Telling your family and friends that you are infertile and going through the roller coaster of IVF may not be a walk in the park, but most people are fairly open with their infertility struggles. When they move to egg donation, sperm donation, or embryo donation, however, many people become a lot more private and may not even be clear why. We examined these reasons, talked about the pros and cons of telling your family about using third party reproduction, and gave suggestions for overcoming their resistance on this Creating a Family show.*
Why Not Tell
When asked, most people who are hesitant to tell their family and friends that their child was conceived with egg, sperm, or embryo donation express something along these lines:
- Afraid their family will look at or treat their child differently if they know they are not genetically related.
- Fear that grandparents will not view the child as their “real” grandchild.
- Fear that someone will say something to the child to make her feel less valuable.
- Worry that an unhealthy family dynamic, such as sibling rivalry, will raise its ugly head to play out in this area.
- Will the fact that the child is not a genetic grandchild affect inheritance?
- Assumption that family and friends will freak out at the high tech nature of it all.
- Not wanting to deal with any religious objections to using donated gametes or in vitro fertilization in general.
- It’s no one else’s damn business.
Should You Tell
Whether to tell your family and friends that you had the help of an egg or sperm donor or embryo donor in creating your precious child is a uniquely personal decision. This is “delicate” information, and not all family and friends can be trusted to handle it with sensitivity. I believe the child has a right to know this information, but your family and friends do not. Truthfully, it really is no else’s damn business.
The downside to not telling is that you’ll have to waltz around the inevitable resemblance talk (“Where in the world did she get those curls?”) or someone else will spill the beans to them and they will be hurt that you didn’t tell them. You can deflect the resemblance talk with a gently massaged version of the truth (“Hubby’s great great grandmother had some curls.”) or humor (“What can I say, the FedEx guy was really hot.”), and can face the hurt feelings if they happen with a frank discussion of why you wanted to keep this information private.
Keep in mind, however, that there is a weight to keeping a secret. It seals you off from getting support and can imply shame. It can’t hurt to carefully examine if your fears are real or a reflection of your own discomfort with egg or sperm donation.
Did you tell anyone you used egg donation, sperm donation, or embryo donation? (You can be anonymous in your comment.)
*Our guest to talk about the complexities of telling family and friends about third party reproduction was Bette Galen a licensed clinical social worker specializing in infertility who has worked at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey for 8 years and has a private practice in Montclair, NJ.
Image credit: uochi.
Add Your Comment
After several failed IUIs and IVF cycles, we finally made the donor egg decision. We were reluctant at first for all the common reasons. In terms of telling, we agreed to tell our parents that we are using IVF to get pregnant. At the moment, the details of donor egg will be on an as needed basis. We intend to normalize IVF into our lives with our baby, so donor egg convocation will not be new or scary.
Crossing my fingers everything works out for us this time.
I want to tell about the egg donor ONLY to my children; they have the right to know and I don’t want to keep it hiden from them. Other than them I just think is none else damn business and besides as much as Iove my husband’s family all of them have such big loose mouths….the news will spread quickly to other relatives and even friends that I don’t feel any obligation to tell about it.
I completely agree with you. However, I come from a tight knit family and I want to tell only my parents and sister. I feel that even if we were using donor egg, I would still tell them. My husband doesn’t want anyone to know, and I do want to respect his wishes, but I would feel so guilty keeping something from my family. That’s my pickle right now. I go back and forth on whether to tell or not. My husband’s family, like yours have big mouths, and unfortunately are not as open minded, and offer their two cents about everything. I don’t feel they would understand. I feel like it’s no one’s business on how your children are conceived and it’s up to us to decide whether we want to share or not, and one day it will be up to my future children to decide who they share their story with.
nice discussion is going over here.
Thank you for posting these.
Hi from ICLW! I haven’t had to walk down this road, so I never really thought about people *not* telling their friends and family. But I can see why some would rather keep it a secret. I always thought if I had to go down this road my friends and family would know.
“On the other hand C, on your point to what a couple wants to experience there are those who want to experience a pregnancy and birthing of the child they will raise regardless of whether it’s biologically related to both of them.”
Which is why I used the word “might”, i.e. some “might” do things for some reasons, some “might” do things for other reasons.
On the other hand C, on your point to what a couple wants to experience there are those who want to experience a pregnancy and birthing of the child they will raise regardless of whether it’s biologically related to both of them.
I think you are strictly looking at this from your perspective and experience being raised by non biological parents. In the context of this discussion you need to look at it from the infertile couples perspective and the range of emotions and opinions that they have due to infertility. It might be helpful to do that especially since you have no personal experience with infertility.
cb-I’m afraid I did not read the other 3 posts before I commented. When I read it, the only one after it was Marilynn’s-some posts are rather slow to come through on this end. You make some very good points about the realities of donor insemination-it has to be gone into very carefully and with as much forethought as possible, even for those who know that it is the right thing for them. I’m relieved to know that if we did choose that route, we would have control over how much information about the donor(s) we could access-it would be a bit daunting to be as left in the dark about the donor’s identities because of their desire to remain anonymous. After all, if we can’t get the information, how could we possibly do the responsible thing of sharing said info with our child(ren)? Glad to know things are changing in that realm anyway. Dawn-in terms of the analogy, borrow away, no credit necessary 🙂
“cb-I can assure you that the decision that my husband and I made regarding our future family is not based in any way upon anyone’s insecurity. It was a carefully thought out decision that both of us are at peace with.”
If you read the 3 posts I have made after your one, you will note that I am specifically talking about donor-created new lives. You will even note that I didn’t think that the above scenario applied to anyone on this thread as you and hubby are exploring many different options and in fact I’ve seen neither of you specifically saying you planned to use donor egg/sperm so had no idea if it was relevant in your situtio.
