Do I Want an Open Identity Egg Donor?

By Diana Thomas
Founder & CEO, The World Egg Bank

The World Egg Bank consents all of our donors for open identity because of my own experience over 20 years of child rearing.

Donors are very proud of what they’ve done, and wish to be helpful to either the parent or child if they are needed in the future. I believe that parents via egg donation may or may not tell their children for any number of personal reasons, but I believe that if you have an open identity donor, the choice will remain yours for a long time to come. It’s very empowering to know that you don’t have to decide at the time of egg donation, because the choice remains yours in the future. You will never have that choice if you select an anonymous donor.

After 15 years of IVF, when I was told I’d need to find an egg donor if I wanted any chance to conceive, I found myself feeling a sense of relief. There was really hope looking down this path and letting go of all the poor outcomes with my own eggs. I also thought of passing on genes that were better than my own, and I felt some freedom knowing I just had to step in for some minor uterine prep and an embryo transfer.
This new found hopefulness allowed me to think ‘beyond birth’ to my child. As we all know, many of us have this odd notion that if we are too optimistic while in treatment, we fear we ‘jinx’ourselves and lessen our chances of getting pregnant. I also think that we are afraid to feel hopeful, because the disappointment only feels that much bigger if we don’t. But that is another story.

When I used my own eggs, I spent so much time and
energy thinking of ‘getting pregnant’ that I didn’t truly think about what my child would want or need in his/her future. People who chastise us about ‘not thinking about the child’ really don’t understand that we find it hard to do; not because we are selfish, but because it hurts to think about ‘a child’ when you fear you may not have one.

Please don’t feel chastised here. I want to tell you my story and you can take from it what you wish. I knew that I couldn’t mislead my kids. I know this about myself and I would have felt dishonest, which is not part of my nature. I also knew that kids are smart, and they pick up on nuances that we don’t even know we are projecting.So if I examined my own personality, I knew that I’d need to tell them, it was just a matter of when and how.

I had no reason to ‘not tell’ my children that I could logically verbalize. I briefly felt some fear that they may not think of me as their mother, but my instincts said that wouldn’t happen. Would I have thought my own mother was ‘not really my mother’ if she’d told me about some cool science stuff that included someone’s genes? No. In fact, after decades, I have not had a single couple come to me and say they regretted using donor eggs, nor has a child born from egg donation contacted me requesting a meeting with the egg donor that helped their parents.

Donors know they lose nearly a thousand eggs a month, but through egg donation, some 20 of these ill fated eggs are ‘rescued’. After they complete their screening tests, they know more than most 20 something year olds that they ‘have good eggs.’ They just want their own child someday, not the one you raised. I learned this over the years from my own egg donors.

My family was supportive, my friends knew, and I wanted to be open with their pediatrician if issues around their health arose in the future. I decided to make the donation part of their ‘birth story.’ I told them they were very special and it took 3 wonderful people to make them instead of 2. They didn’t understand it until they were about 8 years old. By then, it was a kind of “oh now I get it” reaction rather than a surprise.

Being open with my children has worked out for me in ways I could not have imagined. My oldest son began getting headaches around age 8. While in the pediatrician’s office, the doctor asked me if I had a history of headaches. I quickly and openly answered in front of my son: “yes, but my son was conceived with donor eggs and although her medical history did not show headaches, I’ll call and double check with her.” If I’d said, “can we go outside to talk?” my son would have hounded me about what I told the doctor for hours.

My kids started preparing personal “ethnic history” charts in about 6th grade. They came to me and said, “Mom, since you are mostly Irish, that means I am too, right?” This triggered a more sophisticated approach to explaining egg donation and the role of genes and ethnicity. I said, “No, you are mostly Hungarian and Swedish, and this is why….” The discussion also opened the door to an exploration of ‘who we are’ as individuals and why personality characteristics and behaviors are truly how we define ourselves and others define us. I love these discussions with my sons. I had asked the egg donors, some years after my kids were born, if they could prepare an ethnic family tree for the boys. It was great to have access to them as this sort of issue came up in later years.

In the meantime, my egg donors met my children, and about every 5 – 10 years our paths cross and if the boys are around, they say Hi. The donors are like distant relatives to my children. The donors see the children as mine, and as the individuals they are. The donors are also extremely happy when they see the kids, knowing that they helped give life to a soul.

