We recently spoke to Jenna about her experiences as a Family Source egg donor. Jenna is a 4-time egg donor who has completed all three types of donations — closed, semi-anonymous, and open.
What led you to become an egg donor in the first place?
I have always grown up with my parents telling me that I should help other people and help the community and help in any way that I can make an impact on the world. I was in college and I kind of got to a point where I felt like I wasn’t making enough of an impact. I felt kind of lost like I needed to do something else.. like there was something missing.
Fate just had it that I met an egg donor at that exact moment in time of my life. It just felt like the missing piece of something that really would impact the world in a way that is so unique that I had never heard of before. So it seemed like an amazing thing. And so far it’s been an amazing ride.
Can you tell us a little bit about the egg donation process and how you’ve handled it all the way through?
I would definitely say it’s an uncomfortable process. I don’t know that I would call it a painful process. I think that for everyone it’s a little bit different. I happen to handle the process really well, and I’ve learned little tips and tricks along the way because FSC is really great about giving me lots of advice on things to do that will help make the process better.
For instance, they tell you to eat really, really salty foods. I’m a big fan of Ramen.. and that helps a lot. I travel with a heating pad now because I know that it will help to have a heating pad in my hotel. But just little things like that, that you wouldn’t know if you didn’t work really great agency that would tell you that kind of stuff.
As far as the donation itself is concerned, I always feel like it’s so long until you get to the end of the actual like meds and the donation process itself. Then all of a sudden it’s like hyperdrive and everything goes so quickly. You’re like, “Oh my God, where did that go? It’s done already.” It feels like it’s done in an instant.
The hardest part is the waiting game — waiting to hear if the IPs or RPs have gotten pregnant themselves or used a surrogate to get pregnant. For me, that’s the longest wait. Oh my gosh, are they going to get the family that they’ve been dying to have, something that they worked so hard for?
That’s the moment for me when it really feels the deal that what I did was worthwhile.
With egg donation, there are a few different types. You can do closed donation, you can do semi-open, totally open. How did you choose which type of donation to do?
I’ve actually done all of them. When I first started, I was completely anonymous.
I did my first donation at 23 or 24 [years old]. For me at that moment in time, I was really, really excited about doing a donation, but I wasn’t really sure what the rest of my life would be like. It made me nervous to do a donation that was open because if I were to find a significant other, if I were to have a family of my own someday… I was still really young. I wasn’t at a point in my life where that was a thing yet for me.
I didn’t want to sign other people up for something that I made as a decision at 21 years old. So, I started anonymously. Then for my second donation, I did semi-anonymous. I wanted it to be anonymous originally, and then they asked if I would be more willing to move in a more semi-anonymous direction.
We worked together when we were negotiating the contract to make sure that it was something I wanted to do. I never felt like I was required in any way to participate past my comfort level because obviously, I don’t know 20 years down the road how things are going to pan out. I didn’t want to sign myself or somebody else up for something that I wouldn’t be emotionally ready for or that’s not going to benefit them down the road or the potential children down the road either.
My third donation was completely open. I got to facetime the intended parents. I got to meet them. It was really cool. Our dogs look like each other! It was really fun to learn all these nuances and get to know them. I’ve slowly worked my way more open.
My fourth donation is actually anonymous again. I think for me, it’s just a matter of where their comfort level is and where my comfort level is. I would be fine doing another semi-anonymous or open donation for this fourth one. They did not feel comfortable doing that. I didn’t want to push it for them. We made sure to keep the door cracked. If that was something that they were going to change their mind on. It’s a give and take. It’s a compromise between you and the intended parents.
You’re never forced to do anything you don’t want to do. They’re never forced to do anything that they don’t want to do. So it’s finding that fine line of what you guys both are willing to do and what you’re comfortable with.
I know this is a question that people may have in their minds. How do you feel about having children that are biologically yours but that you may never meet?
I don’t even think about it like that at all. I know that that’s how people normally think about it, and I try to explain it to them as I am merely giving them a tool that they’re missing out of their toolbox. It’s a tool that I already have extra of. I don’t need it. I’m willing to spare some that I have. But it’s not anything that I’m ever going to miss in a sense.
