Eggs Over-Easy: A Letter to the Parents of My Future Children
My birth was planned almost to the day. My mother and father agreed that after four years of blissful marriage, they would begin to “try” for a baby. Four years and one day later, I was conceived. My mother always wanted a little girl, someone to shower in pink chiffon and bestow her worldly, womanly wisdom unto. My father wanted a linebacker. He would have settled for an NBA All-Star.
Eight months, three weeks, and four days later I was welcomed into the world with a pink parade fit for, well, a princess. Like clockwork, I was walking, talking, feeding myself, and using the “potty” according to the timelines in the parenting books, and by all accounts I was an “easy” child. Time has always played an interesting part in my life; I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason for every broken fingernail, every flat tire, and every long line at the grocery store. There are reasons why my dream colleges did not accept my applications, or that Brad Pitt chose Angelia Jolie over my dazzling and effervescent beauty and charm. I measure my life in opportunities, and in time.
When I was twenty-three I married the man of my dreams. We had spent five beautiful years together, and said “I do” one week after Prince William and Kate Middleton, one week before his birthday, and one day before Mother’s Day. It is easy to tell that my life is a series of well-planned and meticulously orchestrated events, one after another, in due course and always with contingencies. Before the ink was dry on my marriage license, friends and family wasted no time inquiring about when we would start expanding our family.
“You’re the perfect age.”
“You do want your body back right?”
“You’re not getting any younger.”
With the pressure to fill my rented, one-bedroom nest with the pitter patter of little feet looming over my head, it made me start to think about whether or not I was even remotely close to being prepared for motherhood. I valued my sleep more than almost any other luxury in the world. I was still a few credits shy of my Bachelor’s degree, and I was a middle-manager stalling in the trenches of professional warfare. My thirty-year-old husband still wore the same baseball cap from college, insisted on wearing his tee-shirts and boxers until they no longer resembled the same clothing that they started out as, and ate only three things without a fight: ham and cheese, Taco Bell, and his mother’s homemade Tex-Mex. Was I (and by I, I mean “we”) really ready to forfeit this life for an entirely new journey full of unknowns and without resentment later in life? I have never answered the question, but as is true with many things in my life, time helped push me in the right direction.
It was not until three years after our wedding that my husband and I had a candid conversation about our potentially childless future. “Of course I’ll do the ‘kids’ thing,” he would reassure me. “I just want to be financially secure first.” With no shortage of eye rolling, “I understand that, but that is like saying you want to invent time travel so you can stop aging instead of buying Rogaine for your receding hairline. It is never gonna happen,” I would argue. I had grown far more cynical about children I believe because my husband was so nonchalant about wanting them in the first place. His negative energy had become so much of my own aura that I would get sick at the idea of having children without having done all of the things I selfishly wanted to do first. He wanted financial security, and I wanted to live my dreams. I had begun to question whether our dreams, and our views of the world and differing values, were even parallel to begin with. I remember reading somewhere in a psychology article that people’s bad energy has a way of impacting our moods. I could feel the imbalance in my marriage overwhelming my natural mommy-sense and banishing her to a dark corner to sulk.
The morning that changed my life started out pretty much the same way: arguing about some nonsensical, trivial little detail and feeling as though I was fighting against a current I should’ve been swimming with in harmony. My husband was a strong swimmer, and so the matches would last far longer than they would have with most people. Our argument made me late for work, and so I sat in traffic with the radio turned up and my mind in airplane mode. Something about sitting in traffic always triggers every commercial break, much like going to the bathroom in a restaurant seems to make the food arrive quicker, and by the time I would get to work the one song I wanted to hear starts to play as I turn off the ignition. Today was no exception to that rule. And in the white noise of my car, came a soothing, maternal voice:
“You can donate your shoes, your car, your clothes. That’s nice. But what if you could donate…life?”
I was positive that I had heard the advertisement before, but something about the matter-of-fact question made me turn up the volume. It was an advertisement for egg donations.
“Earn up to $8,000.00 per cycle.”
Wait, what? I can’t be facetious, my first and initial motivation for considering egg donation was financial. I had mountains of student loan debt to hitchhike over, an overzealous landlord, and a fickle, stickler of a husband who only spent money when it was absolutely necessary. I fit the profile of prospective donors; I was in my twenties, not a smoker, drug abuser, or serial killer. I was in good health and had no history or reproductive issues. The debilitating cramps and never ending mood swings each month sufficed in telling me my body functioned just fine, thank you very much. When I finally made it to my office, I turned on my computer and started to do research. Before lunch, and after about sixteen pages of paperwork, I had applied for screening as a potential donor. By dinnertime, the agency had returned contact with me to set up a physical meeting.
