By Erin Crowell
Jamie Kramer sits at her computer, scrolling through the columns of photos
before her. She rolls the mouse over several imagesa little girl smiling,
standing knee deep in the ocean, another dressed in princess garb, a
little boy in a pile of toysuntil she finally settles on one.
She clicks the mouse and opens a photo of two sisters in a phone booth
one, with soft hair and blue eyes, sitting quietly holding the phone; the
other, a mess of curls with eyes pinched shut in a fit of laughter.
Thats totally a Jamie face, Kramer smiles.
Its a smile any mother would have when talking about her children, only
these children are not hers.
MY TWO DADS
Six years ago, Kramer (now 29) enrolled herself in Growing Generations, a
Los Angeles-based surrogacy and egg and sperm donation agency, one of
several hundred fertility treatment facilities in the United States.
Kramer donated ova (eggs) to two couples two gay men in Australia and
two gay men from Italy. Combined with the sperm of each partner (eggs can
be separated into two groups and some fertilized with each partners
sperm, says Dr. Guy Ringler, a board certified physician in gynecology
and reproductive endocrinology), the eggs were fertilized and inseminated
into a surrogate.
Brett and Doug, the couple from Australia, were the first to receive
Jamies donated eggs, and are now the parents of twins Leah and Daniel.
A few years later, Claudio and Manlio, the couple from Italy, received
Jamies second donation and are now parents to twin girls Maddalena and
There are a lot of similarities between the four of them. They still look
different, but some features carry over, says Kramer, a petite,
hazel-eyed brunette with a sharp wit and ever present smile. Its a
personality that lends to her current role as the ABC TV 29&8 ambassador.
When Kramer first heard about the concept of egg donation, she was skeptical.
I was almost completely against it. It took years for me to wrap my head
around the concept.
Kramer attributes her change of mind when a relative suffered a fallopian
tube pregnancy and was unable to bear children afterward. The inner
dialogue eventually evolved from what are the options a woman has to
create a family to what dictates a family?
These questions were compounded by the recent spike in agencies seeking
egg donations throughout the country. Jim Hopkins wrote in a USA Today
article published March 2006: Classified-ad website Craigslist publishes
150 ads on a typical day. A Web search for egg donor at Google produces
dozens of links to advertisers Egg Donors Needed. $10,000, says one in
The Daily Californian, the student newspaper at the University of
California, Berkeley. The ad, from a San Diego broker called A Perfect
Match, seeks women who are attractive, under the age of 29 and have SAT
scores above 1,300.
Kramer had seen such ads while studying theatre and film at the American
Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.
They were all over the actors newspapers backstage. Become an egg
donor, Kramer recalls.
While she worked several low-paying and volunteer-based acting
jobscommercial ads for Colgate and Palmolive; and as an extra on films
such as Elf and Mona Lisa SmileKramer said she was scraping by with
what little money she made as a restaurant hostess. A large paycheck at
$10,000 per donation sounded tempting.
Thats initially why I looked into it, she admits. My roommate did it
and it sounded pretty simple.
Kramer began the year-long process that started with registration followed
by multiple genetic, health, IQ and psychological testing. After a month
of twice-a-day self-injected hormone therapy, Kramer flew out to LA where
her eggs were then surgically removed.
Kramers profile was launched on the Growing Generations website, complete
with video interview for prospective parents seeking the ideal child, who
can pay upwards of $150,000.
They ask you questions like what are your hopes and dreams? It kind of
makes you feel like Miss America, she laughs about the interview. At one
point you feel like you need to say, One day, I hope there to be world
Just as her perception of donating changed, so did Kramers motive.
When I found out (Brett and Doug) were interested in meeting me, it was
different. It sounds silly, but I became more confident when I found out
they were a gay couple. Not only that, but the circumstances revolving
around why they chose to do it. This was their only alternative.
Same sex couples may not marry and currently there is no provision for
joint adoption applications from same sex couples, according to the
Parliamentary Library of Australia.
The three met at a brunch spot in New York.
After that, it was completely cemented, she says.
ART OF MOTHERHOOD
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has been used in the United States
since 1981, most commonly through the transfer of fertilized human eggs
into a womans uterus (in vitro fertilization).
According to the Center for Disease Control and Preventions 2008 ART
Success Rates Report, 148,055 ART cycles were performed at 436 clinics in
the United States during that year, resulting in 26,326 live births (which
can include multiple infants) and ultimately 61,426 infants.
Today, assistive reproduction births make up for over 1 percent of the
U.S. population .
ART increases the likelihood of pre-term delivery and low birth weight,
largely based on the elevated risk of multiple pregnancies (more than one
Kramer said she was well aware of the risks associated with her decision.
