FEAR FEAR FEAR #scarednotscared!
What Intended Parents Originally Want
Each year I communicate with thousands and thousands of intended parents and parents via egg donation and embryo donation. When the conversation of egg donation rolls around to anonymous egg donation and known egg donation in the beginning I hear a lot of the following which is what I refer to as “A parent’s knee jerk reaction to a very complicated process.”
“We want to just get pregnant, have our baby, raise our family and not think about any of this.”
“The egg donor piece isn’t important, me being my sons mother is. That’s all that matters.”
“How my child got here doesn’t matter, the fact my child here is.”
“I don’t want to see her picture or her face. I don’t want her face taking up headspace.”
“I don’t want to think of the donor every time I look at my child.”
Many parents are just simply terrified.
• They are terrified that their children won’t love them.
• They are terrified their children won’t look like anyone in their family but only the donor.
• They are terrified that their children will want to be with their donor and not them, or like their donor more than themselves.
• They fear the questions they will may be asked by those that don’t know, or those that do know.
• They fear how complicated their lives might become.
• They fear their children will marry a donor sibling by accident.
• They fear their children will be treated differently.
• They have a resistance to more information BEFORE the cycle or (are you crazy!?!) meeting a donor before a cycle.
It’s all just wrapped up in fear.
Anonymous Selection Remorse
People as you know change their minds. We change our minds a lot about a great many things, and anonymous egg donation is one of them.
Remember the thousands of intended parents who I communicate with yearly about egg donation? About 65% of them initially embark upon anonymous egg donation because they feel initially its “easier, less messy, and clearly they think not as complicated.” Then the baby arrives, and they love their baby, they become invested in their baby, their baby is amazing, they share their joy, love, and happiness with their community, family, etc…. and they realize something is missing. And that is something is information about their donor — and not just the standard stuff on the profile. They haven’t met the donor, they haven’t heard her voice, they haven’t heard her thoughts, or learned anything personal about her that they can one day share with their children.
They read things like this in the PVED community forum:
“When I met my donor for coffee at Starbucks I wanted our meeting to last forever. The hour just flew by. I wanted to remember every little thing about her. The way she held her coffee cup. Her laugh. The way she nervously picked at her nail and smiled shyly when I asked her about college, if she had a boyfriend, and what she wanted to do five years from now. All of these things I want to remember to tell my son or daughter if they should one day ask.”
“We have a known donor, she lives about 20 miles away and we see her about 4-5 times a year for lunch, or dinner, or just to hang out. My son who’s a teenager adores her, and they both have a pretty great relationship. I used to think this might bother me, or I’d be nervous but I’m not. She’s sort of an extension of our family, and it works for us. If our son has questions about the side of himself I know nothing about he can ask her, they have that kind of relationship.”
“I fondly think of our donor much like a little sister, or maybe even a daughter. I am clearly old enough! When I met her and heard her talk with much passion about her nursing career that made me really happy because I am a critical care nurse and I love my job like she does hers. It’s something we have in common. She is analytical and logical like myself. She has a nice smile, and laughs easily. We share the same dry sense of humor. I hope my children have her blue eyes and dimples. I always wanted dimples.”
“I cannot imagine not knowing my donor. She has her own life with her own family. We skype a couple times a year. When she comes to Los Angeles to see her family we all get together, even with her parents. It’s great showing her what a wonderful person my daughter is becoming. She (my donor) and I share a lot of laughter and fondness with each other over my daughter.”
When those parents who initially went the anonymous route, have their children and hear stories like those above 75% of those parents wish they had originally agreed to a known donation cycle or chosen the option to register with something like The Donor Sibling Registry. They then call us to ask us if we will advocate for them as they contact their clinics or agencies to ask if they will reach out to their donors.
What Kids do When They Come and Ask Questions?
At some point in time if a parent via egg donation has shared their child’s story of how they were conceived that child is going to begin to ask questions. It’s inevitable.
• What is her name?
• Is she pretty?
• Is she tall?
• What does she look like?
• Does she like chocolate like me?
• Does she have kids?
• How old is she?
• Can she draw a picture?
• Is she nice?
• Can she come over for dinner?
• Will I get to meet her?
• Do you like her mommy?
• What do her eggs look like?
Kids just want information like you and I do so they can put the pieces to this giant puzzle together. Their donor is what I refer to as their “invisible” half. It’s the other piece about themselves that they don’t know about. It’s very normal and natural for kids to want to know about their genetics and who that other person is that helped them be born.
To Help Your Client/Patient Not Freak Out
As we all know fear is very powerful and can manifest itself in many ways. As an agency, egg bank, clinic, or mental health therapist you are all in a good position to ease the way for intended parents who are fearful about meeting an egg donor, participating in a known or open egg donor cycle, and possibly having continuing contact with their egg donor.
It’s reassuring for intended parents to hear:
• Egg donors don’t donate to become parents. They want to help their intended parents, and they want to be compensated fairly for doing so. They don’t donate to become creepy stalkers.
• Egg donors generally care about the people they help. They want the cycle to be successful, and they their intended parents to become Mom’s and Dad, and be happy.
