There are two reasons why I don’t publish posts often enough. The first has to do with generic laziness. I can lie and say that I’m busy, but I’m all caught up on Empire, so laziness it is.

The other is that I’m committed to writing only about donor egg related issues, and those don’t come up all the time. And when they do come up, they’re usually too intense for me to want to buckle down and type, so instead I just cry or watch an episode of Empire.

But my daughter is turning two in a couple of days, so I thought I would mark the occasion by telling you about your worst nightmare.

“Mama, go away.”

“Mama, go away” is something I’ve heard a lot these past few months. “Mama, go away. Daddy come.” For days. Then weeks. Then months. “Mama, go away.” Over and over and over again.

I tried to keep composure at first and remember information that I got three years back. During the therapy session required by the clinic before our first donor egg transfer, we were forewarned about how devastating daddy phases can be for donor egg recipients when the father is the genetic parent. “Every kid has a daddy phase,” we were told. “It has nothing to do with genetics. It’s just a part of parenthood.”

A few weeks into the daddy phase, it got worse. She wouldn’t want me next to her when we ate,  and she’d run away when I’d pick her up from daycare. “Mama, go away. Daddy come.”

Like I said. Nightmare.

I cried myself to sleep for nights in a row. I read dozens of articles and blog posts in search of help and hope and advice, and all I got was a bunch of crap about how we should save her favorite books and pastimes for her time with me. None of it worked. It’s not like she was going to forget that she didn’t like me. She just didn’t like me.

So I cried myself to sleep a bunch more. Sometimes I’d lay awake hoping she’d come around, but mostly I wondered if it would matter to her if I died.

I finally came across two articles that actually did help. One suggested that I consider how the favored parent was interacting with the kid, and then advised that the other parent reflect that behavior. The situation in the article — which paralleled ours, actually — was that the kid had entered into a world of imagination, and the favored parent was super engaged in pretend play. The other parent was just too literal to be fun.

OK, so I needed to build forts and make up stories about her dolls. Check.

The second article talked about how toddler brains have a hard time understanding that they can love two people at the same time. It’s a cognitive challenge: how can I adore Mom if I adore Dad? (Side note: how dumb are toddlers?)

But alright. I’ll talk to her about love and about how our hearts are big enough to love our whole family. Check.

Then every once in a while I devolved into toddlerhood myself, and when she would tell me to go away, I’d say it right back. “You go away.” “No, you go away.” “No, you go away.” I’m not proud of the tactic, but it was incredibly effective. She would either end up laughing, or she’d get completely frustrated; either way, I’d catch a break.

Then one night she got sick. Nothing terrible. Just a cold, but she was up most of the night, and all she wanted was her mama, and I knew then that it would matter to her if I died. That helped.

And then it passed. Or at least changed. It gradually lessened, and now she says “go away” to both of us fairly equally. It still feels kinda crappy, but I don’t take it personally anymore. And my husband couldn’t care less when she tries to banish him.

But here’s the crux of the thing: while it was horribly, horribly horrible, not being a parent was worse. It just was. Nightmarish as that rejection was, pining for a child was a whole other level of devastation, and even as I was crying myself to sleep with my kid in the next room, I knew that not having her there would be worse. No question.

So despite my utter failure to keep this blog updated, I was motivated to share this now for two reasons. First, and in keeping with what my readers have come to expect, I feel compelled to be honest that donor egg parenting isn’t always the best. There are a lot of donor egg blogs out there, and I haven’t seen many that are transparent about the hard stuff, so this is for the donor egg moms who are looking for affirmation that they’re not alone: there is indeed hard stuff, and I’m right there with you.

The second reason is that I know that intended parents pore through this blog as a way of processing their fears, and I want to address the question of whether it’s worth it, and yes it is. At least it is to me. “Mama, go away” is a problem I’ll take if the alternative is to never hear someone call me “Mama.”

And yesterday was the first time she said, “Mama, I love you.” Unsolicited, and followed by a kiss.

“Mama, I love you.” Something Daddy’s never heard.

So, yeah. Hard. But worth it.

Posted in Donor Egg Parenting, My Head, Parenting | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Stock and Bonds


In answer to your question about whether I’m bonded with my baby after 14 months: Yes. Totally. Mostly.

