“But what if the baby won’t feel like mine?” There it is, the number-one fear of potential parents considering using donor egg to create their families. Obviously, there’s nothing that can be said or done to magically dismiss this concern and make it disappear forever. However, there are a few things you might want to consider to help put this understandable doubt in perspective.
Let’s start with experience.
It goes without saying that grieving the loss of your genetic connection to your child is 100 percent valid and real. But is it important enough, big enough to stand in the way of something even bigger, something truly unquantifiable – your opportunity to become a parent? Ask parents who have used donor eggs, and the answer to that question becomes pretty clear; most echoing this sentiment: “I allowed myself to redefine what it meant to be a mom, realizing that there was so much more than genetics and family resemblances – that motherhood was built on love, nurturing and time spent together.”
But let’s say you won’t have the opportunity to carry your baby and transfer all of those chemicals and biological information. Will your baby from a donor egg ever feel as if they are “yours?”
It may be tempting to consider that sort of response as simply anecdotal, but research would suggest otherwise. One recent study set out to examine the mother-child relationships in families that were created using donor eggs and found that the process of bonding seems to be different for everyone. However, the study’s findings were encouraging in that it discovered “it is normal for mothers to express ambivalence and uncertainties about the nongenetic relationship with their infant, but still feel confident and secure in their identity as the child’s mother.” In fact, many mothers reported “feeling an emotional connection in utero and instant bonding with their infant at birth.” One participant remarked, “I don’t think I could love him any more if he was completely my genetic material.”
That same study also found that for some mothers, pregnancy alone was not enough to create an immediate connection to their child, with some women unable to feel as if the child was “really their own” until later in the first year of the baby’s life. In other words, while many mothers of egg donor-conceived children may experience that instant bond, others find that it takes a little bit more emotional work — and the opportunity to meet their baby, get to know who they are, and build a real relationship with them over time.
The ultimate takeaway being, that regardless of whether you bond in utero, at the birth of your baby, or after spending a little more time together, your baby is yours and will become the person you raise them to be.
Backed by biology.
So, could there be a biological reason for this deeply felt connection, despite a lack of shared genetics? Two important phenomena that occur during every pregnancy (regardless of whether the mother is carrying a baby created with her own egg or a donor’s) provide some pretty strong support for that idea.
The first is known as epigenetics and is part of the impact the mother has on her child starting on day one of her pregnancy. It’s probably no surprise that creating a healthy environment for any growing fetus will have a positive effect on that baby. But, did you know that even when carrying a baby conceived with donor egg, the environment in the mother’s womb can affect growth, development, immunity and even the expression of genetics? That’s the idea behind epigenetics; that even though your baby’s DNA sequence is set by their donor, as the carrier, you’ll be sending out biological and chemical signals to regulate the presentation of that genetic code — the genes’ activity levels, which characteristics are turned on or turned off, and even the health of your child into adulthood.
The second, Feto-maternal microchimerism (FMM), takes the biological connection between mother and child even further by providing evidence of cell sharing between the two — a cellular communication that goes both ways. The cells that the mother share stay in the baby’s blood and tissue (including in organs like the pancreas, heart and skin) for decades. Which in some cases even includes cells from the baby’s maternal grandmother that were passed to the mother/carrier while she was in the womb.
Additionally, fetal cells have been known to be transferred to the mother during pregnancy where they too will last for a number of years. Often times these cells will be transformed into material that is the most beneficial for the mother (heart or brain cells) or the baby (breast cells to increase milk supply). Some fetal cells have even been found in the mother’s caesarian section scar tissue, where they were dispatched to increase collagen production to aid in healing.
And let’s not forget about nurture.
Everybody knows the long-time married couple who start to look alike as the years progress, or the best friends who seem to have their own language, or even a tight-knit group of co-workers with inside jokes that only they seem to understand. It doesn’t take much outside research for us to understand the effect that simply being together, modeling behavior, and nurturing can have on any relationship — especially between parent and child.
But, if you are looking for some research-backed proof, you might like to know that child development experts attribute this connection to something called “attunement.” Basically, it’s the foundation of bonding and can come pretty naturally just by spending time with your baby — “tuning in.” It’s the reason why even adopted children often seem to have the same facial expressions, mannerisms, or even outlooks as their parents. They all come from frequent, closely shared experiences.
It all comes down to this.
So, as we come to an end, let’s go back to where we started — hearing first hand from someone who’s been there, someone who ended up being less concerned about replicating her DNA, and more interested in fulfilling her dream, to become someone’s mom. Let’s let Danielle Repsch (who conceived her baby with donor egg, using the Donor Egg Bank USA Assured Refund Plan™) have the last word, “There is no right or wrong way to process something like this. Feel whatever you need to feel, but know that these feelings won’t last forever. Your children will be yours, whether they share your DNA or not.”
To find out more about using frozen donor eggs to create a family that is truly yours (including information about our Assured Refund Plan), just reach out to our qualified team at Donor Egg Bank USA to have all your questions answered. Or, if you’re ready to get matched to your ideal donor, start your search here.