Looking for an egg donor is like the weirdest possible online dating. It’s quite similar in many ways. The women provide photos and write a profile that contains information about their physical characteristics, personality, interests, background, career, education, drinking habits, sexual orientation, what they do for fun, and a few stories about their experiences.
From there, it starts to diverge into what would be an incredibly bizarre, intrusive, TMI sort of dating profile. You learn what they’re allergic to, whether they ever had braces, whether they’re a carrier for a genetic disease, their grandparents’ causes of death, their parents’s hair colors, their siblings’ occupations, their age at menarche, how many sex partners they’ve had in the past year, whether they’ve ever had sex for money.
Choosing an egg donor is a big deal. You have to trust a stranger’s honesty. You practically become a reproductive actuary in trying (likely fruitlessly) to calculate each woman’s fertility potential. You’re going to pay gobs of money to have a doctor use a teeny tiny needle to jam your husband’s sperm into this random woman’s egg (…I wonder if some people would consider that cheating?). You might, if all goes well, pay for this lady’s DNA to traipse off to college and you worry about where it is at night and it never even calls you anymore. It might be drinking at a party with strangers, which is kind of all your fault, because the donor’s great grandfather died of cirrhosis and you didn’t think that was a big deal.
You can’t control every variable, but you try to discern what’s most important to you. Back in the days when people would never disclose their children’s donor-conceived origins, blood type tended to be extremely important to an intended mother. You’d want the donor’s blood type to match yours, because otherwise, someday, your child might say “Wait a second. My mom’s A-, my dad’s O-… and I’m B+? Clearly, I have been betrayed.” Now, parents of donor-conceived children are encouraged to tell the children early and often with age-appropriate explanations, and most people don’t go to such great lengths to hide their children’s origins from them. Still, most people are interested in finding a donor whose physical and personal characteristics match the intended mother’s, and a donor who is healthy. And attractive. And young, of course – more eggs that way.
I chose my frozen egg donor from among hundreds. I thought she looked like a happy kid, she had an interesting background, she sounded like a major nerd (perfect!), and her audio interview made me laugh out loud. My husband thought she kind of looked like me in her adult photos (I didn’t, but she was very pretty, so that’s nice of him). Her eggs had resulted in a previous pregnancy (these women are referred to as “proven donors”). But, after two tries, there was no such luck for me. So we moved on.
We had fewer donors to choose from when we decided to try a fresh donation cycle. I no longer felt quite as picky. I showed my husband most of the choices, except one who I assumed he would reject. However, he still wanted to look at her, and surprisingly, she was the one he liked best. Although I am white and our frozen egg donor was multi-ethnic, a combo of her and my husband (who is Hispanic) wouldn’t likely have looked clearly different from a combo of me and my husband. This new donor was also multi-ethnic, but definitely wouldn’t create a child that would pass as “mine.” We decided we didn’t really care, and to hell with anyone who had a problem with that, and asked the clinic to give her a call.
Since she got disqualified halfway through my cycle, we’ve found ourselves in the position of choosing a third donor. Our criteria have seriously loosened at this point. The clinic sent me information for a bevy of donors who had entered the program within the past several months. Deciding that now I didn’t care so much about whether they seemed brilliant, or had the right physical characteristics, or gave me a feeling – I only cared if they could make me a kid – I asked the clinic if there were any who might be ready to go oh, say, maybe yesterday. They told me one of them had already done all of her screenings and tests; it was only a matter of whether her schedule would permit a whirlwind cycle. I showed her photos and profile to my husband. He didn’t seem impressed. I asked him to look at the other donors’ profiles. He was similarly unimpressed. In fact, he seemed downright blase. He took a good look at the first woman again, sighed, and concluded that she “looks the least crazy. They all look kind of crazy.”
So, this time, we’re going with “the one who looks the least crazy.” And, frankly, if I remember my online dating experiences accurately, I’m pretty sure that’s what my standards eventually became for that, too.
I am only now just starting to see the effect this process has had on my husband. Somehow, during the entire past seven months, I didn’t quite grasp the possibility that he might also be feeling impatient, losing hope, and trying to distance himself from continued disappointment.