If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now

Excerpt from Chapter 4 What Do You Wish You Had known 

For many people, egg donation is uncharted territory. It can be overwhelming to consider everything, from the costs to the complex medical decisions for ensuring a successful cycle to wondering about what level of contact to have with the donor. But there are other things that intended parents sometimes don’t stop to think about until they are on the other side, parenting. So we asked families created via egg donation, “What do you wish you had known?” Here’s what one mom shared.

Irene* was thirty-four at the time of her first DE IVF cycle with a gestational surrogate.

I wish I had known that there was opportunity for an open donor. I didn’t know they existed, and my clinic didn’t inform me that I had a choice. wish I had known that many donors are willing to be identified and are just going with the clinic’s programs by staying anonymous.


I wish I knew [then] how much I would want to meet the donor. Don’t laugh, [but] I want to be her Facebook friend. I don’t want to be a close friend, but I want to be able to follow her, message her with a question if I have one, share pictures of the kids, and see her grow up over time. I don’t understand why my husband doesn’t care to meet her. 

I fantasize about meeting my donor. Would I like her? Would she like me? Would she like my kids? Would she be proud about the people they are becoming? I want to thank her for giving me the best thing anyone will ever give me. Does she understand how she changed my life?

I wish I had known that babies look like babies when they are born. They don’t look like any[one], so seeing your baby for the first time and not feeling they look like you is normal. It’s a time of intense grief and joy when they are born, and I wish I had been psychologically prepared for it. Family members say, “Oh, he/she looks so much like …” and that stings and just reinforces that you don’t have that connection.

When a woman uses a gestational carrier and an egg donor, she is what Diane Ehrensaft calls “the birth nobody.”The husband is the birth father, the carrier is the gestational mother and patient, and the intended mother is the birth nobody, completely left out of the whole process. The feeling of loneliness and isolation runs deep. 

I wish I knew [then] that the loss of genes is a lifelong loss, but it gets better over time. 

I wish I [had] understood that even if I had used my own genes, these little people [would have] develop[ed] into their own selves. They may or may not be like us. We have the fantasy that a genetic child will be a “mini me,” like what we like, be good at what we are good at, and of course, not have any of our faults. 

Irene shares sentiments felt by many parents via egg donation. The common denominator that we hear over and over again is the wish that the intended mother would’ve had the opportunity to meet her egg donor. Irene also talks about the isolation and loneliness of what she experienced in needing a gestational surrogate. Although the loss of genes involves a grieving process that must be experienced fully for closure, it is also something that we have the ability to move on from. We must recognize that the children we have, regardless of their genes, are going to become their own unique, individual people.

1 Ehrensaft, Diane, Mommies, Daddies, Donors, SurrogatesAnswering the Tough Questions and Building Strong Families,    Guilford Press, London, 2005

Talking to your child about Egg Donation – book reading Southern California

Creative Family Building (When the Easy Way isn’t Possible) 

Join therapist and author, Carole LieberWilkins, at a book reading and discussion of her book, Let’s Talk About Egg Donation, co-authored by Marna Gatlin. 

Let’s Talk About Egg Donation takes the reader on a journey from infertility diagnosis, to pregnancy, to how to talk to your child about egg donation. True stories of real families are woven throughout the book to craft an informative narrative that focuses on positive language.

This is the first book written by parents through egg donation that gives  age-appropriate scripts for  talking to kids about the special way in which they were conceived. 

Meet families that were created through donor conception, as well as a woman who has donated her eggs.  Discover the impact of DNA testing, and the beautiful and intricate tapestry created when redefining family without a genetic connection. Sunday, September 15, 2019 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue24855 Pacific Coast HighwayMalibu, CA  90265 RSVP

Required by Sept. 12 to letstalkabouteggdonation@gmail.com.  No admission without a reservation.  Light lunch will be served.

Let’s Talk About Egg Donation is hot off the press!

The wait is over!

We are thrilled to announce that, Let’s Talk About Egg Donation, is now available through Archway Publishing.


AND can also be purchased through Amazon.


Hardcover, softcover and e-Book will soon be available everywhere else that books are sold. 

