Mother through ova donation
Suddenly, one day your instinct of maternity awakens. However, weeks and months go by and even years and the desire to become a mother gets frustrated. The gynaecologist has the answer to so much uncertainty; your own ova do not fecundate. Confused emotions fill your heart and the word ova donation is mentioned for the first time. Another woman´s ova could fulfill your desire of becoming a mother. They are not your own genes but does it really matter?
Many more women go through this situation every day. A late maternity, a fertility problem …. However, the new Spanish Reproduction Assisted Law, which is one of the most progressive in Europe, offers you one last chance: a donated ovum. IkiGarcía is a psychologist and mother of twins through ova donation, besides she is the facilitator of the ova donation psychology forum foroes.net.
By Rosa Maestro
.- Why and when did you decide to resort to ova donation?
“When I was finally determined to become a mother, I realized that I could not get pregnant with my usual partner. We decided then to see the social security doctor specialized on infertility, and they carried out some tests and the diagnosis was an alteration in my hormonal values, but they did not tell me anything else. I was 40 years old at that time. As a result of another problem of my partner we were diverted to another autonomous region and I was turned down because of my age, 41. Then I went to a private clinic of which I had very good references; they examined the tests of the public health system and they told me hat it was difficult for me to get pregnant with my own ova. It was a big disappointment for me because I was persuaded that there would be a solution to my hormone problem. The gynaecologist spoke to me very clearly and straight forward and told me that I could try it with my own ova but it depended on how much money I was ready to spend and how many times I was willing to try, but the probabilities were scarce. Then he spoke to me about ova donation and its feasibility. I was rather reluctant at first and I asked what he would do in my case. He told me straight forward, ova donation. I wanted to die. My partner was determined from the very first moment but it took me some time to make up my mind. I remember it was late October 2006 and I did not go back to the doctor until January 2007”.
.- What information did you get?
“Along that same visit the doctor spoke to me about the highest degree of success in each attempt, which was about 50%, although other doctors say it is higher, but this is what he said to me. I was so disappointed that I can hardly remember how my visit ended. He told me that the donors were chosen according to ethnic criteria, hair and eyes colour and blood group whenever possible. That was all. He is a good doctor but he did not give me much information. I did not ask many questions either because I was blocked but at the same time I thought that it was not necessary to ask because that was it. I did not consider it necessary either to ask many questions later on. Why? It was something which was not under my control and I felt that I had to follow the gynaecologist´s advice and trust him. When I decided to do it, he also told me that there was a waiting list. It was very surprising to me that I did not feel like asking anything knowing the way I am. The only thing I did was let myself be guided by what the doctor was telling me to do at each moment. Nothing else. Later, I have got a lot of information through Internet and the infertility forums. When I got pregnant I was told the age of the donor, 22, because I asked if they thought I had to have the amniocentesis done. Due to the fact that the donor was very young and I was expecting twins, I decided not to have it done”.
.- How many times did you try?
“The first attempt was in April 2007 and it was negative. The second one in June followed by a curettage in August and differed abortion. The third was in February 2008. This time I got pregnant and they were dizygotic twins. In the two first attempts they put me two embryos in each one. In the third, they put me three, because it was the last attempt I was going to take. I was looking forward to getting pregnant of twins having in mind my age, 43, and I did not want to have an only child. Furthermore, I asked about the probabilities for the three embryos to become fertile and they said they were very low. My twins were born in November, boy and girl, and now they are four months old and they are the best thing that has happened to me in all my life”.
.- What do you know about the donor?
“Honestly, very little. Well, when I was going to the doctor I saw some women that I knew were donors and I know they are all young because the maximum age to be a donor is 35 and most of them are students, mainly nursery students, and that they are paid about one thousand euro for each donation. I also know that some of them do it more than once. They undergo medical tests but I do not know exactly what tests and that they are asked to fill in several forms. What I really know is that they are very generous women because the treatment is hard, and thanks to them, women like me have the possibility to give birth. What they do for us is so precious that nothing can pay for that”.
.- Will you tell your sons about their origin?, and do you share this with anybody else?
“I will tell my children a tale on how they came to this world and I hope to do it soon when they are small and I will try to adapt the information to their age. I believe that they have the right to know this part of our lives and that I must not hide it.
As far as other people are concerned, so many strong things have happened to me so far that this time of my life I do not care about people´s gossips. I have told it to my parents, my only brother, a cousin, an aunt and some of my very close girlfriends. I am aware that people talk about that at my back and that I am the source of funny remarks but I do not care at all. My mother does not understand why I have told it to all these people but she has not told me or showed me that she would have preferred not to know it. The truth is that all of them without any exception have understood it very well. My parents love their grandchildren and I have never noticed anything strange, although I know that my sons arouse curiosity, I have not had to hear remarks of any type so far.
