You mostly hear from embryo donors through glossy testimonials on agency websites. And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it means there's little to say, that donating couples are, by and large, secure and comfortable with their decision, that they signed the paperwork one morning between the school drop-off and the office coffee run and never felt the need to question their choice, let alone bawl about it online.

Maybe our numbers are so low that a strong community of voices is yet to emerge - and in the meantime, difficult to find.

Or maybe it's that few people are interested in listening, or that we don't know how to talk.

Jen put me in touch with a friend who's been through it, and a circle of people opened up to me. I've spoken to several, discussed their experiences, and drawn from the wisdom they've gained. We can tell you that embryo donation is harder than you think. And not always the right decision. And other times, despite the difficulties, it is.

Think carefully about your support network.
Find a professional who has worked with donating families - or (failing that) who has worked with relinquishing families in the more traditional adoption community.
Be clear and frank about your wants and expectations, right from the very beginning.
Expect a rollercoaster, especially if the donation works, and especially over the first few years.
Focus on the kids.
Most importantly: don't hurry forward.

I cried for every page of paperwork I scanned and emailed to the clinic, and there were pages upon pages upon pages upon pages. Then I was seized by a sudden urge to phone the scientists one last time, but I didn't, because I wasn't sure how that conversation would go. "Hi, our embryos are being transported out today, and I just wanted to ring to... um... um...?"

In the end, when the email came through to say our embryos had arrived safely at the recipients' clinic, I felt fine. Not fine like I had nothing left to say, but fine, like I could make out the shape of things to come.

If you're here because you're thinking about donating your embryos, feel free to get in touch. Or check out VARTA, the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, which provides this decision-making tool for those with unused embryos, amongst other resources.


MrsSpock said...

I'm glad I was able to help you connect with a few people!

Dora said...

As the recipient of donor embryos (created with an egg donor), I have been reading along. As grateful as I am for the enormous gift I was given, I've always felt unsure that I could have done the same if the situation was reversed. In our situation the donor pulled back from contact once my daughter was born. I think the reality of it was harder than she expected. I maintain contact with an annual holiday card, but I'm not pushing more. My daughter is almost 6, and has not asked about contact. I hope that if/when she wants contact, it will be okay. She knows her story, and knows she has a brother and sister. She also knows that it's her story to tell or not tell. That if someone asks if she has brothers or sisters, it's okay to say no if she doesn't want to elaborate. That it's not really a lie, as in our immediate family, she's an only child. But sometimes she's very matter of fact about it. Recently, she responded to the question by saying, "Yes, I have a brother and sister. They live with their mom in Canada."

Certainly I can't speak for all embryo donor recipients, but I think about the generosity of my donor every day. In my daughter's room hangs a quilt my donor made for her. When we talk of her origins, I always speak of the love involved. I explain that "Aunt K" had difficulty getting pregnant, and needed a "helper egg lady," so she knew how I felt, wanting to be a mom so very much. And she wanted to help.

So glad you were able to find people to talk to. I wish you much peace with this decision.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

I've begun to talk about openness with the communities in 3rd party reproduction, bringing them what we now know about the benefits of openness in adoption and how they might apply that in their situations (caveat: openness ≠ contact). The more I come to understand the various permutations and complexities, the more respect I have for people like you who make these really hard decisions.

Bea said...

Dora - thanks so much for leaving your comment. It's great to hear of your experience from the other side. I feel very comforted by it.

Bea said...

Thanks Lori. Yes, thanks for making the distinction between openness and contact. It may seem a small thing, but it's actually a big difference. There are such a range of ways people tackle these situations.

Bea said...

(I hadn't necessarily drawn the distinction myself.)

Jess said...

This is close to my heart now, as my husband and I are in the decision-making process to donate our embryos through an adoption program, while simultaneously in the adoption process ourselves, waiting to be matched with an expectant mother. So much to think about, so many pieces to this process, so many different ways to just process the process itself (if that makes any sense at all).

Bea said...

Jess - that sounds intense! Funny how many different angles there are on the same process, it's true. Each family has their own unique context to deal with, and their own unique personalities dealing with it. Let me know if you want to talk or anything.

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