Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why does genetics matter to me?

Everyone who has used or considered using donor eggs (or donor sperm) has thought about their answer to this question. I figured I'd share my reasoning, since I've been very vocal about the fact that I'm really struggling with admitting that donor egg is our best option and, as a result, giving up my genetic connection to my child.

My father is a Holocaust survivor. He was born in 1940. When my grandmother was 8 months pregnant, the Nazi's stormed their city in Poland, so my grandparents and uncle fled. Thankfully, they fled east, to Russia, and ended up in a border dispute town in the Ukraine, where my father was born. When they were captured, rather than being sent to a concentration camp, they were sent to a work camp in Siberia, where they persevered and lived out the years of the war. They then traveled to Germany, where they spent 3 years in a Displaced Persons camp before coming to the states in 1949.

Three of my four grandparents came to the U.S.A., from Poland. They were the lucky ones. Many, many members of our family did not survive the war. This is on both my mother and my father's sides. I have an image in my head of a tree, a family tree. And, next to the tree, is a pile of broken-off branches. That's what Hitler did to my family - broke off huge branches of the family tree which can never be reattached.

This family history has always been important to me. I have always been fascinated by the survivors who made it to this country and how their branches have grown and thickened, as children grow up, get married, and have babies. And, the fact that it is and always has been important to me makes it all the more painful that I'm losing this battle to infertility.

Those branches on which I sit in my family tree are in jeopardy of not thickening. It is almost a given that neither of my siblings will ever have children. I only have 2 first cousins and, although married longer than me, neither (1 five years older, 1 two years younger) appear to be moving towards building their families, nor do either feel this strongly about the family roots thing as I do. The continuation of at least 3 of my grandparents branches rests on me. My grandparents siblings branches have all grown, while theirs remain stagnant. I would be remiss if I didn't point out that NOBODY has put this pressure on me. It just is what it is and it's important to me.

I have such pride in my family, in who I am, in where I come from. It's not just my mother's curly hair (which I got from her), my fathers ability to wiggle his ears (yep, I got that one, too), or my dimples that I hope to pass on. It's that strength and determination of my European Jewish ancestors that I want to be born into my child.

This is what makes the decision about whether or not to give up on my eggs so very difficult.


Dagny said...

"I have an image in my head of a tree, a family tree. And, next to the tree, is a pile of broken-off branches. That's what Hitler did to my family - broke off huge branches of the family tree which can never be reattached."


I so understand. My family is from Finland. My great grandfather was executed by firing squad in the revolution. Even though my brother has 2 girls I still feel like I am letting my people down.

Your story brought me to tears. TEARS.

This is so not fair. It sucks. And it's just wrong.

And I think we both deserve to put some limbs back on the tree.

I'll be hoping for you.


Dagny said...

Oh, and I dont' think I expressed...NOT THE SAME.

What was done to your people is beyond hideous. I have chills thinking about what your ancestors went through. :(


Tabitha said...

I agree with you completely. Don't give up!! You will be in my prayers!

Busted said...

This is a truly amazing post. And for what it's worth, I don't think you owe it to anyone to explain why genetics matter to you. "Normal" people that just decide to get pregnant and do so, never have to explain it. (I'm happy you did though, because it was so moving).

(((HUGS))) to you however you continue your journey.

Kami said...

I don't really understand what it is like for you having not gone through - or had my family go through - a similar situation, but I can imagine. For me, it isn't so much of passing on my family's genes, but my genes. Occasionally, I would like to be part of that chain that goes back in time, but often I think about the crappy health issues my family has. For me, I suppose it is more vanity than history.

I hope you get your miracle and can pass on those family genes.

Do you mind if I submit this post to Bridges? If not, could you send me an email giving me permission?

shiner said...

I can't imagine what it must be like for you. I was torn apart about giving up on my own eggs for years and I certainly do not have the family history you do. I do however have a grandfather who started an aircraft company. Our company planes were flown in world wars and are still used to train up and coming fly boys. I am very proud of that. Still, absolutely not even close to what you have expressed in this post. I agree with "Busted", you should not have to explain...it's natural not to want to give up on your own genes. Over Thanksgiving my closest family members were talking about how my SIL and BIL's children look so much like them. They even turned to me and asked if I agreed. No one understands how it feels to carry a baby from donor eggs unless they've been through it.

Modern Orthodox IF said...

Wow! that was really moving! I totally understand. I's so so sorry! It must be so tough for you!! Good luck with your decision!

M. Joule said...

What a touching story...I understand your struggle. ((HUGS))

~Jess said...

*hugs* while we're dealing with the opposite (donor sperm) I can completely understand wanting to pass along the genes of those who went before you. This is a very beautifully written post.

Prayfully your dream will come true.

Sasha & Mark said...

I am so sorry you are struggling with this decision-- it really is not fair. You have a lot to be proud of with your family heritage, and it is natural to want to pass that on to your children. I am hoping for the best for you, no matter how your journey continues.

Selmada said...

That is a truely amazing story of a family that would do anything to survive and continue. I can see how it makes it harder to lose that genetic tie.

Do what you need to do. It will be right for you.

There is a chance, although it would take a long time, to find a donor with a similar family background. I know it wouldn't be the same, but maybe it would help.

