I’m Pregnant, and My Husband Says We Can’t Tell Anyone About the Donor Egg

My husband and I are thrilled to be welcoming our first child this spring, after an arduous I.V.F. journey lasting nearly two years. We ended up needing an anonymous egg donor, whom we found through an egg bank, to conceive our child.

Select family members and close friends who knew that we were trying are aware that we took this route. However, my husband told me that he doesn’t want anyone else knowing that we used donor eggs, and that he is upset that some people already know. He is afraid that in a few years, someone will let slip to the child that they were conceived with donor eggs before we as parents have a chance to tell them ourselves. He believes we’re violating our unborn child’s right to privacy by sharing this fact with others. His fear stems from an experience in his family in which an aunt accidentally revealed to a cousin that his biological father was not the man who raised him.

I have pointed out to him that what he fears is not likely to happen, that this is our story to tell as much as our child’s; and I’ve reminded him that we should let our child know how they were brought into this world at as young an age as possible, using language they can understand. Further, I wouldn’t have been able to get through this incredibly difficult and painful process without the small group of family and friends we had to rally around us. It was important to me to be able to share the experience with this group, and with some other good, trustworthy and loving friends. He doesn’t understand or respect this and is depriving me of something I hold dear by insisting on secrecy — and this is what hurts the most. I have pleaded with him to see my side, but he doesn’t budge. Out of respect for his wishes, I’ve now kept it from several additional close friends, which has been painful for me.

What could possibly bring him around? Or how could I make peace with his position? And have I really deprived our unborn child of a right to privacy by telling a few people about how the child was conceived? — Name Withheld

From the Ethicist:

When your husband talks about the child’s privacy, he’s suggesting that the child deserves the right to decide (at some unspecified age) who does and who does not know how this conception occurred. Yet we don’t usually think that the basic circumstances of our conception are something to keep secret. In the typical case, people understand children to be the product of sex between their parents. Is that a violation of privacy? It’s true that people who are the result of an anonymous egg donation can keep this fact quiet. The question is what interest it serves.

The way I think about privacy rights is to ask whether someone has a significant, special and legitimate interest in controlling access to a piece of information. If so, let’s try to grant the person control over that information. There are lots of facts about me that I can’t stop other people knowing: that I eat food, go to the bathroom, breathe — to start a long list of things everybody does and everybody knows that everybody does, not all of which are things that you would want to be seen doing by strangers. Does your child have an interest in other people’s not knowing how he or she came to be?

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