Making Good Decisions about Using Donated Eggs: Elements and Influences By Ellen Sarasohn Glazer and Evelina Weidman Sterling
Making Good Decisions about Using Donated Eggs: Elements and Influences
By Ellen Sarasohn Glazer and Evelina Weidman Sterling
The following article has been excerpted from Chapter 4 of the May, 2005, book from Perspectives Press, Inc Having Your Baby through Egg Donation. Those reading it as a printout will find it on the internet at here.
Like all travelers, you should plan well for the journey through egg donation. We’d like to begin by reminding you of some of the elements of and influences on decision making that we addressed in Chapter 1 and then offer additional suggestions
Decisions Are Made Sequentially
If you have been struggling with infertility, you have probably already figured out that as your reality changes, so do your perceptions of your options. How many of you once thought, “I’ll never do IVF?” By now many of you are veterans of IVF cycles many times over. As you traveled down one path, you discovered that options which once seemed daunting or disturbing could actually have become attractive.
Never Say Never
You have probably figured this out as well. It is easy to say you will never do this, or never do that, but as we said before, as your reality changes, so do your decisions. Remember also, that not yet does not mean never. For instance, your partner may say “Not yet” to something that you think you want to do. Listen carefully to your partner, talk openly about your concerns, and repeat after us, “Not yet is not never.”
Husbands and Wives Move at Different Paces and This Is Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
Remember that we said, “Not yet is not never.” We remind you of this so soon because if you are like most couples facing decisions about using donated ova, one of you will be ready to consider this alternative path to parenthood before the other. When this happens, the person who wants to move forward is often upset and angry with the one who says, “I’m not ready” or “We need to try again.”
You are perhaps puzzled by our saying that this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact we have found that couples have a way of balancing each other. One of you can sound—and feel—eager to explore options beyond conventional treatment in part because you know that your partner will slow you down and help insure that you make wise, informed decisions. Similarly, you who are trailing at the rear can afford to take it slowly because you know from past experience that your spouse is well prepared to take the lead.
Your History Will Inform Your Decision Making
Remember that you and your partner have different histories as well as a shared one. Inevitably, decisions about using donated ova, adoption and other options will be shaped by your past experiences. If your favorite cousins were adopted, you will have one set of associations about adoption. If the worst trouble maker in your elementary school was adopted, you will have different notions about people who joined their family through adoption. If you were a birth-mother and placed a child in adoption, your feelings about adoption will be influenced by this experience, and if your cousin’s daughter was a program-recruited oocyte donor, you will have her as a reference point for egg donation. Be prepared for significant losses to help shape your perceptions of each of these options. This leads us to…
Loss and Grief Are Part of the Journey
Surely you will feel loss and grief along the way. After all, things are not working out the way you had hoped or expected. However, if you may still succeed in having a biological child (or another biological child), you may not face the full loss and grief encountered by those who learn or realize that they will never fulfill their dream. Nonetheless, you are experiencing loss—loss of the hoped for spontaneous conception, loss of feeling that you can plan your time (let alone your family!), loss of money, loss of a great deal of emotional and physical energy already invested, loss of the perception that hard work always pays off. Be prepared for a journey—or the continuation of a journey—that involves loss and grief and ever unfolding new realities. We hope that you, like others who have traveled before you, will discover the unanticipated rewards that come from being able to accept loss, to grieve, and then to celebrate your new realities.
Infertility researcher Dr. Stacy Ellender captures this in an essay she wrote about her own infertility experience and her daughter’s arrival from China in Experiencing Infertility (Josey Bass, 1998)
Ellender writes, “Someday, my daughter will learn that she was ‘forsaken on the street,’ abandoned under unknown circumstances, and waves of pain may send her reeling. But I like to think that I will steady her, that we will share our stories of loss and redefinition. I can hold her hand in mine and show her how to face pain with honesty, integrity and a deep wonder at its unexpected potential to shape our lives.”
