One day my sister-in-law came to join me and the kids at the play gym. At the end while I was putting the kids in the stroller and giving them some snacks, my sister-in-law suddenly said, “I need to apologize for something that I said; I made a mistake on your behalf.” At that moment, I half-guessed what she meant, and it wasn’t far off from my hunch. She and my brother had dinner with a mutual friend, and the topic of our twins came up. This mutual friend asked, “How come the twins looked nothing like Isabelle?” My sister-in-law wasn’t thinking much and blurted out that it was somebody else’s eggs, or something to that effect. Our mutual friend thought that it was our gestational carrier’s eggs, but my SIL clarified that it was someone else’s. Once my SIL said it out loud, she knew that she had made a mistake from seeing the horror on my brother’s face. She made our mutual friend swear that she won’t tell others, but she didn’t feel good that I didn’t know that this mutual friend knew. She explained that she was caught off guard at that moment. When this topic comes up, she usually would say that Bob’s genes are very strong and the kids just look a lot like him. But this time she just told it without thinking about it. Afterwards, my brother was more mad at the friend than my sister-in-law because he felt that she shouldn’t have asked, as the question puts people on the spot. My SIL was horrified that she had told someone without consulting with me first and she was sincerely sorry about it. I told her that it is okay because this is not some dark secret. But I have been working on telling the kids about their genetic origins and before they have the cognitive ability, language, and maturity to tell people about it, I do not want those other than our chosen friends and family to know.
How did/do I feel about it? It has been a few days and I am still processing my feelings. I am not mad at my SIL at all. It IS a difficult question to answer and I felt that I should have prepared my loved ones better by giving them an answer to give people who ask. I am a bit mad at our mutual friend. What gives her the right to question why my kids don’t look like me? I mean, plenty of people do not look like their parents. If their parents did not use a gestational carrier to carry and give birth to them, I doubt that their friends and family would ask why they don’t look like their parents. The fact that our family building path involved a gestational carrier makes people feel that they can question the origin of my kids’ genetics. Just because I didn’t get to carry my babies, the chances of encountering difficult to answer questions are so much higher. At the same time, I did use donor eggs to create my family. And again, this is not some dark secret, so I feel that I *should* be okay with these questions because I should own up to my decision proudly. I don’t know. Like I said, I am still processing my feelings. One thing I am sure is that my SIL probably won’t blurt out donor eggs easily in the future. And, I should think about how to prepare my family better in the future because I am sure this question is going to come up again.
I continue to read my old blog posts.
Now that Bob and I have our boy/girl twins, it has been quite surreal to read the posts I had written about the possibility of pursuing egg donation. Even when we were banking day two embryos with my own eggs, we were already mentally, emotionally, and financially preparing for future potential donor egg cycles. There were quite a few posts back then about my thoughts and feelings regarding egg donation. This particular post stands out to me. My friend who struggled to get pregnant had just given birth to a baby boy. I signed up to deliver a meal to her. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the sight of everything new mom and newborn. This was what I wrote:
“I commented on the abundance of his dark hair. Anna exclaimed at her surprise of his dark hair because both she and her husband were born bald and later on grew blonde hair. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would feel the loss of the privilege of making such a comment in the future if my children are conceived with donor gametes. Maybe by then I’ll just feel so lucky to have a baby that it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Now that I am mom to my babies who were conceived with donor gametes, I don’t have to wonder anymore. I can tell you exactly how I feel. There is still a sense of loss of not being able to make such a comment about my own children’s hair, or skin color, or nose, or other physical parts of them. During the weekdays when I am by myself with the kids out and about, I get asked many times by strangers where my boy’s curly hair comes from. That whole head of curly hair definitely comes from my husband, which is usually how I answer it, but it does serve as a reminder that the kids and I are not biologically related. Is this sense of loss constant? Not at all. I’d say it is not a part of my everyday life. I love them so much and only want them and not other kids, so this sense of loss comes occasionally and goes away quickly. Most of the time the last statement of that blog post was true. I feel so so so lucky to have (these) bab(ies) that it doesn’t matter anymore. The fact that I can come back here in this space 4.5 years later to address a question I had prior to becoming mom of kids made with donor eggs? Now THAT is a privilege that I won’t/don’t take it lightly.
(By the way, yesterday, June 2nd, was my 6th blogoversary, and this is my 520th post. I sure hope to be able to keep this blog up for many years to come. Thanks for stopping by!)
I was listening to a podcast the other day about DNA testing and how people are excited about connecting to their relatives through a DNA database. I paid particular attention at one point when egg and sperm donors were mentioned. With this technology, egg and sperm donors who wish to keep themselves anonymous will not be able to keep their identity under wraps. That means people like my children who have been conceived with the help of donor eggs have the means to find the people to whom they are genetically linked. They will be able to see who contributed to 50% of their DNA and those that share their DNA. I have never wanted to keep my children’s conception story a secret. I want them to have a complete picture of who they are and not to have to find out about the donor conception part of their life through a test or anyone other than me. I recently purchased a book called “You Were Meant To Be” and started to read it to the kids. Bunny is a book worm and frequently requests to read this book. She calls this book “Be”. She fills in the blank for certain words of the story. Okra likes the book too but he is more into trucks and trains. I explain to them that a piece of me didn’t work so I needed help from our donor. The book itself is simple enough to explain a very complex situation to toddlers who are not even two years old. This is my first step to make this part of their life a normal part so it will not be a surprise in the future. I do not want them to be like those who are tremendously hurt because they find out about their biological origin well into their teenage years or adulthood. If my kids want to find out who the donor is through a DNA database, I will have no problem with that. They have the right and the freedom to explore who they are. When we first pursued egg donation, our donor did say she was open to meeting with us. So maybe this will come true and the kids can have a even more complete picture of who they are. Then we will connect with our donor so they don’t even have to find her through a database. We will see how this all will unfold.
Sometimes Bob and I discuss about our donor; topics such as when to start telling the babies their birth stories, whether Bunny or Okra reminds us of the donor, or how the donor feels about children conceived with her eggs. I am thinking about starting to tell the babies in a couple of months just a very abbreviation version of their donor conception and gestational surrogacy. Sometimes Bunny and Okra sit with me in the rocking chair in their nursery and I would point to the maternity photographs on the wall and tell them about the time Auntie Annie was carrying the both of them inside of her tummy. They seem to start to comprehend my words and would point to the pictures when I ask them where Auntie Annie is. I have yet to start saying something about our donor, and will need to consider how to make the point across in simple terms for toddlers. As for our donor’s feelings about children conceived with her eggs including our children, we would have no way of finding out unless we reach out to request for a meeting with her like we had originally planned for, until the cocaine incident. I had lost my desires to meet with her after her breach of contract and trust. I had always wanted to complete the babies’ conception story by telling them about our meeting with their donor, so we will see if we change our minds in the future. Yesterday I did get some insight from my dear friend who actually donated her eggs to another couple in her 20s. She was in town for the holidays so we met up for coffee. I asked her for her perspective. She said since she donated such a long time ago, the children that were conceived with her eggs rarely crossed her mind until she saw our struggles and our decision to use donor eggs. Because of how it had enabled us to start and build our beautiful family, she felt a tremendous sense of privilege to be able to be a part of a story that completed a family for a couple in need, and felt that she had done the right thing. I know that this is just one donor’s perspective, but it was nice to hear about it. Maybe someday we do get to ask our donor herself about her perspective.