And if you want the emotional play-by-play, here it is:

Love: Yes. I totally love her. It wasn’t instantaneous, and it didn’t happen like it apparently does for every other woman on the planet, because evidently I’m the only donor egg recipient in history who didn’t feel instantly connected as soon as I saw the flicker of her heartbeat, but you know what? I don’t really like those people anyhow.

Bonding: Sure, but not right away. For me, the real bonding started at around 5 or 6 months. Maybe it was because that’s when she started sleeping through the night, or maybe it was because she was less of a poopy lump of need and more of a …. I don’t know … person. Either way, by 10 months, I felt much more of a connection, and by now she’s profoundly in my heart.

Resentful of My Husband: No, actually. I thought that would be a factor, but it really isn’t. I can’t tell you if this is because of anything he does or doesn’t do, and I have no idea if it was all our therapy, but it’s a non-issue. I’m not even bothered during her Daddy phases, which is something I was warned would happen. Every kid has Daddy phases; genetics have nothing to do with it. It’s just not a problem for me.

Who-Does-She-Look-Like Awkwardness: Not really. If the person asking just forgot about the donor, then I remind them: “those eyebrows are all the donor’s.” If it’s someone who doesn’t know (and I don’t care to tell), then I skirt the issue: “She just looks like her.” And enough people think we look alike that it doesn’t come up very often.

Sadness about Loss of Genetic Connection: This is a tough one. There are the times when I really pine for a genetic connection, and I don’t always know how to navigate those moments. Just the other day, my dad was feeding her and said, “Her appetite comes from me.” My heart breaks a little because I really wish her appetite did come from him — well, not necessarily his appetite, but maybe his musicality or his smile. Even now, I’ve got a few tears streaming over this loss, so I guess it’ll continue to be a process.

What Ifs: Yeah. All the time. Can’t help that one. But luckily that regret isn’t isolated to just waiting too long to try to have a baby. I also wish I’d chosen a different major in college. And grad school. And that I’d been more professionally successful. And that I were an overall better person.

Jealous of the Donor: Jesus, I didn’t see this one coming, and I don’t know how I could have missed it. Maybe it’s because my daughter looks so much like her. Last month the donor texted me a Happy New Year with a couple of photos of her son (17-months old), and holy shit, our kids look exactly the same. So unsettling. I was so uneasy about it that I had to ask her to not send anymore pictures for now (she felt horrible). Thankfully my feelings aren’t directed at her, but I just quietly wish I had a baby that looked like me, too.

Jealous of Women with Babies that Look Like Them: Yup.
Jealous of Young Women Who Will Have Babies that Look Like Them: Yup.
And honestly, I’m not even the jealous type. I never pine for other people’s cars or husbands or clothes (well, maybe clothes), but the baby thing… Yeah, that one stings a bit.

Wonder if I’d Love My Own Genetic Baby More: This one seems to be sticking around for now, too. And it’s such a stupid question because I’ll never know the answer. Even if I had two babies — one genetic and one not — and I loved the genetic baby more, I wouldn’t know if it was because of genetics or for other reasons. It’s such a dumb thing to ponder. But I can’t help myself.

Conditionality of My Love for My Daughter: Dude, how horrible am I that this is actually a thing? When we had the neurofibromatosis scare, I really did feel that I wouldn’t love her as much if she looked like the elephant man. It seems so counterintuitive: shouldn’t a mother feel more protective when something’s wrong with her kid? What a shameful thing to admit, but what can I say? It’s true. Now with a few months’ perspective, I realize that it was partly an emotional defense from facing with such a scary prospect, but I still don’t know that I could have been the mother I needed to be. Thankfully, that conditionality is waning now that we’re more fully bonded. I feel pretty certain that if something came up today, my commitment wouldn’t waver. But back at 9 months, it was too soon. Then again, I’m also the mother who finds her kid more adorable when she’s dressed cuter, so maybe I’m just an asshole.

Would I Do It Again?: Yes. Yes. A bazillion times yes. I love being a mother. I love doing whatever I need to do — therapy, reading, writing, talking to my husband, talking to other parents — to make myself a better person for her so that she has all the benefits she can. I’ve been a super hand-on, stay-at-home home for her first 14 months, and my life is so much more fulfilled now. If I had to accept a child-free life, then I like to think that I would have done it with grace (although I probably wouldn’t have), but I’m grateful every day that my daughter has made me a mother.

