“Did she get her curls from the Mum?” Ouch. This is one comment I’ve had in relation to donor conception that really hit a nerve. It’s actually been said twice, once to Matt from someone I’ve never met, & once to myself from someone close. I know it was simply a curious, innocent ‘slip of the tongue’, mistakenly using different terminology to us. In both cases they were quick to stop themselves & apologise. On the surface I just calmly said “Oh, you mean did she get her curls from the donor?” whilst inside I felt I’d been kicked in the stomach.
I know what they said wasn’t necessarily untrue, the donor is the genetic parent – something we don’t deny & will always be open about. We just don’t refer to her as ‘Mum’. To us, she very kindly provided us with genetics to give us the opportunity to be parents – something we’ll be forever grateful for – but the role of Mum has always been me. Inadvertently they had touched on one of my biggest fears – that I wouldn’t feel like or be seen as the legitimate Mother. At the time I wasn’t consciously aware of this fear, which is probably why it felt so raw, but now I’m more prepared & aware to handle questions such as this (still with a slight sting, but without the stomach-wrenching emotional reaction). I know I felt shame for feeling this way & so hid these emotions – I want you to share for you to know that you’re not alone.
It’s easy to forget on a day to day basis as you’re busy being ‘Mum’ that there was a third person involved in making your child. It’s why recognising these feelings is so important to avoid being floored by an unexpected question or remark. I’m much more comfortable with this nowadays, being more accepting of our reality & able to face these types of comments. I think it’s so important for me not to just ‘bury’ experiences like this. Instead I intend to use them as learning, to better equip me to face future questions, from not just family & friends, but also the girls themselves.
Love, Becky x
Society tends to focus on appearances when it comes to family. Naturally we are drawn to search for similarities, especially when it comes to babies. My husband thinks all babies look the same, but I used to pride myself on being able to easily pick out likenesses of both parents when meeting a newborn – I could always see an identifiable similarity. When we started TTC it filled me with excitement as I’d often wonder what our children would look like – a unique combination of both Matt and I. Because I placed such significance on this, it was a huge loss for me to grieve for, I had to accept that the vision of a child I’d always imagined just wasn’t going to be.
When pregnant, although I knew I would love our child, I still had a niggling worry about how striking any differences might be, and how I’d feel about them. Society’s so-called ‘norms’ played on my mind…will it be so obvious that people notice I’m not genetically related to them? Will it sting when there are inevitable comments about their looks?
When Mila arrived, the first thing that struck me was how much she looked like Matt. Not just a little bit – but scarily so! But what struck me even more was the realisation that she was completely individual and totally unique. I didn’t look to see a combination of two peoples genetics – instead all I saw was our beautiful child and was immediately flooded by love for her. This is one of my favourite pictures of the two of us, on our first family holiday to Cornwall when she was just 5 months old.
From birth, comments tended to be about how much she looked like Matt, which were actualy easy to respond to as she really does look like him! If I didn’t want to divulge too much about her conception, referencing her likeness to Daddy was always my default answer. I did get the odd comment likening her to me, but not often, I think sometimes people either see what they want to see or maybe say what they think you want to hear! Honestly though, talk of their appearance no longer bothered me, instead it became a great opportunity to celebrate their uniqueness and just how beautiful they are.
I’ll share on another post soon one hurtful comment I did receive (more out of ignorance & incorrect terminology) but on the whole I wanted to share this to reassure you. Even though it’s incredibly hard to let go of your ‘vision’ of the child you’d always imagined, in reality there is so much more to being a parent. Being a parent is about everything you do for them, the sacrifices you make and shared time together – not how alike you look. I may not have influenced the girls appearances directly, but I know I am shaping them as human beings through being their Mother. Something which, every day, I’m incredibly grateful for.
Love, Becky x
Many on Instagram have engaged with my posts about fears – thank you for confirming that I’m not alone!
These fears are important to acknowledge & I believe talking about them can better equip us to recognise & support our children with similar feelings that actually might ‘mirror’ ours.
Before we connected on Instagram, I remember listening to Jana Rupnow LPC talk about this with Natalie Silverman on ‘The Fertility Podcast‘ it was a lightbulb moment where it all made sense. I have grieved for genetic loss, but so might they…and who might be best placed to support them through it?…me! Having worked through my own grief I now have the ability to truly empathise – something Jana calls ‘mirroring’. It got me thinking… if we deny our own fears then are we more likely to dismiss or diminish theirs, rather than listen, empathise & support? I’ve come to realise that the phrase “but without what we did you wouldn’t exist” isn’t necessarily going to be a comforting response to my girls, should they have a genuine feeling of loss in connection to their identity. I now understand that there is a real spectrum of responses to being donor conceived, which can be influenced by parenting decisions such as whether to not to tell. Genetic loss might be of no significance at all to my girls, but it might be something that is important to them understanding their identity as they grow – the best thing is for me to be prepared.