Don’t Punish Yourselves
Remember that you have made the best decisions you could along the way. Regret is a painful, poisonous feeling, and infertile people are often the maestros of regret. It is so tempting to look back and second guess yourself. “I should have been less focused on my career and we should have tried earlier.” “I shouldn’t have had an abortion when I was 22. It might have been my only chance to have a baby.” “I should have pushed my husband when he said we had time to wait.” “I should have met him earlier.” “I should have tried to marry a younger woman.”
Although none of us make decisions expecting to regret them, sometimes the choices we make turn out to be the wrong ones. We wish we could tell you that you can be fully spared regret about future decisions, but you cannot be. It is almost inevitable that you will look back and contemplate how things could have been different if only you had made a different choice. All we can ask is that you try to be gentler with yourselves and each other and remind yourselves that in most instances, you did the best you could with the information you had at hand. As we know, hindsight is twenty/twenty, but in looking forward, all we can do is to try to see things as clearly as we can. Now is the time to look forward with hope rather than back with regret.
The People You Meet along the Way Will Shape Your Journey
Be prepared to meet some wonderful people, perhaps people who will change your lives. People struggling with infertility find one another in doctors’ waiting rooms, on line through sites like INCIID.org and fertilethoughts.com, through infertility support groups like RESOLVE and the American Fertility Association, the Infertility Network, and the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada. People considering using donated ova and adoption turn for guidance to others who have traveled these paths before them. How reassuring it is to attend an adoption agency meeting and see a couple smiling happily as they dote over their newly adopted baby. And you say to yourself, “They look just like regular parents!” How comforting it is to see a woman pregnant through egg donation, glowing and very much “with child.” You feel tickled as again you say to yourself, “She looks no different than any other pregnant woman.”
The people you meet along your journey will have a lot to do with the choices you make. This is, for the most part, a good thing. We expect that you will find mentors and friends. But take caution as well. You are vulnerable. You will be listening carefully and with emotion to everything you hear about the options that lie before you. If someone has had a bad story using an option that you are considering, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s experience is bad or that yours will be.
You will meet people along the way who will become friends for the journey. You may also meet people who will become friends for life
You Have the Right to Make Your Own Decisions and to Feel That You Are Doing So Free and Clear of the Influence of Others
As you travel this journey, you will surely find that others will offer advice. First of all, you will receive a tremendous amount of medical information and advice, requested and unrequested, from physicians, nurses and other caregivers. Medical and program staff’s information is given so that they can be sure that your decision is made autonomously and that your consents are fully informed. You should take all of this information in and consider it carefully before making your own unique decision. Advice about non-medical options in family building or the non-medical aspects of gamete-donation, on the other hand, is unauthorative when coming from medical personnel, and should be thought of as such. You will receive additional advice from what we call “the self-appointed experts”—the family members, friends and complete strangers who want to give you such sage advice as “Relax and you will get pregnant” or “Parenthood is not so great anyhow” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” You will need to remain strong and sure-footed as this advice comes your way, often when you feel least equipped to cope with it.
Speak from a Position of Strength
Do not tempt advice givers! If you let people know only the basic facts about your situation—that you want to have a baby and that you are doing your best to make that happen—you are less likely to invite unsolicited advice. And this is really all that anyone needs to know. They don’t need to know that you are contemplating using a donor’s egg or adoption or another IVF cycle. When you do have some news that you want to share, speak from a position of strength. If you say, “We’re thinking about using a donor ovum” or “We are looking into adoption,” you may get upsetting responses such as, “Oh we’re so sorry IVF didn’t work for you,” or “Are you sure you’ve seen a good doctor? We know someone who had 25 miscarriages and then saw Dr. So-and-So in North Rural, South Dakota and…or “Whatever you do, stay away from adopting from That Country. We know people who…”
What you need to say—if and when you say anything at all—is “We have great news. We’ve decided to …” or better yet, “We have great news, we’re expecting a child through…”