A Sydney woman who travelled to the United States to design her own baby is giving away her excess embryos to help childless people.
Natalie Lovett told the ABC’s Australian Story about her plans to create an extended family for her 18-month-old daughter Lexie, but there is a catch.
All the embryo recipients must sign a contract agreeing to an annual reunion with Lexie’s siblings and they must stay in touch via a private Facebook page.
After trying for seven years to conceive in Australia, Ms Lovett, single and now aged 48, went to the US where she bought donor eggs and sperm.
“It’s kind of a crazy thing, you date and you think about what you want in a partner and all of that – finding a donor is very similar,” Ms Lovett said.
“First thing is, do you physically have some sort of attraction to them?
“So I looked at height. I kind of chose colourings that were similar to myself.”
The Facebook executive also wanted donors with tertiary qualifications and excluded any with extended family who had addictions.
Lexie to meet any future embryo siblings
In February, the San Diego clinic where Ms Lovett had the embryo transfer phoned to ask what she wanted to do with the spare embryos.
“I have one perfect daughter and then I’m told I have another 25 embryos that I can either destroy, donate to science or give away,” she said.
“I could never destroy them so I decided to give them to other childless families.”
Ms Lovett – who chose anonymous donors in the US – said because Lexie would not know her donor parents, she wanted her to know her siblings.
With dealings Ms Lovett is already undertaking, Lexie could have as many as 10 embryo siblings in future.
“Having the knowledge that she is not the only one, that she is not this rare and unique individual, that she is from a family in essence, these siblings are out there, to know them, to interact with them [is good],” Ms Lovett said.
“So the contract stipulates that the siblings and families get together once a year, and I hope they honour that. I mean it is yet to be tested.”
Ms Lovett paid a substantial sum to her American egg donor, who is using the money to help put herself through college.
Australian donors cannot be paid
Kate Bourne from the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority said Australian clinics did not use anonymous donors and egg donors were not allowed to be commercially remunerated.
“It wouldn’t be possible for these people to have treatment here using those embryos because they would be in breach of the best practice that we have here because the donors have been paid,” she said.
“Also because the people born wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out information about their donors.
“Baby lust is very strong and very powerful, and so people desperately want to become parents. Some people will go to great lengths to travel anywhere to meet that need.”
Ms Bourne said it was possible for women to access eggs in Australia but they needed to be donated and not anonymously.
Last year in Victoria 200 women donated their eggs.
Australian Story followed one of the recipients, South Australian woman Fiona Fagan, through her journey to try and fall pregnant using two of Ms Lovett’s American embryos.
“When Natalie rang me it was like I had won the lottery,” 47-year-old Ms Fagan said.
“I could not believe this was possible, this is actually a possibility, that I could be pregnant and could be a mum with this amazing generosity of Natalie.”
So far Ms Lovett has signed up three recipients, and two are pregnant. They have travelled to a clinic in San Diego to have the embryo transfer.