Why I Couldn’t Donate My Eggs
Selling my eggs to help a childless couple seemed like an easy, uncomplicated way to make money. Then I thought about my own extended family.
I decided to sell my eggs.
The notion got into my head about a year ago. “Donate” was officially the correct term, because selling eggs isn’t legally allowed, so to skirt around this issue, agencies call it “donating”—with $10,000 given as compensation for the medical processes and physical pain involved in the “donation.” But really, in plain terms, I would be selling my eggs.
Why did I want to do this? Mine was the shameful answer of single moms and young students everywhere: for the money. It seemed like a relatively simple thing to do for the amount I’d be paid. Plus, there was something cool about being able to give someone else the chance to have a child. I imagined a loving couple, happy but for the fact that they couldn’t have a baby without some help. I imagined myself, their savior, descending from nowhere, leaving them with their perfect baby, and then vanishing.
Plus, I really didn’t get why it was a big deal.
Everyone I would casually mention it to—What are your summer plans? Oh, you know, not much, just gonna sell an egg or two—would immediately look horrified, as if I’d suggested kidnapping a Chinese baby and selling it for a profit. They’d argue with me: That egg is your child, they’d say. It’s not my child, I’d respond, it’s an egg that’ll probably just end up on a tampon otherwise. You’re still young, they’d insist. Exactly, I’d agree, they’re perfect for donating! They’re so healthy. They’re practically doing yoga down there.
Inevitably we’d come to the Jewish problems. I had answers for that, too. My “child,” they’d claim, would be halachically Jewish, and should therefore be raised in a Jewish home. Maybe, but there was a Jewish agency I found that only took eggs from Jews and put them in equally Jewish wombs; problem solved. Then came the realization that this “half-child of mine”—that’s how someone described it, to which I replied that it’s not half a child, it’s half my DNA, which would hopefully become a full child—could potentially meet one of my future children, and what if they fell in love and got married? Unlikely, but possible, I’d admit. This creepy incest issue was the only one I didn’t really have an answer to. But really, I assured myself, how likely was that to happen?
No argument could sway me. My mom rolled her eyes when I brought it up. My boyfriend grew impatient with the topic; discussing it was useless, as I just couldn’t understand what the problem was. My therapist implied—well, more like straight-up told me—that I sounded like a sociopath. There’s nothing wrong with donating your eggs, she said, but you should understand why it’s such a huge decision.
I was just being logical, I thought, and everyone else was being excessively emotional. This egg was just one of thousands. And it wouldn’t be my child; I wouldn’t carry it in my womb, birth it, or raise it. Someone else would do all that.
I wondered: Would everyone get this upset if I were a guy discussing donating my sperm? Sure, the procedure is less invasive, but the moral dilemmas are the same. A sperm donor, too, would have an offspring he’d never meet (unless, of course, his own future child married his donated-sperm child, which apparently everyone was worried about). I theorized that people got more upset when a woman volunteered to donate, because of the assumed maternal instinct, and that bothered the combative feminist inside me. But no matter, I am a woman and what I had to offer were healthy, happy little eggs with DNA that had worked rather well for me so far.
I had done all the research: I found the organization I wanted to do it through, I read up on the medical processes. I even decided I would do it over the summer, when I had more time to undergo the various procedures. It was all but done.
And then. Then, a conversation with a friend made me feel the connection with this anonymous egg of mine that everyone else had been feeling instead of me. I didn’t expect my mind to be changed—I’m as stubborn as they come, I like to think logic can always trump emotion, and I certainly didn’t think of this unfertilized egg as anything that would be related to me. But in the end, it was emotions that tripped up my get-rich-quick plan. Finally I connected with what everyone was making such a fuss over. And this came, unexpectedly, out of a conversation about my cousins.
My siblings and I were raised by my mother, who was an only child, and my stepfather. One of the things about my childhood that’s always bothered me, something I wish could be different, is that my step-cousins never really felt like my cousins. I’d go to family reunions and feel like the outsider. They shared something deeper than I did; they understood each other in some indescribable way. I came into the family when I was already 4 and I didn’t have the same nose, hair, or personality quirks that they did.
The contrast with my father’s family is stark. My father died when I was 3, and his only brother lives in Israel. When I make my trips to see my cousins there, I finally understand what having an extended family felt like. My siblings and I were raised together; it makes sense that we share a sense of humor and a love for nerdy things. But six boys and girls halfway across the world, getting our jokes and having our orthodontist’s dream teeth? That was pure genetics. I felt at home in their house like nowhere else, except for my own home.
Thinking about my family, I realized that I’d be taking away from that egg—that future child, even future adult—what I missed so much in my life. Suddenly, I felt protective over that person; I felt the need to keep it safe from harm and hurt. I felt the connection everyone else assumed I’d have all along. And once those emotions were involved, I couldn’t take them back.
Logically, I suppose, my initial instinct was still right. My egg is, biologically, just an egg. It’s not a child. But if I did donate it, one day it might be a child. And that child would grow up never knowing the feeling of loving someone with the same snub nose it might have. That child would wonder why it—not it, he or she—felt the need to insert sarcasm into every conversation. He would never know the bond of a genetic relative. No matter what logic told me, my feelings had changed, and I couldn’t go through with it.
That couple out there waiting for a donor has every right to make a baby using someone else’s egg. I just don’t want it to be mine.
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Evangelical Christians send students around the world to help the needy. Jews should do the same, extending tikkun olam beyond our community.