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The Parents Via Egg Donation Organization: Donor Porn

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Donor Porn

By:  Marna Gatlin, Founder, PVED with Carole Lieber Wilkins, MFT

Controversial title wouldn’t you say? When I first heard it and then wrote the words down it made my face turn red and giggle like a school girl.

Some of you are wondering where this is going and the mere title of this blog post is making you shift uncomfortably in your chair and looking around to see whose looking, right? Yeah, I thought so.  But you know what?  That’s the way it is when you engage in donor porn.

What the heck is donor porn you might ask?  Well, hang on; I’ll get to that in a minute. But first I want to set the scene (my guess is this could be any of you).   

You’ve decided to make the leap and build your family through egg donation. It’s taken a while but you are truly at a place and you’ve said to yourself “I can do this! I am ready!  Let’s go!” And while you might be excited, scared and hopeful the reality of selecting an egg donor has hit you right between the eyes and frankly, it’s overwhelming. So what do you do?  You do what any resourceful person does when they are practicing their due diligence – you do your research and begin looking at egg donor agency donor data bases, or if you are lucky your clinic has a nice data base that their patients got you to look through.

It may start innocently enough – you have kind of an idea in your head what you are looking for in an egg donor as you being your search.   The first egg donor looks lovely; you may like the shape of her eyes, and her smile.  However, as you scan her profile you see she’s only 5 feet 2 inches tall and the shortest person in your family is 5 feet 8 inches tall.  How would you explain to your extended family a really short child? So you pass on her and you go to the next donor. 

The next donor is the right height but her nose and the shape of her face is much different than yours, and you really wanted an egg donor who was attending college as that’s important to you.  Time has passed and before you know it, its midnight and you’ve looked over twenty egg donor profiles and you are just as unsure as you were when you first sat down. The smart part of your brain tells you to turn in for the night and you do – before you know it, it’s time to wake up and face the day and with a fresh set of eyes you find the right donor for yourself and before you know it you’ve called your clinic reserved your egg donor and you are well on your way to cycle.

Or are you?

All day long you feel really great about your choice.  You can’t wait for the two of you to begin cycling, taking medication, your donor to have her egg retrieval and you to have your transfer!  This is really going to happen and you are so excited! Until for some ungodly reason you decide to take one more peek at the donor data base you selected your donor from and before you know it you are in the data base pouring over egg donors again and you see another donor that you think you might like better.  The wheels begin to turn and you begin to second guess your choice, and what if yourself.  Your partner may even see you at the donor data base and might even say “Hey what are you doing? I thought we already agreed up our egg donor.”  And you feeling a tad sheepish may just smile and say “Oh of course we did I was just looking…”  And you both go to bed still feeling good about your egg donor choice, but in the back of your mind you might be wondering….

This goes on for days --- The overwhelming desire to continue to look at your clinic or agencies data base and pour over donors especially after you have made your donor choice and committed to your donor selection.  There’s a term for it – it’s commonly referred to as “Donor Porn”

Why do we do it? 

We ask ourselves as we continue to go back and look at the donor data base over and over looking and possibly hoping for that new special, perfect donor that our clinic or agency might just have.  Some days we can’t help ourselves as we fret, worry, and pour over donor profiles like we would a legal contract, or our medical files. For other’s it’s a powerfully heady experience – One mom said to me “It’s like window shopping to the extreme, to try on someone else’s genetics is a really big deal, and I wanted to be really sure.  This isn’t like buying a car you know.”

I commonly refer to this as “The Grass is Always Greener” syndrome.  You know the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side” I think some intended parents get caught up in that through the chase of the perfect donor. When in reality their donor choice is probably the best choice for them.
Because this topic is so fascinating to me I contacted my friend and colleague Carole Lieber Wilkins a therapist based out of Los Angeles, California and this was her take on “donor porn”.

"The question is:  How do you choose someone to replace yourself?  The incessant searching for the perfect DNA replacement is a donor search gone awry.  Can there ever be a perfect candidate?  Even if you find a donor whose genetic makeup does not have many of the flaws yours has (diabetes, cancer), she doesn’t have your essence.  Put simply, she isn’t you.

Very frequently we mistake selecting a donor for selecting a child.  Your child will not be a clone of a donor anymore than your child would be a clone of you.  But we imagine if we select someone beautiful, our child will be physically attractive.  We mistake SAT scores with general intelligence.  How do you evaluate a donor’s EQ, her emotional intelligence, vs. her math scores on standardized tests?  We can’t.  So we keep going back to look again.  And again.  And again. "

The first step to recovery is what?  Admitting we have a problem right? So just admit it -- We’ve all engaged in it.  We’ve all done it.  And really don’t shake your head at me, we know you have. So how do we stop and become secure in our choices?

"Grieve your losses first.  Say goodbye to your imagined child because that’s the one you are hoping this fantasized donor will help you create.  Let go of the perfect embodiment of your partner and you.  Look for a donor you think you’d like to hang out with at Starbucks.  Try to select not a replacement for you, but someone you might be proud to know as your daughter (because, let’s face it, most ovum donors are of an age that they could be our daughters).  Select agencies that provide you with complete enough photos and profiles that you feel a sense of her and seem like you’d like her.  Many intended parents opt to meet their donors and discover they very much like these women as people.

