Getting the Lingo Right

By on November 28, 2008

I was reading this morning an article from Columbia University titled
The Egg Hunt: Cashing in on college fertility
. And as I read the article it began as a typical article about egg donation, why college girls donate, how much money they receive, what they plan to do with the money etc..

Then the journalist ask the egg donor:

“But how does she feel about her DNA’s being used to help a couple produce a baby?“

It’s a great feeling,” she laughs loudly. “I’m a mom without any of the actual stress of being a mom!” But then she abruptly stops. “Are you looking for a more serious answer? I don’t know. I don’t know how I feel yet, really.”

Okay hold the presses.

Egg donors are not our children’s mothers in any shape of the word. And each and every time I read something like this it irritates me on so many levels.

I want to know for instance – when this egg donor was going through her psych evaluation did they ask her how she felt about parting with her genetic material. She says she doesn’t know how she really feels — yet. Shouldn’t that have been caught during screening? And regardless of how funny she thinks she’s being — I do think there is a speck of truth that maybe down deep she doesn’t think she’s our children’s mother.

And to be frank — I am not okay with that.

In my day to day dealings with people in general about egg donation I often hear terms like:

“The donor mother”
“The real mother”
“The biological mother”

These terms are all incorrect. Egg donors are egg donors period. They are donating a single cell to be fertilized with another single cell, and we hope out of that process an embryo is created. The reality is — sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not.

We as recipient mothers carry our babies to term, we raise them, love them, care for them, worry about them.

The egg donor does not.

Where is the egg donor in all of this? The egg donor is an integral part of this. Without her, we wouldn’t have our child. Without our partner, or sperm donor we wouldn’t have our child, and most importantly, without you and me — we wouldn’t have our child.

Are we grateful? You bet we are, more than you will ever know. But are egg donors our children’s mothers?

Not on your life.

So let’s get the lingo right — and let’s continue to educate the masses on what egg donation really is — which is more than just paying an egg donor 5-10k for eggs. It’s a process that all parties go through: The egg donor and the recipient parents alike.

The other part of this article that I found interesting and would like to address is the comment from Barnard’s newly inaugurated president Debora Spar. Spar says that she’d like to see a public registry in place so that if egg donors want to track their children and if children want to track their genetic parents, they’d be able to do that.

I disagree with Ms. Spar on a few issues. While I think a public registry is a good idea. It needs to be voluntary. Contrary to popular belief not all egg donors thing twice about donating their eggs. Once it’s over it’s over for them. Many many egg donors I have interviewed over the years tell me they don’t worry about and obsess about an egg they discard each month when they menstruate — and many feel the same way about this procedure. This process is not akin to adoption where a birth mother becomes pregnant, carries that baby and then places that child out for adoption. This is about egg donation, where a pregnancy may or may not occur — and let’s face it, egg donors move on. Many go on get married and have their own children and having their own families. They don’t donate to become parents, or have someone knock on their doors 18 years later and say “Oh hi, I am your child, you know the one you created 18 years ago, you know your egg donor cycle?” — That’s not what egg donors sign up for.

And Ms. Spar — the children that result in egg donation are not the egg donors children, they are the children of the recipient mothers who carry and birth them themselves, or they are the children of the recipient mothers who contract with a gestational carrier to carry and birth that baby. And again, that’s not to say we don’t love and respect our egg donors we do, but they really are not the mothers of our children — I can’t emphasize that point enough — WE ARE.

I think that everyone needs to be really careful in the verbiage used when talking about egg donation because frankly it’s delicate, and we all work very very hard in making sure the right language is used, and most importantly having the right mindset.




Portland, OR

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November 2008
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