This is Robin's story about having her daughter through an
egg donated by her friend, Emily. To read Emily's story, click
My daughter Diana has the most amazing eyes. Liquid, like a
reflecting pool, they change color: brown, hazel, green, blue. Up
until a month ago, I wasn't quite sure where she'd gotten them-my
husband's are blue and mine dark brown.
I learned the answer in Mississippi as I swung with Diana, who
turns 1 on Oct. 5, and my friend Emily on the front porch of her
"They're just like my dad's," Emily told me.
"Huh, that's interesting," I said. "I thought your dad had green
"Nope, they change. Like when he wears a green shirt, they look
really green. But sometimes they're just hazel."
Interesting, yes. Surprising, no.
Throughout the nine months Diana grew inside of me, my blood
facilitated her development and the food I ate nourished her. But
as she grows from baby to toddler to kid to teen, I expect she will
exhibit many more of Emily's traits.
After all, it was Emily's genetic material that helped create my
It was not an easy decision to choose Emily as an egg donor. It
was not an easy choice to use a donor.
But my husband and I are nowhere near alone in making it.
According for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's
Assisted Reproductive Technology Report, in 2007-the most recent
data available-donated eggs resulted in 7,484 live births.
For many women, egg adoption is the remedy to infertility due to
advanced age. For others, like me, it provides the opportunity to
have a biological child free of the risk of inheriting genetic
But simply getting to the point where egg adoption and
reproduction were feasible was a struggle my husband Joe and I
fought for years.
We confronted the same complicated issues as most when we
decided to have a baby: Did we have enough money, was our home big
enough, were we ready to surrender our youthful independence?
But for us, those questions were a series of lesser issues
leading up to a more profound hurdle: How can we have a baby who's
biologically connected to us while sidestepping the very real
possibility that our child would inherit a disease that killed my
father and very nearly killed me in 2005?
Within my own genetic code lies a mutation that causes a host of
problems, among them bone marrow failure and a slew of blood and
lymphatic cancers. Called Dyskeratosis Congentia, or DC for short,
the average sufferer lives into their late 30s. My father made it
to 43. I would have died at 28, if not for undergoing a stem cell
transplant to fix my defective bone marrow.
That mutation, which was only recently identified, is passed
along 50 percent of the time. If a child of mine would inherit DC,
there's no guarantee he or she would develop bone marrow failure.
However, having gone 10 rounds with death and witnessing my
husband, siblings and mother watch helplessly as I slowly knocked
down the disease intent on killing me, I could not chance the
possibility I would propagate it.
I would not allow DC to burden the life of my child and her
family as it has my own.
Adoption is the obvious choice for many couples intent on having
a child free of a flawed genetic heritage, and for more than a year
Joe and I discussed it in earnest. However, we kept running up
against two main impediments.
Domestic adoption agencies do not readily place babies into
families in which one of the parents has an extensive medical
history. Correspondingly, we couldn't ethically bring an unrelated
child into a family where there exists the chance that at too-early
a date it would become a single-parent household.
A biogenetic link-biologically mine and both biologically and
genetically Joe's-was crucial to give us the assurance that no
matter what the future held, the connection to our child would be
Even if my baby's eyes, hair, fingers, toes and laugh weren't
genetically mine, my biological functions would enable her being.
My blood would fuel her development in the cocoon of my womb. My
breasts would produce the milk that nourished her after she was
Indeed, the sheer power of my love enabled her existence.
More than my love, of course, contributed to Diana's being.
Every woman we knew-sister, mother, cousin, friend-offered in some
way to help us reproduce. So when it came time to choose an egg
donor we had many, many options.
There are many benefits to choosing an anonymous donor: We'd be
able to choose qualities we wanted our child to have and the donor
walks away after the process $5,000 to $7,000 richer, leaving us
free from potentially uncomfortable moments surrounding
child-rearing and ownership.
But for me and my husband, two journalists endowed with an
insatiable lust for knowledge, anonymity made little sense. At
base, we'd be in the dark about our child's medical past. More
importantly, our child would be left empty-handed when and if he or
she wanted to pursue a relationship with his or her genetic
Looking at women we knew as potential donors, Emily stood out as
the best candidate. A friend for more than a decade, Emily has dark
features like my own, is also a writer, enjoys a similar bohemian
lifestyle, was in a strong marriage and, most importantly, already
had a son.
After explaining all of this to her in the spring of 2007 and
asking if she would be willing to supply Joe and me with an egg,
she replied, "I would be honored."