I'm also going to repeat what I said above "That is a truely amazing story of a family that would do anything to survive and continue." Anything, to survive and continue. Branches can be also strengthened and continue to grow with a graft.

Best of luck with your decisions, they are not easy ones.

Ms Heathen said...

This is such a moving post, Lisa. As several other commenters have already said, it seems very unfair that, while those not afflicted by IF take for granted their ability to pass on their genes to their children, you are faced with this very difficult decision.

You carry with you such a powerful legacy of survival, and I can completely understand your desire to pass on that legacy to your children. I also loved selmada's suggestion that branches may in fact be strengthened and can continue to grow with the help of a graft.

We are all here to listen, and to support you as you struggle to come to a decision as to what feels best for you.

Emily said...

This is such a beautiful, thoughtful and heartbreaking post. Thank you for sharing your family's story with us.

I know the choice you are facing is one of the most difficult you will ever deal with. I am here for you where ever this journey leads...


Lollipop Goldstein said...

It will never be an easy choice; there will be so much lost as well as gained by going with donor eggs. But I believe in my heart that the most important parts of family--the stories, the lessons learned and passed along, the skills, the memories--those will all still be passed along to your children.

Kristin said...

What an incredible post. It sent chills down me. I agree with what Mel said and think that, although donor eggs would mean a genetic loss to the family tree, donor eggs would (hopefully) give you a family to pass the traditions, stories, and tenacity on to. {{{Hugs}}} and prayers while you make your decision.

Marc & Amy said...

I came over from the roundup to say this is such a lovely post. that image of your family tree is so very powerful.

wishing you peace with your decision, whatever it may be.

littleangelkisses said...

This post made me pause and think. I sometimes get frustrated at my husband's wish for a second child that is genetically related to him. We've considered adoption but when we really sat down to talk about it, it came out that he feels like he needs to have another genetic child...it has to do with things that, coming from a large family, I don't understand. But your post helped me to see things from another perspective. Thank you...

the Babychaser: said...

What a lovely post, and what an interesting point of view. I never considered WHY I wanted to pass on my own genes--certainly it has little to do with my fractured and fractious family. My husband's family can trace its roots through the Mayflower to England and back into the 15th Century. And he and his brother (who has had one child who might not be able to reproduce) are the last of the line. But he doesn't care about that so much. Maybe because, unlike a family that has fought through a Holocaust and survived, his family history doesn't really shape who he is.

But we desperately want a genetic child. For me, it isn't about wanting my genes as much as it is wanting his. I fell in love with HIM, I married HIM, and I want HIS baby. It breaks my heart to think that we might have to adopt genes to replace his, just to have a child.

I'm really glad you're exploring all of your reasons, and that you're still considering all of your options. None of this is easy, but I do believe that you'll be happy with whatever decision you make, even if you make sacrifices as monumental as what you describe.

Anonymous said...

From a biological stand point it makes complete sense. Yet there is another branch to the tree--and its nurture.

As we get married, and have children the blood line becomes more and more diluted down the line. There is little of my great great grandparents left in me as there have now been 2 additional families add to the blood line since their offspring.

However their history through stories, and photos, and even a family tree are a part of me. Not because I have a direct genetic linkage, but because of the family history being repeated.

Your child, should you decide to use donor eggs will be house in your womb, thus even though he/she doesn't have your genetic material as a building block will be nourished by your body, and from the blood flowing through your veins.

I understand why the idea of biology is important, but don't give up the dream based on that alone.

Smiling said...

Oh what a powerful post. I am here from Mel's blog and I read this with a heavy heart.

Donor eggs are a part of my world. I am the youngest granddaughter in a family I am so proud of. Only 1 of us grandkids has had children. I so want to pass on the genes that my grandparents carried through the wars. Well in my case, I guess I should say wanted to.

Oh the image of the family tree is heart breaking. They say the past is the past, but it isn't. The wars and hideous times do reach out to complicate the pains and joy of the modern day. Best wishes to you and your family. It sounds like you come from a very strong family. All the best in this trying time...

Anonymous said...


Please come and visit. If you're even thinking about donor eggs, this site will help you through all the doubts and questions you might have. There are a bunch of lovely women there that have btdt....

Best wishes...
Josephine723 (from the Nest)

Linda said...

An amazing and beautiful post Lisa. It gave me chills.

niobe said...

This is an amazing and beautiful post.

Now, I realize that what I'm about to say may be stupid and simplistic and, if so, you can just ignore it.

Like you, my family background is Ashkenazi Jewish. Like you, many of my relatives did not survive the Holocaust.

I also think about all the other pogroms and periods of persecution that Jews in Europe suffered over the ages and think of all those centuries when small communities of Jews generally lived apart from the surrounding community and rarely intermarried.

As a result, almost all Ashkenazi Jews have common ancestors and a similar genetic makeup. In fact, because European Jews were a small, isolated community for so many years, they are often used as the focus of genetic studies.

I like to think of it this way: basically, at some level, European Jews are all cousins.

If you were to decide that donor egg was an option for you and you were to choose a donor with an Ashkenazi Jewish background, you would, at least in some sense, be continuing the larger family tree.

Like I said -- if this sounds stupid or doesn't resonate with you, just ignore it and pretend I didn't say anything.