However, my partner´s family knows nothing about it. I do not feel confident with them because I do not see them often and my partner prefers not to tell them. He does not find it necessary and I respect his decision”.
.- If your sons wanted to know their donor one day because the law allows them to do so … how would you react?
“Well, I do not think that they will be able to obtain this information when they grow up, since the laws do not have retroactive effect. If my sons tell me that they would like to get to know the donor I will totally understand it, I will ask them about the reasons, I will find out what type of fantasies lie behind this desire in order for their expectations to be realistic. Supposing that they could be able to reach this information, there is still the possibility for the donor not to want to know them and this is something they will have to count on and respect. But if it were possible and the donor agreed to it, I would respect them and I would accept it, as long as it is clear to them that we are not talking about another mother but the person who donated her cells so that their mother and father would be able to bring them to this world. And I would do all my best so that this potential meeting would not harm us emotionally as a family.
However, I do respect their right to let them find out if it is feasible. Right now, they do not have this right and this is something they will have to assume if things continue like this, should their desire to know their donor arises. I admit the possibility that, when they are old enough to understand what ova donation means, they might face some kind of problem but their father and I will be right there with all our love to help them overcome it”.
Differential psychology has tried to clarify what features correspond to genetics and what others have to do with the environment in research carried out with adopted twins, split parents and adopted sons. The conclusion is that you cannot attach a certain percentage to genetics and another to the environment but research shows that the environment is much more important than what it might seem. We attach too much importance to genetics but we forget that the environment can modify it.
We inherit physical features but not our full personality. We are talking about a cell, which besides mixes with that of another person to create a human being. In short, we inherit the colour of the eyes, skin and hair, the height, some diseases or even a tendency to them, which the environment modifies. Since how to be a mother is not inherited, you have to learn it by imitating your own mother or taking information from other mothers. Environmental learning has a big weight on it. Even the gestation process and delivery have an influence on the human being who is going to be born. Also, some gestures, face expressions, tics, expressions and tones and shades of voice are learnt…
.- As a psychologist, why do you think there are still many women who are reluctant to ova donation?
“I think that we are all reluctant to ova donation, as a general rule. I always say that we are talking about something very difficult to grasp as it involves a very strong emotional impact because we are facing the loss of our reproductive function in its most primitive version, genetics. We lose the possibility of being reflected genetically in our sons, and although it can also happen in a natural way (genetics is kind of whimsical), the certainty we have with another unknown woman´s ova make us feel inferior. In fact, having to resort to fertility treatments undermines our self-esteem but ova donation is the worst of all. There is also a fear about the unknown, in this case the donor. That is why we have to face a kind of mourning and go through several phases until we assume the reality and are ready to start the treatment. The duration of these phases varies in accordance with your personality and the circumstances of each of us. There are women who are unable to assume it at all and prefer not to have children or adopt, because the possibility of giving birth to children whose genetic component is not theirs involves a kind of rejection. Furthermore, there are many prejudices and above alll the fear of gossips. In fact, I know that the number of couples who decide to hide it, even to their own children, is larger than that of those who decide to tell the people. We are facing a taboo which is still difficult to break and they prefer to use psychical mechanisms of negation, such as keeping the secret to everybody, even to their own son”.
.- So, is it necessary to think about it carefully before taking a decision?
“I think it is better to undertake the treatment when your ideas are clear and the mourning has been overcome because otherwise there might arise hidden or unconscious rejection problems towards those sons as they grow up. In my opinion, ova donation and sperm donation are types of treatments which must be very mature before undertaking them. We must not forget that the first thing the family and the people in general do is try to find who the children take after even from the very first moment they are born. Another question which arises some doubts in women is the fact that the medical family record of their children cannot be known in case the doctor asks to complete their own medical record. Being the donor unknown is another source of doubts and insecurity. In the forums on infertility there are women who would prefer the donor to be somebody within the own family, a sister or somebody close, but the Spanish law does not allow it. I have also seen messages from women who would like to be able to choose their donor, as if it were tailor-made. So far this is impossible. There are others who would like to have the opportunity to thank the donor in writing or personally, to know some aspects of her personality such as likes and hobbies to be able to tell their son when he grows up in case he asks, but right now this is not feasible either. Some of them even fear that their son might fall in love with someone who comes from the same donor when he grows up, and they might have problems of genetic affinity without knowing it. That is to say, many fantasies and all kind of doubts about the donor are likely to occur. At the moment, the law foresees the possibility of breaking the anonymity should a serious disease arise when there is no other alternative but refer to the donor”.