My children could not imagine anyone being their mother but me. I think I have been able to create conversation with them that helps them better understand how to negotiate life, in large part because I used egg donation as an opportunity to delve into topics most adolescence would avoid, and, because I had access to my egg donors. My biggest ‘take away’ from watching my kids grow and going through varying levels of understanding about genes, who they are, and what makes a family, is that they are proud that they are unique, and they know how very much I wanted and love them.

My oldest son, who is 20 years old, recently told me he is writing an article on his own experience as one of the first 100 babies born with donor eggs in the U.S. I can’t wait to read it!

A Family is Anchored in Relationships, Not Genes

“I love personal stories about how intended parents make that leap to become parents via egg donation. Diana Thomas, Founder & and CEO of The World Egg Bank has opened her heart to us as she shares her journey. It’s never easy to just put it out there, but this is one of the many reasons I adore Diana. She’s honest, vulnerable, and so brave sharing with the world her story. Please read along with me.”
Marna Gatlin, Founder PVED

A Family is Anchored in Relationships, Not Genes
By: Diana Thomas
Founder & CEO, The World Egg Bank

Diana Thomas

I don’t often share my personal experiences about infertility. After 20 years of talking to thousands of women who have or are going through infertility, I know there is no such thing as a typical experience that can be addressed with simple advice or direction. My own story clearly illuminates that!

Every person enters my world of donor eggs at very different emotional stage in the process and each has a unique resolution based on their own financial resources, level of support from family or friends, knowledge of the ‘science’ behind egg donation, personal resilience, determination, physical stamina, strength of their partners (if they have one), and so on. Having said that, I have seen common experiences and believe that in sharing some of my own story, I can help remove some barriers that we encounter and some we create for ourselves. From my own experiences, I have woven a philosophy into The World Egg Bank that speak to the needs of infertile women. It is the relationship that builds a family.

I was 25 years old and unable to conceive. It was in the mid-1980’s when egg donation did not exist as an option. After 15 years of IUI’s, clomid, laparoscopies (5), lab tests, 3 IVFs with my own eggs, and considerable debt, I ended this painful phase of my journey without a baby and with a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” I was left with a pretty big ‘empty nest’ to say the least. I was going on 40 years old, had lived in two countries (Canada and the U.S.), was peaking in my 15 year career, traveled extensively, lost my father and a brother to cancer, bought/renovated 3 homes, and all of these experiences only strengthened my desire for a child. Some people are able to find resolve and comfort in their decision to be childless, I was not one of them. I tip my hat to people who can choose to be or remain childless, because I truly believe that is the right choice for them.

My entire 20 year journey has mirrored the growth of IVF in the U.S. I was often among the first to ‘try something new’. Egg donation has become a mainstream menu item for the infertile patient today, but as I had one of the first 100 egg donor babies in the U.S., my world was about Intramuscular injections (all of them and I stopped counting at 500), infertility diagnosis was largely attributed to endometriosis (hence 5 laparoscopies to remove ‘mild endometriosis’), ICSI didn’t exist and ‘fertilizing eggs’ in the lab was a mysterious science balancing quality and quantity of sperm per egg. I had no anesthesia at retrievals, stimulation medications were urinary products I obtained inexpensively from Mexico and information was scare to non-existent for donor eggs. I relied heavily on the only woman-to-woman resource available, which was Mothers Via Egg Donation (MVED), the precursor to present day PVED!

When I was told my most hopeful path to take home a baby, was to ‘find an egg donor,’ I was in disbelief. I swallowed hard and felt like the prior 15 years had been one long experiment. I had to re calibrate my entire way of thinking, let go of the past and reevaluate my financial, physical, and emotional capabilities to start over with yet another uncharted option. My chance to obtain a pregnancy with donor eggs in the 90s was 12%. Could I do this? How did I feel about this? What would my family think? Should I tell my child, IF successful? The deciding question was, am I ready to remain childless or should I try this? I decided to forge forward as my desire for a child out weighed my exhaustion. I had to advertise for and find my own egg donor. Very few clinics in the U.S. had but only several egg donors. I wasn’t allowed to know anything about the donors available at clinics I’d have to travel to, and ‘a nurse’ would pick her for me. That didn’t seem right; I was already a parent who needed to consider how my child would be affected by the genes of another woman.

I learned a few things along the way as I proceeded with egg donation that may apply to women still today and some have been so hashed out in the media, on the web, at conferences, within clinical and psychological arenas, that they may have little relevance today.

