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95 3 Egg Donation and Exotic Beauty The womb is like an oven. It merely bakes the cake. Whether you insert a chocolate or strawberry cake is for you to decide. —Fertility doctor, quoted in Jaisinghani, Maid-to-Order Surrogate Mums When Jan Marks booked her first trip to India to begin the surrogacy process in December 2008, she arranged for a young white woman to travel to India for the purposes of egg donation. At the time, Jan explained, “I really wanted a child that looked like me: tall, blond, blue-eyed, that kind of thing. . . . I was really concerned—because I’ve never had a baby before—that I wouldn’t love a baby as much if it didn’t look like me.” Jan believed that her unusual path to parenthood would require the assistance of an Indian surrogate mother and a young, white egg donor. Thus she chose to work with a surrogacy agency in Mumbai that had connections with a South African egg donor agency tasked with coordinating the recruitment of primarily white women willing to travel as egg donors. Yet after several surrogacy attempts ended in miscarriage, Jan had a change of heart regarding the particular phenotypic characteristics she desired in her child. Worried about their shrinking budget, the couple decided to continue pursuing parenthood through gestational surrogacy , but with an Indian egg donor whose fees would be significantly lower than those of the South African donor.1 When I asked her about this change, Jan replied, “When I’d flown in this South African donor and it didn’t work, part of the grief was, ‘Oh my god, I’m never going to have a blond, blue-eyed child now!’” But she went on to elaborate that she felt “quite proud” of her decision to use an Indian egg donor. While Jan described herself as “quite fair,” she explained that despite her Polish-Scottish heritage, most of her family has darker, olive-toned skin: “A dark child is actually going to fit in well with the family! And hon- 96 | Egg Donation and Exotic Beauty estly, she [the egg donor] is the spitting image of my sister when she was younger. . . . So I carry that donor’s photo around with me in my wallet, because I’m just—I’m going to get emotional—but I’m just so grateful.” Interestingly, as Jan navigated the disappointment of not being able to have a child that resembled her physically, she took comfort in the fact that her Indian egg donor resembled her sister and that the child would fit in with her darker-skinned extended family. This chapter explores the ways in which commissioning parents pursuing surrogacy in India negotiate the process of third-party egg donation. As the epigraph suggests, Indian medical doctors draw attention to the marketlike aspects of gestational surrogacy and egg donation, comparing the process of creating a life (with specified phenotypic or skin color characteristics) to the simple consumer choice of whether to select a “chocolate or strawberry cake.” I examine the ways in which intended parents and doctors navigate such choices through the practice of transnational egg donation. In particular, I analyze the ways in which commissioning parents construct relations with the egg provider—the genetic parent of the child—as well as with the child conceived through egg donation, IVF, and gestational surrogacy. I also explore the means through which doctors organize practices of transnational and local egg donation. While egg donors undoubtedly play a central role in this process as the providers of genetic material, in what follows I focus primarily on the perspectives of doctors and commissioning parents, as I am interested in how these actors, the organizers and consumers of assisted reproduction, deploy notions of race, nationality, and skin color in the context of egg donation. By examining doctors’ and commissioning parents’ narratives, I illustrate the heterogeneity of approaches to egg donation in the context of neoliberal global forces that place the onus on egg purchasers to “choose” the genetic material of future children. The connections between surrogacy, commerce, and choice are worth elaborating briefly. ART use, including IVF, egg donation, and gestational surrogacy, are typically represented simply as infertility treatment. Yet this framing focuses the gaze on the medical aspects of assisted reproduction. These treatments, however, occur within a much larger, wide-ranging set of activities that are commercial in nature and constitute the basis of the fertility industry—an industry that Egg Donation...


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MARC Record
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