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Mother or Egg Donor?

mom baby.jpg

a blog by Donor Diva, June 8, 2011

Mother (noun):
A female who has given birth to offspring.
A female or thing that creates, nurtures, protects, etc., something.

In adoption, the woman who gives birth to the baby is called the “birth mother,” and the women adopting the child is called the “adoptive mother.” But is “mother” the right word in egg donation?

The biggest difference between egg donation and adoption is, unless you use a surrogate, you are the one carrying your child. In the donor egg community, there has been much discussion about epigenetics (the genetic switches that can be turned on or off during pregnancy.) Scientists have discovered that choices made during pregnancy can drastically affect these epigenomes. This information confirms that I had an important role in creating our son. Even though I didn’t provide the egg, I provided EVERYTHING else.

But egg donation isn’t as mainstream as say, adoption, and can be confusing when it comes to the language used for the egg donor. Many people confuse the donor with the mother (or don’t even know what to call her!) While visiting my parents back in November, I mentioned to my mother that I was worried that Ant might have high cholesterol like my husband. My mother said, “Does the ‘biological mother’ have a history of high cholesterol?”

It is moments like this that I wish more people understood egg donation. I just sucked it up and let the comment pass. Later I confronted my mother about the comment and said I would prefer if she referred to our egg donor as the “donor.” It is our job to educate the people around us and guide them through this uncharted territory.

For me, it’s simple: we call our egg donor “our donor.” She gave us a wonderful gift to get our family started and we took it from there. She helped create our son, and I am eternally grateful, but to me that shouldn’t earn her the title of “mother.”

Genetic mom, egg donor or some other name? How do you or would you refer to your egg donor?

Comments (17)

I'm an egg donation baby and I have no connection to my donor, even though I know that she's out there and I'm genetically related to her, and not my mom.

Interesting question and it raises so many different issues.

As with everything in life it all depends where you stand in the debate. Not only is that relevant for the complex social scenario but also the legislation of the country. In the US donors are paid (which, for European standards, is a contradiction in terms by the way) and anonymous. In the UK donors are not really paid (maximum is $400 per cycle) and full identity and information disclosure is possibly once the child reaches the age of 18. Needless to say this attracts a completely different type of donor.

Personally I completely understand and agree that the donor should be called the donor because that's what she is. I'm an egg donor myself and don't see myself as the mother. In fact I get just as irritated as you if someone uses the term 'biological mother.' I am the mother only to my two own children. I have no doubt the parents of the children I helped conceive are grateful which is not linked to the term chosen to describe me.

However, I deal with policies on donation related issues and have been privileged to exchange views with people on all sides of the debate including donor conceived children and now adults. Regardless of how open you choose to raise them you may well have to accept that the children view this differently.

People, and that includes your own children, view the world through their own eyes, coloured with their own experiences. Assisted reproduction has given new meanings to terms that existed unthreatened for many years. There are scenario's so complex (try this one: twin surrogacy with 2 different donor eggs, 2 different sperm donors; are they siblings?..) that trying to work out what your own views are is difficult enough, let alone wanting others to see it your way.

Stand firm to what you believe in to be right for your family. That's what mothers do.

While I know you aren't my egg donor, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the best gift you could have given to your recipient parents.

Being a mother yourself you know how amazing and wonderful your children are. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love my child, so much so I sometimes forget to breathe.

I have a special place in my heart and spirit for egg donors:)

Thank you so much for your incite! I love hearing from egg donors because that is the part is the part that I have no personal experience on. It is very interesting the differences between the US and the UK. I will have to do more reading on both.

Part of the frustration with egg donation is what we refer our donors as. For us the answer is easy, we are simply our child's mother. We aren't adoptive mothers, we aren't surrogate mothers, we are simply mothers. I know I don't refer to myself as an egg donor mom. I conceived my child, I carried my child, I birthed my child and I am raising my child - so for me I am just my child's mom.

It's easy to get caught up in and be confused by language and verbiage, and that's why organizations like Parents Via Egg Donation are working very hard to create language that is going to be accepted by everyone globally who is involved in the arena of third party reproduction.

For me my egg donor is my egg donor. I am the mom:)

"For me my egg donor is my egg donor. I am the mom:)" ...that's how donors think about it too. And we don't mind being referred to as 'egg donors'. Women are very proud to be donors and it's not in any way an insult or diminishing to us. It is one thing using terms like biological parent in debates about ethics, but another using it in everyday language with children.

