Embryo adoption allows families to experience pregnancy and give birth to their adopted child. However, because you are carrying someone else’s embryo (in other words, a donor embryo) your child will have genetic differences. This reality often scares potential adopting parents. Will this child feel like my “real” child? Will this child be so different you cannot love them the same as if they were your “own?” Will your family reject them?
In her new book, Three Make Baby: How to Parent Your Donor-Conceived Child, Jana M. Rupnow, LPC, discusses how families will have to go through the stages of acceptance when adjusting to these differences and new family life. Almost like what people go through during a cultural adjustment. “In a larger sense these stages are the process of grieving, letting go, and acceptance. You may have chosen donation so your family would be more alike than different, but it may still take you time to get used to the idea of your new family” (Rupnow 79).
Here are the stages of accepting your child’s genetic differences, as outlined in Rupnow’s book:
1. Anxious Excitement
You are finally going to become a parent through embryo adoption. You’re enjoying pregnancy, having baby showers, preparing the nursery, gathering the essentials, and counting down the days until you get to hold your little one for the first time.
2. Parent Shock
Now your child is here and the reality of parenting sets in. Exhausting days, sleepless nights—your patience is being tried and your time is over taken by this new addition. Your child’s birth may have also brought up some unresolved infertility grief or memories of a lost child. Rupnow explains that when time goes on and the novelty of the situation wears off, irritating differences may stand out more.
3. Adjusting and Reframing
This is when you start to process your grief fully and start accepting those differences that seem too much to handle. You can reframe those differences into thankfulness that another family gifted you your child. And use those differences to help your child feel connected to their genetic family. You can also celebrate the similarities you do share, knowing that you share those similarities because you raised your child.
When your grief is processed and your bond with child is strong, those irritating differences you once noticed do not seem all that important anymore. They are loved because of who they are, differences and all.
Rupnow, Jana M. Three Make Baby: How to Parent Your Donor-Conceived Child. Rupnow and Associates Publishing, 2018.