• I discovered that I was treated a bit like a freak to carry a baby with another woman’s genes. I felt in many ways that I was giving my children a gift, because my own family medical history was far from stellar. I learned to be very selective about who I would talk to about egg donation.
• I learned to follow my heart and understand that the advice and opinions of others was irrelevant. It was my life, not theirs.
• I had to dig deep and find compassion for people who offered unsolicited advice because they just didn’t understand what it meant to struggle with infertility. “ Relax, go on vacation,” or “goodness my husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant.” You’ve all heard them.
• I decided that I had to be true to myself, and my natural inclination toward openness meant for me, that I was going to tell my child. Children are smart, and I didn’t want them to sense a secret when I felt there wasn’t any reason to keep one anyway.
• I began looking at families and realized that each child was a unique individual, and often did not ‘look like’ either parent or their siblings. What really made a family was anchored by relationships, not genes.

I did tell my children (I actually had my first son at 40 with that only 12% chance I was given with donor eggs, and my twin boys, with another egg donor, 4 years later). Their birth story was how wonderfully lucky they were to have three people create them instead of two!
I have continued to work full time with infertile women and egg donors since finding my own first egg donor in 1995. Each day I can make anyone’s path easier to travel than my own, and I can have this sense of wonder and obligation instilled in every part of our service to women seeking donor eggs. I can sleep peacefully at night knowing it has been a very good day and The World Egg Bank has contributed to another family’s dream.

For these reasons and many more, I have chosen to give back to a great organization such as Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED). Throughout my journey there were many people that “supported” my struggle, but none like the resources provided in MVED and PVED. It was the sense of community, the wealth of information and the hope given in each person’s story that helped to keep me committed during my toughest moments.

Diana Thomas is the Founder and CEO of The World Egg Bank. After successfully becoming pregnant, fertility specialists began approaching Diana asking for her help in finding egg donors for their own patients. She quickly discovered that there was a desperate need for a company that understood empowering recipients with information about egg donors, and the emotional sensitivity to navigate through the process of involving another person in their reproduction life. Through her own personal experience, she created a company that catered to the personal needs of intended parents as well as brought the best quality of care to the egg donors. For over 20 years, Diana’s egg donor agency , that evolved into an egg bank TWEB), has matched thousands of donors and couples nationwide and internationally. In 2004, she was one of three partners to start the first ‘frozen’ egg bank in the world. Since then, The World Egg Bank has increased egg donor options by shipping vitrified (frozen) eggs to recipient’s doctors around the globe, and as such, removed many geographic and emotional barriers for who hope to one day have a child of their own.
For more information on The World Egg Bank, please visit www.theworldeggbank.com

Why you should sign up for a paid membership to the forums

Our already private forums have recently taken a new step to move to a paid subscription base. With a community of 3,200, this was necessary to fund our continued growth and development.

Maybe you’re on the fence about ponying up and spending the $20 to pay for a year of membership. As a PVED mom myself, I’m going to tell you why you should:

· Support the community that’s supported you during your journey. Do it as an homage to that baby or those babies you get to parent. Pay it forward so we can help those future men and women who will struggle with this decision like you did.

· Help fund awareness and acceptance around egg and embryo donation. Tired of being in a secret minority? Longing for YOUR child to be met with acceptance and tolerance? That comes through outreach, education, and awareness building, and that takes funding.

· Make sure that community is around when YOU need it. Getting the baby was the easy part; what about the next 20 years?? How do you broach the disclosure discussion? What do you share with your child’s pediatrician, or teacher? How do you deal with your own feelings and fears around the process of parenting a child who doesn’t share your genetics? Stay connected with people who have experience and guidance around this topic, or who at least can hold your hand and truly understand what you’re going through.

We can all (with very few exceptions) afford to pay the $20. The fact is that there is no resource in the world like this one, no place where you can go and connect with 3,200 people just like you, who don’t think your situation is strange at all. You’re perfectly normal, even average here, and just about anyone you talk with can relate to you and your fears and feelings. Isn’t that alone worth $20? $20 is likely less than you paid for a single co-pay for one of those expensive RE appointments we all had.

I hope you’ll choose to not go it alone. Please join us and continue to help grow and evolve the community of parents via egg donation.

Very best regards,

Diana, Marna, Sue, Carole, Dana, Sharon

And

The PVED Moderator team

Parenting after becoming a parent via egg donation

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My son is almost 15 and a half. He is a classic teenager. Gone are the days of wanting to hang out with mom, or run to the store with mom, or go out for a meal with mom, or any of those fun things we moms did with our kids before they were teenagers.

