Having Diana: Emily’s story

This is Emily’s story about donating one of her eggs to her friend, Robin. To read Robin’s story, click here.

I’ll be honest. When my friend Robin initially asked if I’d be her egg donor, my thoughts on the topic were naive and idyllic.

“How wonderful,” I thought. “It’s just like when David Crosby donated his sperm so Melissa Ethridge could have a child.”

Of course I would donate my eggs to Robin and her husband Joe. I had known both of them since college and had personally witnessed Robin overcome the disease she now refused to pass on to her offspring. I was honored they’d chosen me to provide this gift.

Two years later, I realize I also received a gift. It came in the form of a healthy child who will carry my genes even though I’m not technically her mother. I didn’t realize during the donation how much this would mean to me now because back then I still thought I had a healthy child.

That was in November 2007.

In February 2008, the month Robin got pregnant, I discovered that my then-18-month-old son, Lucas, had autism. My world came crashing down around me as I struggled to comprehend this new reality while vehemently wishing it’d go away.

In the meantime, Robin’s belly grew bigger. And while I rejoiced in her pregnancy, I mostly mourned the loss of my previously normal, healthy child.

I also wondered if the two events were somehow related, since both debuted during the same month. So I secretly decided that my son’s autism would miraculously disappear when Robin’s daughter was born. Again, naive and idyllic, but also desperate.

While awaiting the birth, my husband Todd and I enrolled our son in speech and occupational therapy. Todd also sought medical treatment for him, flying to Los Angeles to see a world-renowned specialist in autism and related disorders.

I even started going to church-something I hadn’t done since 13. Surely, I thought, the combination of all these actions would produce the desired result.

Just one more event to go: Diana Estelle Carlson entered the world Oct. 5, 2008, a healthy and beautiful girl. But Lucas, despite some gains, still had autism.

It was a bittersweet day.

In the months since Diana’s birth, I kept track of her progress through e-mails, phone calls and photographs.

Finally, in August, it happened. Robin and Joe brought their daughter to Mississippi for a visit. I was excited and nervous: How would I react to this child who was mine yet not mine? Would I resent Robin for getting the good egg, the healthy one? Would I feel anything at all?

My fears evaporated when I laid eyes on Diana, and my heart instantly expanded to make room for her. She is undoubtedly Robin’s daughter, yet something about her face reminds me of my own mother.

And in that moment, I knew that I would always love her without needing her.

I also knew that I had a gift: Robin gave Lucas the sibling my husband and I decided not to have after discovering his autism. She also made it possible for me to have a typical child, albeit in a non-typical way.

And though I didn’t get my miracle the day of Diana’s birth, I did get something close to it the last full day of her visit here. I realized I had never fully accepted Lucas’ autism. I still naively hoped he’d wake up one morning a “normal” child, and that belief prevented me from being the kind of mother he needs.

I cried most of that day, coming to terms with the truth, while Robin consoled me. When I was done, the dark clouds that had trailed me since February 2008 finally cleared. And for the first time in months I saw the sunlight, bright and clear and hopeful.

I finally know that Lucas is going to be OK. I know it’s going to be a hard road, but I know he’s going to graduate high school and possibly go to college. He’ll always be quirky, but he’ll be all right.

And he’ll always have a sister out there to share his experiences with.

That’s worth all the hormone treatments, psychological questionnaires, doctors visits, legal documents and Melissa Ethridge songs you can throw at me.

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