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, Surrogates: Answering the Tough Questions and Building Strong Families, Guilford Press, London, 2005