It is just reading what you said, I did feel though that there might be those out there that decide to go the all or nothing route because the IF one might worry that they are missing out on something the non-IF one will be experiencing.
Thanks Dawn-this is definitely where we are right now. We will no more jump into the adoption process than we would any other alternate family building options. We are doing the work of grieving the children that we will not have (biologically related to both of us) and how they will not be coming into our lives (pregnancy). It’s not until we reach a better place in terms of this grieving that we will begin to seriously consider entering the adoption process. I just thought that it was odd that we felt that way but our doctor had a different agenda. I don’t want to judge him-he was only trying to help, but I must admit that in that moment I felt much like I would have felt if I were standing over my husband’s grave if he were dead and somebody were to hand me the personals column in an effort to encourage me to start looking for a new partner-even if they weren’t asking me to look at that moment, but “when the time was right”. It just felt wrong-and the fact that the doctor physically turned away from my husband when he began this discussion made it even worse.
And also, even if we had chosen that route, we would have done our best to ensure that those who were donating their genetic materials would not remain “anonymous” as much as we could-how much control we would have over this, I don’t know, but we would do our best to find out as much as we oould about the person (s) involved so that we could give this information to our child(ren) as soon as possible. Whatever relationships that developed in our lives from the sharing of that information would remain to be seen depending on the situation, but we would be open to it. The same goes for adoption-we will be open with any and all information that our child(ren) need to know who they are and whose they are. It will not be kept secret from them.
Aspiring AP, I love your analogy of someone handing you the personal ads while standing over your husband’s grave. May have to borrow that analogy for a blog sometime! (I’ll give you anonymous credit for sure). And as to your question of how much control you’ll have over anonymous vs. identified donor, you’ll have complete control. All sperm banks that I know of, and certainly the two who support/sponsor Creating a Family, have the option of using an identified donor.
You bring up a great point that couples who go these alternative routes to become parents need to not only consider the birthing or adoption part but need to also prepare for the parenting part and potential conversations they could have with their children. That’s something you may not think about on the surface but something my wife and I have thought long and hard about.
Perhaps the conversation I’m envisaging is thus:
P: Now dear, you were conceived by donor egg and sperm.
C: Were both of you infertile?
P: No, only dad was but we didn’t think it was fair on you if one of us was biologically related and one wasn’t so we decided to do it so that none of us was biologically related.
C: I see. So you mean instead of me not knowing half of my biological, I now know none of it – I can see how that is fair on me. Do I get to find out anything about my biological roots?
P: Well we have some information but the donations were anonymous so you’ll never really know anything about your biological roots. But we did it for you.
Can you perhaps see why a child might be skeptical that it was done for them?
Again, I want to point out that many people who do feel this:
“For reasons I will not disclose here, we both were on the same page when it came to this issue-if we were to become parents, the child(ren) we would raise would be related to both of us or neither of us.”
actually do choose to go the adoption route because they do feel that if they are going to go the “not at all related route”, that it should be with a child who is already created and needs a home. It is quite possible that the person who said the above may have thought that so I just wanted to make sure that they realised I wasn’t addressing my latest posts towards them or their husband. I just wanted to point out though that if one were going to go the donor route ONLY, then the above is worth considering.
Also, I just wanted to point out that if both egg and sperm donors are anonymous, then that is denying one’s child their biological history. Whether they want to know it or not is irrelevant. It is their right to know it if they wish to know it.
If one must go the donor egg/sperm route, then non-anonymous is better. Anonymous donations have actually been banned in some countries – when the child is 18, they will now have the right to make contact if they so wish – this is obviously made clear to the donors at the time of donation.
“cb, you raise an interesting point. I wonder how donor conceived people might feel about this. (Of course, how one would feel doesn’t necessarily reflect how others would think).”
“For couple to decide that the child they both raise is going to be related to both of them or neither of them is a very rational and respectful and well thought out choice and not one based on insecurities at all.”
Marilynn, you might have missed my point as I was deliberately not talking about adoption at all as that involves an already created human being.
I want to reiterate that I am ONLY talking about the deliberate creation of a being specifically using either donor egg/sperm and/or donor sperm.
I am specifically talking about those who have decided their ONLY choice is between donor sperm/donor egg and donor sperm alone and thus are creating a new human who might not otherwise have existed. This doesn’t seem to the case of anyone on this thread as I believe they have also considered their choice of whether to create a new human being or to raise an already created human being.
Dawn, I certainly agree that not all feel the same way about being donor conceived – that goes without saying.
I suppose though that if you go to one end, i.e. those that have no issues at all about being conceived by donor egg and sperm – they also probably wouldn’t have any issue with being conceived by biological egg and donor sperm.
However, if you look at the other end where there are those conceived with their biological mothers using donor sperm who have issues about being conceived with donor sperm – they are going to have even more issues if they are conceived with both donor egg and sperm.
So, since one can’t know how their child will feel as it is a personal thing, then it would be safer to do biological mother/donor sperm if possible because the ones that aren’t going to care less about biology, won’t care less either way – the ones that do care about biology are going to have double the trouble with both egg and sperm being donors.
cb-I can assure you that the decision that my husband and I made regarding our future family is not based in any way upon anyone’s insecurity. It was a carefully thought out decision that both of us are at peace with. If we were to rush into a conception using donor sperm without any conscious thoughts beyond becoming parents, once it’s done it’s done and it cannot be reversed-THAT is a scenario that neither of us could live with, even if we achieved the goal of pregnancy and childbirth. As I have said before, there is MUCH more to being a parent than simply conceiving a child, no matter how that child comes to be. And Marilynn, while I agree with much of your comment, I have to wonder why you believe one’s marriage needs to take a backseat to other relationships. If I were to put other relationships other than the ones I will have with my future children above and beyond the one I have with my husband, I wouldn’t be much of a wife or a human being for that matter. I also wouldn’t be as good of a parent, because children thrive in relationships where the adults who care for them also care for one another’s feelings and needs, even if those needs are different from your own. That is the definition of a healthy family, and doesn’t every child deserve that?
