many donors and recipients over the last few years, and there seems to be a growing consensus that the anonymous nature of egg donation is no longer in the best interest of all involved, which is promising to hear.
But unfortunately, most agencies and clinics still push pretty hard for that blanket anonymity. They may offer the option of a child contacting you at 18 should they so choose, but even that is completely outside the donor’s control. The truth is, that anonymity serves to benefit the agencies and clinics more than the individual parties involved.
There have even been several cases that have come to light regarding clinics charging recipients for procedures and medications that were never needed by the donor, or only giving recipients a portion of the eggs collected and profiting off the remainder; things that couldn’t happen if recipients and donors were talking.
For my part, the greatest struggle with the anonymity I agreed to at 25 is that now, at 32, I find myself so often curious. It seemed like nothing back then, but today? I’m always wondering. And wishing there had been at least a cursory line of communication left open.
3. There are no guarantees.
There have been exactly zero studies into the long-term health effects of egg donation.
You may sit in your intake appointment listening to a doctor who presents the possible risks to you, but then says, “We have no research that tells us any of these risks are anything you actually have to worry about.”
In fact, that is exactly what I was told. And technically, the words are true, but only because there’s no research. Period.
It would be just as true to say, “We have no research that tells us any of this is safe for you in the long run.”
Of course, no one who stands to profit off of your donation is ever going to utter those words.
So just know that while no research exists, stories like mine do. And my case isn’t as rare as those doctors and clinics might want you to believe.
4. You’re completely on your own.
Remember that part about you being the commodity? Yeah, never forget it.
The reality is, most of the doctors and clinic staff involved in your donation are going to be far more concerned with their paying customers, the recipients, than you. Which isn’t to say they’re bad people; it’s just that you’re not the priority.
No one is really looking out for you in this, so you have to be willing to look out for yourself.
Do your own research, talk to past donors (preferably those who are a few years out from their donations), and pay attention to some of what is being said to you in those meetings.
A great question to ask is who is responsible for the bills if you experience any long-term complications. Guaranteed, it won’t be them.
5. Don’t do it for the money.
And that’s what it all comes down to.
I absolutely understand how enticing that money can be, but keep in mind that no one but you is going to be paying for complications you may experience after the fact. In total, I made about $13,000 off my donations; money that was spent in just over a year post-donation on related medical expenses.
And the loss of my fertility? There was no price tag I ever could have put on that. So if money is your main motivator, don’t do it. The only saving grace for me in all of this is that I truly do feel good about helping a couple to have the children they so desperately longed for.
Now that I’ve experienced infertility myself (and the eventual adoption of my daughter) I know first-hand what that longing is, and I’m grateful every day that I played a part in helping to bring two incredibly loved children into this world.
But if the money had been my main motivator, I’m not sure I ever would’ve gotten over the regret. Looking back over that list, I realize it sounds fairly negative. I want to be clear that I’m not necessarily discouraging egg donation, but I’m encouraging awareness and education.
Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand what it is you’re signing off on. Because at some point, you have to ask yourself, how much are your eggs worth?
For more information about egg donation, and to connect with women who have donated over the last two decades, check out We Are Egg Donors, the only online community committed to connecting donors and sharing their stories, both positive and negative.
Originally published on YourTango