Will I Do It Again?: That’s a story for another post.


PS: If there’s another emotion, fear, or question that you’re wondering about, write a comment or shoot me an email (chickandeggs at gmail), and I’ll add it here.

Posted in Donor Egg Parenting, My Head, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Third Party Politics

“Should I use an egg donor?” is the debate for women dealing with rotten eggs. Approximately a 47 quadrillion threads on PVED and other donor egg forums address some version of this question, and the rhythm of the comments goes something like this:

Concerned poster: Will it be the same?
Super sweet poster: Yes, it’s exactly the same. I never think about it.
Well-adjusted poster: I have both own-egg and donor-egg babies, and I always forget which is which.
Social worker poster: What does your husband say? Could you talk to friends or family?
Therapized poster: Maybe you should see professional. My shrink helped me so much.
Defensive poster: My kid is my kid. Period.

Pretty much all the comments you’ll read on DE forums will be comforting and reassuring because (duh), you’re asking parents of DE babies. And even though third-party reproduction would be the worst possible choice for some people, no one on those forums is going to say, “Horrible option. Don’t do it. If you’re having doubts, trust your gut. Go childfree.”

But childfree is what infertiles want to google to find out what life would be like after deciding against raising kids that aren’t genetically related. And it’s well-worth the search (for childfree blogs, in particular), because you aren’t going to find that range of perspectives on PVED. Folks who’ve decided against DE have long since left those forums and are now writing about travel, learning Portuguese, or their new careers.

I mention all this now because I’m coming up on a year of raising my donor egg baby (what?), so I’m doing an emotional inventory (post to follow), and in reflecting on the path that got me here, it strikes me that I could have just as easily taken a different route, and my musings might have looked more like these:

We’re {Not} Having a Baby
Childfree Me
Real Life & Thereafter
No Kidding in NZ
The Not Mom
Childfree Corner
Life without Baby
Those are the ones I think are most worth checking out, but there’s also any of these other accounts on The Stirrup Queens’ list of childfree blogs.

And then there are the bloggers who are going through the DE question now. If you’re interested in infertility blogs, then you already know that every woman who’s cried into her box of tampons is blogging about infertility, but The Empress and the Fool is the only one I follow. She stands out to me because she’s honest (understatement), because she’s a true writer (severe understatement), and because there’s something about her that reminds of me of me — or of who I might have been if I’d been a true writer.

She’s still very much blowing in the wind with all this stuff (grief, hope, life), so who knows where she’ll end up, but one of her recent posts is as true as any ramble you’ll find weighing the donor egg option. So if you’re curious to read one woman’s reasons why she doesn’t plan to use an egg donor, check her out — although you should know that she’s now (as of January 2015) pregnant with an OE baby, so click at your own risk.

The Empress and the Fool: The Epiphany, No Histerionics

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OK, so my daughter’s marks are not from neurofibromatosis.
They’re from lemons.

It appears that her skin was exposed to lemon juice before going out into the sun, and it caused chemical burns all over her face and legs. It’s called phytophotodermatitis, which is also known as Lime Disease (not to be confused with Lyme Disease). The burns should fade in 6-12 months.


I’m still so in shock that I can’t even be happy yet. I haven’t exhaled. My heart is still stuck in the terror that she’ll be severely deformed and forever shunned from society. I can’t yet extricate myself from the maternal fear whose depths I couldn’t fathom until now. And I just made a donation to the Children’s Tumor Foundation whose mission it is to end NF because of course I did. I mean, jesus christ, what those mothers and children and families must be going through. I just lived through the tip of their iceberg, and I still can’t begin to imagine what lies beneath. They have to deal with neurofibromatosis, and all I have to watch out for is lemons.

It’s possible that I’m overstating this, but I doubt it: the experience of eluding this sickness might be the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. She could have had NF, and it’s sheer luck (or grace, if you lean that way) that she doesn’t, and so now’s my chance to quit planting seeds of regret. I want so badly to kiss her with all my heart and to love her without reservation, and so for fuck’s sake, I need to tear down the last of this ridiculous barrier that’s keeping me from bonding as fully as I can with my baby.

