If you're reading this, chances are your specialist has just delivered the news that if you want to have a child, you'll need an egg donor. You might be feeling overwhelmed, scared, angry, and sad, and most likely have many questions. Here are some tips for all intended parents who are embarking upon building their family through egg donation.
1. Pause and breathe.
Take a deep breath—it’s perfectly normal to feel angry, sad, scared, unsure, and overwhelmed. This is one of the biggest decisions you'll make. Because this news can be mind-boggling, give yourself time to wrap your head around the concept of egg donation, what it means, and the steps it will take for you to complete an egg donor cycle from start to finish.
It’s important to know that it's normal to be sad about losing your genetic link to your future child. For some women, it can be a lengthy grieving process. Give yourself time to grieve this loss, and see a therapist to help sort through the complicated feelings that you may feel.
2. Choose a clinic.
One of the most important decisions you'll face when expanding your family through egg donation is where to go for treatment. Select a clinic where you feel honored, respected, and cared for—and with that comes a physician or team of physicians who have your best interests in mind. The rapport and relationship you develop with your physician is critical. Look for a doctor who is going to be kind, caring, compassionate, and above all, willing to partner with you during your treatment. The organization PVED (Parents Via Egg Donation) has put together a comprehensive list of questions to ask in regards to your treatment and care.
3. Find an egg donor agency.
Some clinics unfortunately don’t have a large egg donor pool (or an egg donor pool at all) from which the intended parent can select the right egg donor for to help create their family so many intended parents rely upon egg donor agencies to help them find and select an egg donor. Bear in mind not all agencies are created alike.
Keep in mind that above all, egg donor agencies are service providers, meaning you're in the driver’s seat. They may have the egg donor you need to grow your family, but in the end, you're the one writing the check, and they need you to stay in business. Read the service contract carefully. Pay attention to the agency's refund policy; many agencies don’t offer one. Get everything in writing and that means everything.
4. Select an egg donor.
This can often be the most overwhelming part of the whole egg donation experience. The bottom line: Do your homework, research, ask questions, and if something doesn’t sit well, listen to your gut. Don’t be led to believe that if you pay a top price for an egg donor, you'll get a premium donor. That’s not the way it works. Don’t believe that paying a higher fee to an agency or a donor is going to create or produce a top quality (or even a better quality) egg—or, for that matter, increase your chances at becoming a parent. Again, that’s not the way it works. At the end of the day, the child you have via this process is the child you're meant to have, and will be the most amazing, beautiful, perfect child you've ever seen.
5. Hire an attorney and draw up a legal contract.
Even if you decide to use the clinic's egg donor pool and all they require is the informed consent agreement, get a legal contract between yourself and your egg donor. Why? To protect you and your egg donor. One of the industry’s leading reproductive lawyers Amy Demma says: “The most compelling reason for you to hire an attorney is to protect, from a legal standpoint, the family you are trying so very hard to build ... why risk it?"
Most egg donor agreements are approximately 25 pages long and will clearly state that the donor is agreeing (among other things) that despite her genetic connection to your child, she has no legal status in your family. Lots of other issues are addressed in a donor contract (which are not addresses in clinic consents) including:
- How much you will pay the donor?
- When you will pay her?
- If you will pay her (what happens if she flakes or otherwise is not cooperative or compliant?)
- When/if and how you will contact the donor should you need or want to, in the future.
None of these matters are addressed adequately enough in clinic consents. Remember: a clinic consent is not a contract. As always, seek the advice of a reproductive lawyer and be sure your donor has access to her own counsel.
6. Remember: YOU HAVE OPTIONS!
Simply put, you're in the driver’s seat and are encouraged to ask questions and make reasonable requests. You are entitled to select a known donor. Or you can select an anonymous egg donor. You have the option of seeing photos or not seeing photos. You have the option of having your service contract reviewed by a lawyer (one you pay for but nonetheless a lawyer). It’s really OK to ask questions – this is one of the most important decisions you are ever going to make. And make sure to GET IT ALL IN WRITING.
7. Think ahead about what you'll do with leftover embryos.
You may think this is jumping the gun or putting the cart before the horse but you aren’t. Thinking about what to do with leftover embryos is something you should be thinking about now. Once your family is complete, you may have left over embryos on ice. Again it’s all about options: would you donate your embryos to another couple who are faced with infertility like yourself? Would you donate them to science? Would you donate them to a clinic or an agency that has an embryo donation program? Would you have them destroyed?
8. Decide what you'll tell your kids.
A lot of fear surrounds egg donation and disclosure when it comes to kids. The worry is that your children will reject you, not think of you as their real mom, which causes a lot of anxiety and worry from an intended parent perspective. The reality is that being open with your children from an early age is the healthiest way to go.
The resource Parents Via Egg Donation has an amazing mental health section that talks all about disclosure, how to tell, and when to tell. Some people, for religious reasons or cultural reasons, won’t or can’t tell their children about their origins. If you find that you're in this small sect of people, you'll need support because keeping a secret regardless of the reason is really hard. Talking to a mental health therapist about disclosure and the challenges you may face is highly encouraged if you feel you need the extra support.
9. Seek education and support.
Education and support are the two most important things you'll need as you embark upon this amazing journey through egg donation. You might feel overwhelmed, scared, isolated, and even alone—like you're the only one doing this. Think again! You and about 14,000 intended parents a year. A great resource is Parents Via Egg Donation, which helps annually about 9,000 intended parents and parents via egg donation through their website, their private forum, as well as via email, telephone and in person.
10. Take time for you!
Last but not least, take time for you and your partner (if you have one). Infertility alone is incredibly stressful: it can make sex impersonal, it can cause us to feel detached, and anxious. This is one of those times in your life that it's important to lean on each other or those in your support group. Another thing to remember (regardless of how many children you decide to have via egg donation), once you're pregnant you then become just like the millions of other parents around the globe: tired, stressed, and often overwhelmed.
Regardless of how much we love our children, and regardless of how much joy they bring sometimes we as parents can become lost in the shuffle and forget who we are. So take time for you: date each other, have sex just to have sex because it feels good. Do something nice for yourself—whether that’s a massage, a walk, or carve out some alone time. Eat well, make time for exercise, and strive to get adequate rest. Last but not least: we are all in this together. It takes a village!
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