Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Open egg donation

Today I was telling some coworkers of Brad's (my ex-coworkers) about LB's high energy levels. While I am sure that is typical of any 1 year old, I joked that if she ends up being like our donor (who is always Go! Go! Go!); I will be in trouble.

I instantly regretted it. It didn't seem right somehow. I'm not sure it is clear in my head why. I felt like I was airing our dirty laundry. Or maybe it was because I wasn't sure how LB would feel if she was capable of understanding. Would such casual comments be hurtful or be rubbing her nose in her atypical conception? Should we ignore or minimize our donor's involvement, at least in public? Would it be more appropriate to use our donor's name as in, "Lord help us if she has Belinda's energy!"

If Belinda was LB's aunt or grandmother it would be perfectly acceptable. In fact, it would be common. "Oh, she has your eyes!" "She loves the outdoors just like her cousins." "I love that she has her father's temperament." Yes, I acknowledge that she might take after me in some things, but she will also very likely express behaviors, beliefs, interests and talents that are more like Belinda than either Brad or me.

What do we do when we notice it? It doesn't seem right to ignore it (at least all the time) just because we suspect it came from Belinda. If we would say, "You have Daddy's talent!" why can't we say, "You are a runner just like your donor!"?

One of the more recent This American Life shows (Go Ask Your Dad) is about a guy who's genetic father was his uncle. The information was kept secret from him until well after his parents died. All his life he felt that he didn't fit in with his family. Even a brother acknowledged that he didn't fit in. He did not have the calm, controlled personality of his dad or brothers, but rather the more 'emotional' or lively personality of his uncle - someone he was always being reminded to not act like. There is obviously more to the story, but one of the things this person would have liked to have said to his dad (had he known) as a kid was, "Don't be afraid of the differences."

I don't want to be afraid of the differences or pretend something is not there when it is. I also don't want LB's conception to be a big deal. Would it help to make Belinda more a part of LB's early experience? She would grow up knowing Belinda as her genetic contributor instead of the unknown donor who becomes Belinda at a later age. I wonder how to find the balance.

What are your thoughts?


dreamsandfalsealarms said...

That story on TAL made such a huge impact on me that I listened to it all the way through again, and ordered the guys book.
I think this is an issue that I am the most freaked out about. I come from a wacky family where our relationships aren't so great, but our favorite game is "You got that from..." I don't want the donor to come up constantly. I don't the donor to be off limits, but where does the donor fit? Belinda can be a part of LB's life, if our DS experiement works out, our donor will only be a part of our shared concrete reality if our child/children decide they want to contact him. I wonder if there is something seemingly easier about only having access to a small piece of the donor in the DS realm, but I live in fear of those kinds of slips .I am SUCH a blabber mouth--as if everyone really needs to know the whole comeplete story, with commentary and footnotes. Oy. I'm so curious to see what others say.

Kami said...

DAFA - I have thought about getting the book too. As for being a blabber mouth . . . me too. There are many times I have felt like I have said too much right after I said it. Why should the neighbor know she gets her redish hair from Brad's family and her donor's family? Now I say, "It is on both sides of her genetic tree."

Every new situation I have to figure out after the fact what to say next time.

battynurse said...

I'm not totally sure how I feel about the open egg donor thing. I'm considering using my sisters eggs if I ever get there since she has offered although I wonder sometimes if that would be more difficult to explain to a child than anonymous. Although to be honest I think what I worry about or fear more is that at some point my child may deny me and choose a biological parent over me. I don't know how realistic that fear is. Probably not much. I suppose I do like the option available though. I know that when I was given a choice for sperm donors I chose to pay more for someone who the child could obtain information about later in life.

Caro said...

I guess there must be a balance somewhere between mentioning it too much and making it a secret/big deal. Good luck with finding the balance - maybe some of the open adoption people (like Lori) could help with how they approach things.

niobe said...

If Belinda is, um, open to the idea, I think it would be wonderful to nurture her relationship with LB. Which might make it easier to use Belinda's name rather than calling her a "donor." But why not ask Belinda what she prefers to be called?

In addition, I'd imagine that LB also shows (or will soon show) traits that are more environmentally than genetically determined, so you'll also be able to say "Oh, LB is stubborn (or independent or messy or well-organized or loves spinach or whatever) just like me."

Fertilized said...

