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
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
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