Loren was born in 1994, one of the first babies in Australia conceived through embryo donation and IVF. She has an important message all IVF parents need to hear.
One night when I was 13, my parents sat me down. Being the kind of child I was, I assumed I was in trouble.
They both looked serious, but it was my mother who looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. In the months prior she had been providing me with books and one-on-one chats about reproduction. Now, in retrospect, I realise it was to prepare me for this moment.
I CAME INTO THE WORLD A DIFFERENT WAY
Together my um and dad told me that I wasn't conceived the way that my sex education teacher was teaching us about. They told me that I was special. I was an IVF child, and what's more, I was conceived using a donated embryo. To be honest, I was confused at first, but eventually, I understood that my parents had used a developing form of reproductive science to conceive me and that I wasn't their biological child.
I wasn't surprised like many people assume I would have been. I had never suspected but once I knew, it all kind of simply made sense. It explained why all my cousins were adults when I was born, why I was the only family member with brown eyes.
LIFE'S NOT FAIR
It was my first lesson that life could be unfair to good people. My mother had been robbed of her fertility in her late 20s due to early menopause. Doctors never discovered why this had happened, it wasn't genetic. Her three sisters had never had a problem.
As for my biological parents, for their privacy, I won't disclose what led to their need to access IVF. However, after accessing IVF treatments they were granted with twins, followed by another daughter. They were left with nine embryos, which they decided to donate. I spent five years as a cluster of frozen genetic material before my parents were granted access to these donated embryos. I was the only embryo to survive and be successfully transferred.
SEEING THE SHAME AND JUDGEMENT
It wasn't until I was an adult that I realised that some people perceived my existence as problematic or my mother as a lesser being. As a student nurse with a keen interest in pediatrics, I often found myself when on placement asking parents of multiples if they were IVF.
I remember asking one mother who had male and female twins if they were IVF. Her face filled with a kind of fear and she looked at me like she wished at that exact moment I would disappear. She reluctantly confirmed that they were IVF. I smiled and told her so was I, though I joked that being from the '90s I was properly the result of a far more crude and rudimentary science than her children. She instantly looked relieved and the tension fled her face.
It was that moment I began to feel upset and even angry at the ridicule people like her and my mother would have experienced.
I KNOW WHAT IT TOOK TO GET ME HERE
Being a child of IVF has never made me feel ashamed or somehow lesser than my peers. In fact, at times I felt it's given me strength that I otherwise wouldn't possess. I have never doubted that I was wanted, I've always known I was meant to be here on this earth. My conception wasn't down to mystical chance, I had purpose and meaning to both sets of my parents from the moment I was conceived in my little petri dish. Both sets of my parents struggled to have children due to biological issues far beyond their control. Women have told me of the shame they feel when they discover they are unable to conceive naturally or find that they struggle to maintain healthy pregnancies to term. They feel like they have failed at a task all women should be able to perform seamlessly.
INFERTILITY ISN'T A FAILURE
This notion that women are here to make offspring is widespread. It's simply not true. Women are here to live the best life they can for themselves and the people they love, and for some women that includes welcoming children to the world. For others, it doesn't. Both paths are equal and neither path will make a girl a woman. That is something far deeper than reproduction or being able to legally vote.
Finding that you need assistance in conceiving does not mean you have failed, and it doesn't mean any child you conceive through assisted reproduction is in any way "artificial" or different from naturally conceived children. I'm proud of both my biological mother and my mother. IVF doesn't make them any different to other parents, and raising a child that was not her own biological material doesn't make my mother less of a parent.
PARENTING IS ABOUT MORE THAN CONCEPTION
When I tell people about my story I always say my "real parents", and my "biological parents". What makes you a real parent is your ability to love and cherish your child. It's late, sleepless nights spent trying to tame your child's persistent fever. It's changing nappies and getting bodily fluids out of crevices you didn't even know existed. It's coming close to bankrupting your entire family just to ensure your child gets that Lightning McQueen bouncy castle at their birthday party because you know their smile will be priceless.
Conception is what allows us to become parents. It occurs in many forms: naturally, through the miracle that is the advancement of science, or it can happen without the parents who will raise the child taking any part. Conception is vital to life, but ultimately once it has occurred it is a thing of the past and has very little bearing on a child's or a parent's future happiness.
BE PROUD, YOUR KIDS ARE PROUD OF YOU
That my mother endured what she did to become a parent makes me proud. That my father stood by her and never allowed her to doubt herself or give in to the negative thoughts makes me proud. That I get to wake up every day and live a life that is full of adventure, love and fascination make me thankful. Science is a part of me, as are my biological parents. But the biggest part of me is my mother and father and I am so proud of them.
IVF parents, don't ever let those feelings of shame win. Don't ever let another person tell you your own worth or the worth of your child. Whenever you are doubting, know that I am proud of your resilience and sacrifice. And most importantly, know that happiness is yours. No one can take it away with their passing comments or judgmental opinions. It is yours.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and was republished with permission.
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