Those individual risks range from hot flashes, sleep problems, breast
tenderness and bruising to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
According to the New York State Department of Health, this can cause fluid
retention and swelling of the ovaries.
Kramer experienced a moderate level of OHSS and was bed ridden for two
days. Severe OHSS can be life threatening. Because of her familiarity with
the risks, Kramer was hesitant about donating her eggs again.
It took me a couple months before I finally decided, she says about
donating a second time, in this case to Claudio and Manlio.
THE LABOR PAINS OF LEGALITY
While egg and sperm donation is not considered illegal in the U.S., the
2002 Uniform Parentage Act offers a model for states to adopt, addressing
all forms of assisted reproduction. Certain states have addressed various
issues concerning the practice while others do not entirely (which
States such as Texas require health insurance coverage on certain in vitro
fertilization procedures; while other states address sperm donation
specifically, but not egg donation (and vice versa).
Some states also address who the legal parent is upon a couples
separation. This depends on the state. The Supreme Court in Tennessee
heard a petition from a woman to have herself declared the legal mother of
three children. During the course of their relationship, the unmarried
heterosexual couple agreed to have children from eggs donated by other
women. The father argued that because there was no genetic relationship to
the woman, she (the surrogate mother) was not their legal mother. The
court disagreed, saying the couple intended to act as the parents and the
woman gave birth to the children. She was awarded custody and support.
Its an issue that further illustrates societys ever-evolving definition
Section 702 of the Parentage Act states the egg donor is not the parent,
while Section 703 acknowledges that a man who has provided sperm to, or
consents to, the assisted reproduction of a woman with the intent to be
the father is the father.
A MOTHERS ROLE
Kramer says she understood her role from the beginning, firmly saying,
under no circumstance is that egg mine, a break from her joking self.
As soon as I donated, it was no longer mine. You have to be willing to
give up complete ownership and expectation. Thats why I crossed off every
Kramer refers to the endless list of options when it comes to deciding the
use of a donors eggs which includes access by same sex couples and
donating the unused eggs to stem cell research.
Its for these reasons the practice has become so controversial. Kramer
told very few people, getting mixed reactions from those she did share
My parents initial reactions were bad. They didnt want me to do it. The
idea scared them.
Kramer attributes the gay couples lifestyles as an additional taboo.
Its kind of a double whammy. People dont know how to feel about it,
For me, I think its beautiful that these parents are putting in all this
effort, money and time to have these children and raise them. I think we,
as a society, tend to take it for granted. What we consider a nuclear
family can no longer really be defined by genetics. Its about love and
Everyones entitled to their own opinion, but I think before we can pass
judgment on what makes a family, we have to ask ourselves what is love?
Kramer says her parents eventually warmed after photos of the children
began to arrive, saying it turned from an unknown procedure into theres a
family where there wasnt a family before.
My mom loves looking at the photos and reading the updates almost a
crazy sense of grandma pride, she adds, laughing.
For Kramer, receiving the first photo was actually the most nerve-wracking.
I was thinking, what is it going to be like to see these babies? Am I
going to develop this attachment?
It sounds silly, but the first time I saw them I was like, Wow. Look
what I helped create. Its like, Yay! I helped! she laughs, clapping,
summing up her role that is as much accurate as it is lightheartedness.
And while she has no legal obligation to her offspring, Kramer still stays
in touch with both couples.
I introduced them both, she says about her Australian and Italian
families. Were always exchanging photos and updates. Its cool because
in some photos, (both couples) will have the double stroller at
right-to-marry marches. The kids have my picture on the mantel and they
get to watch clips of me (from her job) on the internet.
In a most recent update, Claudio and Manlio announce the family is still
Dear Jamie, Brett and Doug,
Dear extended family from all over the world, we are so happy to announce
that well be having a baby next August! Yes, it is one baby, strong
heartbeat, and growing wonderfully. The pregnancy is now three months.
Jamie, you being the donor again makes such a huge difference, I promise
this will be the year in which well finally meet in person and Brett &
Doug, Im sure youll be very happy too, our big bunch just keeps getting
bigger and bigger.
Kramer donated her eggs for a third and final time this past summer,
taking months to make yet another difficult decision. But as before, it
came down to providing something that couldnt be provided before.
It took me awhile to make the decision, but I realized I was the only
person in the world who could give them a genetically matched sibling.
When it comes to her own children, Kramer says she is looking at the
possibility of adopting one day.
I figure there are many children out there who are in need of a good
home. I want to (adopt) for the simple act of providing for another
person, not for the gratitude of replicating myself, adding a dash of
humor in typical Jamie Kramer-style, Ive done that enough.
For more information on egg donation and fertility services, visit
www.fertilitynetwork.com/state/michigan. Look for an upcoming feature on
assistive reproduction where the author will interview a surrogate mother.