Mother/Daughter Egg Donation

This is one of those stories the media sometimes offers up in its own sensationalized fashion.  I sometimes even wonder if these are true or if they belong in the “I was abducted by aliens” category–they sell papers.   But there’s a way in which it doesn’t matter to me if this one is true–it’s clearly possible. 

Penny Jarvis, who is 25, wants to donate (and I do mean donate–no compensation) her own eggs to her now 2-year-old daughter, Mackenzie.  Mackenzie was born without ovaries and so will not be producing her own eggs.  Thus, if Mackenzie wants to become pregnant at some point in the future she’ll need to use an egg from someone else.    Anticipating that need, Penny would have her own eggs frozen now so that they could be available to Mackenzie when she wants them.

Now the paper clearly thinks this is very weird.   It notes: 

The test-tube baby would be a half-sibling of its birth mother as well as another child of its grandmother. The baby’s father would be fertilising his mother-in-law’s egg. In addition the baby’s aunts and uncles would also be its half-brothers and sisters. 

I suppose for those who define relationships by way of genetics these things would be true.  And even though I don’t do that, I can see a bit of why it seems weird. 

That said, I wonder if for some people it isn’t a more acceptable form of egg donation then the ordinary commercial transaction.  After all, it is truly altruistic and any resulting child would be raised by a genetically closely related relative with access to the family history/traditions and all that.   This seems to address the main concerns I’ve frequently heard about using third-party eggs.   If that’s so, instead of saying this is weird, shouldn’t we say it’s laudable? 


An afterthought:  I happened to describe this situation to my students today and one of them asked about whether it wouldn’t be even better (from some perspective) if the eggs were provided by a sister of Mackenzie.  The sibling would share genetic material from both of Mackenzie’s parents.  Since Mackenzie is the fourth child in the family it’s quite possible there’s already an older sister.  But of course, there’s no saying she’d provide an egg in twenty years time.


12 responses to “Mother/Daughter Egg Donation

  1. Elizabeth Alexander, JD

    And, in addition, Does Mackenzie want to have children? And, what if her ovary issue prevents her from gestating and giving birth at all? What if her hormonal changes are so vast that she does not even identify as female as an adult? There are so many assumptions here.

    • good point, at least they gave her a kinda androgynous name

    • Of course no one can say what Mackenzie wants (she’s only two now) or perhaps more importantly what Mackenzie will want in the future. I suspect what the mother might say is that she does not want to wait to find out. Her best opportunity to donate the eggs is now. If Mackenzie doesn’t want them she doesn’t have to use them. But if it turns out she does want them, they’ll be there in the freezer.

  2. This mom has border issues. Seems like the mom is projecting herself, both her own wishes as well as her genes gametes, too much on the kid. Whose to say the kid would want that????
    She’s two years old for god sake!
    If you really wanna look out for her future, take the money you would have spent on the egg storage and put it in a trust fund for her. By that time her “nest egg” should have grown enough to purchase whatever she wants, other women’s eggs included. Which she may not want at all.

  3. In response to your point Julie about why not say its laudable instead of saying it’s wierd, since after all the resultant child would have access to its genetic kin—- true but its still fogging and mixing up what should be clear kinship lines

  4. Elizabeth Alexander, JD

    Ultimately, this is about the parents or mom only, about being nervous about her ‘daughter” being her DAUGHTER! She, as most mothers, feels a responsiblility for the perceived “defect” imposed on her child, either by her own guilt or an over thought sense of justice, and doesn’t evne consider the idea that beng different is ok. Many women cannot have children and having children does not make one a fulfilled woman, trust me. Children are not a panacea for some kind of somethin g missing from your life. You should not have children to fulfill yourself, because it won’t. They don’t appreciate it, and they don’t care that you did all these things for them, for the most part. The best you can hope for is a child who makes it whole to adulthood and is not a criminal and contributes to society, anything beyond that is frosting.

  5. “Many women cannot have children and having children does not make one a fulfilled woman, trust me. Children are not a panacea for some kind of somethin g missing from your life.”