Aspiring AP, I always encourage families to pause before then move from infertility treatment using their own egg and sperm to attempting non-genetic parenting (donor egg/sperm or adoption). Egg donation/sperm donation are not the next step up the infertility treatment escalator. They are a step in another direction and worthy of thought and often time to grieve the loss of this genetic connection.
On a separate note I believe firmly that the greatest gift a parent can give their child is a healthy relationship with their other parent.
Please don’t take offense but I believe you are being far too judgmental of the decisions people make when face with infertility. Especially considering the fact that you have never been faced with having to make those decisions. You were able to have children. The circumstances you were handed in your life are very different than those who are infertile. Consider yourself lucky and please don’t judge others who can’t for the decisions they’ve made.
Just as you believe that a couple saying that they would want to both be related to their child or not at all, I believe it’s rational for a couple to want their child related to at least one person in the couple. I would have had no issue parenting a child that was biologically related to my wife but not me. Unfortunately our situation was more complicated than just my azoospermia.
What you believe as logical is your opinion based upon your perspective and circumstance. It’s not fact. What others believe is logical is their opinion based upon their perspective and circumstance.
cb and Dawn
For couple to decide that the child they both raise is going to be related to both of them or neither of them is a very rational and respectful and well thought out choice and not one based on insecurities at all. Try flipping your thinking here. If they conceived a child together that child would not loose a parent or any family in order to be raised by them and would be living an authentic existence; what you see is what you get and there is no back story to be disclosed. That’s ideal. If they cannot conceive together and they make themselves available to adopt or foster children from separated families, they will be raising a child who has experienced the loss of being raised by their parents among their own family, but it won’t be something that was encouraged by them as adoptive parents. Their empathy for the child’s loss would be sincere and they would be joining their families in an effort to provide the very best life for the child under tragic circumstances and give the kid a place to thrive and grow as their authentic self. If the fertile spouse decides to reproduce with someone outside the marriage, better it be with someone who is going to accept full responsibility as the other parent, share joint custody and cooperate fully for the best interests of the child. If the spouse can handle this then the authentic position for them to take would be as the child’s step parent so that they are not interrupting or interfering with the person’s rights to support and contact with both biological parents and their relatives and so that their legal kinship is not severed. The idea that a person should loose half their family so that their mother can pretend to have had them with their step father, puts the marriage relationship on a pedestal as being more important than the relationship of the child to half their family.
People think of marriage as producing children when that just is not true. We encourage unmarried people to give up their children to married people. Are children only valuable and worth keeping when the parents are in love with one another? Why would a person who donates gametes raise some but not all their children? What makes one more valuable and worth keeping than the other? The fact that they are in love with the mother of some but not the rest? What message is sent when a woman will only keep and raise her child if she can act as if she conceived them with her husband when she did not? Why must she sequester the child from half their family in order to be willing to raise them with her spouse? Why is her marriage more important than the child’s family relationships?
I think it is not a sign of insecurity on the part of the husband at all but rather reason compassion and sound logic. We are not talking about him refusing to raise a biologically unrelated child of his wife’s from an earlier relationship it’s not some form of jealousy. He wants an authentic situation for himself, his wife and the child they raise. Very logical. Going along with “using a donor” requires much trickier thinking. After all nobody is using anything or anyone except possibly the child in that scenario.
One thing I just wanted to say about this in general:
“For reasons I will not disclose here, we both were on the same page when it came to this issue-if we were to become parents, the child(ren) we would raise would be related to both of us or neither of us.”
If my parents had decided to go the donor route, given the strict choice of whether I was a result of biological mother/donor sperm father or the result of donor egg/donor sperm – I would much prefer being the result of biological mother/donor sperm rather than donor egg/donor sperm. So if it were a strict choice of those two choices and my parents chose “donor egg/donor sperm”, because of the fact that they personally wanted their child related to both of them or neither of them, then I would consider them making that choice for their reasons – possibly the father’s insecurity about his wife being biologically related and him not being so. That insecurity is something that he would need to sort out.
Note that I am only talking about those who are trying to decide on the strict choice between biological mother/donor sperm and donor egg/donor sperm.
cb, you raise an interesting point. I wonder how donor conceived people might feel about this. (Of course, how one would feel doesn’t necessarily reflect how others would think.) The reason I’ve heard from the parents who make this choice is that they feel that it would be in their child’s best interest if both parents claim them equally. It also, as you say, may reflect the non genetic parent’s insecurity. I haven’t thought about this before, so thank you for giving me food for thought.
Your husband is a better man than I am because if someone said that to me in that situation that guy would have gone down. I’m so sorry he had to hear that.
Marilynn “Her eggs and reproductive freedom are never actually owned by anyone else that would be slavery” I guess as far as eggs go this would be based on whether a person believes eggs/sperm or embryos are in fact considered “human” which many do not in fact without the woman/couple the embryo or egg/sperm would never become anything more than just that. so you could argue that the egg/embryo has a “mother” (but she would only be the mother of a donated gamete but then one could also argue that once it begins to grow in another, that person becomes the “mother” as she helps it grow. (but she would only be the mother of a fetus). One could also argue that the one that raises the child regardless of who created it and who grew it is the “mother” and she I believe is the mother of a child. I agree with Justin that implying one is not a parent because they used a donated embryo, egg or sperm is extremely hurtful. You may have strong opinions but this does not mean that your opinions are right nor does it mean that everyone has to believe the same as you and I feel that your whole purpose in all topics has been to change others views.