I am the father to egg donated boys. My wife considers herself to be their real mom and I agree. However, on just a factual basis, I do not ever think the term biological mom should be used when a recipient mother is referring to herself. Bilogical means genetic. Changing definitions is not something that needs to be done. To be honest, they are technially surrogate moms. If we were looking to use a surrogate, and we were interviewing one, and she told me I cant wait to b the biological mother once I carry these kids, I would throw her right out of the house.

Egg donation is a wonderful choice and there is no doubt the woman carrying the babdy affects its fetal growth and enviornment but biological, def not

To the dad of egg donated boys:)

We know that children can have one or more parents, but they have to have two biological parents. In DE terms we use "genetic parent" as the parent who donates the DNA, or egg to the equation. The confusion comes into play because we know that biological parents consist of the male who for lack of a better word "sired" the child and then the female who gave birth to the child. However, with DE the male sires the child but the female who is giving birth doesn't contribute DNA. So as far as definitions go -- the female who gives birth is the biological parent.

Many women are not comfortable referring to their egg donors as a "parent" at all -- because we know that egg donors don't sign up for "mommy duty" So I don't think it's that cut and dry.

I think that 3rd part reproduction especially egg donation needs to develop and implement their own language and definitions as did the adoptive group.

Hi, DonorDiva!
I loved your blog post! We call our anonymous donor "Nel" (Nice egg lady) gives our family a way to respectfully acknowledge her in our daily life...we pray for Nel and her family each night, we talk about "maybe you get that from Nel", etc. The only risk we take is that our daughters may think that dad and I actually know Nel...which is not the case. So we are already laying the groundwork-to the extent possible with three year olds-that Nel is not this wonderful woman's real name, but our loving pet name for her. We'll see how it all pans out, but acually ginving our donor a name, of sorts, took quite a bit of the awkwardness out, especially those in our cirlce for whom third party reproduction is very new, and even somewhat unsettling. it gives them a comfort zone.
Joanie Shook
Mom to DE twin daughters

We are still very new with this, our daughter born through DE is 11 months. I really don't know what to call our donor. I understand the terminology "the donor," especially from the emotional side when opposed with anything "mother." However, I really want to honor my daughter's genetics and much of who she is will be determined by her genetics. Some day she might want to find her egg donor and I want to make sure she knows how much I value that part of who she is. So, I don't want to downplay the importance and value I give to her donor by insisting that she is "just" a donor. Because, to do what she did was huge and has completely changed my life immensely for the better. Without her...gosh, I just don't even want to contemplate that.

More than anything, I am my daughter's "real" mother as I read mentioned in reference to the Velveteen Rabbit. Regardless of the term we use, I do not feel that my motherhood is threatened. I am her mother because I mother her and love her with every bit of my being.

I am using the words "donor" but I am struggling with how to express the deep connection that does exist between my daughter and her donor. One day, if they should ever meet, they will find out how much alike they look. Really, really alike. And, I am sure they will have many other things in common as well. I would like to find a term that honors this.

I will check back to see what people write as I think about this often and know that shortly we will be able to start to talk about this to our daughter. We want to start sharing her story with her as soon as she can begin to understand us. I am practicing now with her, although I know she does not yet understand.

I am also putting a baby book together for her that will include a page of pictures of her donor that came from the donor site. I just want to make sure she grows up as whole and complete as possible. I don't want to set her up for feeling like she can't talk about this with me, or seek out more information about that side of who she is. I want her to know that if she chooses to seek out her donor, she can do so freely without ever jeopardizing or hurting our relationship. I will support her 100%. Whatever she needs, it will be up to her.

Thank you for this post!!!

Thank you so much for your comment!! I 100% agree that "donor" isn't the best term. I just don't know what else to call her. I read someone calling their donor, "Fairy God Donor."

My husband just brought up the idea that it is not about the term we use, but rather how we talk about her. He prefers calling her "donor" and doesn't think that diminishes her role to our child if we make sure to talk about her in our child's story with all of the value we feel.

I like Fairy God Donor! But, since our daughter might choose to meet her in real life, my husband thinks it would build her up as someone bigger than real. I don't know if I agree with him, I was excited about that term when I read it.

We only call the donor the donor....never ever ever ever mother. One colleague of mine, who knows the story, asked some questions about the egg donor by referencing her as the "mother". I smiled and politely said that she is called "the donor"...and in the DE community the birth mother is the recipient of the donor egg like me so I am the "mother". She thanked me for that as she has been wondering how to reference the donor. Our donor also has a biological daughter. That would make our baby have a genetic sibling or sister I guess you could call it. But we will simply reference the genetic sibling as "the Donor's daughter". So we are trying make such terminology as easy as possible. Our donor was annonymous.

Thank you for sharing the term you use for your donor's child. Our donor has a child also and hadn't thought of what we would call him.

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