Keeping Score: The only time 1 + 1 = 1


(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Peddling fertility. Zhara had become turned off by the prospect of children. When Rosemary was born the demands of an infant rendered Zhara and her family exhausted. The selfishness of Kaja in leaving for Japan further exaggerated Zhara’s alienation from motherhood. By the time she was finished high school, Zhara had decided to be one of those women who consciously chose to be eternally child free and loving it. Children took up time, resources, energy, reduced opportunity, decreased earning power in early adulthood, and were ungrateful later in life. Zhara knew she had great genes and took to peddling her DNA to pay for University. Rather than have children of her own, she opted to allow others to raise her genetic offspring. Her MCAT scores and athletic talents combined with an above average appearance made her a prime candidate to infertile couples seeking to make a designer baby.

The egg donation agency had a conservative policy after the 4th cycle for any donor. Once Zhara could no longer donate an egg she formed another venture to pay for school. By her senior year she had been asked to become a recruiter of other genetically in demand women. Zhara had been open about her experiences with classmates and friends. It was natural selection meets the free market. Zhara never felt an emotional or even spiritual connection with the 8 genetic children her DNA helped produce. Each cycle paid her $10,000 and that was lucrative seed money to invest in her own future. The agency said that donors with Northern European features were often paid the highest. Her offspring were born and raised in as many different states from one another. Zhara declined to receive picture updates or letters from the birth parents. The deal was done.

Recruiting donors was easy. College girls were willing to trade their genes for cash. The idea was especially lucrative for ambitious female scholars who wanted to live on in their genetic descendants without the hassles. Later in life they could say they weren’t childless without the financial or professional consequences of raising kids.

People also had no trouble believing someone who had gone through the procedure themselves. Zhara was naturally convincing. She had a keen awareness that the Bay Area was a ripe farming ground for egg donors. Mixed couples or those of racially diverse backgrounds sought hard to find donors. Asian and Middle Eastern DNA was rare but highly sought after by foreign couples. The only problem was when the kids got older and sought out their egg donor. Zhara resented the children’s demand to use the word mother to describe their genetic female parent. A mother is a function not just an X chromosome.

The earliest “mother-child reunion” came by meetup. An 18 year old college freshman sought out her genetic mother. The woman was now in her 30’s and a management consultant at a big 5 strategy firm. The teenager was the product of a recruiting event at Stanford University. In exchange for an MBA the egg donor helped an Atherton couple have a pair of twins. The older twin initiated the reunion. It wasn’t pleasant and resulted in a year of intensive therapy for both girls and the woman whose DNA contributed to their existence.


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