JoLana Talbot donated eggs anonymously because she was not offered any other option. One thing we’ve learned since starting We Are Egg Donors is that this is a pretty common experience. What is uncommon about JoLana’s story is that she got the chance to connect with her ‘donor daughter,’ Brittan, 16 years after donating eggs. Even more unusual, JoLana and Brittan met in person for the very first time on Katie Couric’s daytime television show. The episode will air Wednesday, June 11 (find your local station here). JoLana filled us in on what it was like to meet a child produced from her donations. Check it out!
This interview is about stigma, being queer, and navigating a heteronormative medical landscape. While egg donation is presented as a simple clinical procedure, there is a lot of room for reducing stigma and acknowledging a fuller scope of, you know, how people actually feel about it. To some of us, our narratives are more complex than “wham, bam, thank you for your huevos, good job, here’s a check, you’ll be fine, good bye.”
Skyping with the Australian clinic felt contradictory. I felt extremely confused during the interview because my interviewer kept referring to my egg donation as “altruistic.” To me, “altruism” means giving a gift, in this case it would be my eggs, but I wasn’t exactly altruistic because I would be getting paid.
Communicating with my doctor was a challenge; even though he really did try his best, he didn’t understand everything I was saying. I had never donated before and I had a lot of questions. But because of the language barrier, I had a really hard time getting answers. In retrospect, it would be a lot safer for egg donors if there were a translator who could make sure that pertinent medical information is being communicated, both ways.
I needed 5 extensive surgeries over a very short time period. I was extremely sick, and every doctor I saw was exasperated by how aggressive my case was. I went from being 100% healthy, to having one of the worst cases of endometriosis that even some of the top specialists had ever seen – and that all started within 6 months of donating my eggs.
I felt like I had to sell myself. Saying the things although true are what people want to hear. It’s worse than a blind date. Specifically the motivation question — Why did you choose to be a donor? — I was specifically told not to say “financial incentive.” Which I think is most donors motivation. I feel like when you are looking for a life partner you are looking at the person as a whole, flaws and all, and I feel like this selection process should be treated the same.
Elizabeth was what is called a “premier” egg donor: she was paid $15,000 per cycle. Due to the subsequent health issues she experienced, she was able to successfully appeal all taxes on her compensation. In this interview, I ask her about what it’s like being a high-demand donor, what her body has gone through, and for advice she has for egg donors.
Sonja O’Hara is a New York-based writer and actress who wrote and starred in Ovum, a narrative feature film based on her experience as a three-time egg donor. 70 percent of her film was financed with her eggs — Ovum is meant to spur a conversation about eugenics, reproduction, and the unseen side of the market for elite and top shelf eggs.
[Heads up: This interview contains NSFW images. Film stills courtesy of Ovum film.]