I met this afternoon with a woman who is just beginning to look for an egg donor. As we approached donor profiles I commented that there is one key question: “Is she willing to meet the intended parents and down the line, the child?” To this my client said, “But wouldn’t meeting her be weird?” I replied, “I think not meeting her would feel weird.”
Here are a few thoughts about where each of us is coming from…I’ll begin with my client. She is, like so many others, exhausted following a long struggle with infertility. Multiple “failed” IVF cycles and the painful declaration, “you have BAD eggs” have left her feeling depleted and demoralized. For her, a donor –at this point—is a reminder of who she is not: a fertile woman with “GOOD” eggs. Why would she want to meet this woman who could make her feel worse? She is grateful to the donor for being willing to donate but also threatened by her. She thinks, “If by some miracle I am able to have a baby with her eggs, I wouldn’t want to think of her—I’d want to think this is really, truly my baby.” I get this and I’ve seen it so many times before. However, I have also seen what happens when people move forward with egg donation, become pregnant and realize, soon on that they are in fact, real, true mothers.
As confidence builds, fear of the donor recedes and is replaced, so often, with feelings of deep gratitude and affection and an acknowledgement that she and her donor have a lasting and intimate connection. She can begin to envision that a child will really come from their collaborative effort and that it would be great to be able to speak authentically and in an up-to-date and informed way about the donor with the child. It sure beats saying, “Your donor is #452 and I saw a photo of her.”
There are additional reasons why I encourage my clients to meet their donors (this can happen once a pregnancy is established or after birth if they are afraid that a pre-donation meeting will “jinx” them). These include having and sharing up-to-date medical information (assuming the donor agrees to stay in touch in some way) and it says something about the donor’s commitment to a hoped for child. A donor who is willing to meet and remain in contact is essentially saying that she is not simply sending her eggs out into the universe but rather, helping bring a child or children into the world who may have questions for her. Or simply a desire to meet.
Back to my client. I did not preach to her about the advantages of an open (or semi-open?) donation but encouraged her to keep an open mind. This means choosing a donor who is willing to be open. Knowing the donor’s willingness gives some control back to the intended mom, a woman who feels like she has lost so much control in her long, arduous, until now disappointing journey to parenthood.
Ellen S. Glazer, LICSWCo-author: Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation