By Ellen Glazer, LICSW, Private Practice, Co-Author of Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation (the recently published second edition is now available) and author of The Long Awaited Stork.
Moving from infertility treatment to egg donation is often a difficult and complex process and one in which people try to make sense of what they are gaining and what they are losing in using donated eggs. Hence, I was not surprised when a client recently said, “It’s just cells. I am beginning to be more comfortable with egg donation because I realize that the donor is just giving me cells.” As her counselor, I listened and did not try to “push” a different perspective. But here it is…
I don’t see egg donation as “just giving cells.” Egg donation, for me, is the process of grafting a new branch onto a family tree. The idea of grafting onto the family tree was not originally my idea. I was first aware of it in relation to adoption when Patricia Irwin Johnston published a collection of poems about adoption and titled it, “Perspectives on a Grafted Tree.” Years after reading and being deeply touched by her book, I realized that the image of a grafted tree relates to egg donation as well as adoption.
This is how it happened for me. I was meeting with a couple and their donor. The intended parents were two Boston area physicians and their donor was a woman who grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana. During our meeting, the doctors listened in fascination as the donor told stories of her life on the ranch, of her family and the generations that had come before. Sitting with them was a great privilege: I realized I was watching them graft a new branch onto their family tree. I saw then that the process in no way diminishes the strength or integrity of the tree.
So this is how I see it now…When a woman donates eggs, she offers another family the potential for a child who carries with him/her both a history and a future. The history comes with genes, an ethnic and cultural history, links to other people, some of whom remain in the genetic family and others who may themselves be the “products” of egg donation. Some aspects of the history, and possibly the connections to others, may be very important to the child, others may not. That will be for him or her to sort out over time.
The future is one of possibilities, including siblings and future generations. The future belongs to your family, not the donor’s family. She has enabled your family tree to grow, blossom and be fruitful for years to come.