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Talking with Family and Friends about Egg Donation: Who do we tell? What do we say? When do we say it?

a blog by Ellen Glazer, January 10, 2014

If you had asked me these questions several years ago, I would have been ever so quick to say, “Be open. Speak proudly. If you don’t talk about it, you are acting like there is something to be ashamed of.” And I would have added, “You are creating a secret and secrets are never a good thing.”

How time and experiences change our perspectives—or at least they have changed mine in this instance. While I remain clear that secrets are problematic, I have come to see decisions around donor conception as being firmly rooted in the realm of privacy—not secrecy. This is how my thinking changed: I began to think about the conversations that occur when people announce a pregnancy. The information usually includes only “we’re expecting a baby in June” or “we have great news—I’m three months pregnant.” Once I reminded myself of this, I realized that it made no sense to expect women pregnant through egg donation to say anything more. In fact, adding that the pregnancy began with egg donation could seem self conscious. “Too much information “as they say.

So when and how should people talk about donor conception? I have come to see this as a matter of having a “reason to talk” or “a reason to tell” and recommend that you talk about donor conception when there is a reason to do so. Common reasons include telling family members because you are talking with your three or four or five year old about donor conception and you anticipate that he/she may say something to family members. You decide to fill them in because you don’t want them to be confused. Or you may tell friends because you are close and now that you are having conversations with your child, you want to share your feelings about those conversations with close friends. Sometimes the information is shared because a friend or acquaintance is going through infertility and considering using an egg or sperm donor and you feel that it would be helpful for them to know that you did as well. And sometimes the reason to tell is as simple as you want to. Nothing in particular has prompted the conversation—you simply feel good about the path you took and want to talk about it.

My point in all this is that you have choices and you are in charge of your story. Far from seeing this—as I once did—as creating a secret, I see it now as maintaining privacy and the dignity that comes from respecting privacy.

I have a client whose friend is the mother of five children. My client and her husband have decided to pursue egg donation. She tentatively confided this with her friend whose response could not have been more surprising. “That’s great, “ she said, “Mine are all from a donor.”

Two women each with a reason to talk and a reason to tell.


Comments (1)

Sometimes even well-meaning people like to be the ones to gossip about things that you expected them to respect as private. Mostly the reason to be cautious about whom to tell is so that YOU are the one to tell your child about his/her origins. As the child gets older and is comfortable speaking about this him/herself, it's much easier to be open without necessarily standing on a mountaintop with a microphone. Plus you need to presume that anyone who judges you isn't a friend or ally.

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