Why the Infertility Finish Line Keeps Moving

The desire to have a baby is primal for many people. We want it. It’s natural. We were promised that it was easy. Fall in love. Have sex once. Get pregnant. Have a baby. But for more than 7.3 million people in the United States, be they straight, gay, or single, it is not easy and we have to think about other possibilities. One beautiful client told me, “It is getting harder to get ourselves to the start line.  The band is kind of playing.” Read more…


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Tell Your Infertility Story and Re-write It for Yourself

The week of April 19-25, 2020 is RESOLVE’s National Infertility Awareness Week.  This is an opportunity to tell your story, empower yourself, and receive support from others for the difficulty and trauma of infertility.  The theme this year is #MyInfertilityStory.  It’s your turn. #NIAW2020

Yes, there is the story about the time and the many efforts you have been involved in to get to parenting. So many appointments and hundreds of injections. The financial hardship. The hope and Read more…


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Infertility and Covid-19: 5 Steps to Deal with the “What If’s”

Well folks, all the “what if’s” you have ever had may have come to roost in the last couple of weeks. The worst scenarios that you have never thought are here now. Bad things were happening that we didn’t even know were options. Now, the Covid-19 coronavirus is spreading uncertainty all around the world, causing huge changes in people’s personal and work lives. For many of you, you have already been living with the uncertainty of infertility and its treatment. Read More


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The Egg Donation Heart Connection

I have often been struck by the heart connection between intended parents and anonymous egg donors. This energetic bond exists whether or not the parties ever meet. How do I know? It’s the tears. Intended parents are often in tears asking, “Why would anyone do this for us?” And egg donors are often in tears, talking about their deep empathy for the suffering of people they may never meet. The loving curiosity between all parties can be profound. Donors want to feel that they were part of someone’s life so they could have a family together. As one intended mother said, “It’s not easy for the donors. They have to have a giving heart and wish for people to succeed.” All parties are sending the best of themselves to one other It’s all about the egg donation heart connection, even when the heart connection is anonymous.

“Why not let someone else use my DNA to have their own child? This all boils down to love. In my eyes, I am giving a push to someone’s dream, a life of having children.”
                                        Anonymous Egg Donor

 

Connecting the dots between intended parents and egg donors

I like to connect the heart connection dots between intended parents and egg donors through the trials of doing injections at home. I emphasize that everyone in this project has some skin in the game. Shared discomfort connects everyone to the shared goal of building a family. Donors feel so proud and honored to be able to help. And intended parents feel humbled and grateful to receive the kindness of a stranger. There is a strong sense of mutual respect.

You don’t need to be religious to see the blessing in this situation. Everyone wishes the best for the other person. Everyone is sending love and gratitude to the other. Egg donation is a quintessential “mitzvah”, a Hebrew word that can be interpreted as a good deed or a beneficial act of human kindness. This is a sacred project. It is strangers growing family and love. Take a look at A Love Letter To The Family I Donated My Eggs To”.

 

Egg donation compensation and altruism

Some of you may not like the idea that egg donors are compensated for their donation. I will tell you that egg donors are relieved about being compensated for their efforts, and that compensation is not their primary motivation. These are altruistic women. They work very hard giving themselves injections and spending hours away from home, school, and work. They agreed to undergo an elective procedure that they don’t need because of the dream and wish for someone else. Many intended parents are often relieved that the egg donors are compensated. It is an opportunity for them to thank this anonymous woman who has reached out to them with love through the giving of their eggs. Read Risa Kerslake’s excellent “5 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Egg Donor.”

It’s not just the heart connection between the egg donor and the intended parents. It’s the kids, too.

It’s not just the heart connection between the egg donor and the intended parents.The heart connection expands to the future children of the intended parents and the egg donor. They, too, are connected in a loving way. With the expansion of genetics testing, egg donor anonymity may be coming to an end, perhaps connecting children in a more personal way in the future. Intended parents are much more open now the efforts of the Donor Sibling Registry. Whether you like it or not, donor conceived children and the children of egg donors have genetic connections. They are already connected.

As are we all…

**Many thanks to Kelly Sikkema for her beautiful photo at Unsplash


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Four fair-minded reasons to tell your child about donor conception from the start

Recently, the news has brought us two surprising stories about how DNA companies are connecting people in unexpected ways. “From Strangers to Family” in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (4/8/2018) tells the story of four people who are connected by genetics due to affairs and the secrecy surrounding them. Imagine how you would feel if your parent told you on their deathbed that they were not “really” your mother or father. The information itself can be tolerated. The secrecy about it can be very destructive to people and lead to unresolved feelings of betrayal and curiosity.

The second story is about how a young woman found out that she is genetically related to her parents’ fertility doctor. Closely. Like, he donated his own sperm and never told the parents, lying to them that they had worked with a young anonymous sperm donor. Holy crap! This is a double whammy. Neither parents nor the child knew the truth.

Both of these stories demonstrate that telling your child about being born from donor conception is becoming more of an urgent reality. DNA testing and the unexpected results make telling children about donor conception crucial. This relates to the use of donor eggs, donor sperm, or donor embryos. Whose information is it, anyway? Before a child is born, the information belongs to intended parents. After that child is born, though, it becomes the information of the child and the parents. Here are four fair-minded reasons to tell your child about donor-conception:

  • It’s about fairness and what a child has a right to know about their own life.