    Elizabeth, children are not a panacea- which means a cure- all, that is true. But they do cure something- they cure the problem of childlessness.
    Childlessness IS a problem in itself for many women (though clearly not all).
    Perhaps you did not intend to, but I feel your comment minimizes the real and legitimate pain of childlessness that many women feel.

    Mackenzie may or may not feel that pain. Even if she does, it may have only a minor role in her life. There are many things that occur in life that may be far more painful to her. Even if it plays a major role in her life there are innumerable ways she could decide to deal with it, and this one could just as easily disgust her and any other reaction her mom had hoped for.

  6. Elizabeth Alexander, JD

    I hold by what I say. Childlessness is not s disease that can be cured by having a child. On the extreme, we have Nadia Suleman, a patholical breeder. She is still not healed from her feelings of unfulfillment after having all of those babies. As a woman who had a child and had hopes and dreams for that relationship, I can honestly say that nothing you do can make them love you, want to become good citizens or even respect you if they have no will to do so. Some people may be blessed with kind and nice people for their children, but not everyone is, and to put that pressure on a child is unreasonable. They are not there to do anything for you as a parent. In reality, they take and take and take some more, with no propsect of return. No matter how much you dedicate your life to your children, there is no guarrantee they will cause you anything but grief, in the extreme end, and indifference in the neutral case. Some people have wonderufl children who make their lives happy, but no one, especially mothers, feel they can discuss this aspect of motherhood. I am simply trying to make it more of a mainstream idea that having children should not be a goal in life, and end-all in fulfillment as a “woman.”

  7. Childlessness: Disease no, problem yes.
    Reproduction and family building are of the most basic biological and social functions in human civilization. The fact that some individuals do not miss participating in in does not mean that it stripped of its value for everyone else.

    As well, childlessness poses additionial problems- Marriage and/or childbearing are especially important in our era with the dismantling of the extended family. Without marriage and/or childbearing, individuals remain isolated. And isolation is a problems.

    And as they age, they become dependent on the state alone. How is that not a problem?

    To be sure, there is no guarantee that we will have the relationship with our children that we had hoped for. Even if it is, having children will not solve our OTHER problems. Agreed. None of this means that having children is of no value.

    Would you say that education, career, creative productivity, are unimportant to fulfillment as a human being (man or woman)? Or that education is unimportant because even upon completing your PHD you may not get a position? Or even if you become a CEO you may feel unfulfilled in other areas of your life?

    Then why say so regarding such a basic human activity as having and/or raising children?

  8. It seems to me there is room for agreement here (trust me to be optimistic?) Some women (and men, for that matter) do suffer because they are childless. That’s real human suffering. At least they believe that having a child would make them happier. Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. It’s certainly not a cure-all. But they identify being childless as a cause of pain.
    Now I’m inclined to think (and I think I agree with Elizabeth here) that part of the reason childless people may experience childlessness as painful is culturally constructed. If the cultural message is that proof of human fufillment is said to be having a child and you don’t have one, then you are told you are missing the peak human experience. Surely that makes you feel bad. And (here I think I agree with kisrita) you might also worry about your own future–who will take care of you as you age, who will check in and make sure you’re okay–without a child to care for you. That says something about the privitization of care in our society. (The proper way to care for the elderly is at home via family (read children).)

    I think it might reduce human suffering if we made having children a little less central to one’s sense of being a full human. I don’t myself believe that everyone should have children or should want to have children. So I’d like to legitimate the choice not to have children and ensure there is alternative social support for folks who do not have children.

    In a way I see the lengths to which people go to have kids (or, as here, to ensure that their kids can have kids) as both a cause and a symptom of the problem. If you are under great pressure to have children, you go to great lengths. And if you go to great lengths then I think you make the next person feel that perhaps she/he has to go to similar lengths.

  9. julie your post reminded me of a news story a while back…Elderly gay and lesbians here in sf bay area …our peers/siblings/signif. others age with us, without children this segment of the population is having a hard time with independent living and

    they’re lonely. story brought me to tears. there is a group of young people here dedicated to helping but its not like blood where your part of a continuoum. sad

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