What will the child want?

I had an amazing therapy session during which my therapist asked me to think of a particular question from our child’s point of view…

DH and I need to do much, much, much more research about when and how to tell our kid that he or she was conceived via egg donation, but there is plenty of time, of course, to do that research.

In the meantime, however, we are sharing the news of our pregnancy with family and friends, some of whom know we got pregnant via DE IVF, some of whom don’t. Several of my family members know, and this was mainly because I needed their support very much, and I wanted them to understand the details of what we were going through—especially after we lost our first DE baby and we’re completely at a loss. Also, my nuclear and extended family (by which I mean my brother and his wife, my aunt and uncle, two of my cousins, and my parents) are extremely close and telling them just felt right. DH’s parents know and maybe his brother knows—in classic DH fashion, the boy doesn’t remember if he told his bro or not, oy. A handful of my girlfriends know—one of whom I met at Resolve meetings, two of whom I met in a women’s circle support group, one a former co-worker I needed to confide in while going through hell at work, and my best friend in WY (has DS twins, she’s an awesome resource), and my best friend in LA (we tell each other everything and would have felt bizarre not to tell her).

My therapist said that this sounded fine, but that I should be careful when considering who, if anyone else, to tell at this point. I explained that DH was not comfortable telling anyone else right now, because he wanted to wait until we’ve told the kid him- or herself the origin story.

I, on the other hand, have been worried about cultivating any sense of shame or secrecy whatsoever. “I just don’t want our child to think that we didn’t tell people outside of the family because it was something to be ashamed of. Because it was a dirty secret. You know?”

“Yes, but what if the child doesn’t want anyone to know?”

I stopped short. I realized in that moment, with a bit of embarrassment, that I had never thought of that particular possibility. I have been so concerned about not creating an atmosphere of secrecy and shame that it had not occurred to me that the child might be more comfortable with keeping DE a secret than telling the world about it.

I learn and grow every day, folks. This DE path is going to continue to force me to look at my assumptions, and to step far outside of myself into other perspectives, for the rest of my life.

In other news, people who know about the pregnancy (and not DE) are already going on and on about the cuteness of “half-Asian” babies. Each time they say it or write it to me, I think to myself: Welllll this one is actually 3/4 Asian! (As most of you know, our donor was half-Korean, half-Caucasian, and DH is Korean. I’m Caucasian.) Will this continue to amuse me? Will it eventually exhaust me? Or will it eventually just roll off my back like nothing?

I know this is going to sound strange to some, but I am just as excited and curious to find out what our baby looks like as a genetic-linked mama. In our case, so much is unknown. The only physical image I have in mind of the donor is one extremely blurry photo and another photo of her as a tiny girl riding a plastic pony on a carousel. I swear in that picture she looks like an Asian me. But you know how photos are—they’re really inaccurate. I haven’t looked at the photo since way back last year, when we chose her, and I wonder if, in my mind’s eye, she has morphed to look more like me? That would be interesting. I don’t really feel the need to check and see.

I can feel the baby. Not kicking, of course. But just this physical heaviness, this biological and spiritual presence. Belly is so big now. I like to put my hand over it and imagine the warmth and darkness inside. A snug, healthy home for the little thing, who now has teeny-tiny ribs encasing his or her ever-beating heart. A breath-taking thought.

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28 Comments

  1. Michelle Fragola

     /  June 2, 2014

    When we went through our adoption education, this was a big point of discussion. How it was described to us was that your child should never be able to remember THE MOMENT he/she was told. It should just be part of the story all along. That is 1) to naturalize it (this is how we made our family, families are made lots of different ways) and 2) to ensure no one spills the “secret” which could lead the child to wonder what else he/she isn’t being told and 3) to minimize the “wow, I have to tell everybody” that might happen if you make a big deal out of it. I have several friends who have done egg donor. Inevitably, at some point, you will talk about having a baby, or when your child was a baby and you can talk about the helping lady. Two of them drew circles, one each for sperm/egg, one for uterus, and one for forever family. They would circle the parts they used and the parts they had help with, always stressing that “forever family” is the most important. I mean, really, there will be surrogate families, LGBT families, adoptive families, etc. How you created yours is just one of many. It feels like a really big deal to you right now because of everything you’ve been through. But once you have a baby and meet new people, you might hear a whole bunch of different stories. Or you might not. The conception is only the very beginning of the ride – no one really talks about it much when you’ve got feeding/changing/sleeping to discuss!