As far as the topic My husband and I have been very open with family and friends and even with strangers if the topic has come up. We are very open people. We have had some make rude comments (one even telling my husband that he must just not be man enough, this guy had 5 so apparently he was really manly, so manly he had to kick a guy when he was down.) Anyways most have shown amazing support and been more curious about the process than anything. The great thing about being open is it has helped others to feel more comfortable with sharing their stories as well. Sometimes I wish we had been a little more quiet as we still aren’t 100% sure if we will be telling our children about how they were conceive but hopefully once I’m pregnant we will know what to do. 🙂
Melissa, right, cause “manly” men always kick a guy when he’s down. Geesh!! Hope your hubby had a good comeback.
“Marilynn “Her eggs and reproductive freedom are never actually owned by anyone else that would be slavery” I guess as far as eggs go this would be based on whether a person believes eggs/sperm or embryos are in fact considered “human” which many do not in fact without the woman/couple the embryo or egg/sperm would never become anything more than just that. so you could argue that the egg/embryo has a “mother” ”
Very late response to you, but I believe you have misunderstood my statement about a woman’s eggs and reproductive freedom not being owned by anyone else as it would be slavery. I’m not implying that the woman’s eggs are her children nor am I implying that her eggs would be enslaved. A woman’s eggs are her personal human tissue and there is a federal law about human tissue – it cannot be bought, she can always change her mind and get her eggs back her embryos back. Not because they are her kids but because it’s her own flesh and nobody else can claim her body parts as theirs nor can they force her to reproduce if she does not wish to. If she wanted to reproduce when she started the egg donation process and then later after there are embryos made and frozen she says I don’t want there to be any offspring I don’t myself raise, she can just call the cryobank and withdraw consent to implantation and the people who thought they’d bought her eggs will realize they can’t really buy someone else’s reproductive freedom or tissue.
I think it would benefit everyone here greatly to read a few egg donor agreements and also to remember that a donated egg never stops operating in support of the healthy reproductive function of the donor unlike a kidney that will operate in support of the healthy renal function of the recipient when transplanted.
Donated eggs are not really donated to anyone
Anon you said”I do not agree that egg donation is a treatment for infertility for the donor woman. Why? Because most (if not all) women who are donors do not have infertility. ”
You are misunderstanding me. Physicians offer treatment to improve women’s chances of conception. Women come to physicians requesting treatment to fertilize their eggs to improve their chances of having offspring. Have you read an egg donor agreement? It says that she is requesting assistance in fertilizing her eggs and is desirous of receiving treatment to improve her chances of producing offspring. Then it launches into the part about that she will agree to allow someone else to gestate the embryos and raise the offspring etc etc. The agreement is very clear that she is the patient requesting service and wants to be treated.
Anon fertility treatments only work on people who are fertile. They don’t work if your infertile. Fertility treatments will improve a fertile person’s chances of producing offspring.
Infertile people are not treated with donated sperm or eggs or embryos you understand that right? The donated egg continues to operate in support of the healthy reproductive function of the donor’s body – unlike a donated kidney which when transplanted will operate to support the renal function of the recipients body. Its the donor’s eggs who are fertilized. It’s the donor who reproduces with the male who fertilizes her eggs and her embryos are hers to decide what to do with . Her eggs and reproductive freedom are never actually owned by anyone else that would be slavery. She elects to have fertility treatment and then elects to allow another woman to gestate her pregnancy and then chooses to abandon her parental responsibilities outside of court.
How were you thinking it worked? I will go collect some links to donor agreements so that you can see that it is pretty straightforward – her eggs are not used to treat anyone else’s infertility problems she is getting treatment to create her own pregnancies and what she decides to do after they are born is up to her and not the doctor’s concern.
Yes it is a form of adoption but it is done off the books without court approval and there is no record of the person’s relationship to their actual biological parent or parents who are absent and this is particularly problematic as their true identities are obscured and they are unable to obtain vital records that identify their relatives and likewise their relatives are unable to obtain their vital records which is an enormous infringement on the civil rights of persons in families related to people who are not recorded as parents on their children’s birth records.
I do agree with what Anon is saying. And I think it’s very clear that using a donor egg/donor sperm conception doesn’t cure anybody from being infertile. But it does give you a chance to experience a pregnancy, and giving birth. Of course, if the donor is open to some kind of contact in the future, I think is best for the child, but I do see a big difference between a birth mother who has given birth to her child, and an egg/sperm donor.
marilynn, you obviously have strong opinions about donor egg/donor sperm conception. I don’t think anyone is arguing that the child born through donor gamete program is genetically theirs. But most people who chose this path view children conceived through this process is THEIR child/children. Teaching through this podcast and other research clearly claim that this is a form of adoption – but you (the woman) are a carrier – and for some women/couple, this is a better choice for them.
I do not agree that egg donation is a treatment for infertility for the donor woman. Why? Because most (if not all) women who are donors do not have infertility. I’m guessing that most women go on to have children after the donation but I think they donate because they want to help women who cannot have child experience pregnancy (or they want the money associated with egg donation).
Whether they disclose how the child was conceived to their friends and family is the choice of the couple and also the child (when the child is old enough). I believe that if you are talking to your child openly early on, they should be comfortable to be honest with others around them. Of course this is all theory since I have not gone through something like this. But you have to understand, these are all personal choices – and difficult choices that families make so criticizing people for what they do doesn’t really help.
I assume you mean well, but please don’t refer to children born of gamette donations as “someone else’s kids” or “another woman’s child”. Children who are born of sperm or egg donations, just like children who come to families through adoptions, are still their parents’ children (even if there is no genetic connection). Implying that they are not their parents’ children is hurtful.
I was just discussing this with a friend. I think it would be emotionally easier if I didn’t tell friends and family. But, I think most adoption research (and children conceived through donor sperm) indicate that children do better when they know the truth from the beginning and talk about it. If we are going to tell our child, then we have to tell the people around us – otherwise our kids will think it is something shameful when it really isn’t.
