Telling others about donor conception
Advice from an experienced mother of donor egg twins and clinical psychologist Kim Paleg.
Kim stresses that there is a difference between privacy and secrecy. The more she told others; the easier it became. Over time it stopped being Kim’s story and became her twins’ story and it was they who could choose if and whom they would tell.
Talking to others: Kim
We’re talking today about our stories and whom to tell. Not if to tell. We’re talking, as Kate said, about the difference between privacy and openness, not secrecy. We’re not talking about if to tell. And as a psychologist in private practise, I was very familiar with people who had adopted people, who had been adopted and I knew what the potential harm that secrecy could incur.
I anticipated being open. And that meant being open with my four year old and it was he, in fact, who got the ball rolling for me. I didn’t see clients on Fridays so on Fridays. I went into his kindergarten class, which is kind of like prep here, and helped out. One morning, he raised his hand during ‘Show and tell’ and he said he had something he wanted to share. So when his teacher called on him he stood up and announced very proudly and very loudly, “My Mum has two egg donor twins growing in her uterus!”
One of the things that we know about this process is that there are no rules for how to share. There can’t be any rules because, just as I demonstrated; or my son demonstrated, once you share the story even once, you lose control of it. I had anticipated being open; although perhaps not quite so much, so soon. What I hadn’t anticipated was in fact the flood of anxiety and shame that I felt in the first few months of my pregnancy, after the delight of the successful conception had faded.
So the question of whom to tell for me became an opportunity to do a lot of things. One was to just get support for myself by talking with people about what I was doing. Another was to reassure myself that what I was doing was okay and not a reflection of my inadequacy as a woman. Another was to face my fears of being rejected or worse; my children being rejected once people knew and finally; to be an advocate to the world that this was an okay thing to do.
So by the time the twins were born the pre-school teachers knew, the paediatrician knew, my friends knew, my family knew, the entire elementary school community knew and if the cashier at the supermarket or the woman at the post office mentioned how much the twins looked like me (which they didn’t), I would thank her and tell her what a coincidence that was because they shared none of my genes.
The more I told people, the easier it got. In fact I never got a negative response. Over time, the story stopped being my story to tell though as people have said; and it became the kids story to tel;l if and to whom they chose.
And a couple of nights ago I asked them (the kids are almost 18 now) the twins, and I asked each of them if they had any thoughts at this point that they would share if they were here today. My son, Jesse, said, “It’s no big deal. I don’t ever think about it.” And I said, “Well.” Then he paused and then he said, “But actually you could tell people then they shouldn’t worry about their kids freaking out.” And he said, and I said, “So do your friends know?” and he said, “No.”; like kind of ‘Are you nuts? Why would I talk about something like that?”
And later on when I asked my daughter Rachel, she said, “Well it doesn’t make any difference but it’s cool.” I said well “How is it cool?” She said, “Well I can say I’m part of Hawaiian.” She said, “When kids talk
about well I’m part Chinese or whatever, I can say I’m part Hawaiian.” “Really what do you friend say?” and she said, “Well they say, well your Mum’s not Hawaiian. Is your dad Hawaiian? No…Well then how are you part Hawaiian?” and she said, “So I tell them.” “And what do they say?” “Well it used to be that they didn’t understand, so I would have to explain it to them, but at this age everybody understands so it’s cool.”
So I think about how I used to get asked, believe it or not, if my twins were identical (a boy and a girl!); that those attitudes are so not identical but the part that is identical is in fact how little a big deal it is for them when the kids know this is just their story... Every child has a story.