    Reply
    • That is really good info—child should not be able to remember “the moment.” That perfectly describes how a friend of mine told her child—it was a “this is a big moment” kind of event, and to me, that sounded quite intimidating and, well, possibly damaging. I’ve read about the “helping lady,” and love this idea of the circles. I think art will be extremely helpful. It will be interesting to see how common it’ll be for our child to meet other donor-conceived children in his or her classrooms—it’s a new era.

      To be honest it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me in a concerning way; I’ve always thought that matters would unfold rather naturally, and we would learn and understand what to do at each new stage. But my therapist brought up something I’d never considered: What if the child would not appreciate that we’d made the decision without his or her permission to tell a bunch of people outside of the family? What if he or she actually wants to be more private about it? She asked me to remember that my child is going to have his or her own personality and tendencies and preferences. That’s why I love my therapist—she asks me to consider the complex full picture.

      Reply
  2. Your therapist brings up a very interesting question. I also had not thought of it that way. In my heart, for our situation, I just had to be open with people…even though our child hasn’t even been conceived yet. I just knew that I couldn’t keep a secret from the most important person in our life. So our plan is for it to just always be part of their story, from the very beginning. I don’t want to be ashamed and I don’t want him or her to be either. I know that you may (and probably will) get many different view points on this, and I am VERY supportive of each and every person’s own decision where this is concerned. I think everyone SHOULD make the best decision for them. For us, it just feels right to be open.

    Reply
  3. When you write “I just knew that I couldn’t keep a secret from the most important person in our life”—do you mean the child? Or someone else? We have no intention of keeping anything from the child. The therapist was just bringing up the possibility that the child him or herself might want to choose him or herself who to tell, outside of the family, and that the child might not appreciate that we had made that decision for him or her. Does that make sense?

    Reply
  4. Also, we, too, plan on it being part of their story from the beginning. Just want that to be clear. I think the literature says around age 2 or 3 is about the time you start introducing the idea, through storybooks and play and the like.

    Reply
  5. Also, I consider what we are doing to be open, as well. As I wrote in the post, we’ve told our families, and we will tell the child—I’m not sure how that is not open?

    Reply
    • Oh you misunderstood. I wasn’t implying what you were doing wasn’t open. I was actually only speaking in terms of our decisions and reasonings, not in comparison with yours. And yes, when I say didn’t want to keep a secret from the most important person in our life, that was referring to our future child. I was only sharing our thought process in general. I think whatever decisions you and hubby make will absolutely without a doubt be the right one for your family!! :)

      I’m so sorry if you thought I was saying you weren’t being open!!

      Reply
  6. L

     /  June 2, 2014

    You do need to consider how you’ll react when the inevitable happens- people asking who the child looks like more, or telling you how much he or she looks like you. I just smile or don’t respond or say my son looks like a baby to me. But it’s strange to be told how much he resembles me, when I know it’s not genetics!

    Reply
    • That’s really funny. My friend, DS dad to the twins, looks so much like one of the girls—then again, I thought for years they were genetically related, so who knows how much that influenced my perception.

      I have a friend who IS the bio mom to her half-asian children, and those kids don’t look a thing like her. (:

      Reply
  7. I’ve thought about this a lot already and we haven’t even made any DE embryos yet. I was so open about my struggle at work, so many many people know that if I end up having a child it will be through DE. I can only hope that if/when they meet any future child, they’d refrain from saying anything stupid or making the child feel insecure. Like you, we plan on making the DE thing such an open topic that hopefully it won’t even be an issue. Although I guess your therapist’s point raises a good question about how I would deal in future with other moms and new people that don’t know our history. Honestly, at this point I’d consider myself lucky to have to deal with any of these issues, because it would mean that I’d be pregnant. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Reply
  8. AndiePants

     /  June 3, 2014

    Just wanted to make you aware of a great resource, a children’s book called “What Makes a Baby” which is both biologically accurate AND inclusive of all kinds of families. It’s a gem!

    Reply
      • AndiePants

         /  June 3, 2014

        And while not as directly relevant, you may find some interesting parallels in some writings by queer families since there is so often a disconnect between certain types of biology and parenting. Although I imagine that the weight is assumptions about how you and DH got pregnant ads a layer of complexity to the whole thing. I mean it’s pretty obvious La and I needed some sort of help getting pregnant and that isn’t the case for heterosexual couples.

        Reply
  9. This may sound crazy but during our journey just watching the Generation Cryo series on MTV really changed the way in which we both viewed donor’s and their offspring. It was interesting to say the least to see how each family both reacted and dealt with a lot of heady issues that I had never taken the time to consider. Strange considering the source. Your therapist sounds like a really amazing person considering the complex full picture. Hard questions. No easy answers.

