In order to build your family, you need to use donor eggs, and you may have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand a part of you is relieved that you will increase your chances of having a baby, but on the other hand you think, “if I use donor eggs, will I regret my decision?”
It makes sense as to why that thought may cross your mind. A study done by Greenfeld and Klock found that 61% of recipients found the decision to use donor eggs a difficult one. Unless using donor eggs is something you have always known you will need, coming to terms and changing your beliefs about how your family will be formed, is not easy.
Among the many concerns that come along with using donor eggs, there are fears that the child may not look like you, fears that you may not bond with your child, or fears that once your child finds out how they were conceived, they will want to find their “real parent” and no longer look at you as their parent.
When learning that a genetic connection is no longer an option, what is most fundamental for coming to terms with infertility, as discussed by Sachs and Burns, is defining your goal. What is most important to you? Is your goal reproduction or is your goal parenthood? Play your tape forward and imagine how you want your future to look. If reproduction is the goal, and a biological child is the most important facet, then you must accept a child-free life. But if the goal is to be a parent, to raise a child, and have a family, then alternatives, including egg donation, need to be considered.
Once you have settled on your decision that being a parent is what you want, then listing all your fears and working through them will help you answer the question of ‘will I regret it?’ Here are a few common fears that intended parents think will cause regret about donor conception.
Fear 1: What if the child doesn’t look like me?
It is normal that the appearance of your child is something you think about. You may think that if your child doesn’t resemble you in some form, you may have a harder time bonding and loving your child.
The truth is, even if you selected a donor with the same hair and eye color, recessive and dominant genes will determine what traits actually come through. A couple with blonde hair and blue eyes may very well have a child with dark eyes and hair.
A baby does not need to look like you to bond with you, but for some families, similar physical traits are very important. A way to alleviate some of this concern is to find a donor who has the traits that you deem are important. Make a list of criteria (physical, and non-physical) that are important and choose a donor based on those criteria. Know that you may not find 100% of what is on your list.. Here is the thing, the appearance of your child does not have any bearing on whether you bond with your child. So what necessitates bonding? That leads us to fear number two.
Fear 2: What if I don’t bond with my baby?
It is normal and acceptable to grieve the loss of having a child that is genetically related to you. It is also normal and acceptable to worry that because your child will not be genetically yours, that you may have a harder time bonding with your child.
The truth is, a donated oocyte is but one piece of the building block required for human life. But you as a parent will play an essential, and even more important, role in your child’s entire life. It will be you who will be waking up at all hours of the night feeding, changing and comforting your child. It will be you who will be raising, disciplining, educating, and loving your child. It will be you who will be introducing and teaching your child about all the hobbies, sports, places, music, and holidays you love.
Whether your child is born via donor eggs or otherwise, bonding doesn’t happen overnight. Those who have been adopted or raised by parents who are not genetically related will tell you one thing, DNA played no role in the bond and love that was formed between them. What formed the bond was the love and caring that took place over time.
But what if you create this beautiful parent/child bond and when you tell your child about their conception story (which you should do early, and often, as we discuss here), they want to meet their donor? What does that mean? Does that mean they don’t think of you as their real parent? That takes us into fear number three.
Fear 3: What if my child doesn’t see me as their parent?
From the second your child is conceived, you are their parent legally, emotionally, and spiritually. As discussed above, the bond you make is not necessitated on DNA alone. There are many factors that contribute to bonding and the love between a parent and child only grows stronger and deeper as time goes on.
Before embarking on their egg donor journey, some parents may have a fear that the child born via donor conceived eggs may one day reject them as parents. Sometimes they are afraid to tell their child about their origins because of this fear. But research shows over and over about the importance of being upfront and honest with your child about their conception.
As your child grows older and begins to understand more, it is absolutely natural for them to be curious about their genetic make-up and to want to know more about their donor. Questions do not mean that your child is wanting to build a relationship with their donor and end their relationship with you. All of us are curious about our genetic make-up and family background so help them learn more about how they came to be.
So, will I regret using donor eggs to have my family?
Ask anyone who has had a child, born with or without some type of assistance, and they will all tell you the same thing: parenting is the greatest - yet hardest - thing they have ever done. It doesn’t matter how the child came into their lives, the role and relationship of parent and child is the same.
When working with parents who had donor conceived children, their only real regret was they wished they had done this sooner. They wished they had let go of their preconceived notions that a baby who looks like them or who shares their genes is the only way to be a parent. That bringing a child into their lives using alternative methods means the child won’t see them as their real parent, or that they will not bond.
Know this, when your baby arrives, your baby will know exactly who you are - their parent. And you will know exactly who they are - your baby.
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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