Over the years as I counseled with donors who had remaining embryos after they completed their family, I became keenly aware of the emotional challenges that donors face as they explore the options for their embryos.
Donors repeatedly voiced to me that they did not want their cherished embryos to remain in frozen storage. Donors often spoke passionately that their embryos were created for life and that so long as they remain in storage their potential would never be achieved. Likewise, many donors chose not to donate their embryos to scientific research. Additionally, a frequent comment that I heard was……”I wish someone had offered me embryos as I probably would not have created our own.” More often than not, the decision to donate is one that is made after much soul searching.
Many donors would like to be involved in choosing the family to receive their donated embryos whereas others feel that the decision is too painful and choosing the family makes it “too real” for them. These families may choose to know about the family, but may not desire to know their identity.
For those families who choose to have an open relationship with the recipient family, there is a wide spectrum in the relationship between the two families. Some may choose to know about the family, but have no identifying information or to desire any on-going contact. Others, on the other end of the spectrum, may want to meet the recipient family and have an on-going open relationship. I have helped families design relationships between the two families initially limited to email contact. Many of these same families agreed that they would like to begin an open relationship and watch it grow to the comfort level for both families. As you can imagine, each relationship is very unique just as the combination of families is unique.
As with any healthy relationship, it is important that each party explore the spectrum of options and come to the decision that is right for each party. Through an open discussion and use of a supportive counselor, many families have found the right level of respect and understanding for both parties.