I could have a child who is eight years old now and I wouldn't even know. Many men probably think this kind of thing all the time. Since I am a woman, I recognize it seems ironic. But I once was almost a mother, in a different sort of way.

I donated my eggs to a desperately infertile couple eight years ago this month. It was an experience unlike any other. I remember being in my teen years wanting to do this and my mother insisting that when I was eighteen, I could explore the option. I don't think I waited a day after my eighteenth birthday to find out what it was all about. I have a slight obsession and infatuation with the whole idea of pregnancy and motherhood, not to say I want to delve into it myself. This seemed perfect. It was a way to get close, yet not too close. I feel an undeniable love and compassion for children and even more so for the people of the world who can't have them.

I researched the best fertility clinics, with the best doctors, and "applied" to be a donor when I was nineteen. I passed a thorough health screen, psychological evaluation and filled out the longest questionnaire you could ever imagine. I was then placed in a portfolio for prospective parents to choose from. They'd choose me (or not) according to my race, religion, educational background, etc. What I thought was so interesting was that none of the questions in the large booklet I had to fill out asked anything about "me." Yes, they knew that diabetes ran in my family and I had green eyes and blonde hair. They knew my college education and even my GPA. But, no one inquired about who I really was. So, I told them. That's just my style. I speak even when no one asks. I wrote a letter to be attached to my profile, where I candidly revealed things beyond the outer shell of myself. Anyone unwilling to look beyond the basics of my persona wasn't welcome to my genes anyway.
Dear Mommy and Daddy to be,
I know you know what I look like and obviously you care about that. You want your baby to blend into your family. You know that I've had my tonsils out because you saw my medical history and you know that I work in the editorial field because I answered the questions about my career. But what will you tell your little one when they wonder why they chew their cuticle to pieces while leaving their nails perfectly intact? Or, how will you explain where they got their infatuation with every shade of the color blue? I am blonde haired, green-eyed and five feet short. But that is just the beginning of the being I encompass. I am compassionate to the core, quirkiness looms around every corner of my personality and I possess passion that is sometimes so overwhelming it completely takes over my life. I was born with loyalty that is stronger than steel, never doing wrong to those who have done right by me, and not even to those who haven't.

The letter went on to explain the things I thought were most pertinent to their decision. I guess I was heard. The agency had a match in a matter of weeks. I kept in regular contact with the coordinator who was brutally honest. She said, "A lot of couples loved you except ended up rejecting you in the final elimination because of your height." Who were these people? And, why did I all of a sudden feel like a contestant on a dating show being eliminated for something so trivial? I first got immediately defensive, then soon realized that I too had to feel comfortable with these future parents. And I surely didn't want to hand over my precious eggs to anyone who judges somebody on how tall they are. Height in my mind is measured by how far you are willing to reach toward the clouds for what you want in life, not by how much closer you are than the next guy (or gal) to reaching the highest shelf at the grocery store.  

The agreement was that I would not be allowed to meet the prospective parents under any circumstances. I would sign a waiver (the first of many) promising not to try to contact them. I squeezed the nurse for some information such as if the mother was nice and if she was young or old. Even that was more information than I needed. Having these characteristics attached to a person made it all too real. The responsibility of handing over the possible potential of a child to strangers was frightening.

After I was chosen, I quickly began a rigorous hormone regimen that would first completely shut down my reproductive system. This would then allow doctors to take control over it, making my uterus and ovaries their fertile puppets. And they did. The first drug I took were daily shots of Lupron, which I administered myself. I tried to work these daily injections into my "normal" life, often having to give them to myself in the back of my car at a restaurant, or in the bathroom at work. I felt like a baby junkie. This first drug would put me into a menopause-like state for a few weeks. The side effects were not pretty. My mom and I soon came to joke around that I was "loopy on Lupron." My emotions were unruly and I had daily headaches that would come on with no warning.  

