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My Greatest Gift So Far

August 27, 2011

As I sat in the doctor’s office on Friday morning, awaiting my final visit this month, I reflected on the past year of life and change. Two nights ago, I administered a shot that will send me into the hospital for surgery. Strangely, I can’t remember the last I felt so elated.

New Year’s Eve, 2010. Another exciting occasion for glasses to clink, the ball to drop, lovers to kiss. For many years I’ve known this holiday to carry significance, chances to change, mindsets to mend, and even some unexpectedly major events (not always positive, but definitely not subtle either). Somewhat quietly, I spent this year celebrating uncharacteristically at home with a dear friend from out of state who had come thousands of miles to celebrate with me in the city. To most, my new year continued a quest for adventure and new challenges and seemed similarly unusual, like the majority of my recent days.

Those who know me intimately may have seen me through a different lens and noticed the momentary spark that seems to have altered my perspective and motivation in a flash. Almost as if the early-thirties, adult version of me everyone said would arrive suddenly kicked in, I saw my mounting debts against my values and couldn’t quite reconcile the vast chasm between them. Overwhelmingly fortunate to have a great apartment to myself in one of my favorite cities in the world, doing what I love for a living, I yet had to decide how to survive all of my monthly expenses – ninety percent of which came from previous choices and purchases, none of which I imagined having to pay off while struggling to follow my dreams in the city.

My momentary short circuit arose when my reality failed to match what I had conceived of as a solid path. Brent Sooner’s character Data, the artificial lifeform on Star Trek: the Next Generation would have called this “a cascading failure in his neural net.” I was scared and determined to change this path that would otherwise lead me into certain financial suicide.

Looking into every possibility, I gave myself the time and space to seriously and without judgment consider my most extreme boundaries. How far could I go to rescue myself without sacrificing my values, psyche, or career? Yes, I perused Craigslist job and gig postings and even entertained the idea of taking jobs that would have officially devastated my mother, should I have actually decided to pursue them. Who knows the lasting affects such experiences on the fringes of my already fairly liberal sensibilities might have had on me, as well!

A couple of months ago, I wrote that hardship and loss incites me to respond by embracing, encouraging, and creating life whenever I can. And so I am. Beginning a thus far relatively silently journey in March that culminates tomorrow morning, I will donate some of my eggs and therefore my genes, and my energy, to help anonymous recipients fulfill their dreams of having children. I can’t wait.

Although I’ve experienced some discomfort and made several sacrifices in order to participate in what sometimes I consider the fertility Olympics, I so look forward to contributing to the universe in this way. Never knowing whether I might have children someday, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to afford to pass on my genetic code to future generations. Part of that feels so oddly like mythology, finding ways to achieve a legacy beyond death, and admittedly much of the experience resembles science fiction. Simply from the process of qualifying alone, I have pictures of my chromosomes, a new diet suited to my somewhat low blood sugar, and an official knowledge of my actual blood type.

Yes, aside from the idealistic altruism and happy opportunity to revel in my nerdy nature, I will receive excellent compensation for giving myself nightly injections, committing to five weeks of no exercise (among other less mentionable restraints), traveling quite far from home every morning at 6:30, and subjecting my body to minor surgery. In fact, as you read this, I likely have already spoken to the anesthesiologist and await the procedure about to begin. Before someone undoubtedly begins to equate this endeavor as my way of shallowly selling my body for money (and I know some will), know that I have come to this decision after ten years of its seed growing in my subconscious.

When my boss at a temp job told me a decade ago about her experiences in the process of donating eggs, I lost my hearing, my vision blurred, and my coworkers had to sit me down with water to keep me from fainting. Seriously. Nevertheless, when I auditioned for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire earlier this year, both interviewers asked, “What would you do if you won $100,000?” Truly examining my values against my finances, I realized I wanted two things: financial independence (not wondering how I might pay rent every month, at least!), and the freedom to contribute to humanity – such as to buy Marcos, the homeless man down the road, a yogurt sometimes when he mentions his hunger to me in conversation.

By undergoing this journey, I have the opportunity to contribute something uniquely precious and beautiful to the world and participate in the act of conception and creation. Although only a beginning, the compensation I receive will help me pay down a limited but helpful portion of my debt and give me a little more breathing room to continue pursuing my goals as an actor and singer. As hard as some may try to convince me of a downside, I feel honored and grateful to have the opportunity to both generously give and receive at once in this way.

Think of me fondly today and as I recover over the next several days. May Irene’s winds bring good change and minimal damage this weekend of weekends, as I rejoice in a year that has brought me so many challenges and joys. Of course should anyone have any questions, while this is an anonymous, out of state program, I would happily answer as much as I can for anyone interested… just message me from my website or leave your email in the comments below.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jodi Chattin permalink
    August 27, 2011 11:28 am

    Wow, Abby. You’re a beautiful, talented, kind woman, and any couple would be extremely fortunate to have your genes as part of their child. I just said a prayer for you!
    ~Jodi C.

    • August 27, 2011 12:14 pm

      Aw, thanks, Jodi!!! I’m already home and feeling great post-surgery. Now to rest and enjoy some bad weather indoors time!

  2. August 27, 2011 6:46 pm

    Dear Abby ~ You are a very special human being. I know, if i ever hit that big multi-million dollar lottery, I would prob give most of it away, most likely to either Jefferson Hosp in Philly or the IMF ~ International Myeloma Foundation. My third stem cell transplant I had on 10/15/2010 that was supp to be ‘good for’ 4-6 proved ineffective and I am on a ‘new’ chemo and steroid treatment. Jefferson Hosp just keeps saving my life (since July 2003), over and over and over again, 8 times so far now. I surely hope you be well quickly. Best wishes, M I K E (Camden & Merchantville, NJ)

  3. August 27, 2011 7:58 pm

    Wow, I had no idea you were doing this! How wonderful! I wish this had been an option for me when I was younger. Alas, my eggs are likely all dried up at this point. I don’t even think they’d consider me for surrogacy at this point either (something else I’d love to do). I would love to talk to you about this when I get back to New York! So many questions!

    • August 27, 2011 8:01 pm

      Wow, good for you – I don’t think I even have the fortitude for the commitments of surrogacy! Let’s chat over cupcakes at Babycakes (my new favorite, no processed sugar bakery!) when you get home! Love!

  4. Patient Anonymous permalink
    September 7, 2011 10:43 pm

    Congratulations and kudos to your generosity of spirit and body. Words (and song) will be unable to express the sheer joy and bliss that the new parents will feel upon achieving parenthood, done only with your kindness.


    • September 7, 2011 10:45 pm

      Ah. my patient anonymous friend. Thanks so much for the kind words – and for making me smile on a rainy night!


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