I was 24 years old when I decided to donate my eggs. I thought I knew it all, I was sure I had life figured out. With donation I saw an opportunity to help couples struggling to conceive while also lightening my own student loan debt. It seemed like such an easy decision to make at the time.
I’ve written in the past about the dangers of egg donation and the growing issues within the industry, both important topics that anyone considering donating their eggs or using donor eggs should educate themselves on before moving forward. This time I want to talk about the anonymity that often accompanies egg and sperm donations today and whether that anonymity is actually a good thing.
Egg and sperm donations are done almost exclusively on an anonymous basis. Donors never know more than a few details about the families receiving their donations, and while those families may be given information like first names and photos, identifying details about the donors are typically kept under wraps as well. Most agencies will tell you that this is to protect all parties involved.
As far as I was concerned back then, that made enough sense to me. Biology was an inconsequential part of the equation. I didn’t have a relationship with my own mother and some of the people I held most dear in my life were those I shared no biological bonds with. It never crossed my mind to consider what it would mean to have someone else raising those eggs of mine, to be kept completely out of the loop regarding who those eggs would become. Because once they evolved beyond eggs, I knew—they wouldn’t be mine. They would belong to the woman who carried them, to the family who loved them.
I donated to two families. The first wound up conceiving twins, a boy and a girl who likely started first grade this year. I was told the second family was not successful on the first try, but I never heard anything beyond that. It is at least possible that they were able to use my frozen eggs to conceive during a subsequent attempt.
Donors don’t always know the answers to these questions. They aren’t always given information regarding the outcome of their donations.
The truth is, when I chose to donate, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to sever those biological ties.
A lot has changed for me in the seven years since I donated. I lost my own ability to conceive and I adopted a little girl who brings me more joy than I ever knew before her—an act that has both solidified my previous belief that biology is not necessary for love, while also contradicting my stance that it holds no weight at all.
You see, I watch my daughter and I know there is no possible way I could ever love her more. Everything about her is perfection to me. She is my daughter. Even the fact that another woman carried her could do nothing to shake my belief that the two of us were always meant to come together. But, seeing her with that other woman also routinely reminds me of how substantial their connection is. I can no longer deny that biology means something when I watch the two of them together.
We have a very open adoption, one that includes the woman who brought my daughter into the world as well as my daughter’s siblings and extended biological family. The resemblance between her and those who share her genes is uncanny. Even the mannerisms are often the same. And as much as it sometimes cuts me to be faced with the reminder that she isn’t just all mine, it also makes me happy to know that she is always going to have access to the people she came from. I appreciate having that access as well, a fact which has come in handy more than once now when I have had questions about things like family medical history.
The whole experience often causes me to think back on my donations, though. The truth is, when I chose to donate, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to sever those biological ties. I didn’t know what I was signing up for when I agreed to such anonymity.
And today, while I refuse to ever regret my decision to donate, I can’t help but wonder about those children who are potentially walking around with my eyes, my nose, my laugh, my clumsiness and my lust for storytelling.
I can’t help but wonder how much of me is in them.
I think about them often. Certainly more than I ever thought I would. Not in the sense of claiming them or believing them to be mine, because I in no way see myself as a parental figure in their lives. But that curiosity is there. Perhaps only heightened by the fact that I will now never have a biological child of my own, I suppose leaving me to question what those children I may have had would have been like.
What if (anonymity) only creates a divide that shouldn’t be there at all?
I wonder sometimes if their parents think about me as well. I heard from them once, an e-mail sent through the donor agency thanking me for all I had given them. They told me a bit about their son and daughter and even offered to send a picture, if I was interested. I replied to the agency immediately that I was, but I never heard anything again. The agency stopped replying to my inquiries and I’m still not sure what happened. Maybe they changed their minds. Or maybe the agency intervened, as I’m told has been known to happen in cases like mine. It seems that these agencies really like that anonymity. They like the line to be drawn in the sand, maybe because they still believe it better protects all involved.
But what if it only creates a divide that shouldn’t be there at all?
I wonder if you’re still out there. If you ever think about me and wonder where my life has gone. I wonder if you look at your children sometimes and imagine which of their little quirks are pieces of you and which are pieces of me. And if you ever think about what it would be like if that anonymity wasn’t there.
Would you send me Christmas cards with their photos? Would you feel comfortable picking up the phone if a family medical question arose?
And would you want to know about me? About my daughter and our life and how I have never once regretted donating, despite the subsequent loss of my own fertility. About how some days I almost even want to thank you, because I’ve come to believe it was those donations that eventually led me to my little girl. And I wouldn’t change having her in my life for anything.
Maybe you’re reading this now. Maybe you’re wondering what I want from you. And maybe it’s really scary, because you have your life and your kids and everything has lined up just the way you dreamed it would and this was not part of the deal.
I get that. I get that when I signed on to be a donor, I promised to be completely content remaining far off in the wings—out of sight and out of mind. But I guess I didn’t totally know what that would mean when I first agreed to donate my eggs. And now, I find myself often so curious about who those eggs have become.
I wonder if you, or they, ever have a similar curiosity about me.
I don’t want to take anything away from you. I don’t want to intrude upon your lives or make you feel in any way uncomfortable. I just want to know you. And I want to know whatever you would be willing to share about those children you are now raising.
RELATED: The Thing About Regret
So consider this my attempt to break the anonymity. I donated once in California in the summer of 2007, and once in Boston in the winter of 2008. If you received my eggs, you’ve seen pictures of me. You read a profile a mile long before selecting me as your donor. You already know that this is all directed toward you.
My name is Leah Campbell, and I am easy enough to find if you ever decide you are willing to reach out and make contact.
I would love to know you.
Who knows? Maybe we could even be friends.
Image: Leah Campbell