And, in true, altruistic form, Emily added with a chuckle, "I'm
not using them anyway."
Before we could use Emily's eggs, she and her husband, Todd, and
Joe and myself had to undergo psychological evaluations-as
individual couples and as a group-by behavioral health specialists
affiliated with our reproductive endocrinologist at Northwestern
Medical Center. This step ensured we knew the complexities of the
relationship we were about to enter into. It also allowed us to
share our goals about future relationships with the child. Among
the issues we discussed were to tell or not to tell, when to tell,
how to tell and the role Emily would play in our child's life.
Next, we had to enter into a legal contract. This document laid
out the terms of the egg donation: once retrieved, the eggs were
our property; we would not re-donate any unused embryos; Emily
relinquished any parental rights to the child; and several other
issues that have been subject to litigation for other couples.
We had to buy a separate insurance waiver to cover Emily should
she suffer any side effects, such as ovarian hyperstimulation
syndrome, which can occur as a result of the ovary-stimulating
hormones and involve severe water retention and swelling of the
Finally, Emily had to self-administer hormone injections for
several weeks, relocate to Chicago for two weeks so medical
professionals could monitor the egg maturation rate through vaginal
ultrasounds and undergo mild sedation for the invasive retrieval
While all of this might seem daunting, especially to someone who
had agreed to donate her eggs altruistically, Emily was
As we sat around our Evergreen Park dining room table one
evening in July two years ago and talked about the future, it
became apparent that it was a hopeful eagerness shared by her
husband-they were about to embark on an endeavor that would not
only grow our family, but their own. With any luck, their son Lucas
would become a big brother and they would bear witness to a new
life whose very existence was rooted in them.
The first time I looked at my daughter, I was filled with
wonder. She was a 6-pound, 7-ounce dream made real, the embodiment
of possibility, an unrelenting hope that persisted despite
overwhelming physical restrictions.
And the fact that my spirit and body brought forth this life
produced a proud satisfaction that surmounted any of my other
This grateful joy fuels the love I feel for Diana. Its intensity
is frightening and the thought of not having her in my life causes
my throat to tighten.
Which is why it's so difficult to imagine my little girl one day
wanting to be a part of her genetic mother's life. But it's a
reality I will most certainly face.
The majority of couples who have babies using an adopted egg
decide never to reveal their decision. Those watching a pregnant
mother's belly swell with life and deliver a pink-skinned infant
would never think to question its origin. No one did in my
Message boards dedicated to pregnancy and motherhood via an
adopted egg contain numerous posts from women who have chosen not
But as the bearer of a potentially deadly genetic mutation who
has suffered for years with hormone therapy, blood transfusions and
ultimately received a cutting-edge, life-saving procedure, secrecy
isn't the answer.
I want my little girl to know the circumstances behind her
creation. I hope she understands the reasons we made the choices we
did. I pray she appreciates she will never suffer the same physical
problems as her mommy.
As our baby grows, Joe and I will tell Diana her special story.
At 1, she's too young to comprehend genetics, but within the next
few years we will begin the delicate task of explaining her
Early on we'll talk about trees and acorns. We'll tell her that
all trees have them, but sometimes those seeds don't grow. Mommy is
like a tree with seeds that didn't grow, so she needed another
tree's acorn to have a baby. Or we'll tell her mommy's like a
potter but didn't have enough clay to create a beautiful pot, so
she had to borrow some.
The details will become more specific and scientific as Diana
matures but she will always know that more important to her
creation than a borrowed acorn, clay or egg was her mommy's
That love accompanied me as Joe, Diana and I traveled to Emily
and Todd's home, where they met for the first time.
It was an essential meeting because I feel that Diana's comfort
with the fact that she shares genes with someone other than her
parents depends on knowing Emily. She will need to understand that
her family tree extends beyond Illinois, south into
As Emily held my daughter for the first time, I did not
experience any feelings of inadequacy that I was somehow lacking as
a mother or Diana would be better off with the woman with whom she
shares a genetic heritage. Instead, I felt grateful that she would
never feel unloved because she has double the family looking out
And later that night, almost exactly two years after Emily and
Todd and Joe and I sat around our Evergreen Park dining room table
talking excitedly about the future, we sat around theirs in
Mississippi and talked jubilantly about the present.
Members of Diana's family all, through the miracle of my
daughter, we are now inexorably linked. We are more than just
friends. By definition, we are family.
Robin Huiras is a freelance writer.
See more of Robin's stories here.
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