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
I’m sharing because I believe sometimes we can overthink this, particularly when it comes to fears around bonding before we have our children. Think about all of the people you love in your life that you aren’t genetically related to. Simply put, genetics are not a requirement for love. I truly believe that love is what makes and builds a family, cemented by the experiences that we share.
Just this week I overheard two comments at nursery that would have previously made me wince – “You can’t argue with genetics” as a Dad responded to a comment someone had made about their likeness and (less than 30 seconds later) someone else told another Mum “She is your absolute double, such strong genetics there”. Moments after hearing these comments I looked through the window and caught sight of Mila as she spotted me, my heart jumped as she literally shrieked with delight shouting “Mummy!”. It still is one of my favourite moments of the week, collecting her, as she always runs towards me and leaps into my arms, something other parents comment on as being so adorable. We don’t need to share genetics for the connection and love that we share, it grows every single day we share together.
It isn’t possible for me to love our girls any more, even if they had been created using my eggs, the thought is just inconceivable.
Love, Becky x
One of the most important skills I’ve always wanted my children to have is empathy. Above anything else I believe it is so important to have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, without prompting, and take notice of how they might be feeling. It’s not something everyone has the natural instinct to do, but it’s a skill I like to think is a strength of mine – it’s something I’ve always wanted to pass on to my children.
When deciding to use an egg donor, I did wonder about how strong nurture over nature can really be, something that can never be fully measured or proven for sure as there are so many individual factors at play. I’d wondered about how my child’s personality would develop and whether us not being related by genetics might mean that there are many noticeable differences. Of course this can be said for anyone having a child, no-one has a child that is a 100% clone of their own genetics and so I’m sure many differences show through – we should celebrate these too! I suppose what I wanted was comfort to know that, even though we don’t share genetics, I can still pass on my ‘legacy’ in other ways – through time spent together and nurturing as a Mother.
That’s why I was bursting with pride as I read Mila’s nursery report this week. I was incredibly happy to read about her development with numbers, letters and language but it was this quote about her social skills and empathy that had me smiling from ear to ear… “Mila takes pride in being helpful and kind to her teachers and friends. As a result, she has built lovely friendships. Mila will always consider how an action might make a friend feel and if a friend is upset, she will offer comfort and help by fetching a tissue or a game”.
It’s such a small thing, but it gave me great comfort to read and know (from an outside perspective) that the nurturing we’re providing is shaping Mila to have an awareness of others, even at the tender age of 3. Of course she may have had this ability anyway inbuilt through nature, but I truly believe that nurturing is vital when it comes to social skills such as this backed up recently when I read a quote that said “Empathy comes from being empathised with” (Dr Stanley I. Greenspan, Great Kids, 2007).
I wanted to share to show how as a recipient parent, just like any other parent, you are constantly learning about your child and realising how much of an influence you can have. It’s incredible to see three very different personalities developing before my very eyes, knowing that I’m helping to shape them into the people that they will become makes me realise more than ever what it is that defines a Mum.
Love, Becky x