I’m no longer cool.

My kid would rather hang out with his friends, text for hours with his friends, listen to his kind of music, and lecture me about how I just don’t understand the world, and that my politics are just way off the mark.

I’m also in the stupid bucket. I’ve been there for about a year, and I probably won’t come back out of it until he’s 25.

Sometimes at night after he’s gone to bed I will going to his room and for a few minutes just watch them sleep and reminisce about the time when he was in my belly, newly born and in my arms, a toddler, and a little kid. Naively, I thought for sure that since I had this kid in such a special way, through Egg Donation, and many many years of infertility that my relationship with him would be much different then perhaps the relationship I had with my mom.

Boy was I wrong.

I can remember as a teenager thinking my mom was not with it, stupid, a square, Old fashioned, too strict and such a drag. But I sure needed her, and wanted her when I was sick, scared, wanted her to intervene with dad on my behalf, or needed money.

So interestingly enough life is coming full-circle. I turned out pretty darn good, independent, self-assured, great at my job, and overall a pretty darn good egg.

My kid is turning out the same way – so my husband and I must be doing something right. He’s been accepted into a summer music program in another state where he will live for part of the summer, without us, in a dorm, independently. And he so incredibly excited about the prospect of being away from mom and dad for a period of time over the summer that he can’t stand it. And while I am crazy proud of him, his musical ability, and how well he’s doing in his craft there’s part of me that’s sad and nervous about him going away.

The point to all of this is regardless of how our children come into the world – either the old-fashioned way, straight IVF with our own genetics, Egg Donation, embryo donation, Surrogacy, adoption, or foster care they are still our kids. And as I learned from one of my very good friends Carole ( who btw is an amazing mental health therapist) it’s normal for our teenagers to behave the way that they do because they are doing what’s natural which is separating themselves from us because they are growing up and becoming adults.

And this comes full circle for me, “Love not genes makes a family” – Carole LieberWilkins, MA, MFT. And it’s true- having my kid through Egg Donation did not define me as an egg donor mother or him as an egg donor son. When Nick was brought into the world I became his mom and he became my son period.

All of that messy parenting stuff that we all experience as parents happens just the way it supposed you regardless of the genetic makeup of our kids.

So if you’ll excuse me, while I go into his room one more time and sit at his piano bench and just look around his messy bedroom, his pictures, dirty clothes, unmade bed, empty glasses,and breathe in that teenage boy smell only a bedroom of a teenage boy has- i’m going to drink it all in because one of these days this bedroom will truly be a guestroom, a library, or hopefully someplace that his kids will come back and sleep.

But the reality is they all grow up regardless of how they come into the world, and truly the egg donation aspect doesn’t factor in one iota.

What is it like to be a parent of a donor egg child? Taking the fear out of the experience.