We are participants in a documentary being created about women choosing to use donor eggs. So, there may be a chance that people will find out. I may just let them find out if they see the documentary. We have shared on my husband’s side since we are still using his sperm. Many members of my family are just judgmental including my mom, so I’ll let them find out on their own.
Dawn mentioned that donor offspring are a treatment for a symptom of infertility which is childlessness. I said that neither gametes nor offspring from a donor will cure infertility or even treat it. So does everyone look at adoption as being an infertility treatment as well since an adopted child treats symptoms of infertility? I don’t even know if one could even call real genetic offspring treatment for infertility since the offspring or pregnancy would be evidence that something else had treated the problem and now it was fixed. I know it seems like splitting hairs but I think it is a very big deal that there is a faction of the medical profession selling infertile people the idea that they are receiving fertility treatment with donor eggs or sperm when in fact what they are doing is paying for another individuals fertility treatment and improving that individuals odds of conceiving, not their own. The end result is as Dawn said a pregnancy or child that appears to treat a symptom of infertility, but then people wind up feeling that another person’s offspring cured their infertility problems and then they struggle over disclosing the truth because if they were really treated really cured, the child they are raising would not have another family or another identity to worry about disclosing. See I think being told this is a treatment is somewhat misleading and results in the person they raise having to meet expectations beyond their capability.
We did DE, no regrets and we will be very open with our child about it. We also adopted. Both children are my own and any insinuation otherwise is ignorant. Nothing can cure my infertility, but goal was not to “cure” my infertility but to create my family which is exactly what we did. One thing to remember with Donor Egg is that while the baby is not genetically related to you, won’t share your features etc, you grow that baby. I share blood with my baby, it thrives because of what my body is providing for it. It saddens me to see Marilynn’s remarks, to be honest, I stopped reading after a while because it seems like such an ignorant and closed attitude.
You are being very dismissive and saying some very hurtful things to very vulnerable people. By the tone of your post you are coming across as someone who only believes parenting true parenting that is can only happen through a biological connection. That is very upsetting for anyone who is unable to become a parent through natural conception.
OK everyone, I think we’ve reached (and passed) the point of any productive discussion. We’re “beating a dead horse” and this horse is begging to have this these comments closed.
Leilani fertility clinics and many on line communities prey on women like you or like me who are desperate to have children and their bodies are not working. Despite what Greg keeps saying, of course I’ve had to face this particular decision myself I had thirteen miscarriages and a baby die at birth – all me all my body’s fault a clotting disorder called thrombofilia. So yes everyone I get it I get it I get it. Actually those of you who have had your hours old child die in your arms raise your hands explain to everyone else that I have had to make this choice my own self of course I have.
Leilani, you and the baby you carried or are carrying don’t share any blood at all. The fetus has its own blood supply and it never mingles with your blood. It’s the expectant mother and father whose cells reproduced and now the zygote they created together is splitting and reproducing in your body. Their embryo basically turns itself into a fetus in your body receiving its food supply from you. You are providing a place for a fetus to grow and you’ll give birth these are enormous contributions and I don’t down grade them at all. I’ve been pregnant a bunch and its a real big deal I’m no trying to make it seem less significant than it is. I’m just trying to be clear where others are deliberately vague and sell women on a pipe dream that they are somehow, in some remote way physically related to the children they deliver when they are carrying another woman’s pregnancy. It just is not true. The best a woman can do in that circumstance is no harm, that is not be malnourished, stressed, drunk, diabetic, or otherwise physically compromised in a way that would retard fetal development. The person delivered won’t have any memory of your pregnancy, and the fact that you carried them won’t have any deep meaning. Your relationship as their mother will come from raising them not giving birth to them because motherhood does not start until a child is born anyway. Everyone knows that. A woman biologically related to a born individual as their mother is the bio mother and pregnancy does not create a biological relationship with a born individual if they are not related as mother and child. Your motherhood is obviously legal as birth mother of record and social from rearing the child delivered. Your actual kinship position in relation to the child would be step mother but people get all twisted up about that saying that. If one was to diagram the kinship out, the kinship is spouse of biological father, who raises the spouses child full time in absense of the biological mother. Again I did indeed face this particular decision and felt it would be rude of me to cut a person off from their maternal relatives the way is done in egg donor contracts, especially when that person is my spouses kid. It’s not an issue of whether I could love a biologically unrelated child or if such a child could love me – absolutely no doubt in my mind. But it would be my fault that they were not with their own family not some random separation that occurred without my prodding and setting it up. If my spouse just had to have his own biological kid, having me go through the pregnancy would be sort of a novelty that he and the mother agreed to like a ride a an amusement park or something – not necessary to have me gestate their embryo just done to make me feel more part of the process. It lacks authenticity since it would not be my pregnancy but hers whoever she is or would be. They have websites now where people who are not interested in romance can have a kid together and they raise their kid with joint custody and that seems like the only way to go about it where the person born would not loose half their relatives and would not look at me as the truly wicked step mother you know. I reunite separated families torn apart by the stuff donors agree to in their contracts. It’s real rough on the whole family. You have to think about the grandparents who long for their grandchildren too the aunts uncles and cousins – they ache, they signed no agreements, I help them search too, just as often as I help offspring search. Believe it or not there may be a family of people out there who are deeply saddened by the loss of the child your raising from their family. If you love this child if they are wonderful then just think what a loss it is to the child’s family for them to be absent. I’m in favor of a more collaborative and open approach to families coming together in the best interests of the children being raised. I’m not against non bio child rearing at all I’m just against parental abandonment or relinquishment in ways that leave entire family’s with compromised rights.
I pulled a random article that explains how pregnant women and babies don’t share blood. Its an article on RH factor but the content about the no blood shared is basic and should give you some clarity. See the clinics want women to believe they built the babies out of their own cells and the donor just sprinkled a little dna on there to finish off your baby. Her baby is your social baby. It’s not truthful to just refer to a baby with a different bio mother and different maternal family as your own and besides then where does this person have room for their own individuality if they have to grow up being your child? How then will they ever feel allowed to be the sibling or the cousin of all their other relatives unless its OK for them to be another woman’s child and your social child? Where do they fit in with their family and relatives?
