Fresh Fertility Eggs for Sale

Written by Galatea on Saturday October 15, 2011

As I wait for the fertility specialist to print out the fifty pages of documents informing me about the process of selling one’s eggs—legal rights, psychological warnings, and medical disclaimers—I’m desperately left grasping for small talk.

“I’m sorry that the printer is so slow, ” she says, with a warm professional smile. “Everyone else gets new printers in the office, except for me.”

“No worries,” I grin, but slide my eyes over to the clock anxiously. I need to get back to my office. The ancient printer sputters along, gobbling blank pages on one end and spitting out contracts on the other.

There is tension in the room, the awkward tension that comes from a stranger telling you that they’re going to vacuum eggs from your ovaries and then give you cash. It is time for a new subject—and thankfully, she starts the conversation. “So what brings you to D.C.?”

I’ve given this speech many times, and it’s almost like a bulletpoint list at this point. Just graduated college. Lived on the East Coast, went to school on the West Coast. Just moved here to work for a new company. Yes, I’m very lucky in this economy that I have this opportunity, any opportunity, very lucky indeed. Those talking points could go in any order, but they’re a comfortable patter, a way to connect to older people with jobs.

I’d rather not talk about myself for much longer, though, because the more I talk about how wonderful it is to start my career in a new city, the more I realize how precarious my position is. I realize, especially, that I am selling my eggs in order to ensure financial security.

I wasn’t planning on using the profit from my eggs to settle debts. I have a few—one loan and one credit card with a slowly growing balance—but this isn’t one of those horror stories about a film major with $200 grand in loans. The money from this transaction would go immediately into an emergency fund, in case horrible things happen. My apartment burns down. My laptop is stolen.

The worst emergency I could imagine, however, is the loss of my job.

To me, unemployment isn’t an incomprehensible situation. When I was growing up in the booming 90’s, my brilliant father held a string of high-level management jobs, but kept getting fired from each – usually for an entitled bearing that led to poor work ethics and bad productivity. I’d know when my father had been fired by how extravagantly he began spending, how wildly he started dreaming, how obstinate he became at the idea of working by someone else’s standards. “I’m going to become a self-made millionaire,” he’d say, pointing to his recent shopping bounty, a stack of books by Dale Carnegie and Guy Kawasaki. Eventually, those books turned into tarot cards and magic crystals, hung around the house, and my family’s debt grew as he invested in pyramid schemes and failed Laundromats.

Looking back, I think my wild imagination kept me resilient—my mother told me that every time the power got shut off, I would bring out a camping stove from flusher times and pretend that we were in the wilds of Yosemite. But as I grew older and my father grew more desperate, one lesson ingrained itself into my mind: stay employed.

Why? Look at my father. He’s nearly sixty, and it’s been about seven years since I called him “Dad.” He finished up his fourth postgrad degree from Harvard about a year ago, and yet he has no job. He hasn’t had a real job in twelve years, and hasn’t paid child support for about half that time. He burned through his 401k years ago, and last I heard got in trouble with the FBI for being associated with some NINJA loan con men.

And I know that the obvious flaw in my logic is that I’m equating “being unemployed” with “being an irresponsible fuckwad.” Sure, my father’s problems may have been seeded a long time ago. However, I remember—and it’s a painful memory—that long before debt collectors took our furniture and the heat switched off in the dead of winter, he was capable of being a caring father.

To me, unemployment—the half a million dollars worth of debt accumulated as you lose hope of finding a way to feed your family—means desperation. When you don’t have an office, people who will work with you to systematically give you money on a regular basis, you start dreaming, and you start making dumb decisions. Ultimately, you may even sacrifice important things, even people, for survival.

Maybe it will be different for me, should I have the misfortune of losing my job and joining the scores of unemployed college students. I don’t have three tiny children to feed and clothe, like he did. He ran out of money to pay child support—long before the recession hit—and according to my sister, nowadays he can’t even afford to buy lunch whenever he sees them.

But as I talk to the fertility specialist—her name is Erica, she got her MD from Tufts, she wants to work in a clinic in Latin America and not, as I suspect, in a drab olive office treating hysterical 45-year-old lawyers for a steady income—and I look at a wall full of beaming mothers holding newborn babies, it hits me: Oh, gawd I want to be a mother.

And then it hits me again: I’m selling my potential children so I can have money.

And the printer chugs along, the ribbon sliding back and forth, printing different words but repeating the same motion, over and over again.