Olivia’s Story – Why I donated my eggs

Olivia’s Story – Why I donated my eggs

I am so lucky to be a mum, an egg donor and now an advocate for the most precious gift you can give. So here it is, my story about how I discovered egg donation and the amazing path it set me on. I had just had my first baby boy when a neighbour from down the road had popped in for a cuppa and a cuddle, we got chatting and I couldn’t help but notice the maternal warmth and longing she exuded. After a bit more chit chat, she told me that she was unable to have her own children due to a low egg count, that her and her partner had been trying for years. In that moment my heart broke for them. She told me they had now decided to look for an egg donor, something I had never heard of before. As my neighbour explained the process and how she was still able to have hope because somewhere out there a stranger was willing to give them this gift, I immediately knew that I wanted to donate my eggs.

Fast forward 3 years after I’d had my second baby boy and I felt ready to help someone/a couple finally become a parent. In the time between finding out about donation and calling Altrui, I had done a lot of research so felt ready to get the process started. The ladies at Altrui were amazing, so supportive and knowledgeable. I poured my heart and soul into my profile, hoping that any potential recipients would really get a feel for who I am as a person. I will never forget the call saying I had been matched, the wave of excitement and emotion I felt. However, one thing I didn’t expect to feel was the sudden onset of pressure and fear that I would let my couple down, who were out there somewhere pinning all their parenting hopes on me and my eggs.

I am so pleased that the treatment was completed without complication and my recipients received lots of high-quality eggs. Almost exactly a year later (on my birthday – the best present ever!) I received a message from Altrui to say my recipients had welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world and they were smitten. The happiness I feel for that family is so hard to put into words and I have no doubt that they will be the
most loving and doting parents. I regularly think about them and the many firsts and milestones they will be cherishing and find myself smiling. I also speak to my children about mummy helping another family to have a baby, how kindness is free and there can never be enough of it!

I would love to one day meet my recipients and more than anything, give the mummy a big cuddle. I have so much love for the family and feel so honoured that they picked me and I have been able to help their dreams become true. A lot of people ask me how I feel about having another child out there, I don’t feel like this is the case. I have two children, I grew them, birthed them and tuck them in every night, I am forever grateful for that, so to be able to help someone else to have that, is the greatest gift, for the recipient and for me. If anything, I feel that my emotional tie is to the mother, we have a very unique connection and she is regularly in my thoughts.

That being said, I would love to one day meet the child/children and answer any questions they may have about me and my family history. I completely respect that it will be the donor conceived child’s decision and it’s ok either way, I also hope that they will involve their parents in any decision they make.

I am now a huge advocate for egg donation and it is something I am incredibly passionate about. There are so many people out there waiting for a donor and they all deserve the chance to be parents and to feel the unconditional love that comes from it.

I want to say a huge thank you to Olivia for sharing her story, an amazing lady who quite literally brought me to tears during one of my joint webinars with @altruieggdonation and Apricity last year – I’ve linked it here if you would like to watch the recording.

To find out more about Altrui Egg Donation, as either a recipient or a donor, head to their website – https://www.altrui.co.uk/

Talking to your child about donor conception

Talking to your child about donor conception

Talking to your child about donor conception can feel both daunting and emotional. Over the past 18 months through my DefiningMum Instagram platform I’ve shared a number of moments from our own parenting-after-donor-conception journey; some planned and some unexpected, but all huge learning points and steps towards our girls understanding how they came to be. With my fertility journey in the past, the focus now for us is on sharing our children’s story with them.

I’m often asked questions about why, when and how I’ve been talking to them, which is why I decided to attempt to pull all of my experiences and learnings together in one blog post. Throughout this piece I’ve placed links directly to my past Instagram posts, each of which gives a more detailed insight into a moment in time. Often old posts can be difficult to find on Instagram and so I thought I’d try to make this topic easier to navigate!