Gosh you talk an awful lot of nonsense “the donor just sprinkled a little dna on there to finish off your baby”. “The expectant mother”…. what the person who donated a cell in exchange for a truck load of cash? Are you serious? Ignoring completely that genetics has nothing to do with meaningful bonds between sentient creatures, you imply that the mother is raising someone elses child. This argument ignores the fact that child who likely never have come into existence were it not for this women carrying and giving birth to it. There is also epigenetics to consider. If that same embryo was carried by the donor, fertilised by the same sperm, then they would still not be the same person. Epigenetics has a more profound affect on the child’s entire life than the DNA code.
“The grandparents who long for their grandchildren too the aunts uncles and cousins – they ache”. Really? They find out that a daughter, niece or grandchild may have donated embryos (single cells lets remember) and they now ache because there is a possibility, only a possibility now that a child exists somewhere as a result of that? Really if that is the case then those people have too much time and are quite sad individuals. You very much overrate the importance of genetics. Yes a donor egg means the child is genetically unrelated to the “mother” who carries, gives birth and raises the child. But in every way that is important there the mother and child’s lives are entwined. The genetic part isn’t as important as having a positive affect on someones life. It doesn’t mean there will be any bond between them in any meaningful way at all. That comes down to life and relationships. Lots of people have relatives who are disgraceful individuals. These people tend to use their genetic relation to hang onto people who would much sooner never see them again. Genetics is not a guarantee of a loving, positive relationship at all. You overrate it completely and are quite insensitive to people who may be considering this as an option. Just because you didn’t choose it for yourself. I find your arguments quite bigoted and frankly a little offensive.
Great post Aspiring AP. Like your husband I am infertile through a genetic issue. We didn’t get that talk from either RE we did feel pressured by our first RE to start DI right away. Needless to say we got a second opinion and made our own decision that was not influenced by a bad RE experience.
Yes, it is very complicated and emotions and ethical values lay on both sides of the fence.
My husband and I have one son (very thankful for him) and three angel babies. The next step for us is unclear. Joining this group has been both healing and eye-opening for me. Our extended families would certainly take issue with adoption or donor sperm/eggs. Personally, I believe that there are many ways to become a parent. My husband lays somewhere inbetween the two.
Thank you for posting this. It helps me more clearly understand where he is coming from
I’m going to work hard at being polite because I want the comment to post. You had said on another post that it is none of their damn business about telling family members but that is not true and that is not fair. Of course it is their business there is a legal right to access information on the identity of your relatives. The legal right to their vital records, your child’s vital records without your permission even if they are under age because the existence of our relatives is part of what defines who we are in relation to the rest of the world. If I have a child it means my brother is an Uncle and of course her health and the health of her children is relevant to him and I don’t have the right to prevent him from knowing my offspring exist, he is an uncle and it is not my place to prevent the flow of information or to lie even by omission about who he is and who his relatives are. I’m not obligated to tell him anything one way or the other and I can have a fight with him and not feel like letting him know I had a baby. But that fight and how I think of him does not alter who he actually is in relation to my child or what his rights are in terms of information. He can walk in and ask for a copy of every birth record my name appears on as mother.
When we don’t list biological parents on birth records it interferes with the rights of every member of a family to have accurate information about who they are in relationship to other individuals. It undermines the accuracy of the nation’s birth statistics and compromises the accuracy of medical research on heritable diseases and genetic birth defects when heredity is attributed to the wrong individuals. It’s nothing short of fraud really and the law should really be adjusted to stop certification of medical records with biologically inaccurate information. Until then people who know they are raising people whose medical records are not accurate should take it upon themselves to inform people who might mistakenly believe themselves to be related to one another that they are not in fact related. Allowing false presumptions to stand is inappropriate. If you have the ability to correct someones misunderstanding about a fact even if you feel that misunderstanding is not relevant to them or if you feel they are better off believing a lie, it is inappropriate for you to withhold the truth from them. None of us are in a position decide that some people are better off just believing a lie. An authentic existence is one that needs no explanation because it is just as it appears to be. If things are different than they appear to be then there are airs being put on there is a facade afoot there is a charade being played. All fine if the concealed information relates to you and only you but if it means letting someone believe that a person is their relative when they are not it is deceitful.
I have a very dear friend going through this now, and I’m honored she chose to tell me. After seeing her struggles with infertility (far longer than mine), I have nothing but positive thoughts for her… I can’t imagine why someone would be negative about it. 🙁
Dawn it is not an opinion it is a medical fact that donor gametes, when donated, do not improve the reproductive function of a recipient. Donated gametes continue to operate in support of the healthy reproductive function of the body they came from. Unlike a donated kidney for instance which stops supporting the healthy function of the donor and starts supporting the healthy function of the person who receives the transplant.
You do have to deal with reality here or people are going to be delusional about who the child they are raising is and is not related to. It’s not a treatment for infertility. The sperm does not allow them to become a parent the donor is the parent and they allow someone else to raise their child. You have read the agreements they sign right? They deal with relinquishing parental responsibilities at birth for any offspring born. Their sperm does not allow them to become anything at all. Nobody ends up owning the reproductive rights of the donor. They don’t buy the dna and get to refer to it as their own. The donor lets them raise his kid. Without a formal adoption. It’s not a medical treatment. It’s a social and contractual arrangement between a parent and a non parent where they swap rolls socially
OK, marilynn, I see what your saying. Doesn’t change that it’s still not a shameful thing as far as I can see.
