On being your own golden goose

This letter to Prudence is truly 21st-century advice column stuff:

Dear Prudie,
My wife and I have been married for a thoroughly enjoyable three years, but we’ve recently fallen on hard times. At nearly 30, I now realize becoming a screenwriter should be Plan B, although I still have to find Plan A. My wife is a 24-year-old student. We’d like to start a family but can’t for a few years. She has suggested egg donation. From the various listings, it sounds like we could make $6,000-8,000 per shot. As she sees it, we’d be helping a determined couple have a family, we could use the money, and she’s just “flushing them down the toilet every month” anyway. Any child would be lucky to share her genes—she’s smart and gorgeous. But I have concerns. First, I think these hopeful parents should consider adopting. Second, despite the technicalities, I have a hard time seeing her eggs merely as genetic material. Part of me feels that since any child that results from this would be half my wife, I would feel a sense of responsibility for it and its well-being. What should we do?

—Leggo My Eggo

This letter stood out to me because, at the risk of giving TMI (need that be a concern, on one’s own blog?) this is something I considered briefly, about a year and a half ago. Some clever folks from a local fertility clinic advertised for egg donors in the graduate school building, where they knew plenty of fertile young women with great genes and not quite enough cash would be wandering around. I was intrigued enough that I actually looked seriously into it and read about what the process entails–and not just for the money (though I admit that’s what first drew my eye to the flyer). I was legitimately interested in the thought of helping a couple (or a woman) who was unable to conceive go from fetus to family.

The whole process turned out to be way too intense for me–it’s a much more invasive and long term medical undertaking than, say, sperm donation. Also, if it works and the recipient winds up with multiple fertilized eggs (octuplets, anyone?), she would be in a position to decide whether or not to reduce the number of fetuses for her own health or that of some of the babies. I can’t really argue with her right to make that decision, and I’m certainly not saying that my hypothetical biological connection would give me some right to be involved–the whole point is that the donor is NOT in any way the parent. Nevertheless, I simply wasn’t comfortable with the whole thing.

And while I was put off by the guy who wrote this letter saying that he thinks “these hopeful parents,” whom he doesn’t know, and doesn’t know anything about, should choose to adopt instead, I must admit that I kind of agree with him. I’m not going to tell people that that’s what they should do. But serious reflection led me to the conclusion that I also wasn’t comfortable actively helping them do otherwise–even for cash.

Prudie pointed them to online resources to find out more about the process, and reminded them that if they chose to go ahead with this, there was a lot more to it than just a few thousand bucks to tide them over until one of them gets a full time job–and they should consider all aspects of the decision, not just the financial benefit.

P.S. Kudos to Prudie for addressing all interesting and somewhat fresh issues in this column. Facebook crises are becoming ever more common, but nevertheless–four letters and not a single “should I break up with him?” deserves a nod.

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