Are You THAT Girl Now?

It is not unusual that women will tell me, “I never wanted to be THAT girl.”

Have you ended up being THAT girl? How you feel about that? Who is THAT girl?

Is she the one who fears pity from others?

Is she the one with a medical problem but she blames herself?

Is she the one who is grieving her baby and her dreams?

Is she the one who feels judged by others and, in turn, judges others?

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Fertility Drugs and the “F” Word

Let’s uncover a truth about fertility treatment: fertility drugs make a lot of people feel crazy, anxious, angry, and out of control. They can cause people to cry for hours over nothing.  It’s not just because you tend to be anxious or a planner.  It’s a thing, even if your doctor says it’s not. Fertility drugs and the “F” word belong in the same sentence.  Can I get an amen? Let your “F” word fly!

As one of my clients said during one of our sessions, “Don’t mind me. I need to put on a fresh estrogen patch. What fresh hell is this?”  She described asmorgasbord of feelings on this and her other fertility medications. “So. Many. F*cking. Feelings.” she said, as she put the patch on her belly. She was serving up “F” word realness.  While her descriptions were making us both hysterical—this adorable human being can curse like the crew on a Navy ship—we were having a serious discussion.  The drugs negatively affected her work, her ability to think, her ability to sleep, and her ability to have a civil conversation with her husband and her clinic. She did not recognize herself at times. “I feel sad, crappy, and bloated, with nothing to show for it,” she added.

I was able to assure her that I had known her before and after she started fertility drugs and the “F” word was not nearly as prevalent before she started her meds. I also assured her, because she was really worried about this, that she was not losing her mind and she would re-find her real self when she was finished with the drugs, when she was pregnant, when she delivered, and when she was living her real life again.After the battles and wars of fertility treatment were behind her.

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Hurry Up and Wait on Your Infertility Journey

I wrote this post at the Atlanta Airport on the way to my favorite beach.

I ran through the huge Atlanta airport, which is like the Olympics of travel, and got to the gate with just enough time to spare. I had the opportunity to be bumped for a nice amount of money, so I sat.

And waited. For about six hours.

A lot of life is about hurry up and wait.

I think about this every time I listen to Tom Petty’s “The Waiting”

The waiting is the hardest part.
Every day you see one more card.
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part.

In the infertility treatment world, there’s a great deal of hurry up and wait.

Waiting to see if you get pregnant on your own and stay pregnant.

Waiting to get scheduled for your initial consult with a doctor to talk about why this is happening.

Waiting to stop crying so you can digest and process the information you just received.

Waiting to come up with the money to pursue treatment.

Waiting to get scheduled for procedures, from a little bit to the biggy of IVF.

Waiting to find helpers in a sperm or egg donor, or donor embryos, or a gestational surrogate.

Waiting to proceed once you’ve found your helpers.

Waiting to see if you feel anything after each try. Are you pregnant? Is this different? Or is this just progesterone messing with your mind and body?

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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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