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Remembering the Other Mother

Posted by Iris Waichler, LCSW on with 4 Comments

     This mother’s day I was reflecting on my infertility journey and how I became a mother.  My daughter, Grace, was born because of the kindness of an egg donor.  I will never be able to meet her or thank her because she was an anonymous donor.  I thought a lot about her. I knew things like she had the same eye and hair color as I did.  She was about my size. That is part of the reason I picked her.  I wanted my child to have as many similarities to me as I possibly could since we would have no direct genetic relationship. That piece of paper told me her education level, her job, and some of her family’s medical history.  This was all we would ever know about her.  I wanted to know so much more.  My daughter may someday want to know more about her, too.

     It took 3 years from the time I started to have a child to the time my daughter Grace was born.  There were multiple miscarriages.  The doctor made it clear, our best chance at having a child was through an egg donor because I started my infertility treatment at age 42.  So, to use a bad pun, we “put all our eggs in one basket!”  Those eggs from the donor we selected were going to be our only chance to become parents, since we were not certain about adoption.

     I thought a lot about why someone would offer such an incredible gesture of kindness.  We named her the “gift lady” when we spoke of her and I described her in the disclosure book I wrote for my daughter.  Our gift lady gave us the most precious of gifts.  This Mother’s Day, I thought a lot about her.  I wanted her to know how her gift changed our lives and how amazing our daughter who is a part of her is.  I wondered if she ever thought about her or had any desire these many years later to meet her.

     I once went to a conference with a panel of women who were egg donors.  I wanted to hear what they said about the reasons they chose to do this.  One woman had a sister who could not have a child and she wanted to help.  Another said she was blessed with being healthy and was not planning to have children but wanted to give others the opportunity. She had donated her eggs multiple times.  Another woman had 2 of her own children and knew the joy of being a mother and wanted to give that opportunity to others.  They were all extraordinary to me and as they spoke, I felt the tears come, as I thought about all the lives they had touched and changed for such unselfish reasons.  They were very matter of fact as they spoke.  Someone asked the panelists who had been anonymous donors if they ever thought about the children they helped create or if they had a desire to see them.  They all said their thoughts were more focused on the idea of helping someone who desperately wanted to be a mother, a parent, achieve that at times seemingly impossible goal.

     I wanted to take this time to honor the “other mothers” or “gift ladies” as we have come to know them in our household.  Your generosity, sacrifice, and kindness does change lives in the most amazing of ways.  For those of us who have been on the path of repeated failures in our passion to build our families you offer us hope in achieving our parenting dreams. The meaning of your gesture still leaves me speechless.  Whether you choose to be anonymous or not, you are a part of the children that are born as a result of your action.  You will not be forgotten in our family, on this day. My daughter and I speak of you in the most reverential way because we know how special you are.  We will always remember you and be grateful for each and every day we have together.

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of the award winning Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire.  She currently writes freelance infertility and health related articles.  She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 30 years.  She has done workshops, individual, and group counseling with people experiencing infertility.




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Mary Fusillo May 14, 2013 4:46pm

Lovely article! But, I don't see egg donors as be a mother one must have intent, and the egg donors I have known over the past 16 years have never intended to be a mother to that child they are creating. "Gift Ladies" is a beautiful way of putting it. I will have to use that the next time I am helping someone come to terms with egg donation.

Iris Waichler May 14, 2013 5:46pm

Hi Mary: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you. Egg donors don't usually have the intent of being mothers. We certainly know of women who become mothers without having "intent". When I wrote this article I was thinking about egg donors being mothers strictly in terms of their genetic connection.

Cindy Lynch May 15, 2013 12:14pm

I also think often of the "other mother" like Iris I was fortunate to become a mom because of the generosity of an egg donor. I also chose her because she had the same eye and hair color and similiar height as me. Ours was also anonymous we received a simple one page questionnaire. I often have had lots of questions, left or right handed?, did she play sports in school?, did she have my one daughters temper? I know where my one daughter gets her "drama queen" personality probably from the egg donor who is a high school drama teacher. Someday, I hope my daughters and son can meet her and the possible half-siblings. My nephew, who was conceived via a sperm donor met his half siblings when he turned 18. Being an only child he was thrilled to meet a genetic half-brother and half-sister, they are now facebook friends.

Iris Waichler May 15, 2013 5:59pm

Hi Cindy: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments. My daughter has expressed a desire to meet her egg donor and as an only child wonders about the possibility of siblings that she would like to meet someday. I share your hope that we can make that happen for her if possible and if our donor would be agreeable.