This picture popped up on my memories today from 3 years ago. Mila at almost 6 months old (those chubby cheeks 🥰) and Matt at a similar age. They’re the same baby, right?! I still can’t believe how alike they were, and still are!
Before using donor eggs, I did wonder whether it would bother me if they were to look just like Matt, like it might make me feel less connected in some way. Truthfully, I was uncertain about not sharing physical features with my child and I feared that their similarities might make it more obvious that they didn’t look like me. In reality, I actually found it incredibly comforting and loved to see how much she resembled him, plus it was a great way of deflecting any potential comments about her likeness or (lack of) genetic link to me. I used to beat myself up for these fears and rarely said them out-loud, thinking in some way that I was ‘vain’ or ‘superficial’ for placing so much emphasis on looks. I realise now that it’s a genuine and very common human instinct, to want to pass on your ‘legacy’ and to be able to see yourself in your child. Society puts even greater pressure on this, with people instantly looking for physical similarities as an easy conversation starter with a newborn..I know, I used to do it all the time!
What I also now realise is that there are many other ways to see yourself in your children, Mila in particular is the most physically alike to Matt, but I see many personality traits and mannerisms from me too. Most importantly of all, she is herself – a beautiful individual, which excites me most of all – seeing who she is becoming.
Sitting here this afternoon, cosied under a blanket as we both recover from horrible winter viruses, those fears from 5 years ago couldn’t be further from my mind. I adore her for who she is and wouldn’t change a thing.
I’m sharing not only because the likeness in this picture is so striking, but because it has inspired me to open up about these fears I once had. Is this something you think/worry about? I’d love to hear from you and truly believe that opening up about these worries can really help us process them and feel less alone.
Love, Becky x
As I’ve been busy planning my DefiningMum event (announcement coming soon!) I’ve been thinking a lot about the different fears and challenges that we inevitably face as parents who don’t share genetics with our children.
One of the worries that I often didn’t share out-loud (for fear of sounding ‘shallow’ or being misunderstood) was my anxiety around whether my child would bear any resemblance to me. I was lucky to bond with my pregnancies instantly, but it didn’t stop the worries, things that I don’t think I would have given a second-thought if we hadn’t used a donor. What will they look like? Will it be glaringly obvious to everyone that we don’t share DNA? I see and hear this fear so many times when I’m contacted, especially when it comes to the point of actually selecting a donor.
It’s a rational and very real worry because family resemblances is something that for most is simply ‘small-talk’ and typical conversation, without realising that for us it is hugely significant. The stark difference in significance is what sometimes can make it difficult for us to express to others. We hear these comments often, especially when it comes to children and families, as an easy, innocent topic of conversation. This can be triggering for us, and potentially for our children in the future, in situations where a donor has been used.
It’s something I have become used to over time, it’s no longer a concern and I now take these opportunities to point out the girls individual differences rather than just talking about their similarities. I can honestly say that there has been such a shift from those pre-conception / pre- birth moments where everything is unknown and incredibly daunting, to the feeling when you start getting to know and love your children as real people. You realise that these things aren’t as important as you thought, whilst learning to adapt to the ‘small-talk’, realising that is all that it is.
I share again to give hope and open up these conversations that I wish I’d heard when we were making the decision to use a donor. It’s an insight into what I want my upcoming event to be about, a safe space to open up and talk about these very real emotions and fears because, ultimately, if we look after ourselves and become more secure now, then we will no doubt become more emotionally confident when talking to our children about their conception. That’s my hope anyway! Look out for announcements soon, I’m just pulling together some final plans!
Love, Becky x
“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