Mila and I finally had the opportunity to read our new book Happy Together Childrens Book – a story about egg donation, kindly gifted to my girls. I actually started talking to her occasionally as a baby, holding her in my arms in the middle of the night. For me this was such an important time – it helped me to gain confidence and recognise my emotions, whilst it still being a one-way conversation. It helped me become more comfortable in saying out-loud that we needed help to get them and they were so very wanted.
Even though I’d practiced to help myself become more comfortable, honestly, I still had some anxiety about reading this book with Mila. When the book arrived I sobbed as I read it, it so simply and beautifully talks through what was a hellish journey with the most beautiful ending. I worried that the same thing would happen when I started to read it with Mila.
We settled down in her bed, her head in the usual spot resting on my chest as I read her story… this being one of two stories because she negotiates a ‘deal’ every night! She listened intently and instantly picked up on Mummy bear looking ‘sad’. She then showed her sheer delight upon realising that the baby bear was ‘Mila’ as well as the picture on the wall being the words from ‘our song’ – You Are My Sunshine. Her next question was “where’s Eska and Lena?!”…which got me thinking, we could really do with a twin version!
In true Mila style, her comment at the end had me in stitches in relation to a picture of Mummy and Daddy bear riding in tandem pulling a trailer with Mila bear in the back. In a dramatic voice she said…”Mummy, what if a naughty dragon came and breathed fire on the rope? It would break and then Mummy and Daddy would ride away without Mila!” She’d decided to add her own extra drama to the story which made me realise that all would be ok – to her it wasn’t huge news, it was simply a story – one of love…and don’t all great love stories include a fire-breathing dragon?!
How did I feel?
I coped better than I thought when actually reading the story – 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. I did feel emotional and definitely got a little ‘hot under the collar’ when I came to the page about the donor, unsure about her reaction, but she simply absorbed it and happily awaited the next page. It’s a story we’ll revisit many times and I know I’ll feel more comfortable each time I read it – I’ll probably be able to recite it by the time Eska & Lena reach Mila’s age!
If you’d like to learn more about this book, click here, Julie has written a number of versions for egg, donation, embryo adoption, sperm donation, IVF and a two Mum sperm donation story.
Love, Becky x
Since I wrote this post, I started to see how Mila was absorbing some of the information and so shared another post on the same topic…
It’s incredible how quickly Mila (who is only 3 and a half) is picking up parts of the story of how she came to be. Only last night we were together in her bed after storytime when it just felt right to talk about it again. Recently she’s become obsessed with saying “when I was in your tummy” and stuffing soft toys up her top, even sometimes getting a little confused in saying “Mummy, when you were in my tummy…”! I reminded her about Mummy being poorly and us needing to see a Dr to have a baby when she suddenly interrupted and said, “there was an egg, and what was it Daddy gave?”. Without me even saying it she’d remembered the part about the egg, something I couldn’t believe, but it goes to show that she is starting to absorb the information. It’s becoming her ‘normal’ and will be the only thing she’s ever known. I explained again that a special lady gave the egg, mixed with Daddy’s seed, which was put in Mummy’s tummy for me to grow her. With this I always take pride in telling her how much she is loved and how very special she is, which I can see she loves to hear. I recently spoke about the first time telling Mila with Jana Rupnow for her Three Makes Baby podcast – click here to listen. I talk about my feelings and honest fears in confronting this hugely emotional and sensitive topic. I can honestly say that talking with Mila is getting so much easier, and much more natural each time, with fewer lumps in my throat too, especially as she starts to fill in the gaps herself.
As Eska and Lena become old enough to understand more I can already envisage Mila playing a part in telling them too. I’m sure as she learns more she’ll love talking about how they were frozen (where there’s sure to be a link to Elsa thrown in) and how the same special lady gave eggs to help make all three of them.
Telling isn’t easy, it’s hard to confront deep emotions, pain and fears that you’d hope to leave in the past, but I’ve no doubt that it’s the right thing to do at this early age, both for them and for me – it’s therapeutic, healing, whilst being a great builder of bonds and trust.
As you know, we’ll always be open with the girls about their conception – they’ll never know any different. It’s only now that Mila is three and a complete chatterbox, that we can actually talk about it in a two-way conversation. One of my favourite things to do is to have time for an uninterrupted chat with her – she just amazes me every day. I thought now was a good time to start weaving in some information about how she came to be, obviously including how special she is and how she was very much wanted. I also think it’s a good time for me to practice talking openly with her about something that is so important but so emotional too – I want to make sure I build my own confidence.
