I’d like to tell you about a couple of amazing people.
He’s a CPA. She’s a child/adolescent therapist. They live a few states away. She is a talented seamstress. He makes her laugh. Like us, they wanted a family but faced roadblocks. Their first IVF cycle resulted in their precious son and two cryopreserved blastocysts. A couple years later, they had a precious daughter. They knew they did not plan to pursue fertility treatments again, and so they had a decision to make.
They are our embryo donors. I don’t know exactly what went into their decision to donate. Jon and I had just a small taste of what they must have faced when we began our IVF process and considered the possibility of extra embryos. We know it wasn’t an easy choice, but our donors felt a sense of responsibility to those tiny blastocysts. And so they made an incredibly unselfish decision, and in so doing, gave us a gift of incalculable value. We have this opportunity to again become parents because of them, and I am still floored by that kind of generosity.
I mentioned in my earlier post that we felt a surprisingly strong connection with this family from the time we first began to learn a little more about them. In the early stages of our process and FET cycle, the counselor served as go-between and provided updates and photos to the families. Not long before our scheduled transfer, the counselor forwarded a note written directly to me by Lauren*. I was crying before I’d finished reading her words.
It was a simple note that said she was thinking of me every day. She said it was eerie how much we reminded her of her own family. She talked about what a good feeling she had about our transfer and how excited she was about the possibilities. If the note had been written on paper, I probably would have worn it out with rereading.
That same day, I sent the counselor a return note for Lauren*. We communicated by proxy several more times up to and after the transfer. Then, on the same day, without knowing the other had asked, we each suggested exchanging contact information. The counselor passed along our email addresses, and messages have flowed back and forth fairly regularly ever since.
I wasn’t sure when we first chose embryo donation what to expect in the way of a relationship with the donor family. Would it be weird or painful? Would we feel threatened or insecure about the donor family’s involvement? Would it somehow make our baby less ours? Jon and I both started out wanting our commitment to be fairly limited, although we were open to more if the conditions were right. Then we connected with OUR donor family, and it was no longer an abstract exercise. Now these were the generous, unselfish people who had given us our baby. We instinctively trusted them and trusted our collective ability to navigate this uncharted territory.
I don’t want to oversimplify. This is a relationship without an existing definition. We forge ahead without a map. It’s probably safe to say that for both the donors and for us, there are still joltingly emotional moments when we come face-to-face with the truly unique nature of what we’re doing. There will probably be more of those as this baby enters the world and becomes a part of our family. We don’t really know what this relationship looks like a year or five years from now. We play it very much by ear, and obviously, there are boundaries. Jon and I both already feel incredibly possessive and protective of this baby. If ANYONE dared to hint she is anything less than 100 percent ours, the parental lions would roar. But that has not happened. Both families understand this baby’s unquestioned place in our family, as our child. We also acknowledge the unique role her biological family has played, and we know they will continue to be a part of our lives as our daughter grows. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but the sense of trust and openness has served us well through this process. I believe it will continue to be a great strength in the experiences ahead.
On Mother’s Day, Lauren* and I were thinking of each other, and we exchanged notes full of gratitude. It occurred to me that day that our baby is twice blessed, with two women who will have helped shape her life in very different ways. That thought might have made me uncomfortable a few months ago, but now, it makes me happy. The amazing thing about love in its best form is it multiples rather than divides.
In fact, with this baby, WE are twice blessed. We are richer for the incredible gift of our child and the presence in our lives of her remarkable genetic family.
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.