The Emotional Challenges of Choosing Egg Donation
Posted on November 30, 2010
I was 42 years old when I started my infertility journey. My only treatment option was an egg donor. My husband asked if it would be hard emotionally bonding with the baby we desperately hoped would come. I had talked to others who expressed doubts about not having a genetic link. They were afraid of its impact on their ability to bond and parent.
I honestly never experienced these reservations. I understood I would not have a genetic link but a "biological" one. I knew my blood would flow through my future baby. My baby was dependent on me to survive during my pregnancy. Those bonds were strong for me. My genetic history was not problem free. My mother died of breast cancer. I had additional cancer history in my family. I was grateful that my future baby would not inherit that.
I remember sitting at our kitchen table with a pile of forms submitted by potential egg donors. We had waited 9 months to receive them. We couldn't believe this moment had come. There was information on their ages, physical characteristics, ethnic/racial backgrounds, education levels, and work histories. Some explained why they wanted to be donors. Medical and psychological information was available. What surprised me was how uncomfortable I felt having to make a choice. I didn't like being in the position of deciding if a college education was better than a high school education. Maybe she didn't have the money or support needed to go to college. Perhaps she didn't want to go to college. We had to make choices with the limited information in front of us. We used an anonymous donor and didn't have photos to influence us.
Finally something I could control during infertility treatment yet I felt conflicted about having to make decisions based on our donor information. I was aware the choice we made today could potentially impact our lives forever. This moment was one of the most challenging during my infertility experience. One donor had completed high school. I read more and learned there was a history of alcohol use in her family and she was working in a bar. That was a red flag for me. Was that fair?
I realized we were totally dependent on the information presented to us. We had to trust that women who generously offered to be egg donors were honest about their histories. We knew the agency we were working with had an excellent donor screening program. It is a leap of faith and you hope for the best. You just do your research to ensure the donor and program used are reputable.
Years later I was privileged to meet a panel of egg donors at a conference. I wondered how it felt being on the donor side and what their donation reasons were. Their explanations were diverse. Their conviction that egg donation was the right thing to do to help others who couldn't have a child was universal. None of them expressed a desire to know the children born as a result of their egg donation. They happily accepted the necessary sacrifices.
When you select an egg donor carefully consider what is important to you. Do you want to meet your donor? Should you share an ethnic background? I wanted my child to have physical characteristics similar to mine since we would not have that genetic link. Those of us who become parents as a result of egg donation are given the greatest gift one can imagine. I never forget that. I try to be the best parent I can as a way of thanking her.
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker who has counseled people experiencing infertility. Ms. Waichler is the author of the award winning book "Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire". She currently writes freelance inferti