Please tell us YOUR family building story at www.letstalkabouteggdonation.com

Let’s Talk About Egg Donation was written by, for, and about families built through egg and embryo donation. It takes the reader on a journey–from infertility diagnosis, to pregnancy, to how to talk to your child about egg donation. Let’s Talk About Egg Donation tells true stories of real families who are parenting via egg and embryo donation. Their stories are woven throughout the book to craft an informative, easy-to-read narrative that focuses on positive language choices. This is the first book written by parents through egg donation that gives you age-appropriate scripts for how to take the scary out of talking to your kids about the special way in which they were conceived.


The process of becoming a parent can be challenging but the longing to devote one’s life to a child does not discriminate. The feeling of wanting to hear a child say, “Daddy, come hold me” or “Mommy, I love you” is most certainly not limited by gender identification or sexual orientation.

This is the story of Kevin and Dennis from our book, Let’s Talk About Egg Donation. Kevin and Dennis were one of the first male couples in the country to have a child through surrogacy.

Kevin and Dennis had been together for ten years when they decided to bring a child into their lives. In 1992, there were very few same-sex couples who had created a child through egg donation and surrogacy. Kevin describes how the status of gay men and women at that time made it such that few ever imagined they could become parents.
Kevin tells us:

We realized only on reflection that we both had always wanted to be parents, but because of the of the societal pressure and shame of being gay, we had suppressed that desire until it was deeply hidden and felt impossible.

Like many of us, Kevin and Dennis preferred to have a child who was genetically related to both of them. Dennis’s sister offered to be an egg donor, which of course meant that Kevin’s sperm would be used. Then they needed a surrogate.

One of the loveliest parts of this equation is that their little girl grew up in a family where she knew her genetic history, which included the two loving women who helped her into the world.

Kevin and Dennis asked Kevin’s cousin Sandy to carry for them, and she agreed. Even though they were family, they knew contracts were necessary to legalize the arrangements between them. They went to a reproductive attorney, and together they figured out how to do this…This process was so unusual at the time that Kevin and Dennis had to locate and then convince a doctor who was willing to do IVF for them…

and how lucky that they persevered, that Dennis’s sister was willing…and that eventually one out of all those embryos transferred to Sandy’s uterus became their daughter, Chelsea, now twenty-four years old.

They subsequently went to court and had Dennis’s name put on the birth certificate so that they were both legal parents. Today this is no longer necessary in certain “surrogacy-friendly” states such as California. In those states, an order is issued by the court prior to the birth so that the intended parents are the legal parents from the beginning.

We asked Kevin and Dennis about the relationship the family now has with Chelsea’s aunt, the woman who contributed the egg. They all work together in the family business. Dennis’s sister now has two children of her own, whom Chelsea thinks of only as her cousins. Neither Chelsea nor her two cousins think of themselves as half siblings.

From the moment of her birth, Dennis has been Daddy, and Kevin has been Dad.

…Early in the process, Dennis and Kevin saw a psychologist who gave them advice to “answer honestly and simply to every question.”


We were told not to over-explain. When Chelsea was three, she asked, “Where did I come from?” I said, “A tummy.” She said, “Whose?” And I said, “Sandy’s.” She said, “Did she give me away?” And I replied, “Oh no! You need a boy and a girl to have a baby. So Sandy loved us so much she said she would help us. So we took you and put you inside of her until you were ready to come out, and then we got to take you home.” She said, “Well, that’s good, because I always wanted a Daddy and a Dad anyway.” When she was almost ten, she asked about who donated the egg, and we told her [it was] her Auntie Helene. She was beyond thrilled. She said she fit right in between both her Dad and Daddy and was so grateful. She always considered her Auntie Helene just that—her auntie. She never felt like she was her mom, although they are very close. She always just called her Auntie Helene.

The recommended approach for helping kids understand how you created your family is to begin at the beginning, when a child is an infant, and then practice, practice, practice until you have the story comfortably rolling off your tongue. Kevin and Dennis waited until Chelsea asked whose egg had been used to conceive her, and that seemed to work just fine for them. Many kids may be curious about that much earlier. Other families are more comfortable when all those details are integrated into the story all at once, with the information woven into the fabric of family life, including the identity of the special helper who made it all possible.

