Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pain from a surprising source

During my own journey through embryo adoption, I've had the pleasure of getting to know several amazing women who have either gone down this path with success, or are currently moving along in the early stages of it. For those of us who have decided upon the path of finding a donor ourselves, there has been one common surprising source of pain: A promising relationship built with a potential donor, only to slowly and painfully realize that the donor has dropped off the face of the planet.

You may be thinking, "How can that happen? These people understand IF and the pain it causes because they've suffered from IF themselves. Wouldn't they know better?" You would think, right? But it seems to happen all of the time. When Kevin and I first started our embryo search in 2012 on Miracles Waiting, we found ourselves contacting a few donors. Some weren't going to work out which was apparent from the get-go. But no matter what you're looking for, when you're in the process seeking embryos you're putting a lot of hope and faith that the answer to your prayers is going to be at the end of your search. You have likely already been down a path full of immense failure and disappointment, and are now embarking on a new (and somewhat scary) path which finally holds promise for you once again.

When a donor reaches out to you as a hopeful recipient, your heart leaps at just the sight of their email. You read every word intently and you let yourself slowly start to just wonder if this could be "it". You exchange emails back and forth, you learn you have things in common, you talk about the paths each of you have taken to get to where you are today. It starts to feel "right."

Then the most impacting thing of all happens: You receive photos of their beautiful children. I can't begin to tell you how meaningful these photos become to the recipient. They become ingredients for daydreams and become burned into the recipients mind. You fall in love. You let yourself believe this could finally be the beginning of an answer to your prayers. You finally have facial features, hair colors, and eyes to put with the dreams you've had all this time. Things seem to be going so well as you build this new relationship and you hit "send" on the most recent email back to them.

You watch your inbox waiting for their reply. But days pass, no response.

You wait and you tell yourself "Oh, they must just be busy."

Several more days pass, no response.

You decide to email again, slowly starting to feel a pit form in your stomach. You start to see your imagined babies faces start to fade away. You decide to email them again and ask them nicely if you can answer any other questions for them, and you wish them a wonderful week hoping it will spur them to respond.

No response.

The donor is gone. They have disappeared. Your heart hurts immensely. You have to break the news to your spouse and watch him feel the deep pain you've already started to feel inside. You start to wonder "What did I do? What did I say? What is wrong with us?" You start to question everything. And unlike infertility itself which is blind to who it decides to inflict pain upon, this kind of pain feels like a direct attack to your character. Or it feels that your potential to be a parent has been evaluated and rejected. You were vulnerable to this potential donor and all you can think is that they didn't like anything that they saw in you.

This happened to us twice during our search in 2012. This also happened to one of my friends who had a donor contact her through her blog. And it recently happened to another friend of mine about a week ago which is what prompted me to write about this now. This appears to happen all of the time and it's very hard to go through.

You would think that a donor would be more aware of the emotional place that a recipient couple is at when they open this kind of sensitive dialog with them. After all, they've been through infertility themselves. So you would think that they would surely understand how hurtful it would be to completely drop away with no response, no explanation. My best guess is that they have changed their mind about wishing to donate, or no longer believe it is a match - for whatever reason. But instead of being open and honest about it, they slip away leaving the recipient to wonder, hope, wonder some more, and then hurt like crazy.

I can tell you first hand that if you are a donor who is in the early stages of conversation with a recipient couple and you have changed your mind, the kindest thing you can do for them is to be honest. If it no longer looks like a match, please be straightforward and tell them so. Please do not leave them hanging. It's a pain that I know you don't want to inflict on another person intentionally. I hope you will consider this advice as you move forward.

We are blessed to have two donor families who stuck it out and kept on going which brought us to the place we are today. I am so grateful that God led us to them. It was meant to be them all along - this I know for certain.

I hope this post helps anyone reading who might be on the other side of the embryo adoption table. Or anyone who has had a potential donor disappear - you're not alone.


  1. Well said...I'm sure it doesn't feel good to admit "Well, we are going another way," but that awful limbomeetsacceptingdisappoint definitely seems worst to me.

  2. That does sound horrible. We only considered one self-match prior to using the NEDC and I believe we mutually realized it was not a match. Glad you finally have your babies matched and shipped!

  3. Thank you for writing this and doing so beautifully! It's so much easier to be told that other options/recipients are being pursued than to wonder what went wrong. Was it something I said? Or did I not say enough? Did they decide they just couldn't let go of the embryos? There are a million questions running through your head when the donors disappear into thin air!! As you know, I've had donors drop into oblivion. Then another donor who was honest and though their reply wasn't what I had hoped for it was so much better than waiting and wondering!
    For potential donors: I can't imagine how hard the decision to donate embryos is as it's such a selfless gift, but please remember what it felt like to be on the other side of IF. We've spent years (like you did) waiting for a child and wondering how and if it will ever happen. Please don't add to that, let us move on to find the embryos that are meant to be ours. :)

    1. It's so interesting to hear that you've seen it go both ways - dropping into oblivion and then another donor was honest. And while it's hard, honesty lets you move on. I know you're on a path to your babies and I feel really good about it, DP. :)

  4. I think I really needed to read this... I only know things from the other side: the fears and complexity and confusion when considering donation...

    1. I have no possible way of knowing how it is on your side of the table. I imagine there is so much complexity and torn feelings when considering donation. The key is to just be honest with the recipient. :) They will understand much better than leaving them to wonder everything that is wrong with them. GL on your decisions around your embies, Laine.