An Egg Donor’s Story From Motherlode

I know I have comments to read and reply to as well as other topics to cover, but I wanted to get a short post up about an interesting item on the Motherlode blog (maintained by the NYT.)   It’s a couple of days old, but I only just happened upon it. 

The post is offered as a continuation of the discussion spurred by the publication of that Sunday magazine story about ART I wrote about just a little bit back.   It’s a thoughtful reflective piece written by a woman who was an egg donor in the early 90s.  (I use the term “donor” deliberately here as it appears she did not receive compensation.)    It’s worth reading as it raises a number of interesting and important questions, some of which have been discussed here.   (You can use the “egg donor” tag to find earlier posts.)   

There’s no way to say whether the donor’s tale is a typical one, and that’s not the direction I would take the conversation here.   She looks back on her choices with less that complete satisfaction even as she wrestles with questions about how to proceed given the choices she did make.   

In some ways, I wonder if her story isn’t nearly a universal one.   Surely we all grow to be older and more experienced, and one might hope also wiser.   I’d guess we all come to look back on some of our youthful decisions with shadings of regret, perhaps thinking we’d do some things differently now. 

To be clear, I don’t think the author comes to regret having provided the eggs.  Rather, she has some regrets about agreeing not to maintain a relationship with the children, one in which they knew the role she played in their creation.   And she fully realizes that  we cannot change the past and so it is necessary that we figure out how to go forward from those choices.  

I find myself wondering what to make of all this.   Should I conclude that she should not have had the ability to make the choices she made when she was younger?  (I’m very reluctant to do that.)  Or perhaps I should say that while she was entitled to make them, she should not consider herself bound by them?  (That’s sort of an interesting position, isn’t it?)   Must her choices be irrevocable?  If not, then why not–because she now regrets them?  Because we think they were wrong to begin with?   (This strikes me as an unsatisfactory approach.)   

And then there are the questions that radiate out from here:  What are the implications for other sorts of choices people may (or may not) be free to make?   Some choices are, by the nature, irrevocable.  Do people have the right to make those choices anyway?  Even when we know that some of them, later in their lives, may come to have some regrets about some of the choices they made?    

I’m generally inclined to think that we do have to let people make serious and irrevocable choices, because that’s the core of individual autonomy.   And we have to acknowledge that some choices may cause some people some degree of regret at some point.  I don’t think we can know enough about which choices will make which people unhappy later, nor can we know whether they will be more or less unhappy with a different choice.  

So the egg donor gave her eggs and now she wrestles with how to manage the situation she chose to create.   I appreciate her reflection and candor.  I know her choices–the ones she faces now–are hard ones.   I admire her humanity.


10 responses to “An Egg Donor’s Story From Motherlode

  1. Much has been said about children desiring to know their anonyomous parents but little attention has been paid to parents who wish to know their anonymous children. While I have assisted a couple of father’s in their search for their own anonymous children, something tells me (call it female intuition) that lots and lots of mothers will soon be seeking out their anonymous children on the DSR. It will be a two way street filled with lots of traffic shortly. And no I do not think you can or should ever prevent a parent from looking for their child – let it be up to the child to accept or reject them. She should not be bound by the decision of her youth – certainly not. That is her child that is her family – she can make a mistake in judgement and seek to rectify it. If she is unable to maybe in time her other children will be successful in making contact with their anonymously conceived sibling. Or maybe a grandparent or cousin or aunt or uncle niece or nephew will be successful in making contact if the mother is not.

  2. Elizabeth Alexander, JD

    I have, at times, regretted becomng a mother when I did. I was 23. I did something many youthful 20 somethings do, and I did the right thing by my family. Does that mean 23 year olds should not have children? I think we all have regrets about marriage, college, past choices in hind sight our whole lives, and so it follows loogically an agg donor might question her decisions, just as a birthing partent and a person having an abortion might go back and re-think things now. However, you can only make decisions in the position you are in at the time you make them. You are not the smae person, even remotely, as you age, that you were when you made those life altering decisions. We must live with them.

  3. I just went to the DSR and queried mothers looking for their children and by my count there were 130 of them. I must say that I found it very disturbing that most of these moms are younger than me. Significantly younger. I’m not sure why that bothers me but the idea that some of them are born in the 1980’s just freaks me out.

    I cant even count the fathers its just way too many to do a manual count. The ones younger than me there also freak me out. I was not expecting this odd reaction.

    I believe that must have something to do with your statement about is a person old enough to make a decision that effects so many people. Yes of course they are old enough – if you are old enough to make a baby your old enough to pay the consequences eh? Still something about being born in 1983 feels like a dis-qualifier.