You would most likely not select a porn queen to hang out with at Starbucks (with no offense at all to those in the adult film industry!)   So why choose her to help give you the material you need to complete your family?  Once you have grieved, and re-set your priorities, you’ll find you have lost the need to constantly keep going back to the Internet to look for the “perfect one.”"

Now we realize this is easier said than done.  But hopefully after reading this blog post a time or two you will get where we are coming from.  You will come to understand that there really is no replacing you.  There just isn’t.  You are unique and special in our own right.  And while we totally understand your why you might second guess your choices please don’t – believe in yourself, believe that the choices you are making regarding your donor selection are the right ones to make for you family.  And if you take anything away from this blog – remember this one small but important piece to all of this:

The baby you are meant to have is indeed the baby you are meant to have.

So in closing – Just close the page and just say no to donor porn.

About Carole -- Aside from being one of the most talented and brightest therapists on the planet Carole loves what she does, she takes the scary out of all things third party, and is the go to person regarding disclosure issues and having honest conversations with with you to help you have honest conversations with your child's origins.  Carole has written several pieces about talking to kids about egg donation, and has aided many many individuals become comfortable, and make peace with infertility issues especially revolving around third party reproduction.

Personally we at PVED think Carole is the bee's knee's and find her knack for helping others out of this world.

If you are in the greater LA area and would  like to contact Carole for a therapy session you can find her here: http://www.lafamilybuilding.com/index.html

Her official bio below.


Carole Lieber Wilkins is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, providing individual, couples and group counseling. specialist in the field of reproductive medicine, adoption and family building options since 1986, she became a founding member of Resolve of Greater Los Angeles in 1987 and served on the Board of Directors in various positions for the next 14 years.


Ms. Lieber Wilkins is well known for her work regarding disclosure of information to children, having helped hundreds of patients feel comfortable about talking with their kids about how they built their families. Many clinics and practitioners around the world distribute to patients her groundbreaking article, Talking With Children About Their Conception. She has lectured locally and nationally, on many subjects related to infertility. She has been the keynote speaker at several Resolve symposia, and a presenter at the professional meetings of the American Psychological Association, The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Organon Nurses Symposia and Kaiser Hospitals.


Carole is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine Mental Health Professional Group, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a professional member of both Resolve and AFA. In addition, her own experience creating a family through adoption and ovum donation deepens her understanding of the challenges others face when exploring these complex family building options.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Craig R. Sweet, M.D. said...

Another great post!

If I may, I would like to offer my perspective. My practice has been providing egg donation services for 17 years. I've seen some odd choices and decisions regarding egg donation over the years.

1) I am always struck by the fact that recipients are often looking for perfection. My patients are so imperfect and yet they would have given anything to use their own chromosomes. Why then feel that perfection is needed now? I strongly encourage them to find just "really good".

2) If an egg donor tests positive for marijuana use, recipients don't always have to knock them out of the process. I've seen recipients do just that when they themselves smoked pot at that age with some still doing so today! Stay realistic.

3) Choosing donors is not fantasy time. Don't choose them because they are what the husband would like to date or what the wife would like to become.

I did LOL when realizing that my website (www.DreamABaby.com) has donor porn. We do have photos, when given permission to post, and we have had to knock a few off when they were too revealing. Does this make me a pimp with a conscience? ;-)

I totally agree with what Carole Lieber Wilkins told you regarding letting go of the imagined child and trying to find an egg donor one would like to call a daughter. A great concept to follow.

Am I the only one that has purchased a large ticket item (car, computer, appliance and so on), later to keep looking in the paper and on-line hoping to not find a better price and feeling badly when I did? Why did I do that? Why not feel content with my decision understanding that it was a really good one and that if I kept waiting for that perfect deal, I would never take the plunge?

I used to say that if I had one question to ask a young women before deciding to date her (I am happily married so this is a theoretical), I would ask her one question, "Would you be an egg donor?" If the answer was, "Yes!" then I would have taken her home to meet Mom. Egg donors are some of the nicest women I have ever met. They are caring, giving, generous and amazing women. In reality, you can't go wrong.

Search for good. Search for healthy. Search for characteristics that might be similar to yours but not something perceived as better. Imperfections are what make us complex and unique. Egg donors are no different.

I hope you won't mind if I steal the "daughter" or "good friend" concepts as they really hit the mark. Once again, a great post.

Craig R. Sweet, M.D.
Founder, Medical & Laboratory Director
Embryo Donation International
Specialists In Reproductive Medicine & Surgery, P.A.

September 9, 2011 at 9:32 PM  
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September 20, 2011 at 3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I am now a mother via egg donation, and I at first found myself looking for "perfection." Then, when I realized that I wanted to get the process started asap, I thought: let me just find a young lady who looks similar to me and who I "like." I did that, and my husband immediately agreed on the same young woman. We now have twin girls, and they are just so, so wonderful. Many people comment that one of my daughters looks just like me, which makes me smile, even though I know we don't share the same genetics.

September 28, 2011 at 3:19 PM  

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