Using sperm, egg or embryo donors is becoming an increasingly popular way to have children these days. An estimated 200,000 children were conceived via donor sperm in the US alone. More than 125,000 others were conceived with the help of donor egg and much smaller number, around 3,000, were donor embryo conceived. The technology involving these procedures are becoming increasingly refined and success rates are soaring. But the psychological issues involving the decision to use a donor are complex.
Grieving The Loss Of the Genetic Connection
For most people using a donor to help you have a child was never your first choice, and the idea of giving up your genetic connection to your child can feel uncomfortable and sad.
Not everyone dreams of having a child who will carry some of “you” forward, but a lot of people do. And many families emphasize the ways in which children resemble parents and grandparents and aunt and uncles etc. It’s through certain physical similarities that some people derive a deep sense of belonging.
It takes time to get adjusted to the idea that you will need to give that up, usually months if not longer. And some people feel more comfortable with adoption in the end. It’s a highly personal decision.
Other People Are Going to Have Reactions
Although donor procedures are becoming more common, some people are unaware of this and may have misgivings about the whole situation. More than one of my patient’s has reported her own parent saying “Well then it won’t really be your baby, will it? You won’t be the real mother.” Ouch! That hurts and is totally untrue. The child will most definitely be yours, and you will very certainly be their “real mother.”
You Will Need to Tell Your Child The Truth About How They Came Into the World
There are a lot of fears around telling children they were donor conceived. Some people worry that their children will be teased and shunned, or will feel like outcasts. They worry they will feel “less than.” Other people worry that the child will resent being donor conceived, or accuse their parent(s) of “not being their real parents.” The truth is, however, that if you feel good about how your child came into the world, they will too.
And if they are ever teased about it (which is extremely rarely) you can teach them that they have nothing to be ashamed of and stand up for themselves. Any personal characteristic can be the source of teasing. And if someone is determined to do this to your child they will find any number of different ways to do this. You have to teach your kid not to take these kinds of things too seriously and communicate the strong message that the bully is the one with the problem.
If you feel good about how your child came into the world, they will too.
Similarly, when children start to separate from the parents in the teenage years they may say hurtful things to their parents to create distance and independence. And a donor conceived teenager may at some point accuse you of not being their “real” parent. Again, you have to consider the source of this kind remark and be prepared with a response such as“I’m as real it gets” and then address the source of the child’s anger.