The next series of injections would be a medication that would stimulate the production of my eggs which subsequently mimicked some of the symptoms of pregnancy. This is when the hard part really began. I entered semi-parenthood. Within days, my ankles swelled to the point of non-recognition and my tummy bulged like I was three months along from the swelling of my ovaries, with no baby to look forward to at the end. I had food cravings that became a full-time job. I had to take really good care of myself, eat healthy, stay away from alcohol and do all the right things for my precious eggs. I would go several times a week to the doctor for ultrasounds to see if they were growing healthily. My doctor was about an hour away so the drive became tough on me. I was tired, waddling and raging with hormones. Every time I went to the doctor, I stopped at the bagel shop around the corner. I'd get an $8 bagel and lox every single time. It was a compulsion. My need for lox was so intense then that I almost looked forward to ultrasound days. Now, the memory brings on nothing but pure nausea. I carried around the ultrasound pictures tucked in my wallet like a proud mother. The nurses doted over me and the doctor constantly gloated over the number of eggs I was producing compared to other girls my age. My mom began to call me her little chicken. And really, that's what I felt like (minus the "little" part).

When the ultrasound pictures showed the eggs were mature, it was time to aspirate them in preparation for their new home-their new mommy's uterus. This is done under local anesthesia with a very long needle which is inserted into the vagina, through the vaginal wall carefully drawing each delicate egg out of the body. I was mostly conscious of what was going on and heard as the nurses do a countdown of these never ending eggs I had been harboring. They said I beat a record. The future mommy and daddy of these eggs will be so proud, I thought. I had become attached to my eggs-these little potentials for life. I knew what I was doing for this couple was unmatchable and that helped me let go a little more easily. It was explained to me before the procedure that the recipient couple was to receive a certain number of eggs. The rest were mine to decide what to do with. I had three options: I could give the rest to this couple for later use in case of failure of the transfer, I could have the eggs destroyed, or I could donate them to research. I decided to give the remaining bundle to the recipient couple. A decent number would be frozen in case their first attempt failed. The frozen eggs could also be stored for any future genetically related children the family might try for.  

At my pre-op check-up, I had to sign away my parental rights to the children that could be born from my eggs. I also signed a form either accepting or denying contact from any future children born from my eggs, at the time the child reached eighteen years of age. I never even contemplated which box to check. I checked "yes" and moved on to complete the rest of the form.  

I left the hospital with abdominal cramps, an empty gut and a full heart.

For weeks after, I obsessively wondered if the process was a success. I talked to the agency coordinator and tried to get her to tell me. At first she hesitated and then she said, "I'm sorry, but it wasn't a success." I was disappointed for myself, for the couple and for my little eggs that never "hatched." The coordinator told me that since there were plenty of eggs remaining, the couple planned to immediately try again.  

It's funny. I don't let things go easily. I am a Virgo and we like to have crystal balls to tell us what the future will hold. But, I never followed up to see what happened with the rest of my eggs. I was so focused on wanting a baby for this couple that at some point, along the way I lost the meaning behind it. People who hope for children to complete their families live in the same world as the rest of us. Things don't always work out. Sometimes what we think we want isn't even what we really do. We don't all want to be at the top of the successful corporate ladder, or own the ever so expensive to fix BMW, or even to have children. We just want the chance to see if it's right for us. And after much pondering, I realized that is the gift I gave. It wasn't my eggs, my time or any type of the promise of a child. It was a chance to see if parenthood was meant to be for them and a chance to learn patience and unconditional love for a baby not even yet conceived. And I did that.  

The pain and inconvenience I went through was worth every minute of it, even if in the end, the outcome wasn't what everyone thought would be best. I guess I'll never know. I won't unless, of course, in ten more years a grown child comes to my door asking if I am the woman who contributed to his or her life. In some ways, it might be easier if that doesn't happen. But if it does, I will proudly answer "yes" and know that I not only gave the gift of chance, but the gift of a child. And to me, there is nothing more precious.