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I was recently asked to write an article about what it means to be a parent via donor eggs and to specifically address the fear that can and does often occur during the experience. I found this request relatable as I will admit, I did experience fear. But, what I have learned is that my “fear” was only of the unknown and with all “unknowns” in my life, my desires always overcame.
At first, it is the inability to know what people will do, think and say. Then, it is more about what the child will think, feel and say. Finally, it is how you the parent will feel when impacted by all of these unknowns. While these are certainly valid “fears” or thoughts, what I have learned is that it was my first real experiences of being a mother. And honestly, these are only the beginning. Once you feel that baby kick – the fears quadruple as does the excitement. But most importantly – the “fear” of what will my child think is long past.
What this all boils down to in the end is our own insecurities. Let us think about the logic behind it. At first, we as women are devastated that we have been told we have bad/old eggs. As a young girl, it is just a given that most of us want to grow up to be a mother one day. This in itself is a lot to process. So we learn that we can in fact carry a child and all that we need to do is accept the fact that we will need to use a donor egg.
Listen ladies, this is an absolute gift that we have this opportunity. Do you realize what all must happened for us to even get pregnant with donor eggs? Our bodies must be in the perfect condition with our fluffy uterine lining and healthy hormones. Arguably, we play the biggest role in the whole event! We are the mothers to these babies from the very first heartbeat and I have learned that I must not think too much into the details other than the genetic makeup is not my own. But the personal, the memories, the milestones, the disciplines, the staying up all night worrying about their grades….that’s all mine.
Trust me, you are the only mother that exists for these little ones. I am always being asked the question “should I tell my child that I used a donor egg?” Answer: This is ultimately your decision but in this day and age, if you do not tell, be prepared to lie to them because the questions about genetics and heritage will without a doubt come up and earlier than you think. Be confident in your approach about it to your children. My advice is to introduce very small pieces to the puzzle at age appropriate times. As a mother of donor twins, my main concern was that it was not a “big deal” to them. If I wait until they are teenagers and then spill the beans, this could turn into a very big deal to them. Instead, at a very early age, I would allow them to hear my conversations with others about having a very hard time getting pregnant. Then a few years later, I talked in more detail about IVF in general. Then finally at around nine, I mentioned the eggs and needing to find a donor egg because mine would not work. I have always kept the conversation very matter of fact and with without a lot of emotions. I almost laughed to myself as I was being asked to draft this, only because I really love my story with my boys and it is almost hard to remember the fear. Now, my only fear is NOT having them.
So it starts like everyone in this position of needing donor eggs but ends a little unique. After 8 IUI’s, 1 ZIFT, and 2 IVF’s with my own eggs, I finally achieved pregnancy with my first try at donor eggs. We transferred 2 embryos and they both took resulting in my perfect little twin boys. I could not be happier or more content with my life. With the exception of not really getting much sleep, things were pretty perfect for this new mommy of two. When the twins were just five months old, I turned up pregnant with my third little boy all on my own (well I suppose my husband had a little something to do with it). Who would have thought? At first, I simply did not know how I was going to do it. Three babies in fourteen months, somebody thought it was pretty entertaining I am certain. We never quite know how everything will turn out for us but I do know that my third little boy just completed my family. I tease with my family, and friends that I bought TWO and got ONE free!
So back to the question at hand, “What is it like to be the parent of a donor egg child?” The honest answer from someone who really understands is “Exactly the same as being a parent of a biological child, there is simply no difference.” Be confident in your decision with your friends, family, and most importantly, your child.
These experiences are a huge part of who I am and I take joy in sharing my story with others. This is one of the best parts to my role at The World Egg Bank (www.theworldeggbank.com) as the Recipient Coordinator. It allows me to help families in ways that others may not be able to. I can understand from a firsthand perspective and I can articulate the rewards.

I hope this sharing of my experience can help even one person. The gift of life is absolutely amazing and I am thankful every day for the gift. And, at the end of the day – I really wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Tonya

Why don’t you just adopt?

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Why don’t you just adopt?

Contributed by PVED mom, Diana C.

Anyone who’s ever read the comments section of any given op ed piece on ART has seen the sanctimonious lambast the infertile for their “selfishness” in going to great lengths to have a genetic (or in our case, biological) child, admonishing them for wasting money that could be better spent on a litany of other causes or applications. “Why don’t you just adopt?” they sneer. “There are so many unwanted children in the world…why not take one of them?”

Thirty years ago, Robin Williams had a scathing bit about issuing crack babies to right-to-lifers, and I’ve always held that up as the gold standard for appropriate responses to unsolicited moral opining. But aside from the obvious arrogance of advising anyone to do something so life-changing , why are we willing to go to such great lengths to create our families?

Adoption is not as easy as you might think. With the plethora of pregnancy prevention tools available in the modern age and the extinction of the stigma of unmarried parenthood, there are simply fewer babies available for adoption (http://baby shortage) . And with countries like China, Russia, and Guatemala drastically restricting international adoptions, global alternatives are quickly evaporating. The result is that the lack of available infants, coupled with the heartbreak of failed matches and sometimes years of waiting has led many of us to try to make a child of our own. I wouldn’t begin to know what the national figures were, but anecdotally, there are several PVED moms who chose this path because it was the only way to start a family with a reasonable timeline and chance of success.

And to those critics who would say “why not take an older child, or one with disabilities?” I would respond, “why don’t you join the Peace Corp? Doesn’t Jimmy Carter need you building affordable housing? How IS your work down at the soup kitchen going?” Doing the highest good for the universe is something we all want someone else to be doing. Adopting a child rather than a baby is a dramatically different experience, and comes with a different set of challenges. It’s not a casual decision. Those who are not up to the task aren’t bad people; it’s just not for everyone.

