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How I learned to let go of genetic connections after my ovaries failed me

In all the romanticized versions of my life, none include trolling the Web for egg donors. (iStock)

My fantasy of giving birth to a mini-me — equipped with my ski slope nose and penchant for frosting over cake and sports over stilettos — died in a sterile doctor’s office. He talked about premature ovarian failure and finished with our sole option for being pregnant and giving birth to a child: egg donation.

Hire some young filly to do the job?


Days later, I’m scarfing on a cherry dip cone at Dairy Queen. It instantly transports me back to summer days spent racing through the neighborhood to DQ on my bike — but clacking kids and their fertile parents break me out of my reverie and remind me that my sprightly young self is gone.

I lick away my anger and feelings of inadequacy. By the time I finish, the toddlers, tweens and their parents have dispersed, leaving me with only one thought: eating a kiddie cone, alone, sucks. It sucks so bad that I decide to stop sulking about my barren bod and get down to business. Science affords us the opportunity to do what our bodies can’t. All that’s left is to hijack someone else’s eggs.

The egg donor hunt is on.

By the time I get home, brief my husband and take to the Internet, I’m back to feeling sorry for myself. It’s hard to know if it’s because I’ve spent two hours bundled in a pathetic, sleeved Smurf blanket scouring the Internet for egg donors, or because my sugar buzz has bombed.

None of this seems to affect my husband, who not-so-silently snoozes beside me. I imagine what it would be like to sniff that sweet scent of newborn baby. And then my mind wanders back to that dream of shared DQ cones and Blizzards slurped through a single straw — a mini-me at my side.

In all the romanticized versions of my life, none include trolling the Web for egg donors. I can hear my mother now: “You’re doing what? And it’s costing how much? And you won’t even be genetically related to your own baby?”

I’ll go along with this, I tell myself, on one condition: This girl must look like me. Brown hair, brown eyes and short in stature for starters. The last thing I want is some glamazon as my fertility counterpart, reminding me that I’ve fallen short not only in the baby-making department but also in length.

Two hours of searching, and no one measures up. I tap my husband, who pops up, startled.

“What’s wrong?”

I’m Web surfing for egg donors while swathed in a kiddie blanket. The better question is, What’s right?

“No one resembles me,” I say as I thrust the keyboard into his lap.

“Maybe you should get some sleep and try again in the morning,” he says.

My look tells him otherwise.

Parents, I think I've found the fountain of youth. It's in my pillow.

“Maybe your search is too limiting. Don’t we just want someone who is young, smart and has a solid genetic history?”

Because he’s not hormonal, barren and crazy like me in this moment, I consider his comment. I change eye and hair to all colors and open up ethnicity.

The new search yields more than 50 candidates. I sift through just barely heartfelt prose from college-age women detailing why they want to save our infertile souls. The ones that wax on about helping a couple in need brand themselves as immediately untrustworthy. It’s hard to believe the thousands of dollars in donor compensation has nothing to do with their decision.

I nix almost every profile. This person must have at least one characteristic I can call my own. The schnoz will have to be it.

By the time the sun rises, I’ve narrowed the list to a blonde and a brunette, both with renditions of my nose, smallish in size and slightly turned up at the tip. At last I can sleep.

I wake to my husband pattering around in the bedroom. He might even be whistling, which is irksome. As is the fact that he appears to be well-rested and oblivious to my torment.

“After searching all night, I found two,” I say.

I pull up the donors and try to read his reaction. “They’re both first-timers with excellent fertility stats,” I say. “And they’re under 25, which should ensure success, according to my research.”

He reviews the profiles. “They look good to me, you decide. I’m happy if you’re happy.”

Happy is the furthest thing from what I’m feeling.

He zips off to work; I return to my laptop to overthink our supposed decision. I bounce about all over the donor site again to reassure myself that we (as in me) are making the right call for an egg mama.

When I can take the stress cycle no more, I email the clinic. The brunette it is. The power of a similar shade of hair cannot be underestimated in these circumstances. Or so I try to tell myself. Over and over again, all day long, while I wait for a response.

The sunset looms. Out of desperation, I go for a run, in hopes that while I’m gone an email will materialize.

Sweating out the stress does me good, as does seeing my husband at home and on my laptop when I return. “We heard from the clinic; the donor is a go,” he says, looking like he might break into song. He flips up his thumb and threatens to high-five me.

I try to hold my happiness inside, but fail. Dance party ensues.

Despite all the high jinx and jigs we dance, we ultimately face an abort mission with Miss Brown Locks. Despite her cute nose and striking hair, her eggs turn out to be duds, too.

Right as I am about to break into a rendition of the boohoo blues, I remember some parting words from my first boss. “You are a bulldog when you wanna be,” he said. “You never give up, which can work for or against you. What’s it gonna be?”

I decide to put my supposed super powers to good use. My eggs may be fried but my inner bulldog refuses to die. I jump back on the fertility horse and stay there for days until I unearth the thoroughbred of egg donors. The fact that she stands 5-foot-11 and has striking Icelandic features — basically the diametrical opposite of my squat Anglo self — no longer matters. Her track record, in the form of three successful egg donation rounds, does.

Months later, I’m reminded of another mantra my boss used to chant, right after he slugged me in the forearm: “Being a bulldog pays!” And sure enough, it does. I land not one but two babies.

Fast-forward three years. Mother’s Day arrives. And despite all the fatigue and sleep deprivation that comes with twins, I celebrate the hell out of this day. Frets over failed femalehood and dead eggs were obliterated the moment the babies, in all their towheaded and sparkly blue/green-eyed glory, shot onto the scene.

They may not have inherited my nose or hair, but there is no question about who they take after in the bulldog department. Especially when it comes to fighting for what they want — more candy and toys, cuddle sandwiches, and most of all, hugs. Biology is one thing, but the baby/mama connection is nothing short of boundless. Regardless of how they got here, there is no denying they’re my babies, from the top of their heads straight through to their hearts, which beat with abandon, right next to mine.

Christina Julian is a novelist and wine and food columnist living in the Napa Valley. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Enthusiast, California Home + Design and Weddings California. Find her online at

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