Why Can't We Agree On An Egg Donor?

This blog is part of our continuing series on Relationships. Here, therapist Carole Lieber-Wilkins discusses common issues faced by those using egg donation for family building.

My partner and i just can't decide on an egg donor. He is picking people who are completely unlike me. I feel like he's trying to replace me with a 'better' version.

Selecting a donor is almost always the hardest part of moving forward with egg donation. The magnitude of what it means to find the person who will contribute 50% of your child’s genetic makeup is huge! What a responsibility. We know our flaws and crazy family histories, but it’s OUR family history and the devil we know is always less scary than the devil we don’t know.

So, imagine this.

Imagine that your husband is the one with a fertility issue and the two of you must find a sperm donor from a “catalogue” online.

You chose your husband because he is funny and kind. He is smart and witty and when he holds your hand you feel safe. He is a hard worker and shares your values.

Let’s say the husband above is also balding and has a little tummy paunch and has a family history of cancer. And his mother is neurotic.

Now, how do you select sperm to replace the genes of the man you love? Do you screen out for the qualities you would rather not pass on? Do you look for a donor who has no cancer in his history? Somehow try to screen in for humor? Hardworking? How do you do that from the few statistics and little information you are given when looking for a donor?

The point is that the egg donor you are considering is a combination of everyone who came before her - every crazy Aunt Sadie, every brilliant, nerdy uncle. You are not selecting a child; you are selecting a set of criteria that you might hope you can pass along.

Your husband loves you as a whole person, not a collection of criteria one could list on a sheet of paper. Vital statistics, SAT scores, athleticism, or major in college doesn’t make the entirety of a person. For many of us, if someone just listed our “criteria” we wouldn’t seem as desirable as people as we are as our whole selves. This is one of the limitations of anonymous donation. We usually recommend that over and above physical characteristics, or academic achievement, that you choose someone that, to the best of your ability, you feel like you’d really like to hang out for a few hours at Starbucks; or someone that you might feel proud to say she is your daughter. But how do you do that if you don’t meet that person in person? How do you know if you would feel drawn to her or like her?

Read her comments; is there anything that jumps out at you? Does she seem warm? Funny? Smart? People select donors because they like the same books or they went to the same university. Or it might be something simple - because she likes golden retrievers.

Your husband is probably not looking for the better version of you; he is probably looking for someone with your best qualities and screening out for the qualities neither of you would like to pass along. He’s probably doing the same as you would if the shoe was on the other foot. If it can’t be us, don’t we want the best version of us to pass along the genes to our children?
We hope for the best, but the truth is our children are never the children of our fantasies. Often they are way better; other times they may have features we would rather they not have. But just like the other people in our lives, we don’t love based on an itemized list of characteristics. We love unconditionally - because they are ours.

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