An open letter to my anonymous egg donor:
Dear donor #512*,
I don’t know you. The only information I have about you is a couple of paragraphs that list your age, education, hobbies, ethnicity and family medical history. There’s a grainy black-and-white photo of you that looks like it was taken at a celebratory dinner at a restaurant, but truth be told, if I bumped into you on the street I don’t think I’d recognize you at all.
And yet, in spite of the fact that we are complete strangers, I feel like I do know you on some level, because I see a part of you reflected back at me every day in my twin boys.
My childhood was less than perfect. Growing up with an abusive father who had substance abuse issues, all I ever wanted was to have a normal, traditional family. I thought I was working towards that goal by checking all the boxes: degree, good job, caring and loving husband, a house in a good school district. But then, before I was even 28 years old, I found out my eggs were far beyond their expiration date.
Although adoption was an option, I wanted the experience of carrying a baby, so when the opportunity to use a donor came along, I decided that my dreams of being pregnant were worth taking the chance, and with the support of my husband, we went for it.
For the record, I would have preferred an open donation. The clinic’s program was anonymous-only, and beggars (or in my case, a woman with defective ovaries) can’t afford to be choosers, so I set about selecting the woman who would make up half of my kid’s genes by leafing through a binder of photos and statistics sheets the way I imagine casting directors pick who’s going to star in the next Tampax commercial.
You and I look nothing alike. The social worker told us that many couples try to find someone who looks similar to the mother when choosing a donor, but we selected you almost instantly based on three factors. My doctor felt your test results were great and that you were likely to provide me with usable eggs. You were pretty, and I am vain enough to admit that if I had the option to pick, I wanted cute children. And the third, but most important reason to me: We shared similar hobbies and interests. If I couldn’t give my kids my own genes, I wanted them to have ones from a woman I could at the very least see myself being friends with.
I know that you were motivated to do this by far more than money. I learned about the screening process you went through to become a donor, the multiple medical appointments and personality assessments that came even before you were accepted onto the donor list. I know what it took to actually go through the donation process.
You made countless sacrifices for a perfect stranger. You were willing to start the donation cycle as soon as I was, which meant putting any travel plans you had on hold so you could go to regular medical appointments. You gave up sex. You gave yourself daily injections and medications on a very specific time schedule, and if your experience with those needles was anything like mine, you had painful welts to show for it. I know that the day of the egg retrieval you were in pain, because they called me to ask if I was willing to pay for a medication to help you recover from the discomfort. I couldn’t call the pharmacy fast enough, and I felt awful that you had to endure that after already doing so much for me.
I went through my own round of appointments, tests and injections for the IVF, but I did all this knowing there was the chance for a baby (or in my case a buy one, get one free sale), but you did all this for a mere $8,000. To make these sacrifices for someone you’ve never met takes courage and grace few possess. To be completely honest, if our positions were reversed, I don’t know that I could have done what you did for me.
I want you to know that you will not be forgotten. The decision to pursue a pregnancy via egg donor wasn’t my attempt to sweep my infertility issues under the rug so that no one knows about them. I chose to write this letter anonymously only because my children are still young, and in this age of the Internet where your past is only a Google search away, I feel strongly that it should be their decision if and/or when they choose to share the details of their genetics with the world.
Beyond a picture book on egg donation I have set aside for the day when they start asking questions, I’m not quite sure how I will tell my kids about the wonderful woman who helped them come into the world. A giant part of me fears they will reject me as their mother or be angry with me for what I’ve done. But my fears of the unknown are far outweighed by my certainty that they need to know what a selfless, kind thing someone did for me once, and I hope in telling them about you they will understand both how very much they were wanted, and how there is still good and kindness in humanity.
Sure, every now and then I have a momentary freakout where I wonder if one day you’ll have kids who will somehow meet my kids, and what if they fall in love with their half-sibling and blame me or us for putting them in that situation. But I try to tell myself that’s a highly unlikely scenario, and if it did happen, not only would I be thrilled to meet you, but I hope we could work together to sell our story to Lifetime, or at the very least get a chance to meet Oprah.
Occasionally I check the Donor Sibling Registry, just in case you’ve signed up because you’re worried or concerned about the eggs you donated. I know the clinic would tell you if your donation resulted in a pregnancy, and I’m not sure if you ever called to find out, but I hate the thought of you wishing you had information when there’s none available. I’ve read accounts from women who donated their eggs and regret their choice, and every time I come across one of these stories I hold my breath and check the publication date because I so desperately don’t want there to be a chance that it was written by you.
There is not a single day that goes by when I don’t take a moment to silently thank you for what you’ve done for my family and me. Even on the days when the kids push me to the limits of my patience, or when I look in the mirror and see the toll carrying twins took on my body, there’s not a moment of regret. I hope that if you ever have a day of self-doubt or negativity, you remember the gift you gave to me and know yourself for the amazingly selfless person that you are.
Thank you for the gift of my children.