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To tell or not to tell

January 14, 2013
logo by Christine Hepner

One of the biggest decisions we’ve had to make is whether or not we will tell our son that we used donor egg IVF to conceive. In other words, to tell or not to tell. I know what you’re thinking: “Hasn’t that ship sailed, dummy?,” and I do see your point. I mean for about two years now, I’ve been all “read my blog, share my blog, look at me…” But then again, I could stop blogging today and frankly, who is really interested anyway? Friends and immediate family, and in some cases, not even them.

I recently ran into an old friend from my hometown who said he’d heard I’d had a “change of life” baby, and while that’s kind of an old, cute way of saying, “Holy shit, I thought we were safe to ditch the birth control, guess not, oh well, the more the merrier,” in the interest of totally over-sharing, as a matter of fact, nope, he wasn’t a change of life baby at all. Don’t I just wish! As I over-shared with my BFF Colleen this past Saturday night, I’m still regular as clockwork at one month shy of my 53rd birthday. Talk about over-staying one’s welcome. (And just in case you are reading this because you’re considering later-in-life parenthood, you can be post-menopausal and still undergo donor egg IVF, so don’t be discouraged.)

This whole experience has taught me one thing: People (including some elected officials and I won’t point my ovaries at either side of the aisle, but we all know who we are talking about here) don’t seem to know a lot about female reproduction. Eggs don’t last long. After 35, egg viability drops off dramatically in most women. That’s not to say all women, but most women. Babies do happen after 35 naturally, of course. And young women today have more options, such as freezing their eggs and postponing pregnancy until they are older. Improved fertility treatment has helped older women conceive using their own eggs, also.

Generally, though, most doctors won’t even attempt IVF on a woman older than 44 using her own eggs because the success rate is just so small and the cost so high. D and I didn’t even meet until we were 45, so we didn’t even have the option.

At our initial consultation at CWRC, our doctor and the social worker talked to us about our tell/don’t tell options. Some parents decide to try the “miracle/magic” story, which goes something like this: “We tried and tried to have a baby for years, but we were told it would never happen. So we gave up and decided to adopt a child when suddenly a miracle happened, and I was pregnant!” I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen every day, but it was not going to happen for us. I just can’t imagine myself pulling that off for the rest of my life, either, I’m not that good an actress and the old vino has been known to loosen my lips on occasion. While the miracle/magic story may work for some families, I never want my son be sitting in a science class somewhere, someday thinking to himself, “Hey, wait just a minute, my mom was 51 when I was born. Is there something they aren’t telling me?”

Some people worry that not knowing your biological origins might be dangerous medically, but the egg donors at CWRC are screened for hundreds of conditions before being accepted into the program. We know the medical history of the donor, her parents and her grandparents.

Will my son someday inadvertently meet and marry a genetic half-sibling? Chances are teensy-tiny. The egg donors at CWRC can only donate twice at most, and it is an unpleasant, painful, and arduous process. Sperm donation, on the other hand, is not limited and I’ve heard even, ummmmm, pleasant. Statistically, it’s much more likely to meet a genetic half-sibling from a sperm donor than an egg donor.

In the end, D left the decision to me. He (still) leans to the side of not telling, but he defers to my wishes on this. We intend to tell him that we are his birth parents and while I’m not genetically related to him, I am his birth mother and the mother who has loved and cherished him from the start. With any luck I will be there for him and have the privilege of watching him grow and thrive for many, many years to come. Why try to be secretive about that?

Next time: Are you his nanny?

Thanks for following and reading! I’d love to hear your story of IVF. Please leave your comments below.

© 2013

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  1. Anne permalink

    I’m contemplating using donor egg to conceive a second child and I haven’t even considered not telling. It seems like way too big of a secret to keep, especially if anyone aside from your husband knows. The truth tends to come out in families, sometimes with devastating results.
    My main worry about using donor egg is the anonymity of the donor and whether that will be hard for my potential child. Still grappling with that one, trying to decide.


    • Thank you so much Anne for your comment, and I agree with you, it is too big a secret to keep. Especially today, when (hopefully) people are knowledgeable about science and reproductive capabilities.

      We (well, I more than Dave) worried about using the totally anonymous donor too. I would have been open to having some way to contact the donor in the future and letting her have some contact with us, i.e., letting her know that we were successful. But then I realized that she chose a program that is completely anonymous, so it’s her wish to donate and then go on with her life. I’m hoping that when my son is old enough to ask and understand, that he will understand this too.


      • Anne permalink

        Plus, we (my husband and I) have big mouths, so not so good at the secrets thing. 🙂

        I would like to be open for contact with the donor, but it’s not a part of the program we’re using. We’re going to Cancun, I think. (It sounds so official now that I’m typing it!)

        I’ve read that it helps to give them the information early. Have you seen the board books they make about donor egg?


  2. It’s somethinig only you and your husband can decide. Being in a lesbian couple I know there will be a point in our babies life (if we get pregnant) where we will have to explain about having to use a donor. I guess something to think about is – if it was you, would you want to know? Xx


    • Right schmizo, the decision will be out of your hands once your baby is old enough to ask. My answer to the question is, yes, I definitely would want to know from my parents directly. Hope you and A are doing ok. So sorry to have read about your recent setbacks 😦


  3. babyfeat permalink

    It was interested reading this because I am wondering the same thing regarding having a gestational surrogate carry our child. Originally I had all intentions to tell, but it has been such a nightmare of an experience, my husband and I want to put it behind us.


    • I totally agree with you. You have been thru a nightmare, but you do have your baby now and no one can change that! But oh my goodness, what they put you through! I’m so sorry.

      Maybe someday when your daughter is much older, you may want her to know about your cousin’s generosity as a way to show her that there are wonderful people in this world willing to help others in amazing ways. But until that day if it ever comes, there really isn’t anything to tell, right? Hope you are getting a little sleep and enjoying every moment with your new daughter!!!


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