Let’s Talk About Egg Donation will be available everywhere books are sold-
Summer 2019

Letting Go, Moving On: Chapter 6

Over the many years that Carole and Marna have helped intended parents with their family building journey, grief has been a common denominator with most intended parents. Making peace with the loss of your genetic link to a child can be extraordinarily difficult.

In Chapter 6 of Let’s Talk About Egg Donation we explore grief, loss, letting go, and moving on.

”The sadness we feel over the loss of our genetic offspring is grief. But unlike the grief we feel when a real person dies, infertility grief means saying goodbye to someone who was never really here. When there is an actual death, we have ritual around it. Sometimes we have funerals and wakes and make social calls. We go to church or temple, and we often light candles. But when we are told that we need genes from someone else in order to conceive—when we need to confront that our child may not look like us, be like us, laugh like our grandparent, or have our partner’s intelligence—no one brings us a casserole, and no one says they are sorry for our loss. There is no name to give to a person whom we never got to meet, even though we feel like a real person has passed. We feel that way because the person has been so real to us for so long, even if we didn’t realize it.

Delilah felt very connected to her genetics. Letting go of having a child genetically related to her was very difficult, as she shares below:

“There was huge grief for me. My family has great genes (healthy, long-lived, kind, smart, good-looking people), and it really hurt to think I would be losing that connection. My husband was sad about it too. He didn’t want to be much involved in the donor search—he left that to me, and then we discussed the ones I’d tentatively found. I spent almost a year searching for an uncannily good match in a donor who was also proven and finally found one … there were several we were interested in, and once I saw that there were a lot of good donors, it felt better.”

Marna was very proud of her Native American history. Letting go of that piece of her genetics was difficult as we see in her vignette below:

“I belong to a Native American Indian tribe. When I had my son, I approached the tribe to see about having him registered with my tribe. I was very transparent and honest about his conception and the egg donor piece. The tribe was very kind and left it up to me to decide if that was something I wanted to do. After thinking about it for a very long time, I decided that I would not have him registered with my tribe because he truly is not a Native American Indian. He’s English, Norwegian, Italian, and Irish. That’s his ancestry. Will I still share my Native roots with him, pass down stories from my family, and talk to him about the Indian tribe I identify with? Absolutely. But the reality is he’s not Native American. And he never will be. And that part was difficult for me to let go of.”

Genetic loss also affects partners. Here is John describing his feelings about not being able to have a child with his wife’s genes.

I didn’t want to create a life with another woman. I wanted my wife’s genetic child for all the reasons I love her. But in the end, the mother she is to our daughters are proof that we did indeed create a child together, just not with her DNA.

Not everyone experiences the sense of grief and loss described above. A few, like Jayne, feel disappointed if their child does not receive the positive attributes for which a donor was chosen.


“I have a nearly five-year-old OE (own egg) daughter and a just-turned-two-year-old DE daughter. I’ve honestly never mourned the loss of my genes with [my] DE daughter, perhaps because I already have an OE daughter. Yes, I worry about the complexity of having a daughter who is not genetically related to me and what that might mean for her, but I’m not upset for myself that we don’t share genes.

Yet I think I’m disappointed—not disappointed in my DE daughter but disappointed for her because it doesn’t appear that she has inherited any of those things that I admired in the donor and thought were so much better than what my gene pool had to offer. In my mind I had already played out conversations I would have to have with my OE daughter, where I would be apologizing that she didn’t get the beautiful/clever/interesting gene pool of the donor. And now I’m realizing that perhaps my genes weren’t that second class after all, as my OE daughter is every bit as beautiful and clever as [my] DE daughter.”

For more sneak peeks from our book, stay tuned to our blog Let’s Talk About Egg Donation-available everywhere books are sold.
Summer 2019

Feelings toward the Donor: Chapter 5

As we look through chapter 5 in Let’s Talk About Egg Donation we explore those feelings we may have towards our egg donor.