I know that that could sound a little callous, but it’s not meant to sound like that at all. It’s merely like once I give them the eggs, it’s my eggs, but then it’s their embryos once it’s matched with their sperm or however they’re planning on doing it. It’s their family at that point.
I don’t want them to ever feel like they’re being encroached upon by somebody who’s biologically related because that’s not how it should be. I would say that’s something that’s really important if somebody’s looking at egg donation. If they can’t make that separation in their mind, then maybe egg donation isn’t for them, because it is something that’s not just going to affect you.
Now, it will affect you later. This is something that will be for the rest of your life. When I have children, I will have to think about if they happen to date down the road, are they dating somebody that maybe is biologically mine? The chances are so slim, but there is a chance.
It’s something that will always be in the back of your mind for the rest of your life. It’s something that if you can’t make that separation, if you can’t compartmentalize it like that and recognize that it is no longer yours, it’s theirs, then maybe you should either think a little bit more long and hard about it, or talk to some loved ones who could give you advice on how they think you’ll be able to handle it.
You don’t get into egg donation solely because of the compensation, but can you share with us what that compensation has done for you in your life?
I think it’s really funny that you asked about compensation because it is the first question that everyone asks you about.
Usually, when people find out I’m an egg donor, I’m super open about it. I tell everybody because I like to spread the love. If there’s one person who maybe is thinking, who’d never heard about it– like me, I had never heard about it. I heard about it at the right moment.
The first question always is how much you get paid for that? Is it a lot of money? And it is not about the money at all, and you’re not getting paid for your eggs. You’re getting paid for the inconvenience you go through. Which it is an inconvenience. I have to take one week of time off of work. I have to find someone to dog sit for me. I have to do all of these other things.
So it is an inconvenience of time and money on my part as well. But the money comes in and helps take care of those aspects. It’s just really amazing.
This fourth donation is actually going towards my wedding. But in the past, I’ve used it to pay off my student loans. I used it to help put a down payment on the car. I used it for some really big-ticket items that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do before.
It gives me the opportunity to pursue passions of mine that maybe I wouldn’t have before. I work a job that’s very rewarding, but it doesn’t pay very well. I don’t have a whole lot of extra income where I can do things like buy photography equipment (because I really like to do photography on the side.) Or go on vacations that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to go on.
Not to mention, I live about 1500 miles away from the rest of my family. It gives me the opportunity to not worry about buying plane tickets, to go back and connect with them. It gave me the opportunity to go and see them more often. It took the burden off of me from a financial standpoint with that. So I didn’t have to worry. I could just think about my family and my passions and my life without having to worry.
What would be the biggest piece of advice you could give to someone that is just thinking about egg donation for the first time?
I would say to remember that you are your best advocate. I think that it’s really great when you go through the process, especially with FSC, you get your own lawyer, you might get your own coordinator for your egg donation, but you know, what’s best for you.
No matter what other people say or what they suggest for how it worked out for them, things for you are different for every donation. Your situation in life is different for every donation. Whether it’s your fourth or your sixth donation, that doesn’t matter. You have to advocate for yourself and what’s best for you and your future.
I have no problem asking a million questions and God bless the coordinators and the lawyers, because they are so, so willing to just continue to repeat themselves for me. I’m on my fourth donation and I still went through that contract with a fine-tooth comb and still had to ask questions about what does this mean? And what will this mean down the road? I just want to make sure. Can you give me more clarification? Because the lawyer doesn’t know unless I ask them.
The same with the coordinators and the doctors and nurses. Unless you ask, you will never know. You have to advocate for yourself and make sure that you’re doing what’s best for you.
Are you going to do another donation after this one or will you wait until this one’s done to decide?
I think this might be my last. Part of that is as you start to grow in life… All egg donors come from different walks of life and they’re all in different situations when they become a donor. For me, I started as a single person and now I’m getting married and I’m thinking about maybe having a family of my own. So for me, it’s kind of a stopping point.
I would love to do all things, but at the end of the day, you have to remember that now, you know, it’s not just me. It’s me and the person that I’m going to marry. So I want to make sure that they’re comfortable with it. They’re absolutely supportive of the donations I’ve done so far. They are 100% on board for this donation as well. But we’ve kind of agreed that this will be my last one.
I kind of hope it’s not, but at the same time, I totally get it. It’s a decision that we’ve made together.