secretTelling your family and friends that you are infertile and going through the roller coaster of IVF may not be a walk in the park, but most people are fairly open with their infertility struggles. When they move to egg or sperm donation, however, many people become a lot more private and may not even be clear why. Creating a Family examined these reasons, talked about the pros and cons of telling your family about using third party reproduction, and gave suggestions for overcoming their resistance on yesterday’s show.*

Why Not Tell

When asked, most people who are hesitant to tell their family and friends that their child was conceived with egg, sperm, or embryo donation express something along these lines:

  • Afraid their family will look at or treat their child differently if they know they are not genetically related.
  • Fear that grandparents will not view the child as their “real” grandchild.
  • Fear that someone will say something to the child to make her feel less valuable.
  • Worry that an unhealthy family dynamic, such as sibling rivalry, will raise its ugly head to play out in this area.
  • Will the fact that the child is not a genetic grandchild affect inheritance?
  • Assumption that family and friends will freak out at the high tech nature of it all.
  • Not wanting to deal with any religious objections to using donated gametes or in vitro fertilization in general.
  • It’s no one else’s damn business.

Should You Tell

Whether to tell your family and friends that you had the help of an egg or sperm donor or embryo donor in creating your precious child is a uniquely personal decision. This is “delicate” information, and not all family and friends can be trusted to handle it with sensitivity. I believe the child has a right to know this information, but your family and friends do not. Truthfully, it really is no else’s business.

The downside to not telling is that you’ll have to waltz around the inevitable resemblance talk (“Where in the world did she get those curls?”) or someone else will spill the beans to them and they will be hurt that you didn’t tell them. You can deflect the resemblance talk with a gently massaged version of the truth (“Hubby’s great great grandmother had some curls.”) or humor (“What can I say, the FedEx guy was really hot.”), and can face the hurt feelings if they happen with a frank discussion of why you wanted to keep this information private. But keep in mind, there is a weight to keeping a secret. It seals you off from getting support and can imply shame. It can’t hurt to carefully examine if your fears are real or a reflection of your own discomfort with egg or sperm donation.

*Creating a Family guest talks about the complexities of telling family and friends about third party reproduction.  Bette Galen a licensed clinical social worker specializing in infertility who has worked at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey for 8 years and has a private practice in Montclair, NJ.