For many years I have had the privilege of meeting with patients considering egg donation in both counseling and group settings. Frequently, patients raise the issue of how to come to terms with losing the genetic contribution to a child. Many people ask, “How can I give up the dream of having my ‘own’ child…a child who shares my genes and my family’s genetic history?”
Individuals and couples come to egg donation with varied experiences. Some may have gone to great lengths and extensive treatment with diminishing odds to ensure that “they did everything they could” to have a genetic child. Others may have never even had the opportunity to attempt treatment before discovering egg donation is the only option.
Most people express feelings of loss and sadness when faced with the decision to use a donor. Labeling this experience a grieving process helps to make sense of these feelings, profound and invisible to others, and unacknowledged by established societal rituals. Grieving can take time, far longer than most realize.
Preparation for treatment using an egg donor includes becoming “ready” to move forward, both physically and emotionally. Counseling and support groups can provide a rich opportunity for emotional support and decision-making. People who participate often express feeling less alone. They aren’t ” the only ones” facing these decisions, and find the chance to share (often through tears and laughter) with others who “get it” normalizes the emotional journey leading to egg donation. Talking about these feelings brings a sense of relief, new hope and energy to not only accept egg donation, but to embrace it as the path to creating a child.
Finding a donor who meets desired characteristics can also go a long way toward feeling that all is being done to give a child a healthy start and a “fit in the family”. Often- voiced concerns are “Will we bond with a child? Will they feel like ours? “Will we always see ourselves as donor egg parents?”
After years of seeing patients during this time, I find that early in the much hoped for pregnancy, the focus on the donor tends to recede. Immersed in the immediacy of the pregnancy, the decision to use a donor slowly moves far in the past.
Finally, with the subsequent birth of OUR baby uniquely created via egg donation, comes the realization of the long awaited dream and reality of becoming parents. There is an awareness that this baby is very much your “own” and while not created of your genes, the child is formed in your heart