Height, weight, education, hobbies—I flip through profile after profile, pausing whenever an attractive face catches my eye but always finding something in their words that makes me move on to the next contender. It feels just like my online dating days, except this time I’m not looking for someone to meet for coffee in hopes of finding my happily ever after. I’m choosing an anonymous egg donor to help me in my quest to get pregnant.
For me, it was first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes months of tests and doctor’s appointments which determined that even though I was still in my 20s, I had missed the chance to bear children using my own eggs. Luckily my uterus was still in mint condition, so if I wanted to, I could decide not to pursue adoption and instead use my husband’s sperm and an anonymous egg donor to have a baby.
Once my husband and I made the difficult decision to spend every penny we had and then some in order to pursue pregnancy via an anonymous egg donor, I thought the hard part was over. But we still had to pick the woman who would act as my genetic stand in. Turns out I found Mitt Romney’s binders full of women—they’re all in the office of the social worker at my infertility clinic. Having met my husband only a few days after signing up for an online dating site, I thought selecting a donor would be simple, but there’s a lot more to consider when you’re picking someone to act as your DNA replacement than when you’re deciding who you want to to watch Netflix with for the next 50 years. Worst case scenario, I could get a divorce, but my kids would always be my kids.
I’ve been known to get buyer’s remorse over my choice of flavored latte, so the pressure I felt to pick the right donor was enormous. Our social worker told us that many couples select a donor based on her similar appearance to the intended mother in hopes of having children that look enough like mom no one asks any rude or awkward questions, but I wasn’t sure that was the best plan.
I understood the desire to have children who looked like they could be mine, but did I really want to pass my own insecurities onto my future daughter by finding a donor who shared my beak of a nose? Maybe selecting a donor with perfect teeth and great skin who was 6’1″ to my 5’3″ wouldn’t breed mini-mes, but it could give my kids a shot at a future basketball or modeling scholarship, or at the very least help guarantee they’d have a date to prom when the time came along.
Some of the donors already had successful donation cycles, which was good in that it made it more likely they could produce viable eggs for me as well, but it also meant there were already half siblings out there my kids would never know, not to mention any children the donor went on to have in the future. Assuming everyone remained in the area, limiting the number of half siblings my own kids might one day fall in love with seemed smart, so those donors were quickly crossed off our list.
My husband had a near-impossible task while we were selecting a donor. He’d spent the past six years going out of his way pretending I was the only woman he found attractive, and here I was handing him photos of young coeds asking for his honest opinion on their looks. To his credit he answered truthfully, but I won’t pretend it didn’t sting to hear him admit that he preferred the blondes to the brunettes, especially when my own locks are naturally dark.
After only a few hours of leafing through potential donors, I thought we had narrowed the selection down pretty well and we went home to sleep on it before making a final decision. But while watching The Bachelor, I began to panic. As I watched girl after girl say and do all kinds of things on the show in hopes of getting a rose, I started to wonder what some of these potential donors were willing to put on their applications in an effort to have a shot at the $8,000 check they would receive for a successful cycle. (Had I know then how painful the injections and medical procedures we would both have to endure were I would have gladly offered to pay double, but I digress). All I had to judge these potential donors on was their medical history, a one-page listing of their interests, hobbies, and accomplishments, and a single black-and-white photo. How did I know No. 437 really was trilingual or that No. 289 was actually on the Junior Olympics volleyball team?
I know a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, but in the end, we went with the donor who’s interests most closely aligned with my own and hoped she was telling the truth. It felt like my future child would have a personality that was more similar to mine if I chose a donor who I could see myself being friends with rather than one who could pass for me in a lineup. Ironically, people comment all the time how my kids look more like me than their dad, but they have no idea just how wrong they actually are.