I never imagined that becoming an egg donor would happen so fast, or so seamlessly. But again, everything happens for a reason in my world. It was explained to me that I would be in their donor registry, but I must pass a battery of physical and psychological tests, and then be selected by a family as a donor. It could take hours, months, or in some cases, years before a donor is asked for their time. Knowing this, I resigned myself to the fact that I might never become an egg donor.
Three months later, I had a surgical procedure which left me saddled with expensive out of pocket medical bills, and an impending letter of doom from Sallie Mae instructing me to hand over my left arm and sign in blood to confirm my loans would be active and eligible for repayment. The day after my medical procedure, my phone rang. A family in Florida was hoping I would commit to donating to them, and that day we were “matched.” The donation would be anonymous, and my testing, medications, and travel would be covered by the agency. For a short time, I was in total shock that it took only three months to be matched, and then I started to fear the process itself. Would it hurt? Would it take a long time? Would it even work? I took to scouring online forums and stayed up all night until my eyes felt like they would dry out and fall out of my head.
Luckily, the agency made the process stupid-proof, and helped me to understand what was expected of me, and the gravity of what I was about to do. For weeks, I saw doctors for ultrasounds every other day, and stuck my abdomen with syringes full of medications meant to stimulate my egg production. I ate well and followed the directions to the very letter. I felt a sense of pride when strangers saw my swollen belly and asked me with optimistic curiosity if I was in the early phases of pregnancy. It was as if I turned a complete corner on the sentiment of bearing children; having been through an exhaustive process nearing its end, I was moody and ravenous for junk food and romantic comedies. It was the closest to simulating pregnancy I could have possibly gotten, and it was quite the eye-opener.
When I boarded my plane to Florida for the final procedure, I was trepidatious with anxiety. Only hours away from the retrieval, I was a waterfall of emotional turmoil. I felt an intense sense of protectiveness for myself and the precious cargo I was carrying, and I was almost saddened that my part of the journey would be over. When I arrived at the doctor’s office for the procedure, I was solemnly ready to forfeit the enlightening pieces of me that had turned me from a motherhood cynic into a steadfast believer in family and of selflessness. A few days after my procedure I felt like myself again, and flew home to return to my life as if nothing had happened, and no one was the wiser.
About a month later, when I had paid off the remainder of my student loan debt with the money I received for my donation, I got an email from my agency with an anonymous letter to protect the identity of my recipient family. It read:
“To the wonderful woman who gave us the gift of life—
We cannot thank you enough for your generosity, and your decision to donate. When we saw your photographs, and read your profile, we knew instantly that you were “the one.” Your selfless decision to donate to us is exactly the type of kindness and warmth that we want our children to possess. Today we got the positive pregnancy test that we prayed for over many years of failed attempts to conceive naturally. It was the happiest we have ever been, and we are more grateful than we can put into words. You gave us a child to call our own, and we will think of you each day and thank God for bringing us to you. Bless you a thousand times over.
With affection and gratitude – your “family.”
For the first time in a long time, a time measured by fateful mistakes and opportunities, of hard work and of useless planning, I cried. I was immeasurably touched by their letter, and I realized that my swelling tears were not because I gained financially, or fulfilled a need to test myself with the prospect of motherhood, but because I had changed someone’s life. It was the biggest accomplishment I will have ever contributed to in my being, and I have since donated to two other families.
This epic journey was meant for me; it was meant to teach me the meaning of life, and of selflessness. It was meant to help me appreciate the natural, God given ability that I have as a woman, and to embrace my fears and hesitations as teachable moments to help me grow as a person. To the families who are struggling with infertility, or with the decision to reach out to an egg donor to start their own familial journeys, I say this: you are not alone in it. There is a woman who behind the curtain is going to embark on your journey with you as a partner. You may not see us, or hear us, but be assured that we understand your need to be sure that it is the right decision for you. Emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, we understand the great impetus of responsibility and care that you are looking for in this partnership. I am forever grateful to the people who chose me, who selected me, or who will select me to be their hope for a family. And if you have learned nothing from me other than my story, you have at least seen that time, patience, and faith in fate can bring you to higher levels, inspire you, and give you hope. Never stop hoping, because it is unbreakable once you feel it.
To the family that sent me that beautiful letter…