Even When IVF Works, The Shame and Guilt of Infertility Still Linger

Building a family looks different for everyone, but for my husband and me, we needed a helper.Life After Infertility

Where it all Began

I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (POF), or early menopause, at the age of 25. For me, POF means that I have no eggs of my own, so when my husband and I wanted to start a family, we needed an egg donor.

After long hours of weighing all options and making a pros/cons list, we made our decision and chose our donor. I will never forget that moment because it was the final step that we needed to complete before we could finally start the IVF process.

Fast forward 2 months, and we were blessed to become pregnant on our first IVF cycle. We now have a 22-month-old daughter who has completely changed our world.

Infertility that Lingers

Many people would think that everything should be fine by now; we have a family that we have always hoped for!

But honestly, I am still not fine.

Infertility, in any form, isn’t something that just goes away overnight with a positive pregnancy test, birth or adoption of a child, or becoming foster parents. Infertility lingers, and so do both guilt and society’s stigma.

For me, being a DE mother (Donor Egg) has burdened me that sense of guilt and stigma, but I am learning that no matter what we do in life, someone will always have an opinion. So, we have to choose what is best for our family.

One of the very first struggles I had to work through is a common misconception around DE IVF:

“Once your child is born, the love for them is so overwhelming that it will negate any other worries you have in regard to them loving you back.”

I can speak from experience that this is not always true. Yes, the minute they placed my daughter on my chest after birth the love overflowed, and I felt complete. I couldn’t believe my dream had come true! But, what doesn’t stop is the ever-growing worry whether your child will love you the same way since you didn’t contribute to them genetically.

It is easy for others to say, “They will love you; you’re their mother!” because they don’t understand the sense of loss that you feel at being unable to contribute from the very start of their life through the egg. This alone causes worry and guilt that can fill up your heart and soul if you let it.

And unfortunately, I did.

It overtook my thoughts, my actions, and my emotions and started to taint my perception of my attachment with my child.

I struggled seeing how I contributed to her life; I questioned my worth as a parent. Then I began to question if she will truly love me

Will she? I still wonder daily.

Working through this process has been no simple task for me, but watching my relationship with my daughter blossom and learning about Epigenetics has transformed my thoughts.

Epigenetics

For reference, Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code. So, what does that all mean?

For DE IVF mothers who carried their child, epigenetics explains how the DNA in our womb impacts our child’s DNA. Even though our DNA (i.e. DE mothers) cannot be transferred to our child, it can modify the way our child’s DNA is expressed, thus allowing our child to have many similarities to us that are truly influenced by us.

Case in point: my daughter has blue eyes. My EXACT blue eyes.

Her eyes are my saving grace.

Keep Moving Forward

The worry about your child loving you is honest and raw. Some days, that’s all I thought about. But as the days moved on and as my love overflowed by leaps and bounds for Penelope, I saw her love grow for me in return.

What I also learned through those months, is that she loved me from the very beginning. She didn’t have to “think” about if I was her mom; she knew I was. Resting in that knowledge makes me feel like the true mother I am.

Yes, this seems so personal to share. However, if someone had shared this information with me, I wonder if the process then and the days after would have been easier and less stressful.

My hope is this helps someone struggling with infertility to realize that your body is not truly broken or failing you. Hold on to love and hope, and know that you are not alone on this journey of motherhood.


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Emily is an ER nurse turned stay-at-home mama to a beautiful & spirited daughter, Penelope, and wife to an ER Physician. Prior to staying home, she was in the ER setting for over ten years, where she met her husband in 2015. She's an Iowa native, but new to Cedar Rapids since 2013. In 2018 she started started an Intentional Motherhood blog called OakB.Co with the intention to encourage, help, and energize mothers while giving them tools to lessen their workload, help build an authentic community, and inspire them to realize they are enough. She's a busy mama who pretty much lives on coffee and donuts!