Also, in case you think I have some pretty rose-tinted glasses lying around, I’m quite entirely crystal clear that nothing on this planet currently can cure my infertility, which is really a symptom of underlying conditions that are only vaguely understood and quantifiable. It’s chronic, irrevocable, and part and parcel of me.
I’m single and I come from a very fundamentalist Christian background so I told close friends and family (and do so when people ask about a father). As bad as it sounds, using a donor as a single makes me more acceptable in their eyes.
My husband and I are using donor sperm and possibly donor egg as well. We’ve chosen to tell our future children from an early age and have already told my husband’s parents. Their reaction has been less than supportive, which is really tough. It seems much easier to keep it all private, but at the end of the day, we don’t want this to become a secret that we forever are trying to protect. And when you don’t tell, you risk the child finding out on their own and feeling betrayed. Something I could not fathom. So for us, despite a rocky road so far, we are in the tell camp. And as far as my in-laws go, we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt just a little while longer. It took us over a year to accept the path of donor, so maybe they just need more time. But if they don’t come around very soon, we’ll have to address it and hope for the best.
Anonymous, I’ll hope for the best to. If you are successful with treatment and have the baby in your arms, you can only hope they’ll be besotted.
Anon AP said
“This isn’t a dirty little secret or a shameful thing, it’s an approach to treatment for a disease. This isn’t a dirty little secret or a shameful thing, it’s an approach to treatment for a disease. ”
Oh stop. Giving birth to another woman’s child does not treat any disease. Neither does raising another woman’s child. The woman who give’s birth to an embryo conceived by an anonymous woman remains infertile and unable to conceive children despite being able to gestate and deliver a child.
The fertility treatment is not given to the woman who delivers the baby, it’s given to the fertile woman – they fertilize her eggs to improve the chances of her conceiving children. The donor is the female that reproduces and conceives, she is the one who receives that fertility treatment. It’s her child that will be delivered only she is not planning to rear that child herself.
Marilynn, I know you have a strong opinion on this, and I respect your position, but remember to be respectful of those whose opinions may differ. Just because you believe something doesn’t make it right for anyone other than you. One of the symptoms of infertility is the inability to conceive and give birth to a child. I suppose donor conception is a “treatment” for a symptom of the disease, but in all areas of medicine we treat symptoms if we can’t cure the underlying disease. Donor egg, sperm, or embryo allows the infertility patient to become a parent. She or he may not be genetically related to their child, but they are a parent.
We want this space to be a place where all opinions are shared respectfully. That’s sometimes hard when we feel strongly and when we are forced to type our thoughts rather than verbally share them. Written online communication lacks the body language that can soften what may otherwise come off sounding harsh and as a put down, thus we have to be extra careful with our written words.
I’m not in favor of biological donations (for me personally) but I’d guess that if I did do it, we’d tell them and family for the similar reasons to why we disclose the adoption.
This seems very related to the post a week or so ago about telling your kids. Honestly, if you tell the kids about their biological origins, the rest of the family and close friends are likely to find out. Since telling the kids sure seems like the right thing to do to me, then it makes sense to tell the family so they don’t face hinky responses from family when it comes out. This isn’t a dirty little secret or a shameful thing, it’s an approach to treatment for a disease. Sure, it might make people a little uncomfortable, but if they are close friends and family, then it’s probably neither the first nor last slightly uncomfortable thing they’ve heard.
Anon AP, we spent a lot of time talking about just your point on the show. If you tell your kids, does that affect who else you tell?
My nephews are donated embryos. They are perfect! Everyone knows the cool story of how they came to be. My 6 year old nephews are proud to tell you the story of how one mommy borrowed her babies so there mommy could have babies. (Those are there words exactly).
Same-sex couples don’t really have a choice about telling – it’s kind of assumed. (Well, except for a few friends who sort of thought that maybe we managed to find a way to make sperm given our science savvy, ha ha.) That said, I think we would have disclosed to our children regardless, and if kids know things from early on then it’s never going to be an absolute secret for others, either. Anyway, we’re very open about the fact that we used a donor and also that it’s a known donor that we have a very good continuing relationship with. My take tends to be that the detailed info about the particular identity of our donor is more for our kids to share as they see fit, though, so I tend to deflect those questions.
J. Research also shows that same sex couples share with their kids more often, and I would assume the same is true with their family and friends. Like you said, it’s assumed. But it seems from what I’ve heard that they get questions about the identity of the donor a lot more often.
Lorraine, I hear that a lot from single women. The same with adoption. I interviewed a single mom for my book who was irritated that her father kept referring to her daughter as her “adopted daughter”. She knew her father was totally crazy about her daughter and was the best grandfather in the world to her, but was mad that he kept introducing her that way. When she confronted him, he said he was doing it to protect her reputation. The mom just kind of smiled and took it as a way of his showing his love. She also explained how it might affect the child and asked him sweetly to stop, which he did.
This article reminds me of a “friend”. She had IVF to conceive her son. My husband and I decided DNA was not all that important to us and so we decided to adopt. After we adopted our daughter my “friend” said she always wanted two children but they ran out of embryos so I suggested adoption for their 2nd. She said she could never love someone else’s DNA. She went on about how an adopted child would never be up to her biological son’s level. To which I basically rolled my eyes as I realized she was beyond help here. About a year later I run into a mutual friend at a party who informs me that our “friend’s” son is really the result of a snowflake embryo adoption implanted using IVF. So not her DNA after all. Some people?
I personally don’t care who’s DNA her son carries. What I do care about is what effect her attitude and dishonesty will have on her son long term. I already suspect there maybe some personality / sensory type issues developing. However our children come to us we need to embrace them and their DNA. Never be ashamed it it or you will show them that you are ashamed of them. Remember the truth ALWAYS comes out!!!
Anonymous, your friend’s story also highlights the difficulty of telling some people and not others. It is probably possible to draw line around telling some, but not others, but so often the info creeps between the lines and becomes very confusing. I have seen it work our when the person not being told the full truth is a much older relative.
