One of the questions I get asked all the time by people who are considering using a donor to build their family is whether or not they will love and connect with their child the same way they would a biological child. These questions usually come from people considering using donor eggs or donor embryo (but men who are building a family using donor sperm question it too!).
The short and sweet answer is YES.
The longer answer is yes, and here is how.
Are you familiar with attachment theory? Attachment is “an emotional bond that connects one human being to another” (Ref 1). John Bowlby was the first person to define human attachment and it has now become the foundation of exploration of attachment in prenatal settings as well.
Prenatal attachment, as defined by Helen Mck. Doran, Ph.D and Anona Zimerman, M.A. is:
““an abstract concept, representing the affiliative relationship between a parent and fetus, which is potentially present before pregnancy, is related to cognitive and emotional abilities to conceptualize another human being, and develops within an ecological system.” (Ref 2)
This was first observed by a nurse, Rubin, who observed women’s development of the maternal role and concluded that bonding happened before the baby was born. She identified four things women do before birth that aligns with attachment:
Seeking safe passage for self and baby
Ensuring that the baby is accepted by significant others
“Binding in” or bonding with her child
Giving of herself (adjusting her nutrition, sleeping more, taking care of herself, etc). (Ref 3)
If this is happening before birth, I believe it is also happening during your infertility journey. Even before pregnancy, both you and your partner begin to attach cognitively and emotionally to your future child. You start to make sacrifices for them before they are even here (by spending money on fertility treatments, doing all the shots and procedures, etc.).
My cycle was matched up to our donor’s cycle so while she was going through the process of having her eggs retrieved, I was also preparing my body for an embryo transfer. Every doctor’s appointment, every shot, every pill, every suppository (if you know, you know), connected me more and more to our future child.
The day of our donor’s retrieval, the calls from embryology, the day of our transfer...each of these moments connected me to our little embryo we hoped would stick. And these little moments of connection happened over and over again. Our positive beta, graduating to our OB, ultrasounds, on and on.
Just like we bond during pregnancy and after our child is born, bonding starts to happen during the process of creating your child too. I strongly believe that the moment I decided to use a donor was the moment I started to become invested. And it was that moment, that I started bonding with my child.
So, to answer your question “will I bond with my donor conceived child”?
The answer is 100% yes.
Ref 1: Prenatal Attachment: Can This Influence Future Human Relationships? Accessed September 27, 2021, https://www.ifwip.org/prenatal-attachment/?cn-reloaded=1
Ref 2: Doran HM, Zimerman A. Conceptualizing Prenatal Attachment: Toward a Multidimensional View,Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health. 2003;18(2):109–129, January 2003, accessed September 27, 2021, https://www.proquest.com/openview/98800dbe63605d06f6aa9817c031f8ac/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=28214Ref 3: Brandon, Pitts, Denton, Stringer, Evans. A History of the Theory of Prenatal Attachment, Journal of Prenatal Perinatal Psychological Health, April 27, 2011, accessed September 27, 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083029/#R33