So a few days ago Mila and I were deep in conversation in one of her favourite places to chat – whilst on the toilet! She was talking to me about rainbows and asked where they came from. I gave her the standard answer about the sun and the rain, then I told her that she herself was actually a very special rainbow for us. As curious as ever, Mila asked a question that I must hear at least 100 times a day – “Why Mummy?”. So I explained that we tried to have her for a very long time, Mummy was poorly and needed some help to have a baby. I explained that we went to see a doctor, where a very kind lady gave us some eggs that were mixed with Daddy’s ‘seed’ (I wasn’t sure what word to use here, but seed felt more appropriate than sperm!). I told her that this made an embryo which was put inside Mummy’s tummy for Mummy to grow Mila. She smiled and took me by surprise with her first question… “But where’s the kind lady?” Well, honestly, that threw me. I found a lump in my throat. Flooding back, came my old friends ‘grief’ and ‘fear’. I knew at some stage she would ask about our donor, and I will always answer truthfully, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t still have moments of pain. In that moment I felt deeply the loss of our genetic connection. I craved being able to have a Mother / Daughter relationship with no complications or difficult conversations to have.
But I know that isn’t our reality, I accept that and I accept that at times it may be difficult for me, and maybe for them in the future too – but I owe it to the girls to tell them everything. It doesn’t mean they will love me any less, and if anything, I hope it will create an even stronger relationship – built on trust and honesty.
I wanted to share this moment to show that, even if you still find it difficult – that’s ok. I might seem like I have it all together but I don’t always, it’s a learning curve and something I need to build my confidence in particularly when talking about it with those most important to me. I can talk to most people about this topic in a completely calm manner, but it seems it becomes a different emotional challenge when speaking with my girls. I so badly want to get it right, which is why facing my fears and building my confidence is so important. Fear and grief doesn’t mean you can’t still be open with your child, we just need to recognise it and if needed seek some help. It’s so important to ensure our children grow up with the right message, security and never feeling like they’ve been left in the dark.
Love, Becky x
Jana Rupnow has, yet again, sparked realisation in me! This relates to Jana’s post on ‘Conception Gratitude’. It’s something I want to share and bring to life from the viewpoint of the parent. Jana explains that this is:
“1. Forced feelings on a child for a choice they had nothing to do with that assuage a parents negative or unexplored feelings
2. A natural feeling that arises from a child trying to reconcile their complex conception story”
Conception gratitude is the assumption that a child will be grateful for their conception (however it may have happened) because, without the decisions that were made at that very moment, in theory they wouldn’t be alive today. I suppose the same can be said for anyone’s conception – we’re all here because the stars, planets and any other ‘mystical elements’ aligned in a way to create that magical moment of conception (however scientific, spontaneous, planned, unplanned it may have been); what it doesn’t mean however is that we should all be grateful for how it happened.
Confession time! When we first made the decision to use a donor I unknowingly fell into Jana’s category 1, as a result of my unexplored feelings. We talked about what our future child might think and I even justified our decision with our family by saying “surely they will be happy we’re doing this, otherwise they wouldn’t exist”. Based on little information (as many of the resources here today didn’t exist) the thought made me feel better, it masked any fears I had deep down that there might be some negative feelings or questions at some point in the future. Even throughout my pregnancy I told myself this – we were bringing a desperately wanted child into the world with so much love and a fantastic childhood ahead of them, giving them everything they’d ever need – how could they not feel anything but gratitude? After all of the pain and grief I had been suffering, this was finally our happy ending and I didn’t want to let any negative thoughts taint this.
I can now say that my thoughts have well and truly shifted on this concept, now that I have the girls and have opened myself up to hearing different perspectives. Although I desperately hope they will feel positive, I can’t assume they will automatically feel grateful for the decisions we made.
WE can feel grateful, for the opportunity we had to bring them into the world but ultimately, they didn’t have a say in any of this. By saying the words “you wouldn’t be here without the decisions we made” we’re almost shutting down any questions / negative feelings they might have at some point with the implied expectation that they should be thankful. I still hope that in the future they are thankful and happy with their existence but I now understand it can’t be assumed. We’ll be open with them and answer any questions but never put on them the expectation that we should be thanked for the choices we made.
My biggest hope is that as adults they will feel comfortable and happy with their existence. How amazing would it be to have a genuinely reciprocated feeling of gratitude, without me forcing the idea into their heads?!
Love, Becky x
Recently I’ve been talking about how I came to make the decision to use donor eggs. I realised that the biggest step-change in my decision-making happened when I asked myself a simple question – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A MUM? That’s where the name ‘DefiningMum’ evolved from; it’s become the foundation behind everything I am trying to do – to show a positive reality of life as a donor egg IVF Mum, whilst trying to empower and support those in a similar position that I was once in.
