Talking to Your Child About Egg Donation: Ancestral Lines
I recently heard an interview on NPR with the poet David Ferry. He read a short excerpt from his poem, Ancestral Lines:
It’s as when following the others’ lines,
Which are the tracks of somebody gone before,
Leaving me mischievous clues, telling me who
They were and who it was they weren’t,
And who it is I am because of them,
Or, just for the moment, reading them, I am,
Although the next moment I’m back in myself, and lost. …
~Ancestral Lines BY DAVID FERRY
Hearing this struck me about how we make sense of our world. Part of our identify stems from our parents and grandparents—our ancestral lines. On the other hand, most of the time we are simply ourselves and who those ancestors may matter very little.
We all struggle with who we are and how we make sense of our identity, our family, and our world. We may, for a moment, feel we have a small grasp on “self” only for it to slip away in the next. In truth, in our day-to-day life we may spend very little time wrestling with such heady thoughts but, when exploring using an egg donor in order to have a child, this can be all consuming. Since intended parents are the people who fill my world, I think about this all the time.
Because egg donation is a relatively new and non-traditional way to build a family, it can engender a lot of anxiety. We have only a brief history (roughly, 20 years) for learning how to talk to children about their special beginnings via egg donation. However, we can learn a lot from the experience of adoptive parents about how to talk with children about their special beginning.
We have learned that children can thrive in a family that doesn’t share genetic material. Love makes a family, not genetics. We have learned that being open with children is better than silence and the earlier, the better. It is how we tell each child’s story of origin that makes the difference.
In preparing to tell your child the story of how they came to be part of your family, I recommend preparing a book for your child with all of the players who were involved. The child is always the star because, in the end, this is your child’s story. The donor, your doctor, and any siblings are all supporting characters. For example, ‘the donor was a nice young woman who let you borrow eggs when you ran out of eggs. She had many wonderful characteristics that made her feel like she would be a good choice so that your child could be created and join your family.’ Kids love to be read to and they love stories about themselves more than anything else. You can start reading this book aloud when you are pregnant and continue to read this book to them throughout their life.
The point of reading this book while you are pregnant is for you to become comfortable with your child’s special story because, in the end, it is their story. Your child, even in utero, will find hearing your voice soothing. Whether you are a couple or a single parent, your child is a product of your love. You had so much love to give that you wanted to share that love with a child and through the help of some very special people you were able to bring this little person into your family.