It’s very common to have all different kinds of feelings about the women we select to help us become mothers and fathers. We are using their genes in order to have a baby because, for whatever reason, we can’t with our own. Our feelings can vary wildly—sometimes we feel maternal and protective toward our egg donor; sometimes we feel like a big sister, friend, or aunt; and sometimes we feel nothing at all. At other times we can feel insecure, unsure, or even sad.

More often than not, we have feelings of gratitude and kindness toward the young women whose genes we use to build our families. We hear a lot of parents express gratitude.

Some intended parents start out anonymous but then became known. Here’s one excerpt from Stacey:

“Our donor was unknown, but prior to our cycle, [she] became known to me through a funny set of circumstances. It was an usual situation to have what was considered a known donor that I didn’t really know. We bonded pretty quickly, but I was still guarded. We went hand-in-hand through the cycle. As we grew closer, I still questioned how much I wanted her involved in our family. I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never been through it before. So I just felt my way through, day by day.

After our son was born, our donor just became part of the family. There was some awkwardness initially, but that went away pretty quickly. She assumed the auntie role, and I welcomed it. She is the sister I always wished I had. I can’t imagine my life without her or the amazing gift she gave us. The more I got to know her and experience her wonderfulness, the more grateful I was that our son would have one more person in his life that loves him so dearly—actually, two. Her teenage son adores our son. He totally gets the donor thing. He’s even schooled adults about it. So we hit the jackpot, in my opinion.”

There are some parents who have chosen the anonymous route and have stayed anonymous because that’s what works best for them. Here are excerpts from Joan and Jessie:


“Our egg donor was anonymous. To the extent that I feel anything toward her, I am simply grateful for her contribution to our wonderful sons coming into the world … although I know a lot about her from her donor profile, I don’t truly know her. I do think of her at least a few times a week, with gratitude.”


“Our donor was anonymous, and I really don’t feel anything towards her and don’t really think about her at all now. At the time I was going through the process, I thought about her a lot, and I am very grateful for everything she has done for me.”

Stay tuned to our blog for more Let’s Talk About Egg Donation-available everywhere books are sold.

Summer 2019

Let’s Talk about Egg Donation: Chapter 9

Here is an excerpt from chapter 9 in our book Let’s Talk About Egg Donation where we suggest scripts for talking to kids and others about how you built your family.

When Do I Begin?

“Hey, Mom,” Daniel called out. “Can that donor lady come over for dinner tonight? Then she can go home again.” 

You never know what kids are going to ask. One minute they are not the least bit interested in knowing anything about the donor; the next, they want to know if her favorite color is purple. 

Beginning conversations with your children long before they may fully understand egg donation sets the stage for casual conversations at unexpected times. This allows you to demonstrate for your children that how you created your family is a subject like all others—it does not need the right time or the right place to be discussed. Whenever your child has a thought or a question, your child will know he or she can simply ask you. Although that may seem really terrifying to you at this moment, by the time this actually occurs, you will find you really enjoy talking to your children about the amazing way you found to create your family. 

There are no right answers. You don’t have to know exactly what to say. Your child is not only looking for answers; your child is looking for engagement, willingness, honesty, and validation that her or his curiosity is something you embrace. The answers we give kids are not nearly as important as how we approach their questions. Children are curious about so many things and certainly say the “darndest things.” We encourage our children to ask a lot of questions, and we delight in their adorable questions. “How high is up?” “Where does the sun go when it’s nighttime?” “Where was I before I was your little girl?” To children, there is no difference between asking these questions and asking whether the donor liked the color purple or was great at basketball. Our job is to be as comfortable as we can with the way we became parents so that we can talk to our kids as casually about egg donation as we do all their other many questions.

Stay tuned to our blog for more Let’s Talk About Egg Donation-available everywhere books are sold.

Summer 2019

Selecting your egg donor: Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Selecting Your Egg Donor

The process of selecting an egg donor can be filled with trepidation. It can be scary, intimidating and overwhelming.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 2 that talks about the process of selecting an egg donor.

How Do I Choose?

It’s very helpful if you get yourself some support at this point in the process. Parents via Egg Donation (PVED) is a nonprofit organization with an active online forum (www.pved.org). There, thousands of parents and intended parents from all over the world who communicate daily regarding all aspects of egg donation, embryo donation, and surrogacy. (Other support networks are listed in the Resources section at the back of this book.)

