For years, Lyne Mugema knew that motherhood was not on the menu for her. Though, this didn’t mean she drew a line in the sand: Mugema still wanted to support other women who wanted to conceive.
So, in 2016 Mugema leaned into that aspiration and donated her eggs for the first time. The 28-year-old self-described free spirit did her due diligence–she researched everything she needed to know about becoming an egg donor and discussed the experience with a coworker who’d already gone through the process.
This journey helped her produce two pregnancies and enough wisdom about herself to last a lifetime.
Here is her story:
In my early 20s, I compared what I wanted from life and all the things that I could do and all the things that I’d be great at. Then I looked at the women that inspire me and empower me and what I think are hashtag goals. Not a single one of them in general, or to myself, was thought of in terms of their romantic status, their marital status or being a mother. Many of them have children, but that experience isn’t what they have filled their lives with or have been defined by historically, nor was it how I saw them. For me, it was very clear at that time that just because I could give life and just because I knew I could be a phenomenal mother — because I am a great friend and I’m an excellent sister and I’m a great aunt — [didn’t mean that I should]. It was clear to me that I owe it to myself to be true in that way and not to take on more than I need.
The first time [the idea of ] selling my eggs was put in my head as an actual thing was when I saw a coworker of mine walking around wincing. I asked her if she was having a cramp, or if she needed some medicine and she just said, “No, girl, I’m fine. I just donated my eggs. I’m still in a little pain but I’m totally fine.” She explained the whole process to me. I googled it and I reached out. They explained everything to me and what donating my eggs would look and be like. I thought about it for a little bit and then I signed up.
I set up my profile, and they had me see a doctor first to make sure that I was healthy. They did a quick exam of all of my insides to make sure everything looked good and they gave me a mental health evaluation. The agency did a great job of making sure I had an understanding of what was going on. They asked a lot of really random, personal questions, but they were just trying to assess that I have healthy boundaries and an understanding that it my decision.
There was a lot of paperwork about medical history, family history, and sexual history, and then a lot additional personal info that you fill out, like favorite color, career goals. A lot of different things. They prefer you to do it by hand rather than electronically because the prospective parents like to have a sense of intimacy with you. They want to feel a connection. As it was explained to me, the mom, more often than not, if she’s going this route versus adoption, wants to feel as connected to the egg donor as humanly possible, so she feels like she has a connection with the child as well.
I Googled everything beforehand. The clinic was very upfront. I was even provided with my own lawyer. The couples themselves have a lawyer, but the clinic also provides their girls with a lawyer so I can negotiate in my contract what I’m comfortable with and what I’m simply not, and they explain things to me. I felt very heard and represented in the entire process. I had no reservations.
As far as what this journey was like emotionally or spiritually, I love children very, very much. I adore my niece and nephew and I’m great with kids. But ultimately I don’t want to spend my life raising children because it’s a forever job. I’ve given myself permission through my 20s to be obnoxiously selfish and that is my goal — to be as over-the-top selfish as humanly possible. When I honestly look at the kind of life that I want for myself, it’s hard sometimes as a 21st-century woman to look at everything that’s available — and then also to know everything that you’re capable of because so many things seem so good — and to decide what works for you.
Because I am very fertile, I do like children and I would be a great mother, there was that sense of guilt beforehand knowing that I didn’t want to have kids and it made me feel a little bit like, Oh, that’s something you could do and you’d be great at, and it’s valuable, and whenever you’re in love you always talk about having kids with your significant other. It made me feel guilty, the idea that I wouldn’t want to do it, and so it was hard for me to fully just accept that [motherhood] just wasn’t what I wanted, you know?
Once this opportunity presented itself, it took a huge weight off of my shoulders because then it allowed me a couple of things: to empower another woman on her path and her journey. I may not want to have children. It may not work for me, but that doesn’t mean that someone who would be passionate about it, who would find fulfillment in it, shouldn’t. I do believe very much in empowering other women. It allowed me to facilitate something for another woman, which felt great and it allowed me to contribute biologically. It’s like I technically have put my genes out there, which I think are important.
In 2015/2016 when this whole topic was welling in my head, social media was full of violence against Black bodies and my instinct every single time was that I wanted to go out and have a mess of dark skin, nappy-headed children as a ‘fuck you!’ to the world. It was a way for me to do that without having to be a slave to that rebellion while giving a Black life, hopefully a dark skin, gap-tooth, nappy-headed, wide-nose one at that, [a chance], and to empower a woman and relieve the sense of tension over something that I don’t necessarily want, but have just been conditioned to go after.
I feel that when it comes to women, our bodies and money, there’s this interesting way of seeing our value and who gets what. You’d be doing something great for another woman. Your eggs are worth $50,000. If you work through an agency, you’re not going to see $50,000. Possibly, but if you work through an agency, the most I’ve seen is $10,000 per retrieval.
The reason I went with a lower price point of $7,000 per retrieval was because I liked the way that agency handled themselves. There was a lot of focus on making me feel comfortable and the constant reminder that at any given time short of signing the contract, that I was always allowed to say no [and change my mind]. They constantly looked out for me, having a lawyer sit down, page-by-page with the contract to answer any and every question. To me, that sense of commitment to me was worth $3,000, easily.
I’ve donated my eggs twice now, and I know that they have produced two pregnancies. The first time was not as bad as the second time, it just felt like bad cramps. I went to work immediately after the first time. I was definitely tender and sore. The second time, I decided because I had the option, to just lay up and eat [after], but again, every “body” is different and I’m sure everyone will react differently. It’s never one size fits all.
I wouldn’t donate my eggs again because I’ve had my personal experience now. I do things when I’m curious or when they tickle my fancy. Outside of that, once that energy is passed, if I’m not enjoying myself I just go and do something else. I don’t need the money. Money is nice, but at the end of the day that’s not why I did it.
My preference is to not know “my children” because I’m a very nosy person. I don’t want to tempt fate and get messy and stalk them on Facebook and end up having a mid-life crisis and going crazy. I don’t think that’s good luck, so I prefer to just not know anything about [them]. The first couple did ask what if the child would want to reach out, so I made an exception for medical emergencies, but I hope they don’t reach out wanting to get to know me. Not because I’m not equally curious, but because the [answer I give them] as to why I donated my eggs is going to be the most unsatisfying one: I did it because I could; because it was my right. I don’t think that answer will be very satisfying for a child. But I’m not opposed to talking to them if they truly feel like they have this hole inside of their spirit.
Even though I’ve never had one specific thought about these two children, I do hope they have a good life and I’m going to continue to try to be the best version of myself. Whatever path they lead, I hope I lead a fulfilling life and maybe break a few glass ceilings or clear paths and make things a little bit easier the way that the women I personally have admired have done for me. Like Maya Angelou, for example, who I consider as someone who definitely nurtured me or Whoopi Goldberg who is still schooling me.
This entire experience has made me feel closer to other women and motherhood. Knowing how fertile I am and how untethered I am to any child I produce, I have offered to carry children for a best friend that has always wanted a family and I’ve also offered to donate and carry for two family members should they miss the child-bearing window. But who knows what the future holds for me or my eggs. We’ll have to wait and see.