Is egg donation relevant to teenagers?
Suddenly I’m on the cusp. My very carefully planned and wished-for egg donation babies are now 14 and 12 and next summer I’ll be the mum of 2 (probably) hairy, (possibly) smelly and (definitely) independent-minded teenagers. Will this be the moment when they fling at me that dreaded line, “You’re not my real mum anyway!”? Will the manner in which they were conceived suddenly become to them the most important part of their identity? And will I feel shut out in a way that I really haven’t before?
Who knows what the future will hold, I don’t honestly think that teenage rebelliousness will focus around genetics. Edward and Florence have always known the story of where they came from but their interest in it has definitely waned over the years. I brought it up again at supper the other night (seemingly casually, I thought …) after a friend of mine had been telling me that the man she thought had been her father has actually turned out not to be at all. Nothing to do with donor conception, more to do with the Swinging Sixties, but I just dropped it into the family conversation and asked the children how much knowing who your ‘real’ dad is matters. But all I got back was a “Mum, we’ve been through all that stuff!” and a swift return to the discussion about what to watch on TV that night.
In some ways that brief exchange comforted me. I feel we’ve done our bit. There can’t be any shocking revelations just when they’re trying to figure out who they are. Sometimes I think that, as far as they’re concerned, the lack of a blood link isn’t important anyway. I’m very proud of the fact that my dad was a Cornishman through and through. Despite his best efforts, I failed to learn to speak the language but I’ve eaten many pasties in my time and every year we go as far south-west as we can and stride along cliff paths. Recently I overheard Edward telling a friend that he was a quarter Cornish. Biologically, of course, he’s not but I didn’t correct him – maybe how he feels is more important.
Most of the time the egg donation thing is just a non-issue but, as the children grow older, I do stop and think sometimes about whose information it is and who (if anyone) should be told about it. I like to share and I also like to be honest but is it fair on my children if I start telling people they don’t know personal facts about them? Relatively recently, we left London and moved house. We’ve all settled into our new lives and made new friends. This is the second time we’ve done this and, as before, I found that after about 3 years I started to wonder who I should make the Great Revelation to. Did they need to know, were they a close enough friend, how would I do it?
I know Florence has had the same thoughts. She was eight when she started at her new school and, halfway through that first year, she decided that Josie was her best friend. During lunch one day, she told Josie that she’d been born by egg donation and came home a bit puzzled when Josie apparently looked rather blank .... Luckily I know Josie’s mum so we had coffee together and I explained. And Florence got My Story off the bookshelf, copied some of the pictures and made them into a book to show Josie. But by then the moment had passed and Josie wasn’t her best friend any more so the book didn’t get handed over. And, when I asked Florence a year or so ago, whether she’d like me to discuss her origins with her PSHE teacher before sex education classes began, she was horrified.
As for Edward, as far as I know, he’s never felt the need to explain himself to anyone. And would regard his identity as being much more bound up with his goalkeeping skills, liking for camping and ability to do algebra than anything else. For a long time he didn’t actually realize that being an egg donation baby was different. In fact, when he was five, I had a very interesting conversation with Kate, the mother of his friend Ben. Kate was pregnant with her third child. When I asked her if Ben understood about the imminent new arrival, she told me that it was very odd as Ben had mentioned the kind lady who’d helped to put the baby in her tummy. That the moment when I wondered whether Edward was going to grow up to be a teacher – he’d clearly been instructing Ben (from the pages of My Story) about where babies come from!
It’ll be interesting to see how things change and develop during the teenage years. I know my two will become more independent, more self-obsessed and probably more argumentative. I know there will be moments when they’ll want to fling any weapon they can find at me for setting boundaries and making rules where they won’t want them. And I’m going to find it hard if one of the weapons they choose to use is our lack of a genetic connection. And what if they decide they want to find out more about their egg donor or search for other siblings? I guess that, as with all parenting, we’ll have to deal with it as and when it comes.
The funny thing is that, whenever I have told anyone about our slightly unconventional family formation, they’ve been amazed. They say the children look like me. Maybe it’s the Cornish tans …!
Written by Lizzy in 2017