Next, get your head in the game. Donor selection is not like purchasing a big-ticket item, such as car or a house. This is about creating life and having a baby—you can’t trade your child in! This means that you will be giving a lot of thought to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual qualities you believe are important when choosing your donor. Some intended parents find it helpful to make a list of the qualities important to them.

Remember that no matter which egg donor you select, your child will be one you and your partner (if you have one) create and give life to. The child will be exclusive and special to your own family, and he or she wouldn’t be coming into this world if not for the love that you have to give. Most importantly, regardless of eye color, hair color, height, or other physical characteristics, you are going to love, honor, and cherish this child—because this child is going to be your child.

“I narrowed it down from a pool of about ten that I had selected from various agencies, then picked based on looks, intelligence/drive, previous successful donations, and family history … and I wanted it to be open so my kids could find her later if they wanted to or had questions. We talked on the phone, and I discovered our personalities were very similar. My doctor kept telling me how impressed she was with her while she was going through the process, so that was encouraging. Then I met her at her retrieval, and we looked like we could be sisters. It was a great choice.” – Marie

Today we know that there is no such thing as anonymity, but at the time Juana was choosing, unidentified or non-directed donors were still referred to as ‘anonymous.’

“We used an anonymous donor. Our clinic had a database of about twenty women to choose from. My husband and I came up with a plan to go through their profiles separately and then bring our top three choices to each other. We both ended up picking the same one, hands down. Neither of us picked a second and third choice because we were so excited about the first choice! We liked her because she shared physical characteristics of me, but also her personality was very similar. (Our clinic has extensive profiles with several essay questions that give us a good idea [of] what kind of person she is). She seemed very real and not like she was just writing what prospective IPs [intended parents] wanted to hear. When we told our nurse which donor we picked, we also found that she had donated several times prior, and all had resulted in successful pregnancies, so that helped as well! ” – Juana

Let’s Talk About Egg Donation is coming to bookstores near you Summer 2019

Chapter One: Diagnosis

An excerpt from our diagnosis chapter of Let’s Talk About Egg Donation. One intended mother recalls her meeting with her physician upon learning that she would require the help of an egg donor to become a parent.

“The doctor called me into his office to give me the talk about moving on to donor eggs. He said I would have to do egg donation if I wanted to be pregnant. I went deaf and numb. After the first few words, I couldn’t hear him. I needed to go home. I looked to my right and saw only the empty chair my husband should have been in. I knew he would feel dreadful that he was not there that day, and no one could have predicted it would be the Day of Trauma. The shelves behind the doctor’s seat were filled with books that certainly should have told him how to help me conceive. The titles blurred. I desperately tried to hold it together.

I had a forty-five-minute bus ride to get home, and I knew that when I got there, Dave would not yet be home. I willed myself, one minute at a time, not to completely
disintegrate right there on the bus with all those people. Ten minutes, then eleven. Twenty. Halfway there. My brain was oatmeal. I focused on not missing my stop—the stop I knew like my I knew my own name. Half an hour passed. I couldn’t call anyone because I could not think. Forty minutes. At last.

I barely got the key in the door and shut it behind me when I leaned my back against a wall, slid down it, and fell apart. I completely lost it. My heart was pounding in my ears. I knew I was in shock and was so alone. I remember thinking that no one knew what I was feeling, and I could finally let it out.” – Terri, Mom to three beautiful kids conceived via egg donation.

The hardest thing about reproductive loss is saying goodbye to someone we never said hello to. Our sadness and depression over the loss of our genetic offspring are a form of grief. But unlike the grief we feel when a real person dies, infertility grief means saying goodbye to someone who was never really here. When there is an actual death, we have ritual around it. We have funerals and wakes, or we sit shiva and make social calls. We may go to our places of worship, and often we light candles. People bring casseroles to our homes and say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” But when we are told that genetic children aren’t possible and that we will need someone else’s DNA in order to conceive, we have to confront that our child may not look like us, be like us, laugh like our grandparents, or have our partner’s intelligence. It is a big deal—but no one brings you a casserole or says they are sorry for your loss. There is no name to give to a person who died, even though you feel exactly as if a real person has passed. That’s because the person—your genetic child—has been so real to you for so long, even if you didn’t realize it.

