The following is the first in a series of postings from Beverly Hills Egg Donation staff psychotherapist, Brenda Fahn-Hardt M.S., MFT. Brenda comes to us with years of experience working exclusively with egg donors and couples dealing with infertility issues. In this, and in posts to come, she will address some of the most common psychological and emotional issues that come up in her work with Intended Parents.
Intended parents usually come to infertility services after spending years on an emotional roller-coaster. There are several emotional and psychological issues that intended parents typically encounter during this process. The ones that I encounter most in my practice are 1) Dealing with the grief of not being able to conceive your own biological child 2) The anxiety associated with choosing a donor 3) Deciding whether to meet the donor during the process 4) Fears of not being bonded or connected to your child and 4) Deciding if, when and how to reveal to your child that an egg donor was used in their conception.
The journey to the egg donor option can be arduous for most couples. The realization that you are unable to conceive without the assistance of a third party can be internalized in numerous ways – the most common emotions are feelings of failure, inadequacy, humility and anger. When couples arrive at an infertility office, frequently they have not dealt with the trauma and pain that usually exists. I always encourage couples to experience their unresolved grief before getting too far down the road in the process. However, in many instances, because couples have been waiting years to conceive a child, they often feel compelled to jump into the next stage without processing their feelings. It is common for couples to get caught up in the frenzy of doctor’s offices, tests, shots and drugs while neglecting to take a step back and let oneself absorb and process the grief.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote the classic treatise on dealing with grief. In her seminal work, she identifies the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In a perfect world, an individual would experience these stages sequentially. Yet, each of us approaches life’s complications in our own way. The process becomes inherently more complicated when dealing with two individuals simultaneously, given the complicated dynamics of relationships in general. It takes an enormous amount of patience and understanding to respect and understand your partner’s process. Therefor I encourage couples to attend support groups and couple’s therapy to assist them through the grieving process.
The goal in the last stage of the grief process is acceptance. Acceptance can take on different outcomes for different couples (or single parents). The one constant is the reality that one is unable to conceive his/her own biological child. When one comes to this acceptance, there are different paths from which to choose – using an egg donor agency and/or surrogate, adopting a child or choosing not to have a child. Whichever path is chosen, you want to be confident about your decision and optimistic about your future.
- Brenda Fahn-Hardt M.S., MFT