Should I Tell Anyone That I Used A Donor Egg?
The first case of egg donation occurred in 1983. In the early stages of egg donation it was treated much like sperm donation, which, like the early days of adoption, was shrouded in secrecy. No one ever needs to know. Women were told after the insemination to go home and make love to their husband and just forget that this ever happened.
The trouble with secrets is they are heavy and burdensome. We can’t forget things that we are vigilantly holding as secrets without feeling a constant undercurrent of stress. Secrets take on a life of their own and create rifts in relationships, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Every family has their own decisions and choices to make with regard to telling that their child is a product of egg donation
- Who do you tell?
- When do you tell?
- What do you say?
- How do you say it?
- Do you tell at all?
Every family has their reasons for wanting to keep the egg donor a secret:
- Some feel shame that they could not conceive
- Fear their child might be rejected by family
- Fear that their child may reject them
- Fear their child will feel different
- Mostly fear is the biggest motivator for keeping secrets
If you choose not to tell you should tell no one. Why? Because the more you tell the more likely this secret is to be shared by well-meaning individuals who are sure that the one person they tell will not tell anyone else. The web of who knows and who doesn’t know slowly spreads. There are always dangers in not telling as there can be in telling but holding secrets can have serious repercussions throughout your child’s life. As Carole Lieber Wilkins, MFT points out, “The best interests of children and their families are served by children growing up with the knowledge that they are not genetically or gestationally related to one of their parents ... Children who ‘sense’ there is something wrong in their family usually assume it is about them and assume the worst ... the feeling of betrayal can be overwhelming.” What happens if:
- Your child develops an allergy that no one else in the family has (allergies are 100% inheritable though they may skip a generation)?
- Your child in 9th grade biology does a cheek swab and finds that his or her DNA is different from yours?
- Someone slips and says something and your child thinks that the people (you the parents) who he/she loves and trust the most in all the world have lied about being his/her biological parents?
Right now while you are trying to get pregnant this is your story. Once you conceive via egg donation and give birth, the story becomes your child’s story. His or her genetic beginning may be important throughout his or her life. This child is yours but he or she has a genetic link to one other person. You are the parent but the donor is a genetic relative.
In most cases, when children are made aware at an early age of their special conception, they are very accepting because it has always been part of the fabric of their lives. Madeline Licker Feingold, PhD, a psychotherapist specializing in infertility says “Current research in collaborative reproduction supports Erikson’s ideas. Children who have been told about their donor origins have not rejected the non-genetic parent or responded negatively to the information. Additionally, when children learn about their donor origins at a young age, they seem to have a more positive experience about their donor conception than those who are told later in life.”
They will of course have questions but when they do, you can answer them with age-appropriate answers, and with the information that you have available to you. “Studies also indicate that an offspring’s curiosity about the donor was independent of the parent-child relationship, meaning that children can have positive relationships with their parents and also be curious about their donor origins … from the parents’ perspective, almost no parents regretted their decision to use an open-identity donor.”
That may be the donor’s profile, or a scrapbook you have created for your child to tell the story of how they came to be part of your family with all of the players involved. Your child is the star of this story and you the parents are the co-stars. The donor, the RE and nursing staff are all supporting players. You wanted to share your love so much that you went to great lengths to have him/her. There are many great books to help you to tell your child’s story to make it easy straightforward. “What Makes A Baby” is a great one to consider or check out our Resource page for more suggestions. You may find that as you read these books they are not just for your child but also for yourself as you become more comfortable with your child’s special beginnings.
More and more of my clients are choosing to tell their children of their special beginnings, realizing that this is an important part of their child’s story. There are many things that you can do to lay the groundwork for keeping avenues open for your child to discover more information should he or she want to as they grown up:
- Check with the egg donor through her agency to see if she is open to the possibility of future contact (Though many donors may answer no to this question on their application it is worth asking the question. Donor’s often say no to put so that the intended parents don’t feel threatened by the donor intruding on their lives)
- Include a clause for future contact in the egg donor contract
- Sign up with the Donor Sibling Registry and request that your donor does the same
Most egg donors have a desire to do the right thing. I have found that the vast majority of donors, when specifically asked if they would be willing to be contacted at a later date by either the couple or the child are open to answer questions that you or your child may have in the future.
In some cultures telling might be out of the question, or there may be other reasons why you don’t want to tell. Only you can make that determination for your family. However, I strongly feel that openness and honesty are definitely the best policy for building your family via egg donation because in the long run, secrets are dangerous and each child has a right to know where he/she came from. There is no danger in telling, when a child comes from love.
Gail Sexton Anderson is the founder of Donor Concierge. She has been working with intended parents, guiding them through egg donation and surrogacy for nearly two decades.