I’ve been asked many times about how my husband, Matt, felt about the decision to use an egg donor and how he himself came around to the idea. Not being in a position to answer this myself and not wanting to speak on his behalf, I asked whether he would be happy to share his thoughts.
Thankfully he agreed and I am delighted to share his first blog post written for DefiningMum, one that he has penned in response to questions posed by some of my Instagram followers. It was insightful for me to read his views (thankfully with no major surprises!), and is a perspective that I hope will give you comfort, along with the opportunity to share and open up discussions with your own partners.
Hi – thanks for the questions. If the discussion around donor eggs is generally considered to be under resourced, then a male viewpoint within this sometimes-divisive subject is probably about as niche as it gets. But here goes. It’s interesting (but not unpredictable) that having read through what I was being asked to comment on, about 95% of the topics concerned the fears and apprehension of what we went through, rather than the huge upside at the end of it! So, before I even attempt to add some comments around the questions that were posed I feel I should add a very quick disclaimer! Whilst all of my views are my honest opinions and recollections, I’m quite aware that I’m looking back through a sort of ‘positivity filter’, as the absolute joy of the last three and a half years with our girls has almost certainly softened the edges of how tough it sometimes was in the ‘pre-girls’ days.
The questions seemed to naturally fall into three groups: the decision itself, thoughts around the donor & any concerns regarding connections to our children (& how it may differ from those parents with ‘normal’ genetic links).
So – the decision:
To be completely honest, I felt that initially I had less of an opinion to give throughout all of our attempts at IVF, whether with Becky’s own eggs or with DE. This wasn’t through a lack of interest on my part, just that Becky’s desire to reach a successful conclusion massively overshadowed my own. Whilst I tend to make a lot of decisions based on gut feel and on principle, I also try to balance this out with evidence and fact. As my ‘pre-girls’ knowledge of the processes and considerations involved in IVF in general (let alone DE IVF) were so limited, I felt that I was always going to be guided by the person doing the lion’s share of the research – in this case Becky. Becky made it her role to understand the science, the probability of successful outcomes and the choices that we would inevitably have to make. My role was more of being supportive of her than of being a significant influence on which paths we would take & this was something I was more than happy with.
We agreed that we wanted to be parents and basically had to work our way down the list of preference of how we could achieve this, ticking off the ‘this option is not available to you’ boxes as we went. The only problem with working your way down the list from ‘most preferable’ to ‘I didn’t even know that was possible’, was that there were more and more additional side-questions and consideration that were unearthed at each level. Once we came to the realisation that ‘normal’ conception and then the use of IVF with Becky’s own eggs was not going to be fruitful, the main mental roadblock that I faced personally was that I struggled to shake the thought that I would effectively be creating a child with someone I’d never met! Whilst this was something that initially troubled me, I’ve always been relatively pragmatic and knew that we weren’t exactly blessed with options. Our desire of becoming parents was stronger than my initial misgivings & I’m not a big one for personal mantras, but after bitter personal experience I know for certain that life is far too short. With this always at the back of my mind I’d always thought that in the end it’s better to regret doing something than regret never having done it, so on we went.
Due to the procedure offered by the clinic we attended in Prague, we didn’t have the option of selecting a specific donor, we were simply matched with someone who had reasonably similar visual characteristics to Becky. In hindsight, I see this as a really good thing for us. I tend to go full-on-researcher when it comes to selecting pretty much anything that I want. I like to trawl internet pages, comparing specifications, reading reviews, watching videos, etc. If I’d have been given a catalogue of donor options and their relative merits I would have spent forever second-guessing what the person was really like & I’d now be wondering which elements were influencing the things we observe in the girls. This also means that I would potentially have seen any negatives traits as being the fault of the donor or the fault of ourselves in picking the donor in the first place. I’m far more content in looking at the positives, knowing that the donor decided to do something incredibly altruistic and although we will never meet them, I’m extremely grateful to them for this. On the flip-side, If I chose to be somewhat cynical, as a ‘people manager’ who’s done their fair share of recruitment, I also know that the CV doesn’t always give a true impression of a candidate, so the catalogue method may not have been a particularly trustworthy source of information anyway!
I had no real fears about the personality of the donor and how that would influence how our girls’ personalities would eventually unfold. Whilst I obviously understand the genetic link in terms of influencing physical characteristics, I’m far more swayed by ‘nurture’ than ‘nature’ when it comes to temperament and disposition, so I think Becky and I (rather than the donor) should probably be held accountable if Mila, Eska and Lena turn out to be absolute horrors.
Connection to the children:
I’ve never ever thought that simply because half of their genetic make-up comes from me, I would be any more connected to our children than Becky. Even if I had considered this to be a concern at any stage, the theory would already have been disproved as the girls are very firmly connected to both of us. If anything, I worried more that I would be the one who had issues with bonding, as I spend time away with work whilst Becky couldn’t get away from them if she tried. I’ve already alluded to my preference for nurture over nature, so I’m very much of the opinion that it’s a parent’s job to ensure that their children have every reason to want to connect to them, therefore blaming genetics for any lack of bonding seems like a lazy excuse.
Anything I’ve learnt after all of the above? Firstly, that I now feel extremely privileged to have such an incredible story to share with our girls rather than in any way embarrassed about how they came to be. Don’t get me wrong, in terms of stress, finance & heartache the ‘normal’ way of getting pregnant is infinitely preferable, but our story just seems a little more special. Having been through the darker times I can also comfortably say that I have absolutely no regrets about the choices we made and what we went through – I’m looking forward to supporting our little ones in anything they choose to do with their lives and they can know (more than most) that we are delighted to share our home, time and love with them. We tried hard enough to get them, so we’re determined to enjoy every second.