Written by Guest Author, Victoria Nino
We invited our dear friend Victoria from @expectinganything to share her experience using donor eggs with our community. Many people wonder, “When using donor eggs, will my baby look like me?” In this blog, Victoria addresses this concern which she has also experienced and overcome. In addition to her invaluable insights, Victoria shares a wealth of knowledge about the science of epigenetics and how mothers using donor eggs influence the development of their babies through phenotypic expression. Let’s hear from Victoria!
Before conceiving, I was so concerned with the chance that my baby might not look like me because I was using donor eggs. I feel so incredibly silly saying this out loud now because after having my daughter I realized how irrelevant physical traits are to our attachment and love for each other.
During pregnancy, most women wonder and visualize what their unborn child will look like. They wonder - will he/she have my eyes? Or, my smile? Will he/she be tall like me? I didn’t get to wonder about those things. Sure, I wondered what my baby would look like, but I didn’t wonder if she would have my smile or my eyes. I wondered if she would have my donor's eyes or my husband's. That used to make me sad, but not anymore. Now, I know that there are far more ways to connect with your pregnancy/baby that have nothing to do with DNA.
I grew up in a family that was very proud of its genetics. Not because they were great, or superior, but because they were quirky and weird - because they were ours. They belonged to our family. From professional burping abilities to our allergies to literally everything, and not to forget our French and German heritage that we were told was in our blood yet we knew nothing about - we were still taught to be proud of it. I never thought for a second that I wouldn’t get to pass on my family’s genetics to my child one day. They were mine to give, it was my given right.
So I thought.
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.
My doctor explained that epigenetics can change the way your genes are expressed.
Had my daughter's fetus grown in the donor's womb, she wouldn't be the same person. Just like if you plant the same grape tree in a different region of Napa Valley, you’d get very different wine.
Without me, she would not be her. This allowed me to find a new way to connect with my baby and find my way to my identity as a mother via donor eggs.
With all this being said, your baby can look like you, even if you use donor eggs. Many things are biologically imprinted on your baby’s fetus during the development of his/her gene expression while in your womb, and a lot of epigenetic influence after the baby is born.
I call it Mama Magic.
We all have a Genotype and a Phenotype. Genotype is the genetic code found in our cells that is shown through things like eye color, hair color, and height.
A Phenotype is the expression of the genotype that makes you uniquely you. The little quirks about you that people who know you well can see. Phenotype is who you are, how you feel, and how you operate. Things like facial expressions, personality traits, sensitivities, and even your scent.
Two people can have the same genotype but different phenotypes because of their environment. If you know any identical twins, you know that they each have unique traits that make them, them.
Our donor gave my daughter her cute button nose, but the mama magic is how she scrunches it when she’s mad. Her dada gave her the shape of her beautiful lips, but it’s the mama magic that comes through in her smile.
It’s a uniquely special bond we have to each other - a biological connection beyond genetics.
If you have a partner or spouse, chances are you don’t look alike, but you still love each other and have a strong bond, right? Or, what about your dog or cat? You love them like your babies, yet don’t share any DNA. We all have proof in our lives that DNA isn’t required to bond or attach to someone.
The donor gave us an egg to help make an embryo, my body did the work to make a baby, and my husband and I made a family. Together, we will continue to influence and shape who our daughter becomes - this is truly the most important work of all.
We honor and celebrate all parts of her - the parts that she gets from the egg donor, the parts she gets from her father, and the parts she gets from me. It’s talked about very openly in our house and always will be - for the record, my daughter currently holds the title of “Best Burper” in my family, and we couldn’t be more proud.
I know now, that I never needed to share DNA or have a biological connection through epigenetics to bond or love my daughter. I didn’t need her to look like me or be like me.
I just needed her to be her - the one and only her.
Donor Nexus is a boutique egg donor agency and donor egg bank in Southern California, working with intended parents and egg donors worldwide. We invite you to continue browsing our website for additional resources and contact our team with any questions. If you’re seeking donor eggs or donor embryos, register now for free access to browse donor profiles in our online database.