Chapter One- Diagnosis: “Let’s Talk About Egg Donation”
Summer 2019

Meet The Authors!

Let’s Talk About Egg Donation, the brainchild of Carole LieberWilkins and co-author Marna Gatlin has been eight years in the making! For years Carole and Marna had many many conversations about the lack of any book on the market that would help parents talk to their kids about their donor conception–a book that would share real stories from real people about their journey through egg donation. 

Marna Gatlin

Founder and Executive Director, Parents via Egg Donation      

One rainy afternoon in Portland over coffee,  Carole and Marna had their very first brainstorming session and Let’s Talk About Egg Donation was born. 

There were no books at the time on the market for donor conceived children or their parents about talking to their children about their donor conception story. Both Marna and Carole felt strongly that a book like this was needed in the egg donation and embryo donation community.

Marna Gatlin is the Founder and Executive Director of Parents via Egg Donation (PVED). Having kids and being a mom was something Marna always thought she would do. But that’s not the way it worked out—at least not for her. Marna struggled with infertility for many years, until in the winter of 2000 when she had her son through egg donation. Marna, like many of the intended parents she talks with on a daily basis, struggled with her own genetic link loss as she wrapped her head around the idea of egg donation.

When Marna first learned about egg donation, she was curious, excited, and, above all, hopeful that this process might be the conduit for her to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a mom. As she began her quest to learn about egg donation, she was extraordinarily frustrated by the lack of information available about this particular kind of assisted reproductive technology. Marna wanted education and support. She also wanted to be empowered. However, back in the late 90’s, there wasn’t much in the way of education, support, or empowerment. In fact, during her pregnancy she was pretty much on her own, except for her husband, family, and a small email support group that she clung to. This support group was truly herlifeline.

After her son was born, Marna felt isolated and alone during what should have been the happiest time of herlife. She didn’t want anyone considering or parenting after egg donation to go through what she did alone, so she decided to create an organization that would embrace every parent who had chosen egg donation to grow their family. Marna wanted to welcome traditional parents, single mothers and fathers, as well as gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals into a warm community. Like many of these individuals Marna recognized they didn’t have the means to receive support to become educated, empowered, or have a voice. She knew they often felt lonely, isolated, or like they didn’t belong. And so Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED) was born.

Marna’s broader vision was to create a global resource for unbiased, timely, and accurate information about egg donation, eliminating the need to scour the Internet for answers. Today, PVED is home to thousands of members who share emotional support, as well as egg donor, clinic, agency, and medication protocols; mental health questions; legal concerns; anecdotes; and other information about egg or embryo donation on a daily basis.

Carole LieberWilkins

Marriage and Family Therapist, Los Angeles

After being diagnosed with significant Premature Ovarian Failure at the age of 30, Carole first became a mom via adoption to her son, Alex, now 32 years old. She was present at the moment of birth and his dad cut the umbilical cord. Then, wanting to add to their family, she ‘accidentally’ became a pioneer when she became one of the first few people in the world to receive a “donated” egg.  Daniel, now 31, is one of the first 11 people in the world born through egg donation.  

Carole’s career was launched with the passion to help families tell the truth about donor conception with all the enthusiasm that she felt when she talked to her own kids about their genetic connections to others and the story of how they became a family.  Through warmth and storytelling and engaging together, parents can discover what their kids are thinking and feeling and guide the discussions from there.  For three decades now, Carole has been helping individuals create healthy families by guiding them to the path that is just right for that family.  And when that means parents and kids don’t share genetic connections, Carole helps them begin the lifelong process of weaving their family building story into the fabric of the family life.  

For over 25 years, at lectures, conferences and her private practice in Los Angeles, Carole has been asked her if there was a book that talked about how to talk to kids about donor conception, or how to navigate the process to get there.  And there wasn’t.  So, finally, Carole and co-author, Marna Gatlin, created a soup-to-nuts book about egg and embryo donation, whose focus is on information sharing.  LET’S TALK ABOUT EGG DONATION, is finally arriving July 2019!

facebook twitter