When my husband and I decided to pursue fertility treatments, we thought that if the IUIs (intrauterine inseminations) didn't work, the worst case scenario would be several rounds of IVF. When perusing online fertility blogs and articles, my eyes would skim over ones with donor eggs or adoption. Because after all, I wasn't going to need to go that far. I mean, come on, it's IVF. It's state-of-the-art technology that gets women pregnant all the time. Donor eggs were for women who were older (not me) or who had some sort of medical condition affecting their eggs (again, of course that wasn't me.)
So imagine my shock when at twenty-seven years old, the doctor sat us down after multiple failed attempts at IVF and gently told us, "I think we're now looking at donor eggs."
IVF has become fairly common. At least enough that hardly anyone would bat an eye when I would explain to them that we were doing it. But it wasn't until I was waist deep in the donor egg process that realized how taboo it still is.
"It's no different than your husband having an affair!" the religious websites would cry.
"Donating eggs should be outlawed!" other articles would proclaim.
And yet here I was, terrified of not having children at all, but too overwhelmed and broke now to even consider adoption. Some women can quickly come to terms with adoption, because they just want a child. Me, I wanted to experience pregnancy and labor. Also, if I couldn't use my eggs, I wanted our baby to be at least genetically linked to my husband. Once I decided these things though, I came to the realization that donor eggs can come with a lot of grey areas. Not only is there the actual process to undergo a donor egg cycle but suddenly I was faced with a barrage of emotions I didn't encounter during IVFs with my own eggs.
If you are thinking about—or about to start—a donor egg cycle, here are some things I want you to think about:
1) It's ok to grieve. I've talked with some women who feel guilty grieving the loss of their genetics. "After all," they say, "At least I'll still see my husband in my baby." They are excited to be pregnant but feel they shouldn't be so focused on genetic links. Here's the thing: I wanted a baby more than anything. But I still get painful reminders that my beautiful miracle baby came from the eggs of another woman. And it's okay to be sad about that. Acknowledge it. Find support from others who have gone through the same thing.
Maybe you are angry. Maybe you are scared or ashamed or frustrated with your failing body. Maybe you wonder if you won't love this baby as much as you would if they came from your own eggs.
2) You still play a huge role in your child's existence. Using donor eggs is taking some genetic material from another woman. Without sperm you wouldn't have a tiny growing embryo. Without your uterus and without your nurturing and care, that embryo, your baby, wouldn't grow and develop. You are 100% your baby's mother. Let me say that again. You. Are 100% your baby's mother. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
3) You'll need to decide if and who you want to tell about your cycle, including your child. Through my blogging, I have gone very public about our decision to use a donor. Yes, there are days I wish no one knew. Sometimes I envy those who have chosen to stay private. Many mothers will choose to tell their child their story of being born, others won't. You'll hear some psychologists say that children should absolutely know their origins. Some will even encourage donors and recipients with their children to seek each other out and have a relationship. Here is the thing: I'm the last person to tell you what to do. Sometimes I panic when I think about telling my baby. I don't know how they're going to react. It's going to take me years to figure it out. You will know what's best for your family. But I encourage you to give it some thought now, before the baby comes, in what you want to disclose.
4) It's okay to have doubts, but if you or your partner aren't on the same page or have reservations, wait until you feel ready. If you are in a relationship, it's important to be on the same page. It sounds like that's coming from a textbook, but really, like IVF, it's a big step. There is a lot to think about and a lot of emotions to process. Some women find working with a therapist to be beneficial in sorting through those feelings. Take your time. Come to terms with it and when you're ready, jump in.
5) No matter what, you will love this child more than you could ever know right now. Maybe you are angry. Maybe you are scared or ashamed or frustrated with your failing body. Maybe you wonder if you won't love this baby as much as you would if they came from your own eggs. Maybe you won't feel that connection when they are inside you, or after you give birth. I am here to tell you I felt all those things. I was so worried I wasn't going to care about this baby. When I saw the ultrasound and that little heart beating rapidly, I knew I didn't want any other baby but this one right here. As I marvel over my growing belly, I am in awe that I get to experience pregnancy for everything that it is. Some women will feel the joy immediately and some may take longer. But you'll get there. I promise.