I have begun the process of donating my eggs. By donating, I mean selling. Technically, I am only being paid for my time but I think they expect some gametic material along with that. I have undergone the initial interview granting me the right to be placed in a database for possible selection by infertile people. The interview was very odd and slightly disturbing. First, because I had an animal science professor who would scream and hit the chalkboard whenever someone said egg when the word used should have been ovum, and to this day, I cringe when people use the word eggs instead of ova. Second, it is an experience for which I have no cultural frame of reference. Oocyte donation is a recent enough technological possibility that it does not appear in the sort of literature of which I am fond, and if it is well-known in a sector of popular culture I do not know of it. I sometimes see internet banner ads offering amazing fees to women who donate their ova, and sometimes I have heard people flippantly say they were so desperate for money they would sell their eggs, but since I have never known anyone to follow through with this plan, I always sort of assumed that this, like responding to the Nigerian official, was something real people just didn't do.
From an evolutionary standpoint, donating one's genetics is a complete win in the toaster oven and trip to Hawaii sense, because one is reproducing with only a fraction of the effort and resources needed to engage gestation, parturition, and childcare. For the FDA, as long as all donors are certifiably free from HIV and various forms of hepatitis, it's all good. From the standpoint of the fundamentalist Christians, this is sin, because one is facilitating in vitro fertilization, which usually involves disposing of the less viable embryos, for whom life has begun and therefore this is murder. However, Christians do have to think about this for a minute, as oocyte donation just isn't on their litany of sins and they don't discuss it any more than anyone else does. Ideologically, it falls into a no man's land between Virtuous Women Becoming Happy Mothers Made and Whorish Women Selling Bits of Themselves. Practically speaking, it was odd and uncomfortable because I have never had so many people automatically assume that I am of the lower classes with limited education and means. This was all the more pronounced because the agency I am working with is located in a large and opulent building, the type with a fountain-adorned central atrium and helpful receptionist type personnel who will call me ma'am when I ask them for directions and respectfully wish me a good day. Then I enter the agency and am one of a group of women who, though all required by law to be at least 20, are referred to by the agency employees as girls of various types, the girl who finished her test already, the girl who had donated before, etc.
In case anyone is interested, of the 5 women there, the majority were Latina, one was black, and one was white. All the photos of the happy endings the agency had created and photographed for their brochures involved white folk. All the counselor type people at the agency were also white, though the receptionist was Latina.
The proceedings began with a lecture on what we were doing, what we could expect, and the reasons why we were doing it. It was like a game of identifying the sexist stereotype. There was the opening "now, I know you have all been taught not to interrupt, but I want you to stop me if anything isn't clear." This is not something that would ever be said to a roomful of men. This was followed by an explanation of the physiological effects of fertility drugs, complete with advice on how to abstain from sex while taking them by playing a tape of screaming babies at husbands/boyfriends when the same came in the mood wanting some intimacy. Of course men always initiate sex and of course the only possible way to refuse them is to remind them of the possibility of increased commitment and responsibility, of which of course they are terrified. Sigh.
Then we took a break to be photographed for our donor profiles, the process of which involved more angst from the assembled women over hair, nails, and makeup, then I have seen since Formal at my undergraduate institution. The photographer spent an unnecessary amount of time telling us how to sit and stand so that we would not look 'like linebackers.'
Finally, we were informed of our legal rights in the process, which granted us the ability to sign ourselves anonymously with a combination of letters and numbers. I was somewhat excited that this would mean that I now get to print my signature due to the impossibility of writing numbers in cursive. I don't like cursive. Anyway, we were also admonished that, while we could back out at anytime with no financial liability to ourselves, doing so would be a Bad Thing because the couples who would be looking through the donor profiles took great care to find just the right donor and formed great emotional attachments to the 'girl' that they selected, so not only would we be causing non-refundable financial difficulty to these infertile people, we would break their hearts.
Does the idea of a stranger forming an emotional attachment to a fantasy of you seem really creepy to anyone else?
To continue: once the lectures and admonishments were over there was an incredibly long questionnaire filled with deeply personal questions asking us to describe our worst memories and an incredibly long standardized fill-in-the-bubble psychological evaluation in which every question was asked five different ways. Once we were done with those we were escorted one by one to a private interview with a counselor, who hadn't bothered to read any of our questionnaire's beforehand so she read them while talking to us, which was weird and uncomfortable. Not so weird and uncomfortable as her telling me how I should conduct my medical appointments given my sexual history, but weird and uncomfortable nonetheless.
Just to make sure I didn't have a high opinion of her, she questioned me at length on my selection of 'no preference' on the question that asked what type of person I would be comfortable donating my genetics to. The woman lecturing us earlier had always used the term couples, but according to this question single mothers and various unmarried arrangements were also possibilities. And according to this counselor, the clinic they worked with most closely didn't do this, but some clinics provided this service to same-sex couples, so if I didn't mark a preference it would be a possibility that same-sex couples would get my eggs, and she wanted to make sure I understood that.
I'm selling my ova, what part of that makes me sound likely to be a judgmental meanypants?
The counselor also questioned me about my leaving the gpa question blank. I honestly don't remember off hand my gpa number, and I really don't see why it matters, I am a graduate student at a major and prestigious research institution. That by itself should be sufficient indication of educational worthiness. The counselor suggested that a high gpa would increase my chances of being selected for donation, which reasoning I found infuriating. By itself, it's nothing unusual, but after being questioned for my lack of concern over the lifestyles of people who might want my ova, I was not about to take this counselor's advice on how to market myself.
But that was finally over and that was that. The total initial interview took about four hours, all told. I'm considering backing out now, to be honest. Because it was odd, and slightly creepy, and a bit sexist with some homophobia on the side. If I do stick with this, and provided I remember to give blood in the next 30 days so I can prove that I don't have HIV without having to pay for the test, my dossier will be entered into a database for perusal by strangers who will judge the worth of my genetics based on criteria known only to themselves.
Further bulletins as events warrant.