I like Niobe's comment - but what Do YOU think/feel about it. Is it a taboo topic because it is not understood? I think the more people are aware that there are plenty of ways to build a family and that there are extremely generous daring people/dr's involved in process, It will not feel so awkward. IF you want it to not feel awkward.

Of course, I am not in your shoes, So I have no real Idea/concept on how you and Brad feel about it completely. You will have to do what is best for your families relationship in regards to this.

dreamsandfalsealarms said...

Kami! I had a feeling you were a blabber mouth! No wonder we get along!

dreamsandfalsealarms said...

I'll send you the book when I'm done.

Andrea said...

I heard the "This American Life" you referred to and I'm sure it really made you think and reflect. While I don't have the answers, I'm sure you and your husband will get there. You obviously care so much for your daughter and are great parents. And by the way...the active 1 year old thing? It might not be a donor may just be a 1 year old thing...God knows my daughter is a different girl than last month! Oh, and btw, I know exactly what you mean by feeling guilty or weird for referring to the donor in a flippant way...I felt the same after referring to my lost baby as putting me in the dead baby club and felt immediately horrible, guilty, etc. Could it be that our attempt at humor is just too soon, too close, too raw? Maybe we're just not there yet?

kristy said...

This is an interesting conversation. I am PG with DE baby and have a bio IVF son. I'm not concerned about the donor's personality traits being inherited, because I've come to believe that a person's personality is what it is, and that genetics have little to do with it.

My hubby and I are both the most mellow people in the world and were shy, quiet little kids. Our bio son is a spitfire, and has been from day one. He is busy all. the. time, almost hyper sometimes. We have no idea where he got it from.

That said, I think these are good questions about how much LB should be involved with Belinda and how soon. The great news is that you are blessed to be in a situation where Belinda could be willing to do that, and you have that choice. Our donor is anonymous.


Sunny said...

I commend you for being so sensitive to the situation, putting your daughter's needs and concerns first, above what makes YOU most comfortable!

Not having ever been in your situation, of course, I would probably advise you to stay in-tune to how your daughter processes and handles the relationship and references to Belinda. This will obviously change as she gets older. She may be one who loves to talk about her traits and where they come from... or you may notice her growing anxious and withdrawn when it's brought up. You can respond from there. It won't be perfect, but as long as you are aware of how she's doing and adjust appropriately, I think all will be well.

Lavender Luz said...

I agree with Caro about finding the balance between denying and dwelling. It's not something you do once -- it needs to be revisited often.

My opinion -- and that's all it is -- was that I wanted the openness to be seamless, so that we never had to sit down and have the "big talk." The best way to make it seamless was to open from the very beginning.

As for being public about it, my stock phrase about a trait is: "It's somewhere back in the gene pool!"

Peeveme said...

I have gone around and around on this topic in my blog and in my head. We did anonymous DE so I'm sure it's different from your situation but I love the idea of balancing denying vs. dwelling.

I cling to the idea that my child is an individual...not a little "Aunt Jo"...or just like "Grandma Maria). She is herself. Period.

I have a genetic daughter and she's so much like my DH's family (looks, personality ect). Seeing that I have a genetic child who is nothing like me or my family really helps me to not dwell on the fact that I wont be able to recognize myself or my family in my 2nd child. And what I do recognize will be due to nurture.

Open and non-judgmental is my approach (or the approach I hope to achieve).

I also want my child to never know a time when they didn't know about DE. Like Lori said "seamless".

That being said...I have not told people about the DE. Neither set of grandparents know and only my two sister know. My brothers and Mr. Peeveme's side of the family are in the dark for now.

I want them to get to know, love, accept my children without that prior knowledge. Since I will tell my children when they are young...perhaps too young to really understand what Donor Eggs will probably become family knowledge in the next 5 years or so.

And yes, I too am a blabber mouth. Not talking about it everyone has been hard.

Peeveme said...

Also, the TAL show was such a different situation. It was a secret...and treated like it was shameful. Nothing like your situation with LB. I think it;s a cautionary tale about how NOT to treat with donor children.

Anonymous said...

First baby conceived from screened egg is born!

Anonymous said...

A 61-year-old woman gave birth to her own grandchild using an egg donated by her daughter, a clinic in Japan has said.
The surrogate mother is believed to be oldest woman to have given birth in Japan.