"Will I love the child?" "Will I be able to bond with them?" I get asked this a lot by women considering using an egg donor. These questions are heart-breaking. I often get a lump in my throat when I'm asked these questions because I know the place they are coming from. The woman asking is almost always broken; broken by the long and painful process of infertility. By the time a woman is considering egg donation she has usually tried for years to conceive with their own eggs and it has not worked. She's peed on too many negative pregnancy sticks, she's held it together too many times when asked when she is going to have children, she's cried all day and night with fear that they will never be a mother and now. So they are deeply sad and having to come to terms with loss of the hope of having a child with their own eggs. They are changing their lens on parenthood from a genetic child to a donor child. That switch is full of fears and the question of whether they will love the child or be able to bond with them is top of mind.
Truthfully I don't know. What I do know is that studies of women who used an egg donor to have a child suggest they do love and bond with the child. Three studies of egg donation parents suggest that women have slightly lower anxiety and depression and similar or higher parental satisfaction than women who conceive their child(ren) naturally or with IVF (own eggs). Further, there was no different in relationship quality between parents. When mother-child interactions were studied, mothers by egg donation differed from mothers of naturally conceived chidren in having lower confidence. This difference was not signidicant once the mother's age was controlled for, suggesting that the lower confidence of mothers by egg donation can be attributed to older age rather than egg donation per se. It seems mothers are similar no matter the genetics of their child. (Reference: Long Term Outcomes of Children Conceived Through Egg Donation and Their Parents: A review of the literature. Imrie S, Gomobok S. Fertility & Sterility 2018:110(7); 1187-1193).
I have children and one of them is not genetically related to me. I've been her mom since the day she was born and can't imagine being who I am without her. My other children are genetically related to me (my eggs) and I'll admit I do find it fascinating to see my genes (good and bad!) manifest in another living being. It's cute that one bites her nails as I have since her age, and it's neat that one has my eyes, and it's annoying that one inherited my underbite. People will comment on my similarities with my genetic children and many times on my daughter who is not genetically mine. People are funny that way. This stuff is all just "neat" and represent about 2% of my satisfaction as a parent. These traits have no baring on love. Love is different and is deeper than physical or behavioural traits. Love is bigger and more visceral.
I am sure there are donor egg mothers who haven't been able to bond with their child, but I'd be surprised if there are many. After all, the kind of woman who waits this long and works this hard for a child has a lot of love built up that she is ready to share with a child.
So, when I get asked these questions about bonding with a child who is not genetically related, I always pause. I don't bring up my experience because it's not about me. I sometimes mention what studies have shown but that feels like too sterile a response to something that deserves more. I usually just pause, swallow and say "I am sure you will."