Embryo Donation: "What should I tell my son?"
What options do parents have when it comes to the embryos remaining once their family is complete? How do those looking for embryos actually find them? Embryo Donation is becoming a viable and alternative option for people who wish to become parents when other approaches to conception have failed.
For parents who have embryos leftover from their own IVF cycles, the decision on disposal can be heart-wrenching and many are choosing to donate through their fertility clinic or through a rising number of organizations that are providing information and facilitating matches. Embryo donation is an alternative for many intended parents looking to have a family.
Resolve, the National Infertility Association, has created a dedicated site to help those on both sides to understand what embryo donation entails.
In the first of several articles about embryo donation, we explore more about what it’s like to receive donated embryos, how to talk to children about it and what are some of the issues that may come up for intended parents who wish to create their families using donated embryos.
Talking to Children About Embryo Donation
How do you tell children about their origins? Here’s a question we saw recently in a social media group:
My son (he’s 9) knows that he is the result of someone donating their embryos to us. It was a ‘semi-open’ donation but we didn’t tell him that the donor couple have two children of their own. I don't want to go through a huge "you never told me" betrayal thing, but I also don't want to keep secrets from my son. Advice? - B’s Mama
We reached out to Lisa Schuman, experienced therapist and Executive Director of the Center for Family Building. Here is her thoughtful answer.
Dear B’s Mama,
The first thing to know is that your son is lucky. You are giving him a wonderful home and love him very much. The research on disclosure is clear. The ideal is “early and often” with the caveat “it’s never too late”.
I recommend age appropriate books to begin sharing his story. There are a few embryo donation books out there but if you can’t find any you like then you can use donor sperm and donor egg books to explain your story. I believe it is good to build a foundation for self acceptance by introducing “diversity training” when you can. These books talk about being different, being the same and the understanding that love makes a family. I also think it is helpful to chronicle his story. I created My Lifebook to address this need but you can make one yourself or buy something different. The idea is to create a scrapbook that is uniquely for your child. You can do this any time with your partner or with your son. There is also a book list on my website in resources. It is important to always speak highly of the donors. Although he is your child through and through, he will know that part of him (even if he thinks its 1 percent) is connected someplace else and you want that place to be positive because it is part of who he is.
Last, your son grew in your body. Although the genetics were his blueprint, you built that home with your placenta. Through the process of epigenetics, your body turned on and off characteristics that make your son uniquely yours.
Good luck and let us know if you need any more help. We aim to make your journey easier.
In our next installment of embryo donation, we will explore just how to embryo donation works.