So, that leaves those of us who can’t have children through traditional methods with a dilemma: live childfree or consider donor eggs or embryos. I reject entirely the idea that it’s “not supposed to be,” or any “God’s will” nonsense; if I get cancer or diabetes, I’m not going to resign myself that it’s “meant to be” and instead I’m going to fight like hell for a different outcome and employ any medical means available, without apology. I don’t believe that God gives anyone infertility for a reason any more than I believe that he gives them cancer; I think some things just happen, the luck of the draw, and I’m going to change my life for the better with every opportunity.

And circling back to the adoption question, the short answer is that we don’t adopt because we can’t, or we don’t want to. We don’t have it in us to wait any more to start a family, that the passage of time is crushing our spirits. Or, we’re willing to get past the loss of our genetics, but we still want to feel a baby stir under our ribcage, and experience birth, and nursing, and the whole ride like everyone else. Sometimes it’s because if we can’t have a baby that looks like our family, we want one who at least looks like our partner. Or, with so much of the list heartbreakingly beyond our control, we want to exercise what little control we do have over the genetics and [gestation] of the child we’re going to raise.

We’re not bad people; we just want the same things that most people have. And if you don’t like it, you can complain about it the next time you’re volunteering at homeless shelter.

Let’s get it right – Once and for all WE are our children’s mothers, not our egg donor.

Shhh mommy is bloggingThis is an open letter to all of the amazing and terrific medical personnel that we depend on daily to help keep ourselves and our families healthy.

We love you, we really do. And we thank you for all you do.

We have called you in the middle of the night to wake you out of a sound sleep because of a fever, rash, colic, or any number of ailments our children may have that seriously freak us out.

We can’t tell you how many times we are going to thank you for stitching up an eyebrow, or a forehead, casting an arm or a leg, removing a bean or a bead from our toddlers nose, or diagnosing us with a case of chicken pox, along with an assortment of other childhood illnesses.

When our children have been diagnosed with something of a more concerning nature like Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, or seriously ill with those diseases that we find even too horrific to utter we turn to you for guidance, treatment, and support.

Because I am a mom via egg donation I can attest that it truly takes a village to create and raise our families. That’s why I am reaching out today for your help. It’s important that we all use the correct language regarding egg donation, embryo donation, and surrogacy with egg donation or embryo donation.

What is very helpful to we parents via egg donation is for the medical community to listen to us as we explain the often complex way our child came to be. If you think its wild hearing it for the first time, try being a mom who finds herself answering the dreaded “maternal side” of the family health questions.

“Our son was conceived via egg donation. Genetically, I am not related to my son. But this is what we know about his egg donor, and this is her medical history.”

That really is all you have to hear, unless you are truly interested in egg donation, and what that journey is like.

What is not helpful are answers like:

“So, genetically, he is really not yours.”
“Please tell me more about the donor mother.”
“So let me get this straight, his real mom was his egg donor, but you carried him?”
“Why isn’t his genetic mother here at this appointment today?”

And my all-time favorite: “Wow, that is really kind of crazy, how does your husband feels about him having a baby with another woman?”

The egg donor is referred to as the egg donor unless the intended parents have chosen to refer to her by name, or Aunt Sally, or a nickname, or whatever they choose to refer her as. Please don’t refer to her as the “Donor Mom” because she is not my child’s mother.

I am the one who is up nights feeding, nurturing, loving, changing diapers, and carrying for this child.
I am the one who loses sleep over sickness, crying, fevers, and my child’s welfare.
I am the one who practices in her head the story I am going to be telling my child on how he was wanted, celebrated, and prepared for – and how we worked so hard despite many failures to bring him into the world with the help of a very nice lady who donated her eggs to us.
I am the one who is going to balance work and mothering, who will cry with happiness as I watch my child say his first words, or take his first steps.
I am the one who is going to sob the first time I leave him at school of any kind, watch him get his heart broken, leave for college, partner, marry, and maybe one day have his own family.

I am the one. Not our egg donor. She is going to be too busy living her own life with her own children.

So please remember when we are sitting in your exam room with our children and we have to answer the dreaded health history — when you see or hear us begin to relay to you that our children were conceived via egg donation just listen, and if you have any questions about our donors health history which is part of our child’s health history you ask about the donors health history, not the donor mom, or the genetic mom, or the real mom’s health history. Because frankly, she’s not any of those things.

We are our child’s mothers and no one else.

Is the egg donor family my son’s family?

Several years ago we learned who our egg donor was. We learned her name, we met her, and we established a relationship with her. In fact, we adore and love her – LOTS. The relationship she and my son have is actually quite lovely. Really, we couldn’t ask for a nicer person to receive genetics from to complete our family, and I often give thanks for her, and what she helped us with.