I write this post to provoke some thoughts in your mind but most of all to give you HOPE. Here are just a few of my learnings as I have defined what it has meant to me being a Mum to Mila, Eska and Lena.
They have been with me, part of me, since day one (well day 5 as an embryo, but you know what I mean). Quite simply they are the most important humans in my life and, as their Mum, I know that I am one of the most important people in their life.
I get to do the every-day things – be by their side at 1/2/3am when they need their Mummy (a regular occurrence!), comfort them when they are poorly or upset, make 3 breakfasts each morning, dress and bath them daily and (exhaustedly but happily) put them to bed every evening. The mundane tasks are the ones I craved and just tonight, after having been in Mila’s room for an hour trying to get her to sleep, I realised that these times are so precious – why not just stay a few more minutes for another cuddle and extra kisses?!
I have total responsibility for the lives of these three girls – which, as daunting as it has been at times, has required complete sacrifice and selflessness. As their most trusted person I am there to support them through whatever life throws at them, shape their views and nurture their personalities. I hope to be a positive role model to them whilst being there to witness and cheer on every single milestone that they experience.
I’m so grateful that we are able to make precious memories – family holidays, Christmases, days out together. Memories that will last a lifetime.
Ultimately it has given me me the chance to experience unconditional love, not once but three times over.
I have come to realise that, whether they were genetically mine or not, I could still have these experiences and be all of these things to my children. Although they may not have my eyes or smile, these feelings are way more important than the passing down of a family trait. Without the gift of donated eggs, I would have never been able to truly define and experience what is to be a Mum. Acceptance that I couldn’t change my diagnosis and re-evaluating what I truly wanted was the turning point and now I am so grateful to have everything I ever wanted.
When we define what it is to be a ‘Mum’ it is so much more than simply DNA – I have given my girls life, and now I’m going to be with them every step of the way to show them how to live it.
Love, Becky x
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, especially since Jana Rupnow and I talked about it in a recent episode of Three Makes Baby podcast – click here to listen. It was another ‘lightbulb moment’ for me and a concept that really lessened some of the fears I’d previously had around the donor. I spoke about my feelings and how, at times (more-so in the past), the mention of the donor had sparked some deep-rooted feelings of fear. Even writing it down feels somewhat silly in a way, especially now that we have built such strong bonds, but as you know I always like to be open and honest in the hope that it will help others who might be feeling this way.
In society much of what defines a mother seems to centre around genetics, similarities in looks, traits that we share …”I take after my Mum” and we grow up with the assumption that this is what it will be like for us. In reality, when we have to accept the loss of our own genetics, we too have to accept the introduction of someone else’s, and be comfortable to share this with our children. The logical part of my brain knows that there is so much more to being a Mum than the genetic link, something that grows stronger every day I spend with our girls, but it hasn’t completely stopped me feeling uncomfortable at the mention of the donor. One example being when I read Happy Together Children’s Book to Mila, I definitely noticed myself feeling more uncomfortable and emotional when we reached the page talking about the donor.
One thing I had struggled to understand and feel comfortable about is the way in which our girls might process the information about me and another lady. Personally, I’ve never had to do this, with all I’ve ever known being a genetically related mother and father, an uncomplicated conception which fits society’s ‘norm’. Jana explained it perfectly, from her own personal experience as an adoptee but also as an adoptive mother – that it is possible to hold “two places”, both important, but two very different places, with a clear distinction over who is ‘mum’.
It might feel a strange concept for me to get my head around, but if it is all they’ve ever known it should be natural for our girls to create these places, with their understanding of the roles cemented through their everyday experiences with us and the story that we tell. It all sounds so simple when I write it down but I’m sure I won’t be the only one that has felt this way – which is why I share!
So, I now know that this fear is linked to what Jana calls ‘parental legitimacy’ (have a read in Jana’s book, “Three Makes Baby”), it’s a fear that I will feel less of a mother when references are made to the donor. For me, our girls cannot ever be replaced and genetics really don’t matter, but the fear has always been about the other way around. I’m now reassured that it can quite easily be a natural way of thinking for our girls by introducing it at an early stage. I know that no-one can replace the time I’ve spent with our girls since they were placed within me as an embryo, the growing, the birth, feeding them, changing their nappies, singing to them, feeding them, comforting them when they’re hurt, loving them more than anything, and being part of all of their childhood memories. This comforts me and takes away this fear as I now understand how this can be possible from their perspective, I will always be their Mum, they’ll just also hold a place for their donor too.
Love, Becky x