    I think I’d be less concerned about the friends and family in your life with any information and more concerned over the information being shared (innocently even) with your child’s peers potentially from the child. Not that it’s something to keep “secret”. I simply think kids are cruel with things that they dont really understand and would not want any childhood tarred with taunts and jabs about their parent or origins. When you guys get there it may also be time to point out that complex full picture to the family as well. I wont get into genomic imprinting and the more off color remark that “some folks even looking a little like their pets”. You’ll always be mom regardless.

    Reply
    • DH has said the same thing to me, reminding me of children’s cruelty, and he seems particularly worried about taunts and jabs. It’s another angle I admit I hadn’t really considered. But I was never teased as a child—I was that light-haired, blue-eyed all-American girl. DH, however did experience teasing, being exotic-looking, being small for his age, etc, and has first-hand experience of what it can be like to be “different” when you’re a kid. So much to think about! I had assumed that in our kid’s generation there will be such a diverse array of origin stories that they won’t stick out for a DE origin story, but you never know—particularly if we move back to the Midwest.

      Reply
  10. PVED had some great resources on “disclosure” and recommend you start telling the story of your child’s conception while you are still pregnant. That way, you have lots of practice by the time they are 2 or 3. By starting while pregnant, the less clumsy it will come of your mouth when your child is old enough to absorb the words. The less clumsy, the less of a deal it will be to your child.

    Like you, we’ve told our immediate families and anyone we feel close to. We’ve had nothing but love, support, and excitement, which is making the journey a little easier. So much so, in fact, that I’m surprised by how much the genetic link *doesn’t* matter as much, at only 16.5 weeks. In fact, there are plenty of people who we won’t be telling, because it just doesn’t feel that important anymore. The way I explained it to my parents is: just as they wouldn’t introduce or refer to my brother as their gay son, there’s no need to tell everyone this baby doesn’t share my genes. As with my brother’s sexual orientation — an important part of who he is, but just one facet — my baby isn’t singularly defined by her genetic heritage.

    And yet, we are proud of our journey, the way we overcame obstacles and found a beautiful solution to a big problem — a great lesson to teach a kid! My hope is that a question like “what if your baby doesn’t want anyone to know?” will be a moot point. Because this baby, like yours, was wanted, fought for, and loved beyond measure, and that is the most important thing :)

    Reply
    • Absolutely. I feel that so much of this will become moot, because the kid will just feel our enormous love and that will help us all through anything that arises, any permutation, any challenge. I love what you write: “just as they wouldn’t introduce or refer to my brother as their gay son, there’s no need to tell everyone this baby doesn’t share my genes.” I spent an entire day with an old friend who doesn’t know about DE, and whereas before I got pregnant, I think it would have felt important to me to disclose and explore with her what I was doing, it just didn’t matter one bit yesterday—I was far more interested in talking about the magic of pregnancy and the crazy love that is threatening to make my heart explode already.

      Reply
  11. Geeta

     /  June 4, 2014

    My friend had a daughter thru DE . She plans on telling her that mom and dad loved u so much. But needed the help of this lady to get you here. She dose not want to tell the name or reveal the identity of that lady though. Just to tell her that she was like a fairy and they have no idea of her whereabouts .
    I know this is a difficult thing for u to do. In time I am sure you will figure it out
    Until then enjoy the pregnancy
    Geeta

    Reply
  12. This post also gave me pause. You’re right, my husband and I have thought so much about who will we or won’t tell–almost certain use DS and possible use of DE–because of how it might make us or them feel–we never really thought about it from the child’s perspective. Thank you for this. Lovely.

    Reply
  13. ds

     /  June 4, 2014

    Remember too that secrets can also be fun. My parents divorced when I was 10 and my dad remarried a woman with a son from her previous marriage. When out and about as the four of us people always said I looked just like my step-mom and that her son looked just like my dad. We would smile and agree and say thank you, etc and then giggle about it later. As the kids in the situation we thought it was fun and never felt the need to explain to others. With my children (adopted) we hear all the time that one or the other looks just like me or my DH. And they really do so we just smile. You will know who and what to tell and when. :-)

    Reply
    • A very interesting perspective. If I remember correctly, my friends with the DS twins also had fun with their secret for years with their girls, and they would say: “It’s okay to have secrets.” And so they had this inside joke whenever people went on and on about how one of them looked so much like the dad, and they’d laugh about it, too, in private together. What an intimate, loving picture you paint.

      Reply
  14. This is such an incredible adventure and I have no doubt that little tyke is going to be so very perfect. And you are such a wonderful Mamma to be thinking of this, of how to share his/her legacy. Because it is truly an incredible legacy and such a powerful story. One to be so very proud of. I love the idea of introducing it through play and story, of integrating it into his/her growth. I heart these posts!

    Reply

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