Over the years she’s attended recitals, birthday parties, she’s even had Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner with us. To the outside world that might seem sort of odd or peculiar but to us it’s just normal. It’s how life is in our family, and how we roll, and for us it works.

Luckily she lives not to terribly far away, about a 45 minute drive. We can jump in the car and meet her for a meal, or just to hang out (which we have done!) We don’t live in each others back pockets. She leads a very full and independent life like we do, and so we don’t see her every single day, or every single week – sometimes its several months. But we all keep in contact through email, cell, or texting when we don’t see each other, like other families.
Not too terribly long ago our donor and my son were texting back and forth like they do sometimes – and she asked my son if he’d like to meet her sister and her sister’s husband. When my son shared that with me I was left with “Huh, I wonder what precipitated that?” And since that time I have been mulling this over in my head thinking about what that would mean for our family.

My son is a teenager now, it’s not like he’s five. I don’t pick and choose his friends any more than he picks and chooses my friends. I may not like all of his friends but that’s just the way life is. Your kids don’t socialize and hang out with who you want them to – part of raising children is to prepare them for the world, and help them gain independence. So when this information came my way I reached out to folks in my inner circle to ask them what they thought and what they would do.

Their answers were varying. Some wanted to know if this the sisters desire to meet my son or if this was the donors desire to have them meet. I wanted to know that as well for a myriad of reasons. However, what we have all agreed upon is the premise this this needs to be my son’s decision. If it’s something he wants, not something he feels obligated to do, and I agree with that 100%.

It goes back to what I have always said which is “It is child led, every bit of it.”

This can all be very complex with many layers, as well as beautiful at the same time.

But I am still left with the same question — Is the egg donor family my son’s family? When my son and I discuss our egg donors other three or four egg donor cycles (She’s a repeat egg donor) we talk about the kids from those cycles. I have asked my son if he views those children as his half siblings and would he want me to attempt to reach out and contact them. His answer has always been “No not really, I don’t look at them as my siblings, they are just people, I don’t know them.” And so when we talked about his donor and her family he doesn’t view them as his family either. They are just people. In fact, he said that when he expressed an interest in meeting his donor and having continuing contact that didn’t mean her entire family.

I recognize each family is different in how they view what the term family means to them and what that may look like to them.

Interesting, complicated, beautiful, complex, yes?

Information Sharing: Privacy vs Secrecy

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“I’m just not going to tell him. How he got here is not important. What’s important is that he’s here.”
“I am just going to sweep it under the rug.”
“It’s my burden to bear not his, he didn’t ask for this.”
“It’s nobody’s business”
“It’s private, between me and my husband.”
“It will be my child’s story to tell if he should choose to tell it.”
“I don’t want anyone to judge him, tease him, or make life hard for him.”

Those are all the reasons that I used to tell myself daily before I underwent DE IVF to have my child.

From the moment I conceived my son via egg donation I was bound and determined not to tell him, or my family, or the world how he was conceived. I wanted to all of that behind me. I felt it was private and it was my secret and no one needed to know.

Not long after that I met an amazing fellow mom via egg donation, Carole LieberWilkins who just happened to be a therapist in this very specialized area. Carole was several years ahead of me in her journey and had the lay of the land, and had figured a whole lotta stuff out.

Carole was so patient as I rationalized my reasons for not wanting to tell my son or anyone for that matter the truth about his origins. And one of the best things she ever taught me was the difference between privacy and secrecy.

You see many people get the two confused. That’s because those two specific words are used interchangeably a lot of the time. The reality is they don’t mean the same thing.

A secret is always something that you are going to be afraid to share with anyone because you will worry what someone may think about you when they learn it. And the reason we worry about secret information is because with secret information there comes the stigma of shame because of the judgment that almost always follows.

So when we use the word privacy we really are meaning that private things are those things that are really nobody else’s business like:

• How much money you made last year.
• How much you paid in taxes.
• How often you have sex and with who.
• Special names or terms of endearment you have for each other.
• How many alcoholic beverages you drink in a week.
• If you do your housework in the buff.

