I have talked with or read posts from many people who have adopted either conventionally or used donor eggs or sperm and they all say the same thing, "It doesn't matter at all! This is our child 1000%"
Really? Does it really not matter at all? Why do we try so hard to have our biological children if it really doesn't matter? Perhaps the view from here really is just that much different than the view with your baby in your arms - no matter how that child came to be yours. I can imagine feeling just like these parents in the end (although I think I would say it hardly matters at all), but I just can't completely accept / believe it from this side of the fence.
Here is what I do see from here.
For starters I want to give kudos to my RE for his cunning way of introducing us to the idea of donor eggs. After our third failed IVF, as I was sitting in his office waiting for the donor egg (DE) speech, he talked about how happy we will be when we hold our baby in our arms. (ahh . . nice image!) Then he told us how everything looks good - number of eggs, fertilization, even the embryos look good - but we aren't making a viable baby (hmmm . . .). After building me up a bit and hinting that it was an egg quality issue he closed the deal with, "Why don't we try one more time with your eggs and then move right to donor eggs if that doesn't work?"
WOW!!! He thinks I should try one more time with my eggs!!! Our backup plan sounds great too - 80% chance of having a live birth with DE at his clinic. We will have a baby!
And so it all felt pretty good until after our fourth failed IVF cycle. Suddenly DE was no longer the backup plan - it was the plan. The full force of not having your biological baby doesn't really hit you until it is your genes on the chopping block. I know this because we experimented with donor sperm and it felt very different.
Let me explain that a bit so that you don't think I am uncaring about my husband's position or just that self centered. When we did use donor sperm (DS) we used 1/2 DS and 1/2 Brad's sperm (on the third IVF). I told myself that if DS did make the difference then at least we would have a baby. DS was still the backup plan. I did notice how much I loved Brad's warm, brown eyes and beautiful eyelashes and how sad it made me feel that they wouldn't be his brown eyes even if we had a brown eyed baby. I also noticed how different he was from the rest of his family in terms of personality - maybe it isn't the genes that matter. Most importantly, he didn't seem to be that concerned. If he wasn't sad, how could I be? The experiment showed that the embryos grew equally well and none implanted. By the way, later I found out that he experienced pretty much the same emotions and thoughts that I did, but didn't feel like expressing it would help.
Now it is my turn.
At times I am angry - at myself for not going to an RE when I first suspected something was wrong 3 years before we finally went. Angry at Brad and my OB for not pushing me to do what I was too afraid to do. I am angry at my RE and embryologist and western medicine for not being able to help. I am also angry at books like The Infertility Cure which promises that you can make a difference if you are the "perfect little girl". Finally, I am angry at Ernest for being conceived in the first place. If that "miracle" had never happened we wouldn't have falsely believed we could get pregnant without IVF and most likely gone to the RE at least a year and a half sooner than we did.
And I am sad. I am sad that my perfect package of genes won't be a part of our child's life. I do believe the literature that suggests 50 - 70% of who we are - our personality, intelligence, interests, behaviors - come from our genes. I am a unique, special individual but mostly because of my unique combination of genes not because of my peer group or family or what I have decided to be true about myself. When I pictured raising a child, I pictured a baby that was 1/2 mini-me and 1/2 mini-Brad. Of course, the child would be best of each of us: my love of solving problems, Brad's tenaciousness, my ability to understand people, Brad's ability to easily socialize, my smile, Brad's beautiful eyes. We would raise the most happy, well adjusted person the world has ever known. She would be a genius too. He would melt peoples heart's with his easy laugh and intelligent wit.
Yes, yes, I know that is fantasy. I know no one gets a "mini-me" but most people let that fantasy go little by little as they discover their child won't be in the gifted program like mom was or doesn't really like to dance the way dad always envisioned. For me, that fantasy completely dissolved with one sentence from our RE. It was that sudden impact that left me questioning why I wanted to have a child in the first place.
Over that last 5 plus years, I have told myself many stories about how I wanted to parent. I wanted to teach my child to be happy - to appreciate each moment and to find joy in life even when things don't go as planned (I'm getting better at this every day). I hoped that we would be able to combat some of our cultural teachings such as being better than everyone else or being rich or having a "successful" career are the most important goals. I vowed not to live vicariously through our children. I promised myself that I would meet the child where she was at and not try to make her into some one she was not. And what do these goals have to do with where his genes came from? Absolutely nothing. So why am I having such a hard time letting go?
Perhaps, despite all my conscious thoughts about raising a child, I really did want to raise a mini-me. Maybe I really do want the chance to have a bright child who loved to dance so I could give him the opportunities that I wish I had as a child. Perhaps this has all really only been about healing my own childhood wounds. How unfair is that to a new life?
Now before you get too judgmental, take some time to listen to your own thoughts about parenthood or those of your friends. I think healing those childhood wounds is not uncommon. Most of us don't really think about it because having a child comes so easily. When you spend years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to build a family, giving up and not having children becomes an increasingly attractive option. That is when you really start to question your motives and perhaps learn some things about yourself you wish you hadn't.
There are also all those little losses. It hurts to know I won't be needed for the egg retrieval. I will sit at home while Brad goes to the clinic to fertilize someone else's eggs. When someone says, "Ooooh!! She has your eyes!", I'll know that she doesn't. "Her hair is so curly! I wonder if it will straighten out as she gets older like mine did?" Oh wait, her hair has nothing to do with mine. "Where did she pick up that habit?" Perhaps, it was programming from her genes.
Here is a pearl from what we have gone through trying to conceive a viable baby and from my recent grief in dealing with letting go of my biological child: I can choose to heal my childhood wounds before our child is born; I can be more aware of my subconscious motivations and, perhaps, be better at avoiding them; I can let go of how our child is supposed to be long before the child is who she is.
Some other good thoughts: Each cycle has a better chance of success than when we cycled with my eggs; we won't be doing the same thing and expected different results - and getting the same results; maybe, just maybe we will be coming to the end of this journey; I've changed my mind before about acceptable ways for us to build a family and I can do so again.
See? I can be optimistic!