Answer from: Elli Papadopoulou, BSc
Well, this is a difficult question to answer. even in biological parenthood!One can never know in advance of the appearance or the psychological traits of any human being before they are born…
The answer to the question also depends on how one defines ‘looking like somebody’.Is it just about physical resemblance – whether we have the same color eyes or hair or how tall we are? Or do behaviors come into play – the tone of our voice and how we speak, the way we walk, small mannerisms that are part of our character and social presence? Think for example how many times we have mistaken over the phone a daughter for a mother or vice versa, just because they sound so similar…
This is the debate of nature vs. nurture – how much of what we become is defined solely by our genes or is shaped and influenced by our environment, the how, the where and when we grow up, our family, friends, schooling, our experiences in life…It is a highly researched topic and from my Psychology student days I recall that it comes to about 50-50…Epigenetics, which is the science of how our lifestyle influences the expression of our genes, is becoming increasingly popular.
It is also important to consider that with egg donation the mother may not be sharing a genetic relationship with the embryo, but she has a gestational relationship – because she carries and gives birth to her baby. Research suggests that secretions from the mother’s womb can influence the development of the embryo – so genetic information is shared from the mother to the baby not just by genes alone…
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 for more than 10 years. Isn’t that amazing?So, pregnancy itself is a very important and meaningful bond between mother and child regardless of genetic resemblance.
Also, something to consider additionally is the fact that there may be a lot of physical resemblance with the father.
And finally, I come back to the issue of resemblance that has nothing to do with physical similarity…You will be the parent of that baby, child, and adult for a lifetime. The influence of our parents in our lives, of how we are brought up, who we become is huge: through them we may develop so many good traits, values, and beliefs and of course the difficulties and restraints of our parents may also be passed on to future generations. Generational lineage does not only have to do with the phenotype of our genes but also by the phenotype of our upbringing…
It is interesting to think of it in another way as well. Have you ever had a friendly couple who progressively look and behave in similar ways as their relationship progresses? They don’t share genes, but they share their everyday life – maybe habits, living environment, values and beliefs, dreams, and aspirations.
Well, if that happens in couples, imagine what an influence it is in the resemblance of parent and child!
Answer from: Becky Kearns
I think that is something that we always really hope and quite often when people are choosing to use a donor, they choose a donor that looks like them and resembles them, because they want to have that close match with their child and they don’t want it to be obvious to a stranger in the street that they’re not genetically related. Our donor looked like me on paper, i never saw a photo of her and that was probably one of my biggest worries whilst I was pregnant, what would my baby look like. Which at the time I felt really shallow for but it was something that was very real. I knew that they would have features of my husband but it was all a bit of an unknown apart from that which is very hard to deal with. But once my children were born I thought less about them looking like me and I saw them for who they are themselves. That is what I’ve come to learn, you create a unique, individual person and you are very involved in that, carrying that person, epigenetically you’re switching on and expressing certain genes. But there is a level of acceptance in knowing that you won’t necessarily see your family eye shape or your family nose in that child.
But what I have found and as my girls are now five and three is that you will see yourselves in them in so many other ways that are brought about by nurture so I see my mannerisms, I hear myself in how they speak and many people say how they are like me in personality and that is just through time spent together and nurture. So I think you need to be realistic and no you are not going to produce a mini me when you are using donor eggs, as much as you may try. But know that you are still playing a hugely important role in giving them life and epigenetically the environment that you create will help shape that individual person and then you nurture them from day one.
That helps them become who they’re going to be so if someone says to you, I don’t know whether they look like you, my best response is well they look like themselves or they are beautiful the way they are. That is just a way of reframing it where the person can’t come back to you and ask any more probing questions. But it’s also the truth because they do look like themselves as they are so uniquely individual and I love them for it even the traits that must come from the donor as well. At first I would have really struggled with thinking about those, is it going to be really obvious. My eldest daughter has really curly hair which isn’t anywhere in my husband’s line in the family so that must come from our donor and we celebrate that and she knows that and she thinks that the donor must have put a curl inside the egg that she gave us. It is hard to accept but there are other ways you can think about how that child might be like you .
What are the odds that the baby will look like me?
What are the chances that the baby will look like my partner and me? Are there any guarantees? These are the most common questions that you may have when egg donation is to be considered.