Throughout life, we use our bodies up, testing its capabilities and limits. Nights spent drinking too much or eating too much are followed by days nursing our bodies back to health with cleanses, massages and hours rolling around in bed. What you do with your body represents who you are and what you stand for. The tattoo of a flower on my right hip bone is really the mark of an eighteen-year-old’s defiance, and even as it fades and distorts with age, I look fondly down at it as a tiny memory drawn on my skin.
A small puncture two or three inches to the left of my navel is the latest sign of a rebellious twenty something. It’s a reminder of how I pushed the boundaries of what I would do for a little cash in a faltering economy, and tested the limits of what my body can handle.
Earlier this summer I decided to sell my eggs. After an extensive background check, therapy sessions, self-administered hormone shots, daily ultra sounds and an egg retrieval surgery, I received a check and released my eggs to a family I’ve never met, and hoped they would take good care of the person my eggs helped to produce.
Like so many of my peers, I possess a Liberal Arts Degree. Also like so many of my peers, I have found myself (on several occasions) broke, screaming at my parents on the phone after leaving another interview, begging for money to pay rent and eat. So what do you do until your dreams are realized? How do you pay rent and how do you eat?
For me the answer was to sell my eggs for $8,000. During college my school newspaper was constantly running ads titled, “Donate Your Eggs….$8,000-$15,000 – All ethnicities and all majors welcome.” At the time I couldn’t imagine doing it. I never truly thought donating my eggs would be an option I would need to pursue. Fast forward three years, and suddenly I started to take those ads a little more seriously.
A friend who had done it a few months before pointed me to an ad she had responded to. The ad redirected me to a short questionnaire.
Name, age, do you have a college degree, have you ever tested positive for an STD, how many partners have you had, how did you grandfather die? And so on and so on…
I muddled through the questionnaire trying to answer the questions as accurately as possible but often filling in the blanks with guesses. As soon as I finished, I printed off a copy of my passport and mailed the details of my life in a 14-page document to a clinic somewhere in Midtown Manhattan. Around 10 or 11 days later I received a call from a woman asking me to come in and meet her.
In the weeks leading up to the procedure, my mind began filling up with reasons why I didn’t want to do it: “This is surgery, I could die” and, “There’s going to be a kid out there that looks like me…weird!” But in the end the $8,000 outweighed all my fears.
I also couldn’t help thinking that as I get older, the idea of having children of my own seems less and less appealing. For women it’s sometimes feels like once we get to a certain age, we are destined to hand over control of our bodies to another being, along with whatever hopes and dreams we had for ourselves. I didn’t want that for myself, but that made me feel selfish. Perhaps selling my eggs would relieve some of that guilt?
The first time I visited the clinic, I sat in the waiting room listening to music and reading a book, not noticing the stares I was receiving from the other people there. After a few minutes I received three taps on my shoulder. “Jasmine?” A small woman wearing large glasses quickly scurried me out of the waiting room and whispered into my ear, “I hate it when they seat my donors out here; everyone stares at you like little chickens.” I looked back at the wide-eyed, hopeful women behind me and proceeded down the narrow white hallway, feeling like a little chicken.
The first day started off like any other routine visit to the doctor’s office. We sat and looked over paper work, blood was drawn, and then I was given an ultrasound to make sure everything looked OK. After I met with a therapist to make sure I wasn’t crazy, the doctor warned me that I might become overwhelmed with emotion during the process and not to be afraid to call her.
That’s what happened about four days later as my hands began to shake, when I had to stick the first needle into my abdomen. All of my fears over what I was doing had manifested itself into one tiny needle, but I had gone too far to go back now. “No drinking, no sex and no exercise until the end of the process” the nurse told me. She showed me how to administer the hormone shots myself, and off I went.
I returned to the clinic every few days to check my vitals and get another ultrasound. As the days and weeks passed I had very few noticeable symptoms other than boredom since the process had pretty much replaced my social life. I occupied my time researching the drugs that I was on, which led me to infertility websites and group forums where I read the stories of women who had been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for years. I liked the idea of helping a family who was reproductively challenged and was willing to do everything in their power to have a child. Their struggle made me feel like they would love any future kids my eggs helped make that much more.
Each day that I went back to the clinic, I had three or four more follicle pouches filled with eggs popping up in my uterus. Everyday something new was happening in my body. Two days before I was scheduled for my retrieval, I had more than 20 follicles in my uterus, and each morning the nurse waved the cold metal rod up, down and around searching for more follicle pouches. The more follicles that appeared, the more uncomfortable I became, and the more anxiety I began to feel. I didn’t know much about what was happening to my body, and although the nurses and doctors did their best to answer my questions, I wasn’t always sure what questions to ask.
Finally the big day arrived, and luckily it was a pretty painless and quick procedure. I was completely sedated, and the whole thing only took 30 minutes. The next day I took the antibiotics that were prescribed, and that is is when things started to take a turn for the worst. The following four days are kind of a blur, but I know they involved a lot of puking and a lot of trips back to the clinic. I was extremely dehydrated, and they needed to administer an IV to get liquids into my body. My body was rejecting everything I tried to put into it. It was clearly screaming at me, fed up and shutting down until further notice.
Around day three the pain became excruciating. Apparently I had developed something called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome and I needed to have a procedure to drain all of the excess fluid from my abdominal cavity. After they drained everything from my body and inserted what felt like a suction cup into my vagina and literally sucked the liquid out, I immediately felt better. I slept for another five or six hours at the clinic. When I opened my eyes, for the first time in days I didn’t feel like a zombie. I was going to survive!
My body and I learned a lot about each other during those two months, and I gained a new appreciation for what it is capable of doing not only for me but for others others. One egg donation is all my body could survive, and I would never do it again, but I don’t regret it. I needed the money, and I found a legal way to deal with my financial situation without another call to my parents. That felt good emotionally, even if it was painful physically.
And long after the cash is gone, I will still be able to look down at my navel where the bruise has faded and think about the tiny body I may have helped create.