How I learned to stop grieving and love DE

In a previous post, I talked about how I came to see donor egg (DE) as a good way for us to build our family.  But deciding for DE is not necessarily the same as being happy about DE.  Indeed, one of the things I didn’t like about DE is that it feels like such a “second-choice” option.  After all, you hear about people who want to adopt without TTCing themselves, but have you heard of anybody saying “Gee, you know what?  I don’t think I’ll bother with my own (fertile, healthy) eggs, DE sounds so much better!”  I didn’t want my children to feel like they were somehow second choice.   But the more I became comfortable with DE, the more it became a great choice, a wonderful choice, for us.

This wasn’t instant, of course.  When we went into cycle #5, I knew that if the cycle didn’t work out, we would go to DE, and I was comfortable with that decision.  But that doesn’t mean that after cycle #5 ended ignominiously with yet another chemical pregnancy, I wasn’t sad about the state of affairs.  I was happy not to stim again, but I was sad about giving up the genetic connection to my children, and there were different dimensions to that grief.

For one thing, I was sad about not being able to pass on my genes… until I started thinking about the fact that I come from a hugely prolific family (my parents each have nearly a dozen siblings), and that my genes already are all over the place, just not in exactly the same order, and that sadness quickly faded.

I was also sad for my kids, that whether they would come to me by adoption or via donor gametes, I would not be able to give them that sense of biological rootedness that most kids take for granted.   I felt like I was passing on the pain of infertility to my kids, making it part of their very identity. The sting of that was reduced a bit when Mr. Nishkanu pointed out studies that showed that donor kids generally feel happier and a greater sense of belonging than adopted kids.  I also knew there was a lot we could do to give our kids a sense of their own special identity.   Still, that sting hasn’t completely gone away, and maybe it won’t ever.

A huge loss for me was the idea of not having children that resembled me, that had the same (genetic) heritage, the same quirks and looks.  For me, the most difficult part of this loss was not being able to pass on my ethnic heritage.  My parents are immigrants to the US from an obscure country which I will hear term Nishkanuland.  I grew up speaking Nishkanulandian and living according to Nishkanulandian customs, and as a child always felt a little bit of an outsider in the US.  Right after cycle #5 I was visiting relatives in Nishkanuland and realized that something I love about going there is how I feel totally at home, not only because everyone around me is speaking my mother tongue, but also because I just look like all the people around me.  It was very unlikely we would be able to find a Nishkanulandian egg donor, so I knew that, chances are, I will not be able to pass on that sense of ethnic belonging on to my kids.  My brother pointed out to me that Nishkanuland is much more ethnically diverse now than it was when I was growing up, so that you don’t need to be ethnically Nishkanulandian to be a Nishkanulander, but still, for me, it was really a snip through a piece of my identity that I always thought I would pass on.  And it was a real piece of heartbreak for me.

But at the same time, even while I was  mourning this loss, I came to a sudden realization.  When my child comes to me, would I look at them and say, “Gee, I wish you were Nishkanulandian, and I wish you looked and acted more like me”?  No way.  I know myself.  When I have children, I will be completely besotted with them, and think they are wonderful and amazing for all their own quirks, looks, and heritage.  When I realized that, I decided then and there that I would start looking forward to the amazing, unique qualities that my kids will have rather than mourning the ones that they probably won’t.

From then on I was really at peace with DE.  There are still some regrets, of course.  The biggest regret is that we can’t have a baby which is Mr. Nishkanu + me.  To see both of us mixed in a child would be an amazing and wonderful thing; this matters to me much more than whether or not I pass on my own genes.  And I hope and pray that if we are lucky enough to have a child through DE, that he or she won’t have to suffer later for our decision to use DE.    But overall, we know this really feels right to us.

And the process of picking a donor was, for me, incredibly healing.  Typically clinics expect that you will pick a donor who looks like you; since we planned to be completely open at DE, looks were really irrelevant to our decision.  Instead, Mr. Nishkanu and I spent a lot of time talking about what attributes we thought it would be important to pass on to our kids.  What is it about me that I would like to see in my kids, if possible?  What really mattered to me?  What gifts would we be able to pass our kids through DE?

In the end I decided that I wanted a donor who was, like me, a positive, outgoing, friendly, and energetic person, curious about the world, at least minorly athletic, and with some academic or artistic talent.    It was also important that she seemed to have a warm heart, since my kid might want to contact her one day and I would like her to be kind if that happens.   Her ethnic origin should be such that the kid would feel at home in Mr. Nishkanu’s home country, which is not as open-minded about ethnic origin as the US.  If she had some Nishkanulandian roots, that would be a bonus, but it was quickly clear that that heritage was so obscure that I would never be able to find someone who would meet my other criteria if I insisted on this.  We also leaned towards finding an older donor (“old” here means past college age), because we wanted to be sure that she really knew what she was getting into and gave true informed consent.  Mr. Nishkanu got to give some input in who to pick, but in the end, it was my gametes that were going to be replaced, it was therefore my choice.

We ended up choosing donors twice, unfortunately, but both donors are (from what I can tell from their profiles) amazing women.  I am really grateful to them that they were willing to go through the arduous process of donation just to give us a chance at a family.  And to me, that is one of the magical things about DE: the fact that a child that comes to you through it has been conceived through a gift from a stranger.  Yes, the donors were paid for their efforts, but in my mind the donor fee is far less than the generosity these women showed us in what they were willing to go through.  I am still sad that we were not successful with our first donor, because she was such a warm, wonderful person that it would have been an honor to carry and care for her genetic child.  Maybe we will be lucky enough to have that experience with donor #2.  If so, I really hope we will be able to meet her one day.

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3 Comments »

  1. Lisa said

    The decision to use donor egg is so wrought with emotion. As you said, it feels like a second choice because none of us “want” to have to go there. I struggled so greatly – so greatly that, after first making the decision to go with donor eggs, it took us another two years to actually do it! But, like you, when I finally “accepted” it, it seemed to happen quickly. I just KNEW one day that it was the right choice, but the path to get there was dreadful.

  2. This was a beautiful post, also because I faced much of the same emotional grief, coming to terms or whatever the terminology is, with using donor anything. I still care so much that perhaps our only bio child will be our firstborn and now dead daughter but to me – the end justifies the means. I’m now desperate to be a parent in the practical sense and that has helped me ease into the donor embryo world that much easier. having said that… donor embryos from my part of the world are rare indeed so we were really blessed when – shock horror – our clinic actually managed to have 5 of them ready for donation. now I’m hoping that at least one of them works and results in a live child. hope, its a double edged sword, or as I like to call it, the bitch from hell.

    thanks for such an insightful post.

  3. Phoebe said

    I didn’t think about the fact that my families genes are all over the place too. Kind of a nice way to look at it.

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