Carole so wisely taught me that secrets are things that we feel shame, fear, or embarrassment about. And if you take a look at the items above and change those items from private to secret they can look like:

• Instead of how much money you made last year—you filed for bankruptcy.
• Instead of how much you paid in taxes—you didn’t file your taxes or you cheated on your taxes.
• Instead of how often you have sex with your partner you have sex with lots of other people with or without your partner, and you keep it on the down low.
• Instead of how much alcohol you consume in a week, you might not talk about how much alcohol you drink because you have a problem with your alcohol consumption. Or you abuse prescription drugs.
• And just maybe you do your housework in the buff with all your shades open because you know that the guy across the street watches.

All of the above are almost always, by most people kept secret because for many they are embarrassing or shameful. We as a society don’t often talk about the kinds of issues within families like alcoholism, spousal or child abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, or any addiction really as those things are almost always secret.

So when we talk about how we build our families becoming a parent is our goal. We utilize resources, we ask for help – (or we should be asking for help), we work through and overcome challenges and obstacles as well as working hard to achieve that dream of becoming a mom or a dad.

So let me ask you is sharing information about how your child was created really the same as bankruptcy, child abuse, lying or cheating? Of course not.

Your family building story ( As Carole so beautifully says) is a love story and while it may be a private matter — discerning carefully who and how and when to share it — it most definitely ought not to be a secret.

The other piece to this is that your child story is not just their story. It’s your story too! Your entire family shares the story of how your family came to be. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve heard tell me “This is my child’s story and I’m not the one that’s going to tell it until my child decides if they want to tell it.” So okay- yes, it is your child story but it’s the parents story as well. When I share our family story with others I am not taking anything away from my son. I am sharing my perspective and my experience. After all, it was my uterus that received the embryos, and it was my body that carried my son, and it was me that deliver him safely into the world.

I get that this whole sharing of information, disclosure stuff, can be and is often scary and overwhelming. That’s why we begin early and often, and we take baby steps. We reach out to others who have gone before us for help and support. And we learn the important distinction between the word privacy and the word secret.

What do you wish you had known?

FertilityIQ

What do you wish you had known?

Infertility itself is a huge challenge. Conceiving for many is extraordinarily difficult. And having to embark upon that journey without a guidebook, or tools, or even someone to advocate for you is often brutal.

Many individuals spend thousands and thousands of dollars, as well their precious time taxing themselves physically, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually in the hopes of becoming a parent.

“When my husband and I were going through this so many years ago I only wish I had something like FertilityIQ to help me begin my trek through this jungle we refer to as infertility to help me get my bearings and make an educated decision on where I might seek treatment.” – Marna Gatlin, Founder,PVED

Their motto : “We’re smarter together”

PVED is very excited to partner with this organization because we are all about paying it forward, educating the masses, and being our own best advocate.

We are incredibly excited that FertilityIQ is building the first truly comprehensive and trustworthy database of fertility doctor reviews. Each year, thousands and thousands of patients make the most important decision of their lives under enormous stress and with incomplete information. When you review your doctor, you’ll be sharing valuable insight that will help other patients find better care more quickly – how’s that for being your own best advocate and helping others in the process?

And to give this project a proper launch FertilityIQ Founders, Deborah and Jake Anderson-Bialis, are reaching out to our own community to share with you their vision of creating a solution to help ease and often extraordinarily overwhelming process.

They need our help – let’s reach back out and help because that’s what community is all about.

Dear PVED Members,

Finding the right fertility doctor was total, and utter, hell for us. We had no idea what the local clinics were really like and so we wasted our precious time, money and emotion with the wrong doctors. We’re Deborah and Jake Anderson-Bialis, we want to humanize and demystify this agonizing process, and we need your help to get there.

We’re building a site called FertilityIQ.comimage, where patients can read reviews of every single fertility doctor, nurse, clinic and billing department in the country. This is a service by, and for, fertility patients, and the more reviews we gather, the more we can help other hopeful parents during this nightmarish time in their lives.

As a PVED member, you have invaluable, hard-fought wisdom and your honest review of your clinic will help couples in your area to take control of this intimidating process. We urge you to take a few moments and contribute your anonymous review at FertilityIQ.com today.

It goes without saying that we will never share your name or contact information.

Additionally, we forbid doctors and clinics from advertising on our site. To ensure the content is trustworthy, we ask each patient-contributor to eventually provide some verification (e.g. a picture of a bill, or forwarded email from the clinic) that they were a real patient of the clinic they are assessing.

Thank you for taking a moment to read this. The time we spend now will be a godsend to others in the future. Hopefully we can count on your help.

All our best,

Deborah and Jake