Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revealing Our "Non-Secret" To My Mother

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, The Prince and I have decided that, for better or worse, we will tell our boy at a very early age that he was conceived through the use of donor eggs.  Obviously, he will be told subtly and in age appropriate terms, but we never want there to be one specific day on which the “secret” is revealed.  We want our child to feel like he has always known and there is nothing to hide because there is nothing wrong with how he was conceived.  We realize this may be a risky endeavor, as we could face (or worse, our child could face) ridicule or uncomfortable questions if the information is made common knowledge in the wrong forums.  But, I have looked at the research and it seems that children who grow up not associating egg donation with any negative stigma rarely blurt out the information at inappropriate times or places.  To them, it isn’t really that interesting, so there is no reason to tell people.  In contrast, children who are told later in life may feel like the information is a secret, questions why, attach guilt or shame with the information, and be more compelled to “share their secret.”  (I use the term “research” in this area loosely, as I have come across no studies beyond self-reported anecdotal information).  Still, The Prince and I have made our choice and we are committed to it.

As part of this “gradual reveal” process, we decided to tell close family members and friends about how the baby was conceived.  We are hoping that by portraying the information as “no big deal” early on in the pregnancy to family and friends, the information will not seem significant enough to warrant further conversations after the baby is born.  We want the focus to be on our child as a person…not our child as a donor egg-conceived child.

The one exception that we carved out in our strategy was for my mother.  As I’ve previously mentioned, my mother is mentally ill and she has a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  She thrives on drama and is incapable of caring about how the drama she creates hurts others.  I’ve gotten to a point where I truly believe it isn’t her fault.  It is just part of her illness and she has spiraled to a point where she couldn’t’ control the behavior even if she wanted to.  But, you can imagine how her issues could become a problem for our child in the context of sharing the egg donation information.  The Prince left it up to me to decide what to do about my mother, after we listed the pro’s and con’s of telling her versus not telling her.  I had initially decided not to tell her, but eventually decided that by telling her now and riding out the wave of her likely telling people who have no business knowing about how our child was conceived (because the information will be the closest thing to “juicy gossip” she has to offer), she may be bored with the information by the time the baby is old enough to be effected by any insensitive comments she might make.  My nightmare scenario is our child telling her and her saying something cruel directly to our child in response to the shock. 

Even after making the decision, I haven’t been able to actually bring myself to tell her…until last week.  Last week, during a telephone conversation with my mother, she was (again) suggesting that I might be lying about being pregnant, was actually adopting, but was ashamed to tell people that I was adopting (I guess she thinks I faked the ultrasound pictures we’ve given her).  Anyways, I told her we had tried something new with our last IVF, and it worked.  Of course, she wanted to know what the “new” thing was and she asked if I used someone else’s sperm to get pregnant.  I said “Not someone else’s sperm, someone else’s eggs.”  She said, “What do you mean?  How can you do that?”  So, I explained to her how egg donation works (scientifically speaking).  She listened and after a pause said “I wish I had known about that.  I could have been selling my eggs all of this time and not had financial problems.”  UGGGGHHHHH!  I know that there are a million worse things she could have said, but I have to admit that it was frustrating to have her immediately jump to making things about her.  She then asked if The Prince was okay with it, as she could imagine that it would be upsetting to him to have a wife who couldn’t’ get pregnant with her own eggs.  I was shocked that was her first question.  Everyone else we have told seemed to understand that the decision to use someone else’s eggs was hard on me.  My mother was the first person to jump over my feelings and assume that The Prince would be put off by having to use donor eggs.  I explained that he was all for the idea long before I was okay with it.  My mother then asked if the donor looked like me, and I replied that we wouldn’t be mistaken as sisters, but she looked enough like me so as not to raise any questions when people look at me and our child together.  She wanted to know information about my egg donor and I explained that I wasn’t giving any information I had about the donor to anyone.  Someday, when our child is ready, I will have a book with the photos of the donor and her profile available for our son to look at.  He will decide what to do with that information…no one else.  I explained to Mom that I was hesitant to tell her about our use of a donor because she sometimes “forgets” to keep private things private.  I told her that I believed she loved our child already and that she would find a way to make sure that our child’s conversations about his origins are with The Prince and I, at the time of our choosing.  My mother claims to understand and she wasn’t as melodramatic about receiving the information as I thought she would be. 

I have no confidence that I won’t, at some point, regret my decision to tell her.  But I also believe wholeheartedly that I would have regretted not telling her now, as well.  When I struggled with the idea of using an egg donor, I never even considered these issues.  I was only concerned with the immediate issues of letting go of the idea of my baby sharing my DNA.  Now, the DNA issue seems so insignificant and I realize that I have a lifetime of hard choices ahead of me…a lifetime of trying to balance what I feel is right and the protection of my child’s feelings and self-esteem.  I’m up for it and our baby is worth it already.  But still…a selfish little piece of me is irritated that I have to think about these things at all.


S said...

Interesting post, and you have given me some food for thought. My husband and I plan to be open with our children about their origins also. However, I have not told my father we used donor eggs because his wife can keep nothing to herself. (It would be completely in character for her to share this information with a high school classmate of mine she ran into at WalMart; she has done similar things with other information which was equally private. And she doesn't have mental illness, just a complete lack of discretion.)

I realize that my father will likely find out eventually--perhaps even from the children themselves--but I'm just not ready for the whole word to know.

Anonymous said...

First of all, HUGE HUGS. I have a mentally ill father, and my MIL is undiagnosed but I'm pretty sure she has some major issues as well. The fears you have expressed are very real and very valid, and I could of understood if you decided not to share the truth with her at all. I think that choosing to say "I feel that you love this child already" was a really smart thing to say, as it gives her a sense of importance that she probably craves...after all, I sense that is the reason my father says half of the things he says!

Good luck!

Hope said...

Great post! Definitely made me think about our decision to tell others. Our parents know, but I am afraid that my MIL will slip...she can't keep a secret! Glad to hear that there was little drama with your mom.

China Doll said...

It sounds like it went as well as you could have hoped/expected given your Mum's previous behaviour. Well done for handling it so well :) said...

I admire how you think about things so carefully and so clearly... you're going to be such a wonderful mum for your little one and so special to be preparing for their future so beautifully xoxo

Rachel Harris said...

The issue is that it's one thing to tell the kid that they were conceived via donor egg and he listens, but it's another thing that he understands the situation. Once he gets older and understands, he might not react the way you want him to react so I'd really take time to word out what you'll say to him