For many people, egg donation is not likely their first choice to create a family, but for some, it is probably their only choice. Once the realization sets in that egg donation may be your only option in creating your family, you may experience fear, indecision, confusion, frustration, and be at a loss as to where to start. All these feelings are normal, and with a little time and research, your thoughts and concerns will reestablish themselves to a feeling of confidence and decision. Fear is typically due to a lack of knowledge or information; that is where we can help make your path easier.
Will I bond with my baby?
Yes, you will bond with your baby. Although you are not genetically connected to this child, you did create this baby! If it were not for your efforts in researching, reading, discovering, and choosing all the components that go into creating this child, they would not exist. You are this child’s parent; you created this precious life – never forget that! This specific gene collection would not exist if it were not for you. Yes, your donor could create another child for another parent, or your doctor has helped create thousands of children, but only YOU could create this child. This simple fact of life makes you the child’s parent – there is no other parent of this child. You will nurture this pregnancy, either by carrying this baby yourself or by looking after your surrogate for nine months. It is your name that will appear on your child’s birth certificate. You have created this child, and you will hold your baby to your skin after birth and fall in love!
Will I grieve that I am not my child’s biological parent?
Yes, most likely, you will. This is a healthy reaction. A consultation with a mental health professional can guide you through these feelings. There may well be the lingering feeling that the child you imagined is unreachable. It is perfectly normal to want to be biologically related to your child – we have spent most of our lives believing that someday we will be biologically related to our children. No one prepared us for something different. Learning to let go of the concept of a biological child you thought you would have, is a process. Changing those feelings may take time. So, allow yourself to process these feelings of loss, perhaps even anger. Egg donation may not be the right solution for every person, but it is a solution for some. We recommend a few sessions with a mental health professional to discuss these feelings and permit you to consider egg donation.
“You are not my real mom.”
It is doubtful that you will hear this from your child because they will only see you as their parent who has loved them like no other. But sometimes, in a child’s life, they may immaturely slip into that ugly world where they want to lash out. This will not be because you are not biologically related to them (assuming they even knew) but because they are angry or embarrassed and want to hurt you. They do not always have the emotional maturity to handle their feelings; many parents endure these torments. This is regardless of being biologically related to their child or not. Biology is not relevant during such an event. Generally, this will happen during the teenage years when the child is battling between fighting for independence but does not yet have the maturity necessary for that independence. This is a moment of “do not tell me what to do or not to do, I do not want to be controlled, and I want to hurt you.” Each parent handles these situations differently. I would say, “Sometimes I get angry and frustrated at you too. Your words have hurt me deeply. No matter what, I will love you, but I need some space from you for now.” However, your best bet can be the mental health professionals once again. Some counselors specialize in these teen years, and they have excellent advice to get you through yet another parenting hurdle. Some hurdles are easy, and some are not – welcome to parenthood!
Will telling overwhelm my child?
Every child is unique, so there is no guarantee of the answer. However, experience has shown us that when the story is told early and explained clearly without any regret or hesitation on the part of the parent, the child accepts that this is their story. Children have been interviewed on this subject and responses such as:
“I don’t know when I knew; I just always knew,” and
“My parents told me the truth because they are incredibly honest and have refused to lie to me … they won’t lie about anything”, or
“My parents told me because they thought I deserved to know.”
How do I know my donor is not lying in her application?
A donor may only be partially truthful on her application or, more likely, forget some family genetic issues. The applications that donors must complete are lengthy and often overwhelming. Have you tried to complete one for yourself? However, blatant lying on an application will most likely be discovered via the layers of screening that the donor goes through. From the mental health evaluation and testing, her tendency to be truthful will become apparent. The intake interviews that the mental health professional conducts will address many questions on the application and allow the counselor to evaluate and compare the responses; that is what they do. Your fertility clinic will also review her application and undertake its medical evaluation.
Another option available to you is that you communicate with your donor. This can be done without revealing your identity: emails exchanged through the fertility clinic staff, your mental health professional, or a phone call. Or you can elect to meet your donor in person.
How will my family react to my donor-conceived child?
So many people still misunderstand infertility, and for some, infertility is an embarrassing subject to talk about. Your family’s reaction is a legitimate concern, and you may also be burdened with cultural concerns. More traditional cultures may be less accepting of egg donation, and parents of a certain age may be less accepting than a younger generation. The answer does not lie in trying to keep the egg donation a secret. Secrets are hard to keep within families and can be destructive when a family member finds out they were lied to. Talk to your mental health professional about how to tell your extended family or if they think you should say to them. You have a right to privacy – keeping personal information private from your extended family. Your decision on your right to privacy is separate from whether you will tell your child and your child’s right to know. Sometimes a person is surprised when an elderly relative is open to new ideas and trends. Do not prejudge your family, but slowly poke at the subject of infertility and judge the responses. You may be surprised to learn that your great Aunt had trouble conceiving or that your mom had several miscarriages. This is not necessarily a subject that has to be discussed at a family gathering. You may want to explore the option of more intimate communication with family members. You have the right not to reveal your child’s genetic history if you believe your child will be treated differently by other family members. This is a process, not a one-time event. Your mental health professional has years of experience with different cultures and family dynamics to share with you.
Author: Karen Synesiou, Infertility Portal, Inc.