DEAR ASK A THERAPIST: My husband and I used a known egg donor. We have been in communication with her from the very beginning of our journey to parenthood through a donation. The donor and I agree that we would like to meet each other someday. My question is what is the best age to introduce your child to the donor? If you start at a really young age, before a child can fully understand, how often after the initial meeting should your child have the opportunity to see the donor? – RECIPIENT PARENT
DEAR RECIPIENT PARENT: Thank you for your question. It is clear you have given a lot of thought to what your child may need in order to form a healthy and true genetic identity. It is wonderful that you have already been in communication with your donor from the beginning. It is so much easier to stay in touch than to try to get in touch later.
You mention that you and your husband “used” a donor, and I want to suggest slightly different language. It is tough to think about “using” a donor as that really implies that you actually used her, as a person, and it is clear that is not the case because you have an agreement and a relationship. You might want to think about substituting the words “collaborated with” or “worked with” instead of “used.” Try it on and see how that feels.
Now, onto your question about contact with your child. You can certainly introduce them anytime. Many donor conceived people feel strongly that knowing their parents’ donor from childhood would have been wonderful and certainly easier than trying to establish a relationship as an adult or adolescent. There is no hard and fast rule. You can see how it feels for all parties.
Open donor conception and open adoption can look very similar. You might see each other at holidays or your child’s birthday if you live nearby, or maybe plan a visit once a year if you are not geographically close. Your child does not have to understand donor conception to understand that this is the person who provided the “part” or “eggs” you needed to become a mom. You can then talk about ways your child may be similar to or different from the donor, you, and others. Some people recommend using the language of genetic parent/genetic mother. Others are not as comfortable with that and prefer to talk about the importance of the connection between your child and the donor because of what she contributed to help you make a family, without using the term mother. You will grow into comfortable language, and children’s books can help. It is also important to note that children might come up with their own preferred term for their genetic parent, and that should be encouraged and supported.
When the conversations and even the relationships start at a very young age, it becomes the child’s “normal” and they do not question it. It can never be too early, and if the donor is healthy and you are all compatible, there may not be a downside to your child knowing her in person.
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