Then & Now: 20 Years of Egg Donation
When I first started working in the field of in 1998, egg donation was not a popular choice among intended parents. Fertility patients didn't have many resources to turn to, or professionals who could relate to what they were experiencing. Many of the couples I saw were full of denial, anger and hostility. The mere suggestion of seeking counseling was seen as a threat. Not only would they have to reveal their vulnerability but also one more person would know their painful “secret”. Infertility was considered a shameful curse rather than a physical reality that they shared with thousands.
When intended parents pursued an egg donor cycle, they usually had no desire to share this information with anyone including their child. I have always encouraged intended parents to be open with their children regarding the special way they became a family. In the early years, this was often too hard to accept and therefore too difficult to comprehend. It was too “Orwellian”.
I'm thrilled that my friends in this fertility mission, Marna Gatlin of Parents Via Egg Donation and therapist Carole LieberWilkins, have released their wonderful book 'Let's Talk About Egg Donation.'. It's full of real stories about families that began with heartache, but ended with joy. Both Gatlin and Lieberwilkins are mothers via egg donation, and have put together a series of stories by others who have also been through this extraordinary journey.
It's so heartening to me to hear that people are sharing their family-building stories because it can only be good for all involved. Two decades after I started in this field, intended parents are more open to seeking counseling and allowing themselves to resolve issues to reach a point of acceptance. Donor conception is much more commonplace and while it's still not talked about as much as surrogacy, I find intended parents are now much more comfortable with the idea of using egg donation to create their families.
Intended parents now are more likely to seek counseling, talk to friends, or join support groups. They are less liable to be making decisions in isolation. It is still a complicated process, but they now, for the most part, realize they are not the only ones.
Talking to their children regarding how they became part of the family is an important and beautiful true story that they can share proudly. Society is slowly learning from the painful fiction that encouraged secrecy long ago with adoption and sperm donation. It was assumed that they would not discuss the details of their child’s special conception, never realizing that secrets have a life of their own and their presence is always lurking in the family’s subconscious. It is better for children to hear their story from their parents, rather than by accident some day through another source. While a couple is trying to conceive with an egg donor, it's their story but once the conceive, it's their child's story of origin.
There is always the hope that the statistics won’t apply to “me”. When a women finds out that it is true that egg quality and viability starts to decrease as we get closer to 35 and quite dramatically as we reach 40 and beyond. We all hope to be the exception. The good news is that these facts are more broadly known now than they were 20 years ago.
Thanks to a strong army of third-party professionals like Donor Concierge, along with our network of over 120 egg donor and surrogacy agencies, mental health professionals, hundreds of attorneys and fertility doctors, intended parents can begin this exciting journey with hope.