On the second anniversary of the BFP that signalled the beginnings of my daughter, my sister-in-law shared that she was pregnant. I’ve been feeling all sorts of mixed up. I’m really happy for her, and for our extended family. I’m excited to become an aunt again now that I’m a mom myself. I am grateful that she shared the news sensitively. I also feel sad and guilty that hers was cautious happiness—not unbridled joy—no doubt tempered by my experience.
Separate to the feelings I have towards my sister-in-law is the lingering grief of my personal journey to parenthood. In moments like these, I’m sad that other people get to have a genetic baby—because parenting a child who doesn’t share your DNA is just a lot more complicated, there are a lot of fucking triggers, and there are added layers to parenting that genetic parents don’t have to think about.
I look at my sweet daughter and cannot imagine having any other child. But my feelings (though in the minority of emotions they may be most of the time) have taken me by surprise because I thought I was totally cool with having done DEIVF. I’m totally out with everyone in my life and beyond. You know—like “Facebook open” about it.
But a simple phone call can change my mood. Just like that.
Egg donation—like IVF or adoption—isn’t for everyone, but it’s not a terrible choice.
It hurts that there is so much stigma surrounding egg donation—and it’s because the media either doesn’t understand the science, or ignores it to create a more “compelling” story, or generates a stupid click-bait headline. You rarely read stories about normal families, like mine, who happened to have been created thanks to the generosity of an altruistic woman.
It hurts that there’s this vicious circle between sensationalist media and horror stories (which, let’s face it, is every industry’s bugbear), which leads to misinformation, which leads to secrecy, which leads to only the most dramatic stories being shared.
It hurts that there is so much misinformation out there. That there are people (albeit it in a tiny minority) who would give more credence to our donor’s brief contribution than my own. These folks are in the minority and usually ignore the science in favour of their own skewed personal and/or religious beliefs. They can shove those willfully ignorant beliefs where the sun doesn’t shine. They might not make me doubt myself or the importance of my role, but it pisses off this Mama Bear nonetheless.
It hurts that a lot of DEIVF parents keep the stigma alive by not being open about how they created their families. Our culture is so woefully ignorant that other DEIVF parents feel like they have to choose protecting their families’ privacy over celebrating how their kiddos came into the world. I know they’re protecting themselves and their families from being hurt…
Egg donation has been a wonderful choice for our family, but it’s not a panacea for the grief that accompanies pregnancy loss and infertility.
It hurts when I’m asked (which is usually three times every time we leave the house) where my daughter gets her beautiful red hair from. If she were my genetic child, I’d have a straightforward answer. I’ve had to come up with my own disingenuous terminology to answer that question with, “It was a total surprise!” or, “Red hair is a recessive gene so both genetic sides have to have it.”
It hurts that my kiddo looks nothing like me. It’s so common for people to comment on a child’s appearance and trace their physical features to one parent or the other, and that is something I will never experience. I feel like I’m missing out. And that is so dumb and superficial it makes me growl at myself, but then I remember that my feelings are more about dealing with the journey than they are passing on a particular physical attribute.
It hurts that I’ve had to dig deep to turn many a conversation into a teaching moment. Because our culture doesn’t openly talk about egg donation, people borrow language from adoption. Nope, she’s not the “birth mother”—I’m the person who gave birth to my daughter. Don’t know how to refer to our donor? You can refer to her by her name, if I’ve shared it with you, or you can just call her “your donor.” (Actually, call her whatever you want, just avoid the word “mother.” It’s confusing for my child and disrespectful to me and my family.)
It hurts that I must constantly think about my path to parenthood. When you do regular IVF, you have the choice to one day share the circumstances of your children’s conception with them. When they’re 12 years old, chances are they won’t have an identity crisis or freak out that they were conceived with the help of a doctor. But when you do DEIVF (or, really, any third-party reproduction or adoption), the responsible thing to do is raise your child knowing about their genetic origins. Because if you withhold that information, you’re starting out the most important relationship of your life with a lie. (Them’s fighting words, but I will defend them to the end because they are also the plain truth.)
It. Just. Hurts.
And so when someone announces they’re pregnant, even in the most sensitive and respectful of ways, it causes a pang inside. It really is that simple for most people.
Nothing has been simple for me…
Losing my first pregnancy, my only genetic child, wasn’t simple.
My infertility diagnosis (a balanced pericentric inversion on chromosome 8) wasn’t simple.
Making the decision to skip IVF with my own eggs wasn’t simple.
Choosing a donor wasn’t simple.
My pregnancy (fraught with placenta concerns) wasn’t simple.
My delivery (planned caesarean with a massive postpartum haemorrhage) wasn’t simple.
Making the decision to have a second child wasn’t simple: my choice is either to keep my uterus or embrace the likely scenario of planned caesarean-hysterectomy.
You know, assuming our FET works, of course…
Finding $5,000 to do the FET won’t be simple.
Assuming the FET works, my third pregnancy for a second child won’t be simple.
…except the love I have for my girl.
I’m so grateful to have this amazing little girl who is sweet, funny, healthy, and (most importantly) here. And I am grateful that current research shows that telling my child early and often about her genetic origins will pave the way for other conversations and build trust.
I guess I am learning (over and over again) that joy and pain can coexist. Grief doesn’t diminish the love I have for my daughter, it exalts it.
Thank you for holding space with me today.