We spoke with Lisa Schuman, LCSW, a leading expert in family building and founder of Center for Family Building, about family building with the help of an egg donor
Ms. Schuman has lectured extensively and has written numerous articles on a variety of family building subjects including LGBTQ, and single-parent family building. Ms. Schuman also runs workshops and offers counselling for parents and children who have formed their families through sperm and egg donation or adoption.
When it comes to sharing how you built your family with the assistance of donor eggs, it’s not always easy to know how to navigate it best. What do you tell your family? Friends? The children conceived? Below, Ms. Schuman breaks it down for you and offers her insight!
What To Consider When Working With an Egg Donor
“The critical distinction to make is that it is recommended to tell your child, but that does not mean that you need to tell the world,” Ms. Schuman said. “In many ways, donor conception is similar to adoption in the 1970s when, although it had become more mainstream, people still had judgments about it and often did not see the adopted children as being the ‘real children’ of the people who adopted them.”
Donor conception, although different in many ways, is still shrouded in secrecy and shame. The technology is “strange” or uncomfortable for many people whose age, religious or ethical beliefs cannot comfortably absorb the way modern families are built. As a result, parents and children can feel different or judged, even by well-meaning family members or friends.
Before you decide to tell others, consider these below points
Are Your Friends and Family openminded?
Ms. Schuman advised that if your friends or relatives are not comfortable with the idea of donor conception, that’s something you should factor into your decision. You can avoid strange stares or comparisons at Thanksgiving and comments like, “Boy, it’s amazing that Jenny looks like you, and she is not even your daughter!” Yikes!
As she explained, “Many of these people will see the genetically linked parent as the “real” parent, which can be difficult in many ways, but here are two points that patients seem to struggle with most.
First, the person who is not genetically connected may already feel marginalized and needs to feel secure in their role as a parent, so, these comments can hit a nerve. Secondly, the relationship your child has with that person will form over time and may develop differently if that cousin believes the child is not truly a relative or doesn’t have the family heritage.”
Are You Comfortable With Questions?
Donor conception is not common in our society. People are naturally curious and are likely to ask many questions that are mostly well-intended. They may ask about the donor, your doctor, or grill you with endless questions about why you made the choices you made and how well you know your donor’s background, etc. Ms. Schuman pointed out that, “All of this will also be experienced by your child. They may get the looks and stares and hear your responses to the endless questions. Their friends may again ask them about their origins. At the Center for Family Building, we run workshops for donor-conceived children to help them answer questions and share their stories, when and how they desire, and in a way that honors their unique temperaments.”
As we learned from Ms. Schuman, many people believe that donor information is the child’s story to share or not to share
This is something you may want to consider before you decide. If you choose to tell others, then it is essential to understand that you will be fielding questions, not just now and then, but for years. “If total openness feels right for you, then your family can own their story and enjoy their honesty,” Ms. Schuman recommends. “However, if you decide not to tell others, or tell them at a later date, you can always tell people that you did not want to say to others before you told your child.”
“Also, the people who don’t know won’t have any preconceived notions about who your child is or isn’t and will develop a relationship with them, free from the judgment that may accompany knowledge of this information,” she continues. “If you tell them later, or when your child decides to tell, it will be too late for judgment. They will already be in love with your child. And from that standpoint, it is tough to have judgment or bias.”
Expanding your family in an alternative way isn’t always easy. Ultimately, asking yourself and your partner what is right for you and what you feel will be the best option not just now, but in the long-term, is the very best way to move forward.
Are you the parents of children conceived using a donor egg? we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at email@example.com
To learn more about egg donation, take a look at this article.