To tell or not to tell the child about the donation, is one of the most common topics I talk to patients about. I never tell a patient what to do. What I do, is to open their perspectives, give them a lot of information and then they need to decide themselves. I believe that every patient will make the decision that is best for them and their future children.
Some weeks ago, I talked to a single mum. She had one child from a previous marriage, and she wanted a sibling for her son that is 4 years old. She did not have a good relationship to her ex-husband. She hardly communicated with him, only regarding the time he was supposed to spend with their son. He was not that interested in spending time with him.
The women wanted to do an embryo donation. Donate both sperm and egg. She is too old to use her own eggs. The longing for a child, and the idea of how great it would be with two children, is her biggest motivation. She is happy about the possibility of being a mum by herself. She wants to find love again, but her experience with her ex-husband scares her, and she really believes that she can bring up two children alone with all the love and care they need.
But she told me about some of her concerns:
- How will my child, born from embryo donation feel when his or her elder brother goes to his father? Will my second child envy his brother? Envy that he has a father?
- Should I tell my second child about the egg donation? Will the child feel less worth, because it is not my genetic child?
- I thanked the woman for her honesty. Because it takes courage to share your feelings and thoughts in a vulnerable situation.
I told her that her concerns showed me that she already thinks like a mother of two children, she has already started to prepare how she can do her best for her two children, one of them — not even born yet.
I try to help her the best I can, by open some ideas to her concerns 1 and 2.
- If the father of her first child is not that interested in spending time with his son, how will that affect her son later? Is it possible that her second child will have a great time spending time alone with her as a mother? Is it possible that the situation can turn out as opposite? That her first child will envy her second child, because he wants to stay home and not spend time with a father that is not that interested in him? Or like in many other cases; a father that has started a new family.
What if she meets a kind and loving man in the future, is that something that will affect her children? Does she have other men in her family, or close male friends that has the possibility to spend time with her family, that could replace a father figure in some ways?
She will not know how the situation will turn out, she only creates illusions with the knowledge she has today.
- Being unsure about telling the second child about the egg donation, I consider normal. In my experience, parents that already have genetic children of their own, and are preparing to do egg or embryo donation, have more difficulties deciding what to tell their child from donation. They are scared that their next child will feel less worth than their first child. We are not able to know how our children will feel or think about the donation, when they grow up. We also don’t know how others will treat our children knowing it’s an offspring of donation. Every child has a different personality, environment they grow up in, and different support system around them.
The women I talked to understood that that the child would know that he or she is made from sperm donation, but should her child know about the egg donation? And would he/ she feel less worth?
What I do know, is that it is hard emotional work, it requires planning and a strong maternal instinct to achieve her second child — and this can be told in a great way to her child in the child’s own language. How much this child is wanted, although the child has no father and is not genetically hers.
Behind every decision to receive a donation there is love. Love for a child. Love behind the decision to give her first child a sibling.
I told her that she gives her second child life as a gift, just like she gave her first child life as a gift. It is comparable. Its only two different ways of getting pregnant, the outcome is the same - her two children. She can tell her second child that she needed to travel far away to get the magical egg that made it possible to have exactly him or her. She can make up a great story, or read my book “Lily from the other side of the rainbow”, to tell the child in a way that will make it feel special and proud of its offspring.
I told her that I am sure that to be made in different ways, will normalise in our society in the future, and that the love behind the decision to make a child – whether it be by “the normal way”, or by donation - will be comparable and understandable to the children.
She needs to trust that she is capable to make her children feel equal.
She doesn’t have to stress with the thought of telling or not telling yet. If she decides to tell, then studies show that the best time to tell is in early childhood, she has 6-8 years to decide what to do and how to do it.
Now she needs to trust she will do the right thing for her family!
I wish her the best of luck!