To egg donor or not to egg donor? That is the question.
Epigenetics: “Epi”- Greek; over, above + genetics
I’ve seen many couples struggle with the decision of whether to consider egg donation after their fertility doctors dropped the your- best-chance-at-conceiving-is-with-an-egg-donor bomb on them.
Most aren’t ready to entertain the thought. Others understand it’s likely their only chance, but they first need to exhaust every last possibility of conceiving with their own eggs before they’re ready to accept that option.
When they aren’t able to conceive with their own eggs and choose to come to terms with using a donor, they eventually grow excited. They feel relieved to move forward with a plan that means the likelihood of having a baby exponentially higher. Suddenly the dream of becoming parents is within reach.
Sure, they still harbor some worries as to whether they’ll feel connected to the child if the child doesn’t resemble them, which is completely understandable. But it’s important to remember that becoming a parent is a worrisome endeavor, no matter what path you take to get there. You may also worry that your child will inherit your brother’s mental health issues or your father-in-laws’ heart disease if you used your own eggs.
I support these patients throughout their pregnancy. Except for an occasional passing worry about resemblance, there is no difference between their pregnancies and the pregnancies of mothers-to-be who used their own eggs. Each mother worries about the wellbeing of her growing baby. Each mother takes joy in feeling her baby kick, picking out names, and decorating the nursery.
I remember Lilly, a Filipino woman whose husband is Caucasian , worried that because they used a Caucasian donor, she wouldn’t feel a bond with her baby when she was born. But she told me when she held her daughter in her arms and breastfed her, she felt overcome by the love she felt for her. There was no doubt in her heart that her daughter was hers. After telling me this story, she continued to show off dozens of pictures of her daughter on her smartphone to me.
Another patient of mine, Maria, who is pregnant from using an egg donor, told me that while she admits these fears come up from time to time, she's comforted by the study of epigenetics. She met a woman who, although she used an egg donor, marvels at how many friends say her daughter looks just like her. She attributes this to epigenetics.
Whether using an egg donor or your own eggs, it goes to show how important creating a healthy environment is before pregnancy, in utero and thereafter.
If you want your child to resemble you, what traits will you expose it to? How will you and your partner prepare for pregnancy? What is your home environment like?
Whether your child is "genetically" yours or not, the environment you create internally and externally is how you most influence your bond with, resemblance to, disposition and health of your child.
This is parenting. It’s about creating and maintaining an environment, and that starts with you and your partner before the child is even conceived.
Energies attune to one another. Children are so receptive. Seriously my son gets PMS when I do. (No wonder he was so happy when I met my fiancee! Finally some male energy in the home!) When I felt giddy with excitement over the new love in my life, my son literally danced around the living room reflecting exactly how I felt.
It’s kind of scary. That’s a lot of responsibility on a parent’s shoulders. But it helps recognize the importance of being aware of your feelings and actions, being present and noticing what you’re projecting onto others.
When people mention that they’re depressed because they “inherited it” from their mother, I always wonder, did they truly "inherit" depression on a genetic level? Maybe. Or could it be that they were exposed to that environment? Were they taught to react to situations with sadness? They may even hold stress in the same areas of the body and then they say, "I get it from my mother."
My point is, no matter how you decide to grow your family, rest assured, the child will be yours, and not just in spirit. Their genes may evolve to reflect that of your genetic makeup, as your genes have also evolved to reflect your beliefs, lifestyle, and environment. Life is constantly adapting to its environment.
So it’s especially important to start now, even before you’re pregnant, to create a most welcoming environment for your little spirit to join you, no matter what path he or she takes.