Before I share my learnings, I want to note that it’s completely normal for it to feel overwhelming when thinking about having these conversations, particularly in the early days, which is why I also want to offer some perspective. This post might seem exhaustive, but in reality the topic by no means dominates our conversations or daily life. It’s not something we think or talk about that often, but starting early has allowed us to practice, feel more comfortable and for their story to be understood as they grow. This way they won’t have a recollection of being ‘told’, it will just always be their ‘normal’. I don’t claim to be an expert, this is simply from my own experience and listening to others – I encourage you to find your own way. Here are my top-tips:

It’s not always easy…

Even though on reading some of my posts these conversations might sound straight-forward, it’s not always easy. You’re sharing what may have been an incredibly traumatic time (whilst possibly still holding onto some grief) with the person you love more than anything. At the same time you’re not wanting anything to change the relationship you have and as a parent you want to protect them from ever feeling sad in any way, shape or form. That’s a pretty big deal and so I wanted to recognise this upfront, to validate these feelings first and foremost. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly normal to get emotional (especially at first) but I have found that it does get easier over time. The first time I received and read Happy Together Children’s Book I was so glad that I was alone because I sobbed big, heavy tears as everything came rushing back to me. I wondered how I would actually get through the story with my then three year old Mila, but as I wrote in this Instagram post just afterwards, it actually felt so ‘right’ when it came to it, “just feeling the weight of her head on my chest gave me such comfort – our happy ending was right there in front of me and this book actually celebrates how special her life is.”

Practice yourself before they understand…

Start telling them early, even whilst you’re pregnant, simply as practice to help you. Private moments confiding in your bump, during cuddles as you sit in the dark during night feeds, to their little face as you change yet another nappy. It can really help to practice saying it out-loud in a safe way before they have any understanding. I found it helped me release some of my emotions, find my words, build my confidence and feel more comfortable for when they became older and able to respond.

Align with your partner…

If you have a partner, it’s a good idea to talk to them and think about how you can both get involved. It’s important that you’re aligned on the story you’re telling so that there are no mixed messages (the same might apply to close family members). I definitely find myself taking the lead with these conversations within our family but Matt has also read books to them and spoken about it when the opportunity has arisen.

Choose words that feel comfortable for you…

In these early years use your own words and what feels right for you. We’ve opted for talking about mummy’s broken eggs, the donor giving us some of her eggs to mix with daddy’s seed to make a tiny embryo, which was put in mummy’s tummy to grow. This language may develop over time but is the starting point for us as they begin to understand the concept of donor conception.

Children’s books can provide the building blocks…

Children’s books provide a great foundation upon which to build their story. Happy Together Children’s Book (a story about egg donation) was the first one we read together at the age of just three for Mila, and two for Eska and Lena. The author, Julie Marie @happytogetherchildrensbook is a mum herself through egg donation and shares some really insightful posts from her own experience over on Instagram. There are lots of other books out there to share with your child, ‘You were meant for me” being one that led to Mila saying the words “I want your eggs to work Mummy”, something I wrote about at the time. Robobabies by @robomummy talks about how different families are made and is a great way to open up conversations and the Donor Conception Network also host a full series of age appropriate books relevant to many different family formations. I’ve even discovered a brilliantly relatable book called “Hattie Peck” about a hen who goes on a desperate search for eggs, which was another great way to adapt our story and expand upon how different families are made.

Weave concepts into daily life…

Books are a great foundation which can then be built upon. It’s also possible to weave the concepts into day-to-day conversations as and when the opportunity arises. Recently I wrote about something as simple as cooking eggs, a day-to-day activity that has been a great conversation starter as it links back to ‘mummy’s broken eggs’ and the concept of us using donor eggs. Scenarios such as these provide a chance to expand upon the book we’ve read, for me to ask questions and to answer theirs too. We’ve also had a few unplanned moments arising from questions Mila has asked herself that have allowed us to discuss things in more detail, one example being her simply asking Matt about her belly button. We also have toys such as eggs and baby dolls which have been simple ways to start conversations too during play-time together.

Find one-on-one time together…

Choose moments where you have some uninterrupted one-on-one time together; quiet moments in the bathroom whilst toilet training worked well for us. Mila would spend an age just sat on the toilet chatting with me when she first started using it, a great opportunity for me to talk to her about how special she is and again reflect back on the book we’d read together. It was here where she took me by surprise and first asked me an unexpected question about our donor, “So, where is the kind lady now?”

Create a scrapbook or memory box…

You could create a scrapbook of your journey or pull together a memory box, something which can become a more personal resource to show them from time to time. My scrapbook was a very special gift given to me at my baby shower, created by a very special lady who supported me throughout my journey. She included pictures of our trip to Prague, quotes from texts I sent to her, scan pictures and bump photos all the way through to having Mila. I’ve heard examples from others of writing letters to their future children and including these to share with them when they’re older too.