My sweet, sweet, sweet, lemon-stained baby with the crooked smile that I love more today than ever, but which I hope to love even more tomorrow.


PS: To those of you who got in touch after reading my last post, I am deeply grateful for you. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments


The best piece of advice I’ve received from other parents is to leave well enough alone. If your baby is quiet, don’t give her a toy. If she’s happy with her toy, don’t sway her rocker. If she’s happy being swayed in her rocker, don’t pick her up. Just leave well enough alone.

I think of this advice now, and I wonder if it’s something I should have heeded before having a baby. Yes, I was depressed at the prospect of being forever childless, and I felt distraught when imagining decades of family holidays with no brood in tow, but I wonder now if I could have eventually wrapped my head around it. Surely I’d have quit spiraling in anguish by 2020 or so. Wouldn’t that have been better than this?

What’s this “this,” you may be wondering?

Here’s where my fingers begin to stutter. Type. Delete. Type. Delete. Heart breaks. Eyes close. Tears fall. Tissues. Deep breath. Ok.

At my daughter’s 9-month check, our pediatrician pointed out these unusual marks on her skin. Several of them. They’re light brown and oddly shaped — very thin, very long ovals. Two on her face and several on her legs and arms. I’d noticed them, of course, but I thought they were bruises or something. Nothing to worry about.

Not so.

They’re called cafe au lait birthmarks, and although it’s possible that they’re just birthmarks and nothing more, quite often they’re an early symptom of a neurological condition called neurofibromatosis, which is probably the worst thing I’ve ever heard of.

Clusters of small tumors that grow all over the skin to the point of being significantly disfiguring. Skeletal deformities. Brain tumors that can lead to hearing loss, vision loss, or worse. Seizures. Learning disabilities. Other things, too, that I can’t quite remember right now. (Tip: Do not do an image search if you’re eating.)

In Wikipedia, entries often have a Popular Culture section where they talk about personalities or characters that relate to the subject being discussed. I haven’t read the Wiki page for NF (yes, I’ve already got the shorthand down), but Google search results have pointed to the Elephant Man and the Hunchback of Notre Dame as known characters with the condition.

So, yeah. I’m pretty much losing my mind.

And I keep thinking: does this mean that I’ll only get to have 9 months of parental bliss before being flung into a lifetime of parental hell? Because if that’s the case, then I kind of blew it because I spent most of these 9 months questioning whether I made the right choice in using an egg donor. Hardly a day went by when I didn’t wonder what my own genetic kid would look like and if I’d have felt differently about that imagined offspring … loved her more or better. Of course there’s no way to know how things might have been, which for a normal person would mean that they’d have put these questions out of their minds, but for me meant that I had to work 77 times as hard to find the answers.

So now I’m loaded with profound regret for not having left well enough alone these past few months. If I had accepted each of those moments for all the sweetness they held, I could have looked at my daughter with a heart full of love 100% of the time instead of just 94%. I might have appreciated every one of her funny, crooked smiles without being reminded of the donor. Or perhaps I wouldn’t have blown in her face out of frustration that time when she wouldn’t stop crying.

But that was then, and right now, I’m losing my mind.

Losing my mind because I can’t think about the past without feeling regret, and I can’t think about the future without being suffocated by fear. My stupid therapist would tell me to just feel the emotions of the present, but there is no present. Just the weight of what’s behind me and the emptiness of what’s in front, and me balancing on the edge of a tissue waiting for the Xanax to kick in.


That was last night. The Xanax did work, but now I feel like I need another. Something to keep my mind occupied until our appointment with the pediatric dermatologist later today. It took a week to get in because the referral was delayed. “It’s not urgent,” said the nurse, “because even if she has it, there’s nothing you can do.” Oh, good. That helps, you fucking cunt-hole.

In the meantime, I’ll publish this scattered post. But first I need to create a new tag: neurofibromatosis. I can’t tell you how deeply and profoundly I’m hoping that this is the only time I’ll use it.

