For those who are deep into the nuances of their own fertility, the idea of needing donor eggs is something that may not come easily at first. This may have been something that you vaguely considered as an option. Now that it appears this will be your best route to parenthood, all kinds of emotions can surface.
But don’t let that deter you from moving forward with a fertility plan that may offer you a chance to build the family you’ve hoped for. Building your family via an egg donor can be an option that brings you greater chances of success in building the family of your dreams. Still, it doesn’t come without concerns, all of which are incredibly normal.
If you’ve been working to build your family through your own IVF cycles, you may have already faced grief and loss. For some people, the idea of increasing chances of success with donor eggs is a relief. But for others, it may take some getting used to.
All kinds of fears may be percolating. You might have questions like:
- What if I can’t bond with the baby?
- What if my child doesn’t look like me?
- What if the child is mad when they find out?
- What if my family rejects the donor-conceived child?
- What if I just can’t forget that we aren’t genetically related?
Believe it or not, many successful parents of a donor-conceived child had to move through these same fears to get to a place where they felt comfortable claiming this route for themselves. So, while these fears may feel overwhelming and feel like you can’t possibly overcome them, nothing could be more untrue.
Strategies for gaining confidence
Begin by giving yourself credit for the journey you’ve already been on to put yourself in a position to have this child. Be proud of yourself for all the early mornings in traffic shots given, time in waiting rooms for bloodwork and ultrasounds, and, yes, for handling the expense of it all.
Think about it, many times children are conceived with virtually no thought. But you can one day tell your child about all the steps you took to get them to be a part of the family. How wanted and loved they were. I think of this as a story of loving a child so much that you would have done anything to bring them into the world.
If you’re worried about your child perhaps one day looking at you differently, the answer is to be transparent and open from the beginning (research shows normalizing the truth early on leads to better outcomes). If you speak to your child from the start about how they came from an egg given by a very generous woman and you and your partner weave it into your family narrative of how much you wanted this egg and how lucky you were to get it, this can help decrease any shame or stigma attached to it. Your child will always know where they came from and how wanted they were, and will look at you with that in mind.
But what about not being able to forget that this child doesn’t share your DNA? In my opinion, fears like this are not something to move past, they’re something to move through. It’s about living with this in whatever shape it takes. It's about coming to realize that love is boundless, as is the definition of family.
I have met with many families who have been built via egg donation. And all of them say the same thing. After the child is born and they begin their new life, they rarely think about it. All the worry melts away. The child is yours and you know that this exact family is the way things were meant to be.
Throughout your fertility journey, you’ve already had to continue to adjust your expectations about how this was going to go and how your family was going to look. This has not been easy and likely has taken a toll. This can be very draining. You need to be gentle with yourself and your partner. Show yourself some compassion and grace as you hold these feelings and process them. The idea is to get inside the feeling and move through it.
If a negative feeling comes up, allow yourself to have it. Give yourself permission to experience these feelings. Then, make space to safely indulge yourself in whatever way helps you to cope.
This may mean designing a ceremony such as lighting a candle or planting a garden to deal with your grief. You might think about writing a letter to the child you were unable to conceive and how hard you tried. The fact is, not being able to use your DNA can still feel like a loss. Some find this kind of approach very meaningful, however, it is not for everyone. If it feels somewhat forced to you, try something else.
Some look to the donors themselves for connection. They may point out how they also played the violin in middle school, or ran track, or even how they also had dark curly hair or were the same height.
Airing your worries
Talking is also an effective way to allow yourself to process feelings. This may mean talking honestly with your partner if you have one, a close friend, or a therapist. It’s all about having a safe space to discuss your feelings. .
For those who do choose to speak to a therapist, I would recommend trying to find somebody who specializes in the fertility or third party-reproduction space. There are many great general therapists who can help you with a wide variety of issues. But working with a specialist means you don’t have to spend time helping your therapist understand what you’re going through.
It can also be extremely helpful to talk with others who have either already been through the donor egg process or who are considering this like you. With having what may be conflicting emotions, being able to share your concerns with others who can relate can be invaluable. Don’t forget to check out our Instagram community to find others who are building their families through donor eggs.
Throughout it all, be gentle with yourself. Pick and choose the strategies that feel right to you in building a family this way. You may imagine yourself in 15 or 20 years telling someone else how happy you were with the family you built and the strategies that worked for you.
Dr. Saira Jhutty is a licensed clinical and industrial organizational psychologist in private practice specializing in fertility. She is also a Founding Medical Advisor for Cofertility, and has spent the last 11 years focusing on assisting people build their families using third-party reproduction. Dr. Jhutty’s expertise lies in the evaluation of and consulting with potential surrogates and egg donors, and meeting with intended parents to discuss their decision to use alternative methods to build their family. In the past, Dr. Jhutty worked as Director of Surrogacy and Egg Donation at Conceptual Options, previously leading all gestational carrier and egg donor assessments there. Through her work with Cofertility, Dr. Jhutty provides guidance to ensure Cofertility remains at the forefront of ethical standards, including egg donor screening, intended parent counseling, and support for donor conceived children and families. For all members of Cofertility’s Freeze by Co egg freezing programs, she also makes herself available for office hours, through which members may ask questions directly within our private community.
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