• They are generally interested in the outcome for their own benefit.
• Egg donors do not want to “parent from your back pocket”.
• Most egg donors want to please their intended parents by doing well and producing many eggs.
• Many egg donors are nervous just like the intended parent.
• Many egg donors go on and finish their education, begin a career, partner and begin families of their own.
• Their lives are full and they don’t have time to pine away and sit and think about the family they donated for. In other words they generally do not stalk their intended parents on Facebook to look at photos of their intended parents children.
• Any and all contact is a two way street. That means both parties agree, and intended parents do have a say in the kind of contact they desire.
• Meeting your egg donor doesn’t mean you have to invite her to birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Chanukah unless of course you want to.
And Finally – What Parents Wish They Had Known
After all is said and done, the monies are paid, the tears are shed, the pregnancy has come and gone, and your intended parents are now parents and actually parenting there are many things over the years they have shared with myself and the community of PVED of what they had wished they had known.
• “I wish I had known I had the ability to change clinics. I thought I was married to a clinic and felt like I couldn’t select a different clinic.”
• “No one could have prepared me for the shock of how expensive all of this is.”
• “Choosing an egg donor was brutal. After my 10th profile, they all began to look alike. I began to second guess myself. Do I want the donor with the high IQ? Do I want the donor who has high SAT’s? Do I want the donor who looks like me but who has the uncle with an alcohol problem and a brother with ADD? It was just all so crazy.”
• “That finding an egg donor was going to be a full-time job. I don’t know how Marna and sits and listens to us all day long. I made myself and my husband crazy talking about all of this all day long.”
• “No one told me I could fire my agency. It wasn’t until I went through three donors with them that weren’t passed medically that I finally called PVED and got my wake up call. I thought I had to stick with them until I had my child. I learned that lesson the hard way and $15,000 later.”
• “That I would become so attached to my donor, and how crushed I would be when they denied her because she had a genetic issue. This was a girl I just saw on paper and in photos. I hadn’t met her. I just loved what she wrote on her profile and I knew I would love to have a child from her genetics.”
• “It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. My children are now 5 and 7. We have the ability to contact our donor if we want, and we’ve exchanged emails. She’s not this big scary person who wants to come to my house and kidnap my kids. She even offered me her two kids because they were driving her crazy – ha ha!”
• “I wasn’t prepared for how emotional this process would make me. I wasn’t prepared to care about another person that I would be receiving an egg from.”
• “The grief. Mourning my genetic link loss was the hardest thing I have ever done aside from burying my father. PVED helped me find a therapist that walked me through the grief process. My child is now three. I love him more than I have words to express. But I still think about the loss of my genetics. It doesn’t paralyze me like it used to, but it’s still there.”
• “I didn’t realize what a hit my marriage would take. During the cycle I wondered if we were going to make it. The stress was overwhelming. Some days I really didn’t like my husband or anyone for that matter.”
• “That it was all going to be okay. Marna told me it was all going to be okay, and one year from our initial conversation she would call me and ask me how I was doing through all of the sleep deprivation of having a new baby. She did call me one year later. I happily reported to her that I was exhausted! My baby is my world, and really she was right it was going to be okay and it’s okay!”
• “I wish I had known that egg donation isn’t always a silver bullet. Sometimes it doesn’t work. It didn’t work for me the first time. It didn’t work for me the second time. Finally, on my third try it worked. I was so naïve when I delved into egg donation. I believed what everyone told me and not all of the information was good or accurate.”
• “I didn’t need permission to stop. I could stop treatment anytime I wanted. No one was twisting my arm to discontinue egg donation and go on to adoption. I had to have a therapist tell me that. My doctor wasn’t telling me that, after 4 failed cycles.”
• “How hard it was going to be to decide what to do with our left over embryos. We had three kids in four years. We had 8 embryos left. These were little people we had created and the 8 embryos were 8 potential little people. The idea of parting with those 8 embryos was difficult. We donated them to two other couples through PVED, and we know the two other families. That makes us feel good knowing that those embryos were given a chance at life.”
• “How long this was going to take. From start to finish we dedicated 5 years to have one baby.”
• At age 50 having a child is crazy. We love our two kids. We love them with every fiber of our beings. But having our first baby at 48 and our second at 50. We are tired all the time. We get asked routinely if we are their grandparents. We just smile and say “Screw you” in our heads, and say “No we got a late start.” I never miss a hair appointment. I don’t think I will ever stop dying my hair.”
• “How much it bugs me that my kid doesn’t look like me, but how happy I am that I am not passing down my families crappy genetics.”
• “That stalking my donor on Facebook was a mistake. We agreed to an anonymous egg donor. Our cycle was quick, and within two short months I was pregnant. During my pregnancy I re-read her profile I became curious. I took her photo and googled her information and found her easily. I knew it was wrong. But I wanted to learn more about her. I wish I hadn’t.”
• “I wish I had registered with The Donor Sibling Registry. I would have more choices and more options.”
• “I had met my donor before my cycle. Now, I only have a piece of paper and a few photos.”