The following is a guest blog Written by Lisa Schuman, LCSW, a seasoned mental health professional who leads The Center for Family Building. Join her virtually in her monthly support webinar, aimed to address issues specific to third party reproduction including disclosure, development, and parenting. Learn more about her webinar here.
So you want to find an egg donor who possesses qualities you see in yourself or perhaps even better? That makes sense. Angelina Jolie adopted before she had a genetically related child, but most people choose to have genetically related children first. It’s natural to want children who will be connected to you and the people you love.
If you are a same-sex couple, a heterosexual couple with infertility, or someone who has suffered with an illness and genetic parenthood is no longer an option, it’s reasonable to feel sad about not being able to conceive with your own eggs and genetics. This idea upsets some people more than others. If you are able to seamlessly make this decision you are fortunate, but for most, the concept is difficult to fully digest and may affect the way you choose an egg donor.
When individuals and couples look at a picture of an egg donor it’s common to hear, “he looks like me when I was little” or “I was also athletic when I was a child.” It’s also natural to want to replace yourself or choose characteristics you wish you possessed. With this in mind, it’s understandable why so many people look for a donor with the perfect SAT scores or who has movie star looks.
These choices are driven by emotion. I would not suggest that you disregard your desire to feel some connection with the donor. A connection is important. However, it also makes sense to be practical.
It’s not possible to choose temperament, as any parent will tell you, and extreme intellect is not necessarily inheritable either. This can be difficult to accept. Having children is such an intimate experience and feeling that your children can be different than you or different than the child you imagined can feel hurtful. The loss you can feel is very personal and carries a different meaning for everyone. Accepting this is important but it is also useful to accept that there are practical issues to consider when choosing a donor. It can be a relief to understand that although you cannot choose your children’s genetics, you can try to stack the odds for desirable traits in your favor.
It’s also important to remember that you are not only choosing an egg donor, you are selecting a person from whom your child will inherit half of her DNA – and this DNA is not always represented in the egg donor. She can have blonde hair and blue eyes but if she has three red-haired brothers, you may have a red-haired child. If he is tall but everyone in his family is short, you are not really choosing tall genes. It’s understandable to be drawn to an egg donor because she is funny or has an advanced degree but since these attributes are not necessarily inevitable, you may be focusing on things you cannot control and losing sight of information that may be more useful.
Medical history is also more tangible than temperament or IQ. Everyone wants a healthy donor. But you can look beyond basic health. Everyone has some difficulty in their family. It’s rare for everyone in a family to die from old age, never wear glasses, and have no asthma. If you can identify the medical issues in the donor’s family and check to ensure that the genetically linked parent does not have the same difficulties in his or her family, you will not be replicating difficulties for your child.
You are your child’s parent. There is no question about that. But your child will have genetics that will be connected to someone outside the family. In the age of the internet your child may be able to find valuable information about his or her genetics with the touch of a keypad. This information may give your child all the medical assistance he or she needs. However, in choosing a donor with the emotional AND the practical issues in mind, you will have the opportunity to make choices that may positively impact your child and possibly choose the genetics that will give you the best chances of having a donor who resembles your family.
For many who use donor eggs to build their family, the wait has been long. Often this wait causes frustration and sometimes sadness. When people feel frustrated, and desperate it is natural to think emotionally about decisions.
Emotions are important and need to be valued, but accepting the things you can control and making decisions based on useful information can give you the opportunity to get more of what you want. You may have heard parents say, “I need to pick my battles” or “I am not going to sweat the small stuff.” Selecting an egg donor can be a stressful process, but thinking carefully about inheritable traits and stacking the odds in your favor can provide you with a better chance of achieving your desired outcome.
If you’re ready to start your egg donor search at Fairfax EggBank, visit our donor database.
About Lisa Schuman, LCSW
Lisa Schuman, LCSW is founding Director of The Center for Family Building and Director of Mental Health Services at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut.
Ms. Schuman is former Chair of the Egg Freezing Task Force for the Mental Health Professional Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and is a former board member of the American Fertility Association.
Ms. Schuman has won several awards for her research, has lectured extensively and has written numerous articles on a variety of family building subjects including LBGT and single parent family building. She runs on line groups, counsels parents and parents to be and leads workshops for children who joined their families through gamete donation or adoption.
Visit her website: www.familybuilding.net