Answer from: Elli Papadopoulou, BSc
This is a trigger question when considering any kind of non-genetic parenthood alternative.
The main advantage of donation is that it allows a woman to experience pregnancy, delivery and most likely breast-feeding.
Donation can be either by donor egg or sperm or even donor embryo.
The overwhelming advantage of using a donor is that you have control over so much more than when you are adopting. You can control the pregnancy as much as possible by getting excellent prenatal care, taking vitamins, eating well, refraining from unhelpful behavior.
And the distinction here is that of the genetic parent and the mother!
With egg donation mothers, there are many different issues and strategies of emotional response that come into play.
It is the idea of ‘feeling the child mine’ – making that ‘parental claim’ and it can start from preconception and continue into pregnancy and then parenthood.
For some people the minimization of the donor’s contribution is important – so an unknown donor might be a more appropriate choice.
For some, the actual donation of genetic material is compared to someone giving you blood or donating tissue for a medical procedure.
Another way of looking at it, is the expanded family diversity – half siblings, step siblings, adoptive relationships, single parenthood, assisted reproduction. These circumstances are more common in our society than ever before! Therefore, the shared experiences have become even more important compared to pure genetics.
Pregnancy is another very important stage and element of motherhood.
When a woman is pregnant baby cells immigrate to the mother’s blood stream and later, they return to the baby…For 41 weeks, cells move back and forth and after the baby is born many of these cells stay in the mother’s body, leaving a permanent mark on the mother’s tissue, bones, brain and skin and they may stay there for more than 10 years. Isn’t that amazing?
So, pregnancy, the gestational relationship itself is a very important and meaningful bond between mother and child regardless of genetic relationship.
And finally, how about the bond of love – the commitment that you make as a mother, a parent, a human being to bring to life and take care of this baby, this child, this adult for as long as you both shall live…What conscious and emotional bond can be greater than that!
Who is ultimately the mother – is it the person whose genes are used for reproduction or the person who lives and breathes for this new life, who nurtures it, supports its existence to becoming a competent, self-reliant adult?
That is for you to decide, but I believe you know the answer already!
Answer from: Becky Kearns
This is one of the biggest fears that people have, will the baby feel like mine, and one of the important things to be aware of when having a baby through donor conception, actually having a baby through any form of conception, is that bonding and attachment is a process and it takes time. Although some people will feel that instant bond when they have their baby, some people will maybe take some time. But I know when people have used donor eggs there can be those additional worries about whether they will feel like your child. I actually used to worry about whether my child would have a sixth sense that they were not genetically related to me. I think it’s going through that experience that you realize everything that you’re doing so as you’re growing that child, as you’re feeding that child as you’re nurturing that child, you’re looking after them constantly. You realize that you are all they’ve ever known. You’ve known them since day five embryo, since they’ve been put back. Once you’ve started to process those feelings and you’ve spoken to other people about it and you’ve experienced motherhood with that child, you do feel like they’re yours, there is no other way of thinking about it. But there is that level of acceptance, where you’ve got to still realize that you are not genetically their parent in that sense. So it is realizing what it makes you a real mom and knowing that it’s an act, an intention, everything that you do for them. But that’s not forgetting that there is an important part of the puzzle in the fact that you need to use genetics from another person and that is a process of grief and acceptance. One of the things i always say is that acceptance does not necessarily mean that you won’t ever feel sad about not having that genetic link, you’ve accepted it and grief is something that you grow around so the grief lessens but there will still occasionally be triggers and things which pop up that might sting a little bit. But it’s a complex process but it is trying to think about it more broadly around what you’re actually doing for that child. I take my daughter to school now and I don’t feel any different to any of the other moms in the playground. I know her inside out just like they know their children inside out and were just as strongly connected and in some ways if not more so. I believe that going through such a process and through such an experience to have your children, I think it makes you a more conscious, grateful parent in everything that you do.
Will I feel that the baby is not my genetics?
Egg donation can be very challenging to accept for women in terms of giving up their own genetics. In terms of pregnancy itself, it is like any other pregnancy. What actually makes it all that difficult?