We were so honored to have as our guest Lori Metz, Psychotherapist, Author of the book “I Dreamed of You, the story of an egg donor baby”, and host of the podcast LIFE: Live, Insight, Fertility, Experience for an Instagram Live conversation. Lori is working to normalize conversations around third-party reproduction and to make various forms (such as medical and student intake forms one needs to fill about their children or themself) more inclusive of all types of conception, so that no one has to be an ‘other’ in the future.
During our conversation, Lori shared her background and extensive knowledge from her work supporting so many intended parents throughout their fertility journeys, where to find support, and how and when parents can start to tell their children how they were conceived. Check out some of the main takeaways below:
On getting comfortable with your family building path
Lori acknowledges that it can be difficult to come to terms with building a family through third party reproduction when you didn’t think this would be your journey. Still, it’s important to become comfortable with your story and for this to happen, you have to be able to tell your story. Lori suggests writing it down – the process can be cathartic. Getting comfortable with your story helps both emotionally and even physically.
To further enable a feeling of greater comfort and inclusion; on a practical level, Lori is working tirelessly to normalize the conversation around third party reproduction so that intended parents and their children can be represented. This includes working towards more inclusive medical and college forms, rather than having ‘other’ as the only option, ‘donor’ and ‘adoption’ should also be included. As she explains, it’s not just about the forms, it’s about inclusivity, and helping everyone be proud of their story.
On who to tell
As Lori notes, all intended parents are different – some do share their story, while others are more reserved. As she explains, it is, in many ways, a societal issue. Infertility is a hidden illness. It’s a disease – one that people can’t see – and thus one that they often don’t talk about. If someone who’s struggling can become comfortable enough to begin the conversation with a medical or fertility professional or someone else who has gone through it, then maybe they’d be more comfortable talking to friends or relatives about their journey as well. Society is moving in the direction of being more open but it’s not there yet. This is compounded by some cultures not being receptive to third party donor conception resulting in many intended parents’ discomfort around sharing – so we have to be mindful and respectful of that. As Lori says, everyone deserves the right to share what they want.
When to tell your children they were donor conceived – and how
As Lori notes, DNA information is so readily available today, you have to be comfortable with the reasons you are or aren’t sharing information, as well as what to say if your child does find out. Lori explains that children do better when they learn about their history earlier – they really feel comfortable in their own skin if they’ve known about their conception all along. She suggests telling the story to your baby while still pregnant. If you’re comfortable, then your child will be comfortable, and your partner too. In reality, many struggle with how their child was conceived and how transparent to be about it, but there are ways that help make the conversation more comfortable. There are plenty of books available to help you start the conversation but the best story is your own. Lori encourages parents she works with to write their own story. It’s never too early to tell your story (as a bedtime story, for example).
“There are so many different types of ways of having a child and each person’s journey is special”
Where to find support on your family building journey
Support groups are a great way to get the support you need. Individual therapy is helpful too if you’re not comfortable sharing your story in a group. Couples therapy is also beneficial – Lori says she always asks the partner how they’re doing as not many people pay attention to the partner, but they’re going through the struggle too.
It’s also important to remember that you’re allowed to have privacy until you’re ready to share. Sharing what you’re going through with people who are going through something similar to start, can help you feel more understood.
Lori further recommends taking a moment to put things into perspective, rather than telling yourself not to think about something – because that’s impossible. If you find yourself going around in circles, thinking about it too much and feeling overwhelmed, Lori recommends giving yourself a time limit and identifying the components that are making you sad or worried. As she explains, it helps to take it all out of your body, looking at all sides and dimensions and understanding where that anxiety is coming from. If you can understand it and acknowledge it, then you can work towards reducing it.
Exercise, if physically able, also helps. Anything that involves the mind-body connection helps. If you keep your mind and body busy then your mind will not wander to some of the darker or less rational places.
How you can support the initiative to normalize the conversation around third party reproduction
For those who are interested, Lori lists a number of ways that you too can support the initiative, including by signing her petition “Normalize 3rd Party Family Building in Healthcare” and by participating in the letter writing campaign (coming to her website soon!) to advocate to people outside your sphere. The ultimate goal is for everybody to be comfortable with who they are.
Lori’s advice to those still in the midst of their journey:
Thank you Lori for everything you so generously shared and for everything you do in your work everyday!
Learn more about Lori Metz and how she can support you on your journey at lorimetz.net and follow her on Instagram @lorimetzlcsw for infertility support, expert insight and advice in general, and updates specifically on her initiative to Normalize Third Party Reproduction.