It is an interesting moment when you realize that it is no longer just about you. This one is about you AND your child. One of the first acts of parenting is anticipating what will be best for your child. This covers the waterfront from diapers, to clothing, to schooling, to their experiences. It is a moment of awe, sweetness, and responsibility. Talking about donor conception begins now, in your mind and heart. Trade places with your child for a moment. If you were your child, what would you want to know? How would you want to be told about the remarkable way in which you came into the world? Transparency and honesty are always better than secrecy. I understand that you may be concerned about others’ opinions about donor conception and how that will affect you and your child.  Put your energy into your child’s needs first. You can decide the level of transparency and boundaries with others later. What we absolutely do NOT want is for your uncle or your neighbor to tell your child about their special story.

  • You get to craft the narrative in the way that is best for your child. Ultimately, this is a story of sorrow turned into opportunity, love, and the kindness of others. It is common for children to ask about the day that they were born. This is an opportunity to talk about the moment they were loved in mind and heart. Children like to help others and they love stories about helping. I and other members of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Mental Health Professional Group suggest that you start telling the story very early in a child’s life and keep telling. Let the story breathe and grow. As Marna Gatlin, founder of Parents Via Egg Donation, says, “Our goal in telling children early and often is that this is something we don’t want them to look back on and remember that ‘Mommy and Daddy told me at our Fourth of July barbecue about an egg donor.’ We just want this to be something they always know about themselves. “

There are wonderful talking and telling books for donor-conceived children. This is a slow reveal. Your first telling is one of many. As your child grows and understands more things about the world, you can add more information. It may be you adding the information, and it may be your child asking for more information. This is an open invitation to talk and discover things together.  You will cover the same ground many times. That’s okay. Marna Gatlin adds, “The more normal you make it, the more normal it is.”

  • Children are smart and they figure things out on their own. Children tune into things in ways that adults may be blind to. They are curious. They ask a lot of questions. Repeat, A LOT of questions. They keep asking questions until they get answers. What might a donor-conceived child want to know? Who do I look like? Why am I so good on the guitar or so athletic, but my parents don’t do either? There are specific situations that happen later, like finding out about genetics and blood types, that cannot be fudged. It is better to lead the conversation, to be the open, smart, loving parent, than to have to play catch-up and apologize later for an unnecessary sin of omission.
  • It doesn’t feel good to keep a secret from someone you love. This seems self-evident. Secrecy comes from fear and maybe shame about the need to use donor conception in the first place. Secrecy breeds guilt, shame, and apologies that may never quite cut it. As a rule, children have an innate belief that their parents are trustworthy and honest. Children don’t like to be like to be lied to any more than adults do. Give your child the gift of a shame-free family. (Here’s a hint: adults like that, too!)

If you are struggling with how to tell the story, I understand.  This is a new activity. We are all learning about what it means to be donor-conceived, as openness is the way forward.  Do your reading online, on Facebook, or in books about donor-conception.  Check in with your partner and with your own mind and heart as you craft a story you can feel good about sharing.  You can also come see me or other mental health professionals who specialize in family-building using donor conception. Think about this as an opportunity to help your child.  Remember, it’s also about fairness, love, and helping.


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I have written this blog post about Mother’s Day dreams unfulfilled for you to share with others in your lives who do not understand your painful journey just to have a child.   Know that I am with you.

There are many mothers you have not met on this Mother’s Day.  You may not know who they are or the ways in which they suffer on this day, this celebration of mothering that is so easy and happy for so many.  They are the mothers whose children are in their minds, hearts, and dreams.  Their babies have died or have not yet been conceived.  They are undergoing painful infertility treatment with many, many injections and no guarantees of success.  They just had a miscarriage or another miscarriage.  Each and every one of these mothers deserve your attention and compassion. But for the grace of God, they could be you.

They may be avoiding Mother’s Day celebrations because they cannot not cry in front of you.  They are angry at themselves and jealous about what you have.  They are surrounded by bellies and babies.  They just want what seems to be so easy for other people.  They want to hold the babies they dream of. Their choices are not the timing of when to have their children.  Their choices are about where to bury a child or which fertility clinic to spend thousands of dollars at.  Their children are invisible to others, but they are so very real to these mothers.  These mothers carry their babies in their minds, hearts, and dreams.

The dreams of these mothers are real.  These mothers have named their children.  They have thought about feeling a baby move in a growing belly.  They look for nursery décor on Pinterest and dream of college graduation.  They have bought houses on cul-de-sacs and cars that can fit multiple children, waiting for children to come.  They dream of rocking chairs and first days of school and soccer games.  Their dreams are invisible to others.  Their mothering realities aren’t tangible to others, but oh my goodness, they are so very real. There is no baby in a belly or a stroller. Their arms and nurseries are empty. These mothers need and deserve your attention and compassion.

So on this Mother’s Day that seems to be easy for so many, open your hearts and minds to the women around you who are suffering in silence. Don’t make promises to them that you cannot keep.  Don’t offer words about God’s plans. Don’t tell these mothers that you know what they are going through, because you don’t.  Just offer these mothers empathy, not pity or sympathy. And most of all, ask to hear their stories. And then listen with your heart.

Thank you.

 


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