I am often asked, “What criteria should I be looking for in choosing an egg donor”? How can I be sure how my baby will turn out? The answer is you can’t know for certain with genetics, especially since some traits such as height are multi-factorial; it is more than one gene which determines a characteristic.
However, when Intended Parents must turn to another woman, most often a stranger, who will play such an important part in the makeup of their child, they are anxious to stack the genetics in their favor, believing in the likelihood that traits of the donor will show up in their child.
Probably the first thing people are attracted to when choosing an egg donor is the look of the donor. Many people want to match their own ethnicity and their appearance. I have always felt that a donor’s physical appearance is extremely important because, unlike intelligence, it cannot be changed by nurture. You cannot predict or control or change how your child will look. But skin tones, body type, facial features all play a part In determining the likelihood of the child’s physical appearance.
Intelligence is a characteristic which is the second most frequent request we get at The Egg Donor Program when recipients are choosing an egg donor. There are many things in our donors’ profiles which signal intelligence: SAT scores (verified), Grade Point Average, educational degrees, occupation, parent and sibling occupations, academic awards, favorite books, essays she writes. Much of the child’s innate intelligence is going to come from the donor but remember that the biological father is also contributing as well as the environment which plays a big part in shaping intelligence.
A great family health history is another important thing to consider in choosing an egg donor. No family is perfect but we are looking for a reasonable health history free of mental health problems. The Egg Donor Program works with one of the top geneticists in the country to provide a detailed medical report on the donor’s family as well as an assessment of the risks. In addition, there are many genetic tests which are available to donors to assess their carrier status.
Number four on our list of qualities people search for in their donors are special talents: athleticism, artistic or musical talent, singing, dancing, any particular flair or accomplishment that sets them apart from others. I remember that once our program had a lovely donor candidate who was very smart, very pretty, and had changed the course of her life in her late twenties to become a professional golfer. I am convinced that her enormous popularity was especially because of her golfing skills, which appealed to the Recipient Fathers. Again, people dream that their child will possess the characteristics of their donor.
Finally, there is the most important element that Intended Parents seek in their donor. This is profound and a bit mysterious because it is the same inexplicable attraction we feel when we fall in love and when we choose our partners with whom to procreate. Mother Nature and perhaps Cupid inspire us (and our animal buddies) to mate with a certain person whom we choose as a partner. I think Recipient Parents also sublimely are affected by certain connections they make with their donor. I have heard these comments from Recipients who believe they have found their right match:
“She likes the same books as me”
“She reminds me of my sister/my mom”
“I would have wanted to date her” (from gay couples)
“I love what she wrote”
Some recipients are almost scientific, very exacting and detailed in choosing an egg donor. Some even use a spreadsheet and percentages, but I think the best way to choose a donor is to be led by your heart. I have seen Recipients struggle for months over profiles of every donor they can find on the internet (and there are thousands!), always coming up short of the perfection they seek. But if they are lucky they are struck by the same magic as Cupid’s bow when they scroll upon just the right Donor Angel. One Recipient Parent wrote, “I always knew that when I came across the profile of the right egg donor for us that I would just know immediately and enthusiastically.” I have always thought this was the universe whispering in your ear “She’s the one”.
We all dream of our children and their lives and we want them to have the best start possible. There are so many wonderful donor candidates these days and so many ways to assess them. But finally genes are a bit like playing roulette: You can tip the odds but you do not know where the ball will land.