Natalie, this post has given me some ideas too. It’s a complicated subject, isn’t it.
I love what anonymous said. It highlights the whole concept of ‘treatment with donor gametes’. As long as people are guided into thinking that this is treatment for their physical problems they are going to live as if someone else’s kids treated their infertility and allowed them to create their own child thereby rejecting who the child they are raising really is, not realizing that their job in life is not to cure their physical problems. If a person adopts and genuinely likes and loves the child they are raising they won’t feel cured of their infertility they will just be focused on loving the great person they are raising.
This is a topic that my husband and I continue to navigate. Our beautiful daughter was conceived via donor sperm after a long road of infertility. One of the hardest parts was deciding which family members to tell. Since we do plan to disclose to our child, we do not want her to bring it up to her grandparents someday and have them be in the dark about it, which may cause her to feel unnecessary shame.
Because of complicated family dynamics, we ended up disclosing to only 3 out of our 4 parents and 1 of our 5 siblings. This show made me wonder whether that was the right decision, but luckily our daughter is still quite young so we have time to change our minds. (Our feeling was that we can always choose tell someone later, but we can never UNtell an insensitive/blabbermouth person).
Once we decided who to tell, I think the best thing we did was to disclose before/during the pregnancy. That gave everyone time to adjust to the idea before the precious baby arrived so that when she was born, their only focus was on how precious and wonderful she is. And it worked out beautifully.
Before our daughter was born, we also made sure that my husband’s family knew that it was OK with us if they needed time to grieve a little bit. Of course, this only works if the people are sensitive and kind enough not to grieve TOO much (to the point where it would be very hurtful to us), and we are very lucky that we have such kind people in our family.
Thanks for your attention to this important topic. I soak up all the info on donor gametes from CaF and really appreciate the resources and info you provide.
Sara, thank you so much for sharing your real life experience with us. Family dynamics are real, and we absolutely have to navigate around them. Your decision to proceed with caution knowing your can expand your circle of whom you tell as time goes on sounds wise to me. I also thought your words to your husband’s parents was so thoughtful and insightful. So often we forget that our parents are people to with their own set of hopes and dreams for their family. Often we give ourselves permission and time to grieve, but completely forget that they also may need time to do the same. You sound like one wise woman.
This blog post reminded me of the experience we had when my husband was diagnosed with a genetic form of male factor IF. Before we went for the appointment where we would receive the “official diagnosis”-he had already received the bad news over the phone-we sat down and talked about where each of us was on the idea of using another man’s sperm to conceive a baby that we would raise together. For reasons I will not disclose here, we both were on the same page when it came to this issue-if we were to become parents, the child(ren) we would raise would be related to both of us or neither of us. So, armed with this resolve, we went to the appointment, heard the heartbreaking words anew that there was and is no way on earth that my husband will become a parent to a biological child of his own. Then, while the news was still sinking in, the doctor turns to me (and away from my husband) and starts talking to me about using a donor. The words he used still resound in my ears today “we can find you a donor that has the same hair and eye colour as your husband’s…..” At the time and even now I can remember my thoughts as he was saying those words-“Yesss….and who would that be for? I will know the difference, my husband will know the difference, the child will know the difference (because we would be upfront with him/her-the very same as we would be/will be with children who join our family through adoption-and our family and friends would know the difference on a need to know basis, depending on the relationship we have with them. Is this so that my husband and I can go out in public with our young family and not have people look at my husband and I sideways wondering about the circumstances of how these children came to be?” When I was able to get a word in edgewise, I was able to politely but firmly inform the doctor that my husband and I had already decided against using a donor as a way to build our family. When my husband was emotionally together enough to speak, he echoed my sentiments. The doctor was very apologetic-I think he realized that he had very much jumped the gun in talking donor insemination so quickly to us. Thankfully we were able to move on to talk about other things concerning the diagnosis and the options we had left to build a family. I was just wondering if anyone else that considered or used donor sperm, eggs, embryos or gametes had this type of experience-where the doctor automatically assumed that you would want a child that was likely to “match” you and your husband? This automatic emphasis from our doctor seemed odd to me, then as well as now, because we would have been honest about our child’s biological origins if we had gone the donor route. If they looked “too” similar to my husband and myself, would that be confusing to the child if we told them the truth about their parentage? Just wondering.
I also want to make a point about Donor insemination and everything that falls under that category-I have NO problem whatsoever with the use of this technology in family building. I believe that it should be made accessible and available to any and all people who feel that it is the right choice for them and their future family-it just wasn’t right for us. I know that such technologies and conception methods do not “cure” a person’s IF. Neither does adoption (contrary to the myths that still resonate in our still learning society), but IMHO both of these and all alternate family building methods (by which I mean all those that do not fall under the category of GOFI) can and do put one’s IF into remission. It doesn’t erase it completely-some treatments for diseases such as cancer do not “cure” that disease either-but they do allow those who suffer from it to live lives that are not held hostage by the disease/disability that threatened to keep them from being able to go on with their lives in a life-giving way. I apologize if I offended anyone with the last comment, but I take a great deal of comfort in the idea that IF can be put into “remission” even if it is not “cured”. Sometimes the “remission” can be enough. Thank you
Aspiring AP, boy you gave us a lot to talk about. As to your first question, the answer in my opinion is yes, doctors do often jump to donor egg and donor sperm as if these options are the obvious and natural next step. Better doctors and infertility clinics create a moment of pause before patients automatically move to non-genetic parenting, often by requiring or encouraging couples to see an infertility therapist to help them assess whether they are ready to take this step.
Aspiring AP, as to the advantages or disadvantages of choosing a donor who resembles either of the intended parents, that’s something I’ll think about. Most people I’ve spoken with choose a donor who resembles or shares some of their characteristics. I hadn’t given much thought before about the disadvantages of this. I will now.