Because my DNA was praised growing up, subconsciously I thought I needed my baby to have my genetics to bond. It was what knitted my family together, so it only made sense that I’d need to pass these things on for the love to exist as mother and child and for my child to be accepted as one of us. It was a belief that was ingrained in my brain at an early age.
So, of course, I would have doubts when the script flipped. It's all about perspective.
If my parents had adopted me or used donor conception to conceive me, I would have learned at a young age that genetics isn’t the primary force of love within a family. I would bet that I wouldn’t have had the same fears I had when I first pursued donor eggs because my core belief system would have been different.
Before getting pregnant, I knew I had to change my perspective if I was going to be able to move forward with donor eggs. I knew I had to look at this situation differently than what I had been taught. If I had to give credit to the biggest thing that helped me do that, I would say it was when my doctor first explained epigenetics to me.
We all assume that our children will only get the very best qualities from ourselves and our partners. I’ll admit, I believed it too. My husband and I both did. We assumed that our child would be the perfect combination of my very best traits and his very best. That’s what you think about when you want to have children with the one you love the most, right? People would say “You guys will make such beautiful babies together” and we visualized the perfect mix. His athletic abilities, my creativity. My blue eyes, his tan skin. My skinny legs, his good smile. Our child wouldn’t get his oily skin, my widow’s peak, or weird toes. Only the “good” stuff!
We grieved the vision we had of our perfect mix but later realized that this vision was never actually real. We never had control over genetics, even when they were only ours. There was a really good chance my bad teeth and autoimmune history would get passed on. I had been putting my genetics on a pedestal for so long, but in reality, my genetics weren’t that great.
Starting the donor egg process can be emotionally and physically overwhelming. It took me and my husband about six months of pondering and discussing before we were willing to even consider exploring the idea. I’m not sure which was harder, deciding to use donor eggs or choosing the donor herself. It’s all really scary.
Realizing We Pass On So Much More to Our Children Than Genetics
I am a strong woman because a strong woman raised me. Strong women aren’t just born that way, they are taught by watching the strong women in their lives work hard and stand up for themselves and others. I attribute a large portion of my strength to my mother’s leadership, independence, wisdom, vulnerability, and love. The other portion comes from my experiences and challenges in life.
I may not get to pass on my mother’s genes to my daughter, but I sure as hell can pass on her teachings. I don’t get to pass on her blue eyes, but I get to pass on her confidence and fierce love for her family.
I also got to pass on some strong names from my family. My daughter’s first name comes from her badass Great Grandmother who was still mowing her lawn in her 80s. Her middle name comes from her fiery great-aunt.
We get so hung up on genes, but there is so much more we get to pass on. As parents, we influence and cultivate who our children become. I may not have influence on what my daughter looks like physically, but I sure as hell play a major part in who she is as a person. And, that’s what matters most to me.
We don’t have children to make “mini-me’s” out of ourselves, that’s not the point of reproducing or a reason to grow a family. We have children to be uniquely themselves. To be individuals. My daughter has her own thoughts, her own soul, her own personality. I am her teacher but she learns and grows in her own unique way.
The truth is, I strive to be more like her, not to make her more like me. I am in complete awe of her uniqueness. She inspires me daily to be more than I am - to be my own version of me, not like anyone else.
Here are some things that have worked for me when working through the emotions of genetic grief and coping with using donor eggs.
• Give him/her a name and imagine what he/she would look like.
• Plan a ceremony for you and your partner, like planting a flower, or sending a lantern into the sky.
• Write a letter to your genetic child, address them by name, and tell them that you love them but it’s time to let them go now.
• Start telling your story to safe people and get comfortable with talking about it. Telling your story allows you to reflect your reality by seeing the emotion in the people you tell. I highly recommend joining a donor conception support group.
• Give your non-genetic child a name and imagine what this child would look like.
• Write a letter telling them how much you love them and that you are welcoming them into your heart and how excited you are to meet them and be their mommy or daddy.
• Finding other parents who have walked this life can help you visualize the reality of having a donor-conceived child. “If we see it, we can be it.”
• Make a list of all the amazing non-genetic traits you will get to pass on.
• Buy at least one children's book about donor conception and read it out loud, start thinking about how this relationship would feel when you tell your child their love story.
• TRUST that the universe is working on a master plan for you and that the child meant for you is going to be even better than what you imagined.
Want to hear more from Victoria? View more from her series on donor conception:
Written by Guest Author, Victoria Nino
This blog post was written by Victoria Nino from @expectinganything. If you are struggling with how to deal with infertility, Victoria provides a welcoming and supportive online community on her Instagram and support groups on her website.
Victoria vulnerably shares her infertility grief experience in hopes of helping others who are in the midst of their journey grieving infertility. We are honored to partner with Victoria in our series on Donor Conception to address many of the emotions associated with using donor eggs or donated embryos.