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Open Donation: An Intriguing Option

Egg donation might be celebrated as the most sought after reproduction option of the twenty-first century. It affords thousands of couples the opportunity to have children without having to forego the birth experience and the chance to preserve some genetic link to their hoped for child. Medical practices providing egg donation services and agencies promising to find the 'right' egg donor for couples in need have proliferated in recent years.

Many of these donor programs have followed in the tradition of sperm banking where anonymity and secrecy is de rigueur. With little precedent established for matching donor and recipient, many facilitators are writing their own rulebook concerning policies regarding donation policies and protocols.

Advocates of non-anonymous donation where you actually meet the selected donor has been previously considered blasphemy. Open donation was heeded as an attempt to undermine family values and challenge parental rights and ties. The widespread philosophical bent of secrecy and hidden identification discouraging the introduction of donors and recipients has been passively accepted by those so eager. Couples have been led to believe that they have no choice in the matter.

Hopeful recipients have not been given an opportunity to explore whether anonymous donation is truly in their best interests. Recipients have been convinced that if they never meet or know their donor they and their child will fare better. The claim is that a non-anonymous arrangement would only serve as a disruptive influence on the family further encouraging disassociation. It would interfere with the mother's struggle of entitlement to know full well she is the 'real' or authentic mother. Moreover, the veiled threat is that once a donor is revealed to the recipients, she will always be haunted by her presence and unable to erase the donor's image from her mind's eye.

Another often touted rationale for extolling anonymity is the fear that the donor will be an intrusive influence and want to participate in the child's life or, worst yet, lay claim to the child. Indications in the world of non-anonymity refute this claim saying it is preposterous. Other recipients are troubled by the issue of privacy and feel they would be obligated to disclose to others their reproductive history.

These tactics discouraging open donation unfortunately feed the familiar shame so many infertile couples experience and, that is, not having a baby in the traditional wayÉ.the way most people do it. The powerful yet subtle implication of these messages is that having a child through donation is not really okay and by participating in something that is not okay you is inadvertently doing something wrong or at least questionable.

Asking a third party to help you have a child was certainly not part of anyone's original game plan. Granted to step outside of what we know and have a child in this way raises questions and concerns, and is understandably uncomfortable. Nevertheless, if egg donation is a viable medical alternative for building one's family and makes reproductive sense regarding one's particular fertility problem, then there is the obligation to do it responsibility, with integrity and with one's eyes wide open.

To protect and shield oneself from discomfort by participating in an anonymous donation arrangement may not be in one's best interestÉ.. not for the parents and not for the child. The merits of open donation are potentially profound and worth serious consideration for those pursuing this reproductive option. Open donation is an honest approach in confronting one's infertility and reproductive reality. It forces one to face their disappointment of not having a genetic child and embrace the prospect of working with another woman who is graciously willing to gift her eggs. It is a mutually agreed upon arrangement with women helping women in a profound way.

Non-anonymous donation programs, where donors and recipients meet and exchange information to whatever extent has been mutually decided, is becoming a more acceptable and available avenue for many. The consensus within the mental health community by and large is that individuals have an inherent right to know about their genetic orgins. More and more parent participating in donation arrangements plan to tell their children their birth story. Yet, despite this growing trend donation programs continue their policy of anonymity, which confounds the question, as to what information parents will have to share with their child.

Most programs supply recipients with descriptive profiles of their donor giving medical and sociological histories. Some programs even provide photos of these donors. Reading such profiles or scrutinizing a photo can certainly provide some information but can in no way provide what face to face contact offers.

A child can derive a sense of security in knowing that his/her parents met the donor. It reassures a child that his/er parents, the people he/she trusts the most, have actively made a reproductive choice and are comfortable with their decision and are not in any way denying the family's genetic truth. It also provides an opportunity for parent to tell a child a much more personal and intimate story, which can only serve to strengthen the emotional bond between parent and child.

The sad part is that most recipients shy away from open donation arrangements because they carry and sense shame and fear about having to stray from reproductive tradition. These are not healthy operatives and need to be addressed prior to embarking on an egg donation procedure. Shame is usually a result of feeling like a reproductive failure where fear is the result that their donor will somehow interfere in their efforts to parent.

Shame is an often-heard sentiment in the psychologist office. Women, talk about their inadequacy and failures concerning what they believe to be reproductive givens. It is this sense of not being okay that drives the infertile to hide or mask what they perceive as their personal failings. The work of every woman preparing to receive an embryo resulting from an egg donor is to rid the shame and come to a place where egg donation can be viewed as a reproductive opportunity. Patient's who have e worked through the shame can more easily embrace open donation as a choice. They can look as these other women as helpers and advocates and not persons to be feared or shunned.

For many the burden of doubt lifts when they meet their donor and realize that she is here to help and not intrude. Finding her to be kind, pleasant and likeable is a great relief to recipients. Meeting your donor can take the mystery out of the experience by turning this apparition into something that no longer threatens.

When recipients voice their fears about the donor they often have to do with feelings of inauthenticity and the lack of entitlement. The misguided belief is that a donor that they never meet does not pose the same threat as one they know. It is as if out of sight will be out of mindÉ.. This often backfires because anonymous donors more often than not keep recipients wondering about what they don't know which inadvertently question their legitimacy as the true mother.

It is easy to forget the fact that donors do not have to participate in these procedures to have children. Furthermore, donors are not interested in becoming part of their recipient's family or for that matter claiming the child. Donor's motivations vary depending on a variety of factors. Many mothers who volunteer to become donors view donation more altruistically while non-mother donors may b e more pragmatic in their approach. Donors are not the enemy but are women who believe in helping woman and are proud of their ability to give.

Open donation is a novel concept, which warrants consideration for those embarking on egg donation as a means to build a family. This novel option might make more sense than and anonymous donation. It is important for egg recipient couples to fully examine their motivations for participating in an anonymous donation as compared to a non-anonymous one and evaluate what might be best for the family they are hoping to have.

Non-anonymous arrangements is certainly a more emotionally intensive option to pursue but, perhaps a more rewarding one. There may be more involved requiring a greater outlay of emotional energy. Thinking about what is in the best interest of the hoped for child may very well support the additional psychological expenditure. The benefit and ultimate peace of mind may truly outweigh the costs. Next time a program tells you anonymous donation is better, please stop, evaluate, and explore before you make that decision.