To Tell Or Not To Tell – That Is The Question
“I am never going to tell my child that he is a product of egg donation. It’s none of anyone’s business except my husband and me. No one needs to know. After all we don’t ask other people about their reproductive life”
I used to be that woman. That was me eight years ago when I first began to embark upon this journey of having a child through ART. I was afraid. Scared.to.death – that someone would find out about “our secret”. I was fearful of those disapproving looks, judgment and over all humiliation about being different.
And then I began to read about those children who discovered years later they were adopted – many found out by accident. The trauma they endured was horrible. Many children said to their parents “Mom and Dad, you lied to me about something as basic as this, what else have you lied to me about?”
I always intended my relationship with my child to be based on love, trust, respect, and honesty. How can I as a mother base a relationship about those very things when I can’t be honest from the get go?
I can’t – and couldn’t. Not unless I was going to be 100% honest from the start. My husband who has always upheld the truth no.matter.what had always maintained that the truth shall always prevail, even when I wasn’t sure if that was the best thing for our child. It took many meaningful heart-to-heart conversations for me to come around to his way of thinking.
The scenarios began to run through my head:
Scenario one – we were both killed in some sort of accident. When the will was read and our private papers gone through it was discovered that we used an egg donor. Not only would our son have to deal with the loss of his parents but that they were liars as well. I couldn’t do that to our son.
Scenario two – Our son is in Junior High or High school and in biology they do the DNA tests—and he takes a piece of my hair and does his DNA test. Guess what – the results say we are not related. He comes screaming home – “Mom you are not MY MOTHER?”
Again, I couldn’t do that to my son.
Scenario three – During a dinner party where well meaning friends or extended family is over the topic of our infertility comes up – “I remember when you and your husband had the baby – how exciting a time for you, we can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Do you ever hear from the donor mother?” SCREEEECH the conversation stops and my 15 year old son says “Mom what is Aunt Jeanne talking about, the donor mother?”
Again, I couldn’t do that to my son.
I didn’t know how to do this – but I knew I needed to make the commitment to disclose to my son early and often because I thought it only fair to him. I did a lot of reading. One book in particular Creating Life against the Odds: the Journey from Infertility to Parenthood by Lonny Higgins was invaluable to me. Lonny has beautifully written a book in language we can all grasp, appreciate, and understand about a topic that for years has been secret, taboo, and uncomfortable to talk about. Lonny has also gathered numerous first hand accounts from individuals from all over the world who have come forward to share their infertility frustrations, experiences, and stories so that we all might gain better insight — and perhaps take the word ‘scary’ out of the entire journey. While I may not be a professional book editor, I gave a great sigh of relief when I read this book because it not only validated me and my feelings regarding my experience with ART — but it also helped me gain a different perspective regarding other people and their own personal journeys. It’s a must read for anyone going through the DE process.
My first conversation felt forced and awkward. I was unsure of myself. I decided to be very simple and put it in toddler terms. I told my son basically that mommy had rotten eggs – I remember saying to him “Mommy had wotten eggs” He thought that was a hoot! And our story was that an angel lady gave us some of her magic eggs and we got to pick him out and that I grew him in my tummy. He loved that story for the longest time. And as he got older he wanted more information and I gave it to him as he asked. He’s seven now and knows about sperm and eggs and how babies are created, and will ask me specific questions about his egg donor and I answer him. I am asked sometimes if I am bothered by it. And truly I am not bothered. I am so firmly rooted and confident as Nick’s mom that his questions are really okay with me.
With all of this being said – disclosing to your child is not the same as disclosing to the world. I firmly believe that we all need to do what’s best for our families. And while I feel a child has the right to know his or her origins – I really don’t think it’s the worlds business how our children were conceived. “Are you ashamed of how he came to be?” One well meaning man asked me. Of course not! I am very proud of how my son came to be. God knows we tried long enough for him. I began my own personal quest to have children back in the early 80’s and didn’t have my son until 2000. We are firmly in the “Tell Camp” because I happen to work in this industry and this arena, but that doesn’t mean that sharing that information with the world is for everyone.
I know only too well that there are still people who don’t understand and judge those of us who grow our families through egg donation, and personally that’s very sad to me. So I will close this with what I tell every recipient/intended parent who asks me if it’s okay to tell. Of course it is – if “you” want. But remember, you can ALWAYS tell, but you can never UNTELL.
However – always always always tell your child. He or she will thank you later.