  4. I sometimes feel like I made most of the most important decisions of my life when I was too young to know better.

    Life’s most major decisions are often made in the 20’s- what career to pursue, where to live, whom to marry (or not to marry) and more

  5. It just occurred to me that people seem to be thinking donor gametes is great, but oh, we have to take into account the rights of the child, or the rights of the donor, and balance them against the right of people to use donor gametes. And it seems the right of people to procreate with other people’s gametes always wins, even in supposedly anti-donor forums like FamilyScholars. No one ever says, hey, there is no right to use donor gametes at all, so there is nothing to balance. These problems that we are encountering should be a brief blip that we will deal with, and we should also look at the source of these problems and say, really?? You want to procreate with random people you aren’t married to? Sorry, but that’s not your right. No children for you, unless you marry, and then only children with that person’s gametes. Why aren’t more people saying that?

  6. Because this is the United States of America, that’s why. There are many countries in the world where governments regulate people’s sexual behavior. You might try Saudi Arabia if that’s the kind of culture you prefer.

    • I think there is a lot of room between allowing sperm and egg donation and stoning adulterers and fornicators. I’m not suggesting we stone adulterers and fornicators, or change anything about the way we prosecute out of wedlock sex. I’m suggesting that we merely remind the public that it isn’t a right to intentionally have children with someone not your spouse, and shut down sperm and egg banks and arrest people who facilitate and publicly pursue intentionally creating people from unmarried gametes. That’s not Saudi Arabia, that’s America twenty years ago (in terms of social understanding anyway), and maybe two years from now, if we have any concern for human rights.

  7. I think we are looking at the variables all wrong. Infertile people are not conceiving their children by using genes from fertile people. There is no “right” to conceive children with 3rd party gametes…..Infertile people are not part of the equation; forget about them for the moment. The people making the babies are the same as they were a million years ago potent males and fertile females. While a great marriage is an awesome set up for child conception, stuff happens and just a percent of kids will be born with madly in love married parents. I think John might be of the opinion its one thing for a woman to get pregnant accidentally, and she and the dad raise the kid unmarried, but deliberately doing it is just reckless. Its against the law to take a life but its never going to be againt the law to create one. Even in rape if a child is born those are that kids parents – then the law can step in and say no parental resp/obligations for evil incarcerated dad, and victimized mom can elect to allow someone else to raise their child to adulthood. Its not about our rights to raise children we create its about our obligation to do so,legally and ethically. I think its shortsighted for men and women to conceive children together anonymously through a laboratory intermediary but they could just as easily meet and screw as get a doctor’s help. How they make the baby is up to the two of them. They are parents with an obligation to raise their children, they can choose to abandon their children and allow them to be raised by other people, and that is where the infertile person comes in,they are paying either one or both parents to abandon their child and parental obligations under the radar off the record so that they can be documented as maternally or paternally related to the child they want to raise. Even with a mother whose eggs are removed and fertilized in a lab, that is her embryo, it belongs in her body-the man who fertilized her egg should have no say over the disposition of the embryo. Once the child is born he becomes a father with sayso, prior to birth neither are parents that embryo is an extension of her body and if she wishes to allow another oman to gestate and deliver then she is out of control till her baby is born. That gestational carrier may want to raise the baby, but she needs the consent of its mother first.
    See, there are no people making babies with other peoples genes; just parents making babies and being paid to walk away.

  8. I’m not sure where to attach this comment, so I’m just going to put it into the general section. It’s interesting to me that the discussion so quickly gravitates to the language of rights (who has a right to do what) and to think about the relationship between rights and natural capacity. I suppose this is really on my mind because I just read through all the comments on the post about regulating reproduction a couple of posts before here.

    One might say that you have a right to do that which one can do naturally–so that a fertile heterosexual couple has a right to procreate, because they can do so all on their own. And you could also add the complement–there is no right to do that which you cannot do naturally. That might mean that a single person or a same sex couple or an infertile heterosexual couple does not have a right to procreate. While there seems to be a certain sort of logic in this reasoning, I still think you get to ask the why question–why would this be? And do we really want to say this generally.

    But in fact, I don’t think this is the reasoning most of the comments reflect. So for example, saying that only married heterosexual couples have the right to procreate suggests that the line is drawn not by natural capacity but by some moral/philosophical judgment overlaid on natural capacity. I suppose I am content with this because in general I am uncomfortable with the invocation of nature as the definer of rights. If a child is born with a repairable heart defect, I’d like to say that the child should have a right to medical care to repair the defect even though that’s not letting nature take it’s course.

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