Celebrate the donor in some way…

Have a think about ways in which you could celebrate something relating to your donor. We were given a picture of Prague by our clinic, something we’ve had framed and placed on our wall amongst all of our family pictures. It’s a special place we’ll take them all to visit when they’re older, with their names also originating from here too. I found it especially helpful as a visual tool when Mila asked the question I mentioned earlier “Where is the kind lady now?”.

Don’t force it…

Don’t despair if they’re not interested in that moment, it doesn’t mean they won’t give it attention next time. If our girls seem interested and engage with me then I’ll ask what they can remember, expand or allow them to ask questions, but if not we simply move on and I try not to force the conversation. There have been plenty of times where the conversation I’ve tried to start has led nowhere. There was a time I would beat myself up about it and worry that we weren’t talking about it enough, but now I’ve realised it’s just a normal part of parenting and that sometimes kids just want to do what they want to do!

It doesn’t have to dominate your conversations…

As I said at the start, you don’t need to be talking about this all of the time. In reality for us it forms less than 1% of all of our family conversations, we can go weeks or even months in-between. I believe revisiting it is important, but it doesn’t have to be constant and day-to-day family life goes on without this being at the forefront of our minds.

Make sure they know how special and loved they are…

Throughout all of these conversations, make sure they know just how very special they are! Mila now tells her story proudly, with one her main take-aways right now being just how wanted she was and how happy we are to have her, something I posted about after overhearing her tell her story to my mum, totally unprompted.

If you have siblings involve them…

Being lucky enough to have our three girls, all from the same donor, we now have the opportunity to have conversations both together and separately. Mila has revelled in being able to share this information with her two younger sisters (especially the part where they were frozen) as she delivers her own interpretation of the Happy Together book. I’ve encouraged these interactions and love hearing them talk about it together, something which is a great comfort.

Think about how language and concepts might develop over time…

As they develop and grow, the language and level of detail will evolve, you may find that their understanding might surprise you at times. In Mila’s case, at the age of just four and a half, she’s already starting to piece together some of what genetics might mean in relation to how we look. Just a few weeks ago I shared an post about her noticing our differences as we looked in the mirror, and in this past week it has followed with her applying this conversation to the concept of our donor’s egg as she said to me  “I think the donor’s egg has blue in it…because my eyes are blue”.

There will be more to think about as they adapt and grow through the years, which will inevitably involve some more difficult questions. Being as open as we are has led me to consider things that I otherwise wouldn’t have, such as informing Mila’s teacher when she started school so that she’s aware in the event that Mila starts talking about this herself. I’m open to learning more about how these conversations might evolve, something which will be a focus in February’s Paths to Parenthub webinar “Talking to your child about their conception: adapting as they grow”.

You don’t have to do this alone…

As I said at the start of this post, it’s not always easy and can involve lots of extreme emotions. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to seek support and help, whether it be from a counsellor, family member or someone else who’s been there. It will help you to process things and be in the best possible state of mind for your children. A quote I love from @psychotherapy_mum is “looking after your mental health is one of the best gifts you can give your children”. You don’t need to be ‘perfect’ when delivering these words, it’s about being authentic, honest and there for them, but at the same time you need to look after yourself too.

This might seem like a big list (I know this post is certainly longer than I intended it to be!) but there’s lots of support available to help you. I will continue to share our story and those of others through DefiningMum alongside my new members platform Paths to Parenthub  where there’s the opportunity to find support and connection with other members on this parenting journey. There’s also lots of information, with past webinars available to listen to around “Grieving the loss of a dream, redefining a new dream” with Julianne Boutaleb from Parenthood In Mind as well as a whole webinar dedicated to this topic “Talking to your child about donor conception: the younger years” with expert Marilyn Crawshaw and Julie Marie, author of the Happy Together Children’s Book series. You can either purchase and listen to individual webinars or become a member to take advantage of joining the community (which also now hosts monthly virtual support groups) as well as having access to all expert webinars and personal stories through our live chats.

Although this post is solely about talking to your child, I also want to note that not everyone will be as open as we are with others and you don’t have to be. It doesn’t need announcing on social media and the whole world doesn’t have to know. You as a family and an individual are entitled to privacy without it needing to be a secret. This is a whole other topic and often one people find tricky to decide upon, something I’ll cover soon during the upcoming Paths to Parenthub webinar  “Talking to friends and family“.

I hope that this post is helpful to you, if there’s any other tips or advice you’d like to share then please do comment below – my hope it that it will become a great resource for prospective and new parents after donor conception.