It’s definitely not something I’d even remotely considered when all-consumed by infertility. Someone commented on a post recently and summed it up perfectly – “infertility robs you of a long-term view”. It’s so easy (and perfectly understandable) to not be able to look further than a positive pregnancy test, followed by pregnancy anxiety as you wait to hold a healthy baby in your arms. With donor conception there are many more stages to think about…it still sometimes blows my mind! It definitely would have completely shattered my mind to think about all of these things when I was so fragile & desperate for a baby, but knowing I wasn’t alone in my fears could have made all the difference. So what would I advise?
Talk to someone about it – having an open, safe space to talk with my counsellor really helped.
Read – I highly recommend Jana Rupnow’s book “Three Makes Baby”.
Listen to different perspectives – “Half Of Me Podcast” is a great way of understanding donor conception from the perspective of someone who is donor conceived.
I’m always here if you want to connect and ask questions, just click here and send me a message.
Love, Becky x
I still remember exactly where I was, what the weather was like, even what I was wearing when I first heard the ‘D’ word. By ‘D’ word I mean ‘Donor’. It was so life-altering for me that the memory has stayed with me.
There I was, still trying to process the need for medical assistance to have a baby (something that for most is so natural), when I then had to process the potential use of a third party, replacing a role I had always taken for granted that I would play – a genetic parent. It’s huge news. Mind-blowing. Devastating. So many emotions all rolled into one. Yet it is often dropped into a consultation as loosely as the use of an add-on, like embryo glue or a different type of progesterone. Dropped into the discussion was simply “…or you would have the best chance of success using a donor”. With my rash (but perfectly understandable) emotional reaction his words were then interpreted in my mind as “let’s scrap your crappy eggs & genetics, then you can carry a baby made by your husband & some other woman’s eggs”. A bit extreme I know but that was where I went to initially – the whole concept seemed alien to me. Obviously now I know that there’s so much more to it, it’s a beautiful option, but at the time I felt so alone & so lost. Anyone else felt the same?
I understand that the whole aim of a consultation with a medical professional is to look at HOW they can get you to the end goal – a healthy baby. That’s what we’re paying them for & I’m so grateful for medical advances for actually giving us options. On reflection I think what is sometimes lost is the recognition of just how complex the decision to use a donor can be. It was a real cliffhanger – I was left with something I never knew was even possible, let alone considered, & sent off to make these life changing decisions. I’m sure I’m not the only one leaving these appointments feeling totally overwhelmed.
That’s why I want to share my story – to help those who are only just finding themselves in this situation. I can’t help but think more can be done to bridge the gap & help guide people, as well as give much needed emotional support for the grief involved.
It’s great that in the UK there is now a mandatory counselling session and we have many useful resources from the Donor Conception Network. I just can’t help but feel that there is still some front-end support missing, at the clinic stage. Surely if we’re more looked after, prepared and emotionally aware at this early stage then it can only help with our decision making, ultimately making us better parents in the long-term? That’s the aim at the end of the day isn’t it… to be in the best frame of mind to be the best parents we can to our children – no matter how they were conceived. It’s something I’m working on behind the scenes, with an event coming very soon to bridge this exact gap.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… How did you feel when you were told you needed to use a donor? Please share – I’d love to hear about your experiences, both the good and the bad.
Regret – Feeling sad, repentant or disappointed over something one has done or failed to do.
I’m asked often if I regret not trying again with my own eggs.
I can honestly say that I don’t feel one ounce of sadness, repentance or disappointment about choosing to use donor eggs to have my family. I’ve never regretted not having one last roll of the dice with my eggs. How could I feel anything but happiness when I have our three beautiful girls?
At first, I worried whether it was the right decision, I wobbled even at the point we were in Prague for our DE consultation. I was torn between two conflicting emotions, riding the waves of grief along with surges of excitement about the new possibilities, a very strange and confusing position to be in.
I started asking myself some questions after our 5th failed own egg cycle, knowing the odds were so much more favourable with donor eggs.
“Will I regret moving to donor eggs now?”
My initial thought was – if it worked then I would have the long-awaited chance to be pregnant, to grow, nurture, give birth and raise a child. Maybe more than one child, if we were lucky. My childhood vision of a big family could actually be a possibility, something that had become such a distant dream as we battled to find that one golden egg.
“What could I potentially regret by making this decision?”
My second thought was about what I might regret. I’d be giving up my chance to have a genetic child, to pass on my DNA, family links and physical characteristics. I wouldn’t get to see the child that Matt and I would make together.
I realised that I had already begun to grieve for the loss of these desires, with each loss and failed cycle. When compared to the immense hope that I had been filled with from my initial thoughts, there was no comparison. I realised I could start to let these things go.
This then led to my third question…
“Would I regret NOT trying donor eggs?”
I answered this question in an instant, without even a second thought – YES. If it meant I couldn’t have the family I’d always dreamed of then I was absolutely sure that I would have lived every day regretting not giving myself the chance to try.
I think when it comes to regret, you need to ask yourself these questions and be really honest with yourself. If the feeling of potential regret is more dominant, then maybe you’re not ready to go there just yet, but it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. Grief is a journey – it can shape your views and redefine your perspectives – you need to ride the waves and stay true to yourself.
I hope this helps those who are facing these crossroads in decision making. How do you face the question of potential regrets? I’d love to hear your thoughts…