I’ve done some mulling over since the taping of the Katie Couric Show, and have simplified this issue down to the basics. Here are my thoughts:
Getting to spend time with Janet, Jim, and Brittan before, and after the Katie show was inspiring. Because Jim has a genetic connection to his daughter, I was more focused on Janet, Brittan’s mom, as many of the non-genetic parents in donor families seem to struggle much more with the idea of their children connecting with donor relatives. Decisions about donor conception, including the ones about connecting to unknown relatives, can be complicated, but I suggest we can simplify these decisions down to just two choices, love or fear.
When looking at the choice that mom Janet made, to open up her life to her egg donor, I see it as choosing between love and fear. Fears might include complicating your life, or opening your family up to a situation that might be out of your control. The truth is that as your child grows up and heads into the world, these concerns, as well as a plethora of others, are realized regularly, in our everyday lives of raising children. So we can keep our kids safe, at all cost, or give them opportunities to expand themselves in the world, and learn about their own power, strength, and their ability to open themselves up to love.
Certainly, when faced with opening our lives to unknown genetic relatives, we might feel fear, confusion or worry. We can make choices solely based on these feelings. We can let our feelings of insecurity as parents hold us back. What if my child likes them better? How will the dynamics of our family be changed? What if my child realizes that I haven’t been a “perfect” parent? None of us have been “perfect” parents- and meeting the donor isn’t going to out this fact (those with teenagers can count on them to do this!).
We have the opportunity in these situations, to make our choices coming from a place of love, instead of from fear. We can choose to see the opportunities in reaching out and connecting- in expanding our child’s, and our own sense of family. We can be open to this new idea of family and see how it actually might strengthen our relationship with our child, not threaten it in any way.
When we watched Janet, we saw a confident and strong parent. Did she have fears and hesitations? Yes, most certainly. Did she realize that the benefits for her child would largely outweigh any concerns she might have had? It sure appears so. We watched Janet be empowered as a parent, and witnessed her confidence, love, and support. She had the grace to not only meet, but to completely embrace her egg donor JoLana, on national television no less. We felt her sense of gratitude, and wonder, as she looked into the eyes and held the hand of the woman who made it possible for her to have her beautiful daughter.
Janet rose to the occasion, and was therefore empowered in her role as parent to Brittan. She put the needs and desires of her child (to seek out and connect with her egg donor) above those of herself and this is the ultimate sacrifice that parents make for their children. It is also the greatest gift we can give to our children, and to ourselves.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ~ John Lennon