It’s not uncommon for intended parents to focus on physical features or other attributes in choosing an egg donor, but when the baby arrives, none of that matters. Instead, Wilson-Miller suggests that parents-to-be find someone they would like as a friend—which makes the entire process more inviting and exciting. Wilson-Miller also dispels some of the misconceptions of why women become egg donors.
Author of The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation, Wendie Wilson-Miller is also the Founder and CEO of the agency, Gifted Journeys. She has spent her career helping families navigate their way through the egg donation process, and is herself a five-time egg donor.
The first egg donation, the first successful egg donation, happened actually, in the UK. And then in the United States, it came in—I believe it was the 80s, if I remember correctly. And that’s where it first became a viable option in the United States. But I would say it wasn’t until pretty much the early 90s that agencies began, and doctor’s offices started telling intended parents that they needed to find egg donors.
I think the primary benefit is you have an agency doing a lot of the interviews with the donors ahead of time. So agencies are going to have a wide range of donors, every ethnicity, different education, different locations. And we’re doing sort of a lot of the groundwork, without you having to do that. Second to that, you’re facilitating everything that needs to be done—the psychological evaluations, the genetic evaluations, the complication insurance policy, the attorneys that people work with, the professionals for the legal contracts, and forged relationships with the IVF clinics.
The shift from unknown to known donors has happened because we have more information now. Third-party reproduction has been around for a while, and mental health professionals in our industry have determined that going into this process with a little more of the willingness to be open, or choosing to meet is potentially better for the child down the road—because it becomes their story. It’s no longer about the intended parents or about the donor; it’s about the child.
The very first thing I tell everyone is, before we can move forward with anything else, they need to find a donor. So that’s number one. And my suggestions for that is, find somebody that you like. That’s really important, because going through it, it either creates a renewed sense of hope, or it creates a little bit more excitement if they read a donor profile and they feel like, “This is somebody I like. This is also somebody that I could be friends with.” And that’s my first suggestion.
Well, I think people get caught up, people get very caught up in, “She’s got brown eyes, but my family has blue eyes.” And, “She has curly hair, and I really like her, but there’s that curly hair thing.” Or, “Her grandma has red hair, and I just don’t want that to come out in the family.” And people really get caught up on the things that, when they’re holding their baby, aren’t going to matter.
Once they’ve narrowed their selection to a donor and she’s agreed to move forward, the very next thing we do is send her information to the clinic. And if she’s a previous donor, they would review her medical records. If she’s a first-time donor, then they would just review her profile, her age, her health history—everything that we have at that point, to see if they would accept her. Then, once the doctor agrees that this is a good candidate for them, the donor will go through a psychological and genetic evaluation. And the psychological evaluation includes preferably—hopefully more and more agencies are doing this—a written evaluation to test for anything that we should, like borderline personality disorders, bipolar disorder, or any issues that seem to be very obvious and prevalent. And second to that, they meet with a psychologist who will go over the process of the egg donation, how they might feel in the future, how they’re going to feel during it, making sure they understand everything that’s going to affect them before, during, and after the process.
But our initial criteria as an agency is their medical history—that’s number one. You can have a supermodel, Division One athlete that graduated from, you know, Stanford, and everything can be perfect. But let’s say her mom, her aunt, and her grandmother all had breast cancer. It won’t matter. She’s never going to get chosen. No one’s going to risk that. So the number one thing you look at is health history. The number two is availability and responsibility. So, do they have a car? Do they have the flexibility, or at least willingness, to make all of those appointments, to make it a priority during that time.
The primary motive for egg donors, I think, is it’s not a black-and-white—there’s not a black and white answer to that. I think it’s a little bit more complicated, because there’s certainly financial incentive, and the fact that the United States is one of the few countries, very few countries, that allows egg donors to be paid, and the countries that don’t—there’s a long, long, long waiting lists for donors, and there’s not big, long lines for people doing this. So you can’t just say it’s straight altruism, because if that was the case, then you would see as many donors in the UK, or Australia, or other places where it’s not legal to pay a donor.
I think the number one misconception of donors is that they’re young, vulnerable women being taken advantage of, and that their fertility is forever going to be affected, and they’re going to end up in the hospital. And you know, I mean, you see some, you know, exploitation or various other venues where people are essentially making people like myself out as madams taking advantage of young, vulnerable girls, without really considering or thinking of the fact that I—I was that young girl, and to this day, still consider my egg donations the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. There is nothing else I can compare it to, because there are now children in this world who have loving families, who never would have had that opportunity, because of me.
I would say that for egg donors, and probably surrogates, as well, one of the reasons we’re getting more of a response specifically asking to work with gay dads, is altruism. You know, it feels like they’re really able to help somebody that truly cannot biologically do this themselves. I also think there’s definitely a changing tide. You know, I mean, we’re working really hard as a country right now to change the way people view gay dads, gay parents, in general. And I think a lot of the younger generation is coming up, and they want to be a part of that. They want to be, you know, part of this movement towards equality.