Posted in Donor Egg Parenting, My Head, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fuck You, Katie Couric: A Love Story

For those of you living under a rock or some other place where no one gives a shit about egg donation, Katie Couric recently did a segment about a donor egg conceived child and her family who met their donor for the first time on her show. The program went as one might expect: some nervousness, lots of sweetness, and tons of positivity.

Afterwards, however, the tenor of the donor egg recipient community turned a vivid shade of fury because the language used on the show was different from the language we prefer. Whereas PVED uses “donor vs. biological mother” to differentiate the roles of the women, the people on Couric’s show referred to the donor as the biological mother. Gasp.

The outrage went something like this: donors aren’t mothers, and Katie Couric is an asshole.

Although I’m tempted to get into the weeds of the discussion, that would require too much tedium, so instead I’m just going to piss everyone off and say that I believe we’re being overly sensitive, reactionary, and irrational because we’re insecure about our roles as mothers.

Or at least that’s true for me.

I’ve written my share of posts about language, and so I know all about the emotions that propel the fervor. Differentiating genetics from biology as if genes aren’t a part of biology. Proclaiming that the donor is not a mother even though the entire history of science has a very clear definition of parent to the inclusion of the source of donated gametes.

Over the last few years, I’ve rallied against these truths, but all the while, something about my cries never sat right. Even in calm settings, these were never calm conversations. I tended to get a little worked up when talking about mine versus the donor’s roles. Defensive. I always wore some layer of I-dare-you-to-challenge-my-legitimacy armor instead of admitting that “yes, as a factual matter of science, our donor is a biological mother to my child. Now how am I going to deal with how vulnerable that makes me feel?”

Because vulnerability is where this dogma comes from. Plain and simple, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that some people don’t see me as the real mom. I lay awake wondering about the effects of my slow bonding process with my daughter and whether our relationship will suffer for it, or how much. I worry that she won’t have enough of me in her, and she’ll navel-gaze her way through adolescence until she ultimately disconnects from me completely. And if all of these questions didn’t haunt me before, now I have to deal with them in the shadow of another mother.

But all of this is OK. I don’t expose my fears to solicit comfort and validation, and I don’t want your hugs. I don’t want to feel better. I just want to feel.

It’s important for me to sit with my grief. I cozy up to my sadness deliberately, and I make myself cry because I want to see my reflection in my tears. The more I feel the truth of my fears, the more quickly I can get through to the other side, even while the darkness makes me forget that another side exists.

I imagine that other donor egg recipients share some of the same vulnerabilities, and I imagine that some women are vulnerable in ways that are wholly different from me. I also imagine that some moms feel only a teensy amount of vulnerability and rarely think about their children’s not uncomplicated (yes, that’s a double negative) conception.

But I’ll stop short of saying that any of us are 100% okay with the world of egg donation because I suspect that we all hang on to some degree of vulnerability. Even for those who are most at peace, at some point someone might say something that will trigger us, and suddenly we need to gouge out eyeballs, which – let’s face it – is not the inclination of a person who’s confident and secure.

Which brings me back to Katie Couric. As it did for most of my fellow egg donor recipients, the program challenged me. I almost didn’t watch it (“biological mother? Come here so I can kill you.”), but then I reflected on my resistance for long enough to muster up the courage, and I clicked play. I was nervous at the start, and as it went on, there were parts that definitely made me uncomfortable (“other grandmother?”). It wasn’t easy, and it raised a lot of questions for me.

What if my daughter will want to meet her siblings? It’s possible that she won’t think about her genetic relatives, but it’s also possible that she’ll feel existentially incomplete until she gets to know this other part of her family. Will she want her donor in her life for milestones like graduations and her wedding, or will she need her around more often than that? And how will I handle the threats of these possible futures without removing anyone’s eyeballs?

But despite my emotional reactions, I can’t deny that Couric did a pretty good job with the subject. She showed a healthy balance of curiosity and support, and she made her guests feel open and safe. Moreover, when all was said and done, I think the segment could potentially help normalize egg donation for people considering their family-building options. And maybe it even helped normalize egg donation for a certain someone who’s already used it.

So fuck you, Katie Couric, for making me feel vulnerable. I hate you.
And thank you, Katie Couric, for making me feel vulnerable. I love you.

Posted in Donor Egg Parenting, My Head, Parenting, PVED | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments