It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is #FlipTheScript.
Why Am I So Open About Egg Donation?
I’m in a minority of people who are infertile. I’m in a minority of infertiles who received a primary (before kids) infertility diagnosis AND a separate secondary (after kids) infertility diagnosis. I’m in a further minority of infertiles who used an egg donor to create their family. And I’m in an even smaller minority of donor egg IVF parents who are completely open about how they created their family. It would be easy to just say nothing… but none of this has been easy, so why stop now?
It never occurred to either DH or me not to share with our children how they were made. To use adoption as an analogy: Had we adopted, we wouldn’t have gone to great lengths to conceal our kiddos’ genetic origins from them, so why should egg donation be any different? Before we even cycled, our family and closest friends knew how we intended to create our family. There were many questions, of course, but, without exception, everyone was 100% supportive of our decision.
With scores of people in the know, I considered myself ‘out of the closet’. But was I ‘Facebook-Out’? Hell no. And I couldn’t imagine a time when I would feel comfortable sharing with all and sundry on Facebook.
But then, when V was probably not quite 18 months old, I was skimming some trashy article about a celebrity in her late 40s who had just given birth. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, Sheesh, just ‘fess up already. I was tired of Hollywood bullshit giving the impression that women are fertile well into their 40s and 50s as long as “they worked out and took care of their bodies…” One of the ways I feel male infertility differs from female infertility is the myth that women can have a baby (and a career, yada yada) as long as we look good. I wish—and still wish—that more celebrities would use their platform to open up about using an egg donor.
And then I had a record scratch moment: Lauren, you are such a hypocrite!
If I want the world to know that egg donation is a way of legitimately creating a family, I need to be comfortable talking about it. If I want the world to be a safer and more accepting place for my kids, and kids conceived like they were, I need to be comfortable talking about it. Most importantly, if I want my kids to be comfortable with how they was conceived, I need to be comfortable talking about egg donation.
And so I am. I probably invite more inner eye rolls than I am aware of, but I don’t care. By talking about egg donation so openly and naturally, I have been able to let go of the shame that usually accompanies infertility. And I’m paving the way for my kids to know they can ask me whatever they want about our donor and how they were conceived. The same goes for their friends. The same goes for you, if you’re reading this.
One of the most memorable questions was: “Are you going to tell V about egg donation?” I gave a rather cheeky response: “Why would I tell you, and not her?”
But it’s a great question. According to Susan Golombok, some studies show that even families who are open with others at the time they conceive via gamete donation, don’t always go on to be open with their kids.
…56 percent of parents of infants conceived by egg donation planned to tell their children about their donor conception. However, only 28 percent of donor insemination parents and 41 percent of egg donation parents actually did so by the time their children were 7 years old, the age by which most adopted children are told about their adoption.
I’ve been telling V how she was conceived since I was pregnant with her, and tell her once or twice a month. The idea is that by telling a donor-conceived child early and often, they’ll never remember when they were told, only that they’ve always known.
At 3½, she’s still too young to understand the genetic component. Kids don’t really grasp the concept of DNA until they’re about 9 or 10—so although they remember the “Aha!” moment when they learn about the genetic piece, they’ll never remember being told about the egg (or sperm or embryo) donation piece.
I’m a little overdue in sharing a conception story audio clip. (Out of respect to our donor, we don’t share her name online, and as V is old enough that she uses our donor’s name, I would have to edit the audio to post a clip on this blog, but watch this space!) But here’s a quick rundown of how I currently tell V her conception story.
I tell her how to make a baby you need oocyte eggs and sperm and a uterus. And the doctor said that although Daddy had the sperm to make the baby, Mama didn’t have the right kind oocyte eggs to make the baby. But Mama did have the uterus to grow the baby! So the doctor’s took Daddy’s sperm and put them with [our donor’s name]’s oocyte eggs in a special dish, and a dot baby* grew. And then the doctor put the dot baby into Mama’s uterus, and that dot baby grew, and grew, and grew, and it was YOU! And one day, the doctor said it was time for Baby V to be born. So she took you out of Mama’s uterus and wrapped you in a little blanket, like a baby burrito. And Mama held you and kissed your little far cheek, and said, “Hi baby. Hi baby. I waited such a long time to meet you. I’m so glad you’re here!”
*Dot Baby: We’re big on using medically correct terminology for body parts and bodily processes. However, ’embryo’ is a bit abstract for a preschooler, and ‘dot baby’ conveys that it’s a very, very tiny baby.
V absolutely LOVES hearing how she was made and how she was born. When I’m giving her a bedtime snuggle, she’ll often whisper, “Mama, tell the Dot Baby Story!”
By talking so openly about egg donation, my hope is to normalise it. If I can help one person understand that egg donation can be a wonderful choice, that’s wonderful. And to my fellow DEIVF parents who are still nervous about being open with their kid and others, I hope that this post encourages and emboldens you.
I’ll be posting something here on OFT, as well as on Instagram (@OnFecundThought and @TheTryingTimes) every day this week. And because I’m out-out about our infertile struggles and how we came to create our family, I’ll also be sharing to my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts too.