Having kids is a long-term goal lots of people share. Jill, a 25-year-old graduate student at UCF, already has five kids, and she's never laid eyes on any of them.
Jill, who is currently studying biomedical science, is an egg donor and it all started when she saw her mother's friend go through the struggle of not being able to conceive in her late 30s. With the help of an egg donor, she was finally able to have a child, which inspired Jill.
Because her family does not approve of donating eggs, the Central Florida Future has chosen to keep her anonymous under the pseudonym Jill.
Of married women in the United States, 1.5 million are infertile, or unable to achieve pregnancy, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Assisted Reproductive Technology. In 2010, fertility clinics had 69 percent more procedures using fresh or frozen donated eggs than in 2000.
Many college students, such as Jill, choose to help by donating their eggs. And the procedure comes with a pretty nice paycheck, with women typically making between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the procedure, according to USA Today.
"Being a biology major at the time I was interested in the science behind it," Jill said. "I personally don't want kids of my own. I thought, if I'm healthy and I can do this for someone who really wants it, why not?"
Jill chose Loving Donation in Lake Mary, an egg donor-egg recipient matching service, as her donation agency. After going through a few days of psychological and physical testing, Jill was accepted into a database for egg donor recipients. She created an online profile with a face but no name, for everything remains anonymous in egg donation.
"Typically, egg donor recipients want to see pictures of you at every age," Jill said. "They want to make sure you look like the baby's mother so there aren't too many questions asked."
Within two weeks, Jill was chosen by a family as their committed egg donor.
Being committed is key in order to get through the two-month trial period before donors are compensated. Loving Donation's trial period includes no drinking, drugs, smoking or sexual intercourse, for any of these things could interfere with healthy egg development. During the trial period, hormones are injected twice daily to increase the development of eggs. By the time eggs are extracted, there are multiple to choose from.
At 21 years old, Jill was flown to North Carolina after her trial period to donate roughly 15 eggs to a family hoping to grow. She donated two more times, with each family willing to work around her school schedule, so she could donate on breaks. She has been compensated with more than $10,000 for her time and was able to pay off her student loans from her undergrad.
"The procedure only takes about 20 minutes," Jill said. "You go under anesthesia while the eggs are extracted, and it's completely painless. I woke up a bit sore, but nothing too extreme."
The third and final time Jill donated, she was 24. The procedure went fine, but a few hours after, Jill began feeling nauseous. Her sister, who was her required caretaker for the donation, rushed her to the hospital to discover that Jill had Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, a rare condition that causes the ovaries to swell up after the egg retrieval.
"I've been doing egg donation for nine years, and I've never seen a case of OHSS," said Wendy Arker, the founder of Creative Love Egg Donation, a donation agency with offices in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. "It's very rare, and seen in less than 5 percent of donors. It's certainly nothing to discourage a woman from donating."
Jill was back to normal after two weeks of bed rest. Donors typically donate no more than three times, making this her last time.
"When Jill fell ill, it scared me senseless," said Jill's younger sister. "I was trying to keep quiet to our family that we were hundreds of miles away, for they disapprove of egg donation and had no idea. It was stressful, but the overwhelming gratitude expressed by the recipient family really showed it was worth the struggle."
Every donation Jill has made was successful with egg fertilization, with two of the families having twins. To aspiring egg donors, Jill says selflessness is your only option.
"Do your research and evaluate the risks," Jill said. "You have to tell yourself; it's not about showing up and getting paid. It's about giving a family the biggest gift you could ever give to anyone."
Gina Avile is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.