All about egg donation

    Carole LieberWilkins, Marriage & Family Therapist, and co-author of “Let’s Talk About Egg Donation: Real stories from real people”

    Everyone knows that a baby is created when a sperm and an egg combine. But what happens when someone wants to start a family and there is no viable egg? This can happen to women who wait until they are over 40 to start a family, had their ovaries removed because of cancer, or have other medical conditions or genetic disorders. It’s also the case with male and some transgender couples.

    In these instances, egg donation is widely used in the U.S., with over 3,000 live births resulting from fresh donor egg cycles started in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017.

    Carole LieberWilkins, a longtime Malibu resident, has just co-written the book “Let’s Talk About Egg Donation” along with fellow expert Marna Gatlin. The book’s chapters include how to deal with an infertility diagnosis, choosing an egg donor, feelings toward the egg donor, pregnancy and age appropriate scripts on how to talk to the child conceived through egg donation. There are long, helpful quotes throughout the book from dozens of different individuals who have first-hand experience with the egg donation process. 

    LieberWilkins, a marriage and family therapist, got into this specialized field of therapy following her own personal experience with infertility. In the ‘80s, she went into extremely early menopause at the age of 30. She and her husband adopted their first child and then she became the ninth person in the world to receive a donated egg which successfully resulted in a pregnancy that produced her second child. 

    She decided to write the book, which took eight years, because, “For two decades, almost every client would ask if I had a book they could read. I wanted to have something to give them when they left my office.”

    There are two common consultations LieberWilkins gets. “The first is helping people get ready to move into egg donation,” she said, “and accepting a child that will not be genetically related to the mother.” 

    The second is giving parents a template on how to tell a child they were conceived with an egg donation. 

    “Lately, there’s been an explosion of people who have adult children that they never told, and suddenly  they find out the child is going to take one of the DNA tests (like 23 and Me or Ancestry),” LieberWilkins explained.

    There are a number of options for choosing an egg donor. Sometimes, a close relative of the family, like a sister or cousin, will volunteer to donate eggs. Other times, prospective parents go to clinics that help match egg donors to recipients in terms of traits and characteristics, like eye color and height.  Donors in the catalogue, so to speak, have been pre-screened on more than a dozen different measures, including mental and physical health.

    “People’s greatest fears are that women donating eggs will one day come back and want the baby,” LieberWilkins said, “but that doesn’t happen. Some donors have a lot of offspring.”

    The degree of openness the prospective parent(s) wants to have with the egg donor is another point for consideration and counseling. Some don’t want to meet or even see a photo of the egg donor. Others request anything from a one-time meeting before the egg donation to an open-ended transparent relationship over the donor’s life.

    “I’m not an advocate of the closed system, but in many situations, the identity of the donor is still cloaked on both sides,” LieberWilkins said. “But sometimes people change their minds over time—they change once that sentient being arrives.”

    “My bent is not political or legislative. I do a lot of lecturing, where I try to get clinics and organizations to be more open in having meetings between donors and recipients,” LieberWilkins explained.

    “Some clinics still have the [old fashioned attitude] that meetings with donors are not what intended parents want—they think they just want a baby,” she continued. “And that’s how the system has been for a long time: anonymous. It’s an entrenched system we need to change. There’s a lot of fear on both sides, and the whole thing needs to be more transparent.”

    LieberWilkins’ basic philosophy and MO is, “I help people create healthy families, not just have babies. And families come in all different ways.” 

    “Let’s Talk About Egg Donation: Real Stories from Real People” is available on Amazon and through Archway Publishing.