I’m currently mum to a baby conceived with the help of an egg donor. She is a smiley, very contented baby who loves, and is loved by, her big sister and her parents. She enjoys mouthing everything and anything and blowing copious amounts of raspberries.
However, I had a fairly long journey to get to this point, with a lot of intervention and soul-searching along the way. I’d like to provide a little bit of insight into this journey, hopefully, to help others who may be considering this path.
I had several years of ‘conventional’ fertility treatment, but my partner and I came to realise that we had a low chance of success if we continued trying to get pregnant using my eggs.
I’d been introduced to the idea of donor eggs by a friend who worked in fertility treatment and knew of the possibility, but I took a number of steps before I was ready to make the decision to go ahead.
I researched online and found the Donor Conception Network helpful. I took advantage of the psychological support offered by the clinic we were using at the time, and we spoke with people who had previously made the decision to use a donor in their fertility treatment.
I also read accounts from people who were donor-conceived and read some research studies into outcomes for donor-conceived children and their psychological well-being.
“If I could speak to our donor, I would emphasise what a gift they provided to us, and how rich our lives are now. I’d also like them to know that the door is open to them in the future, in whatever capacity they wished.”
These all reassured me that the decision to use a donor ‘could work’, but reading the information helped me decide that my preference was for a potential child to be able to contact the donor in the future if they wished, and for the donation to be made on an ‘altruistic’ basis.
This meant staying in the UK for treatment and taking a very open approach with any child on being donor-conceived and being open in the future to potential additional relationships being added to our family, be that the original donor or additional potential siblings.
The process of finding a donor was partly method and partly ‘gut feeling’. I had a few criteria that I listed before we got started:
Once we’d chosen the donor, the actual physical IVF process was much less taxing than previous IVF rounds and the resulting pregnancy straightforward and problem free.
I had some emotional concerns in pregnancy about how to handle questions from medical staff and their potential responses (not an issue in the end) and how ‘unknown’ the baby might feel when a substantial part of their biological information was missing.
This ‘unknown’ factor has really been the only ongoing challenge, as bonding with our baby was very straightforward. She immediately became an absolutely essential part of our lives, bringing masses of joy and fulfilment to us all.
I do still have moments when I recognise that some parts of the jigsaw are not there – information about the donor parent's early milestones and appearance means that innocent questions from strangers cannot be accurately answered.
When people have asked ‘where does she get “said feature” from?’, or ‘when did you sit and crawl?’, it’s impossible to answer because we just don’t know that much detail about the donor.
I realise that I have to wait for her to reveal herself (as is perhaps the case with any child in actuality) rather than looking for heritable characteristics.
I also find it more important to surround our daughter now, and in the future, with a whole range of different ways of being and living, as I don’t want her to feel different or the odd one out.
I want to ensure she always feels loved and secure so that she can feel safe to explore any other aspects of her identity as and when she might choose.
If I could speak to our donor, I would emphasise what a gift they provided to us, and how rich our lives are now. I’d also like them to know that the door is open to them in the future, in whatever capacity they wished.
If you are thinking about embarking on this journey, I would encourage you to seek stories from others that have gone down this path of using an egg donor. I would also encourage you to look for stories from donor-conceived children and from the donors themselves, as these are voices that are sometimes not as represented in the literature out there.