Being egg donor-conceived – and finding out as an adult
Katie’s parents fulfilled their dream of a child with the help of an egg donor – and kept it a secret for 25 years. At the age of 24, Katie discovered she was donor-conceived by chance.
Mother, father, child – and donor
“Besides me, my family consists of my lovely mum and dad who are separated. I have a close relationship with both of them, and I am proud to say that my mum is my best friend.
I was conceived with the help of an egg donor, but I did not know that while growing up. I only found out last year by coincidence, when I was doing some research on IVF treatments.”
Finding out about being donor-conceived
“I realised that I was conceived with the help of an egg donor at the age of 24. I found out on my own through simple research on IVF in older women and I soon realised that – due to my mother’s age at the time of my birth - it was highly unlikely that I was from my mother’s own eggs. So, after a few days of digesting and researching information, I plucked the courage to ask my parents about the truth. At this point, they told me everything, and it was all very emotional. My parents regret not telling me from birth. Since our talk, they have both apologised and realised that it did not help any of us to keep it a secret. In fact, they never told anyone, so I had to find out on my own, which was very hard for me.
Since I found out, my parents have been very open and honest and answered any questions I have had. They have been supportive of my journey of finding information about my egg donor and genetic half-siblings. Their support has been so important to me and has made this journey a little easier as I know I can be honest with them, and they will be there for me whenever I need them.”
Conversations about the egg donor
“After my discovery, my parents and I have talked a lot about my egg donor. In those conversations, we use the term donor, since we all know what that means. I think the term donor feels a bit cold like I was created in a medical way. So, I prefer the term genetic parent, because of the scientific definition of what the lady is to me. She is my genetic mother, but that feels too personal for me, which is why I prefer the term genetic parent. But there is no right or wrong, and I think other people conceived with the help of an egg or sperm donor have slightly different definitions that they prefer to use.
I have asked my parents about the selection process of the egg donor, and they told me that when they were searching for an egg donor the clinic said they found the perfect candidate for them - A candidate with similar features to my mum. This made my parents very happy because the similarity with my mother would make me feel like I belonged with my family.”
Growing up not knowing about my genetics
“I grew up not knowing, so during my upbringing, I never questioned my genetics. During my childhood, I saw the photos of my mother being pregnant with me as well as the photos of me and her after birth – and I never had any reason to doubt the genetic relation. However, when I look back, certain things make a lot more sense to me now, and I understand myself a lot more as I, physically, felt different from my family.
For example, I have always struggled with my weight. Even as a child I was very chubby and when I was a teenager it was particularly hard for me because everyone in my family was so thin. I constantly compared myself to my mum as she has always had a lovely figure. Now that I know I am egg donor-conceived I feel much better about my own body. I realise that I should not have spent so much time wondering why I did not look as beautiful as my mum because I did not inherit her genes. If I had known, I would not have been so hard on myself or made those comparisons.”
Thoughts about being egg donor-conceived
“I would have preferred that my parents had told me from the start that I was egg donor-conceived – honesty is very important to me. If they had been honest with me, I would not have spent my whole life comparing my looks to my non-biological side of the family. Because of the secret, the trust between me and my parents was broken and we had to work hard to restore it. I understand their reasons, but it was hard because I felt lied to my whole life, and it took me some time to heal. Since the day I found out about my egg donor, my parents and I have been working on our relationship, and I am glad to say that we are now closer than ever, because of the honesty and openness in our relationship.
I would like to get in touch with my egg donor so I can learn her name and her reasons for donating and ask her if she sometimes thinks about me. A name would make the whole situation feel more personal and positive because I would be able to say something like “Mary” did a lovely thing for my parents instead of just referring to her as egg donor. I also think about her physical appearance, because I sometimes overanalyse my looks and wonder what traits are from my genetic parent (the egg donor) and which traits are from my father.
If I were to get in contact with my genetic parent, maybe I could also get in contact with potential donor siblings. Since I grew up as an only child, I have always wanted a sibling. This is why I would love to find other egg donor-conceived siblings as we would have a lot in common and we could support each other on our rare journey.”
Advice to other families with a sperm or egg donor-conceived children
“My advice to other families with children conceived with help from egg donation or donor sperm is to be open, honest, and supportive during their upbringing. My personal experience has taught me that secrets like this can hurt the relationship in a family – both for me and my family. My parents went through this process alone and so did I. Therefore, it is important to make it a positive part of your child’s story. Coming into this world with the help of an egg donor is what makes these children unique.
Parents will be there to wipe away the tears, cuddle when scared, laugh, and play with the child – this is not genetically related. Being a donor-conceived child is not a bad thing. The only bad thing is the lies and secrets.
Another piece of advice I would give is to choose an ID Release Donor, so your child can get in contact with the egg or sperm donor. My parents had no choice because in the 1990’s it was only allowed to choose a fully anonymous donor (Non-ID Release Donor). Getting in contact with the egg donor is one of my biggest wishes since I only know non-identifying information like hair/eye colour, height, and weight. I do not like the unknown, so it is in my nature to be curious and want to know more about my egg donor.”
If you want to read other stories from donor-conceived children, we can recommend our story about Anna and her upbringing with two mums in a heteronormative society. You can also learn more about Katie in this webinar, where she and 3 other donor-conceived people talk about their upbringing.