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Is keeping the 'secret' really protecting your peace or just leading to more frustration?

Dear Prudence,

My newborn son is donor-conceived. I’m single. I had, I thought, been very clear with my parents and close friends when trying to conceive (I only shared my life journey with a few people) that I wanted paternity kept private. I just feel that it’s no one’s story but mine/my son’s—either people know me well enough to ask me or don’t need to know! If I was in a couple, no one would be asking “Was it IVF?” In my own life, I haven’t really had invasive questions about paternity. There’s only one friend who really probed when they asked about paternity. I made it clear I wasn’t going to share and then they stopped asking. I told my very few close friends who did know that, if anyone asked them, they could say I was single by choice and if people pushed, to respond either to ask me myself or say I was keeping it private.

To be clear, I know people will make assumptions—what I don’t like is the idea of conversations about such a personal thing taking place when I’m not part of that conversation. I also wanted it to be up to my child how much/what/when he tells people in the future so I wanted to keep the people that knew to a minimum. My parents agreed but now the entirety of my parents’ friends seem to know (at least 100 people). At a recent party, people I hadn’t seen in years approached me and congratulated me on the pregnancy while also making it clear they knew about my IVF journey. My parents insist they didn’t tell anyone other than two of their friends—but, prior to me actually being pregnant, did share that I was considering solo parenthood via IVF. So while they may not have directly shared the circumstances when I was actually pregnant, they certainly laid the groundwork and don’t seem to have laid down any expectation for my privacy—and reading between the lines, haven’t done any damage limitation when people have assumed!

The other day, another friend came to me with questions about IVF because another friend told her I’d done it… I don’t even think I’d told that friend so assumptions were presented as fact! Do people just not respect privacy or was this always an unrealistic ask on my part? It seems the ship has fully sailed. I’m really upset and frustrated, especially with my parents. But perhaps that’s ridiculous as obviously my baby came from somewhere and I’m single. Am I being unfair? Is there any way of reclaiming the privacy I want?

—Permission to Share

Re: Is keeping the 'secret' really protecting your peace or just leading to more frustration?

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    banana468banana468 member
    First Answer First Anniversary 5 Love Its First Comment
    They aren't from the stork.  People are just bound to ask questions so you need to be prepared for how to handle the response you want to give even if it's to nicely tell them to STFU. 
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    mrsconn23mrsconn23 member
    First Anniversary First Answer 5 Love Its First Comment
    I understand LW's desire to keep this 'private', but they also should give their parents more grace.  This isn't a common situation.  It can be hard to talk around it sometimes and they may have slipped up and said, 'too much'.  I'm sure it wasn't malicious. 

    I feel like LW may be overthinking the whole, "OMG these 100 people know and are all going to call him a 'donor baby' and then he'll be ruined for life."  He's gonna have questions when he gets to a point where he meets other kids and realizes that 2+2 =/= 4 in his situation.  It's not a bad thing, but you may be answering his questions before anyone in his life may say something to him about his origins. 
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    This person really badly wants to control everything about this. "...what I don’t like is the idea of conversations about such a personal thing taking place when I’m not part of that conversation."

    Okay, and I get that, no one loves the idea of someone gossiping about them, but you actually cannot control that. You can either feed people accurate information or leave them to conjecture. You can shut down conversation with you, but what you certainly can't do is control whether they talk about it without you.

    People want to understand the situation because it's uncommon. I don't think that in most cases they're even being too nosy. It may help them know how to support you and your son! Someone came to you looking for support and advice! Just come up with your stock replies and bean dips if you must.
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    I think the LW was very unrealistic in thinking this would be kept a secret.  Even by her own account, there were several people she told.  

    Yeah, yeah.  I'm sure all of them weren't supposed to tell anyone.  But that just isn't how human nature works and here we are.

    The cat's already well out of the bag.  True, if the LW doesn't want to talk about conceiving through IVF that is absolutely their right.  But it's probably less annoying to tell people and satisfy their curiosity then it is to keep the subject a mystery.  I think the fastest way for people to stop talking about it is to give the bare facts.  They will move on after that.

    This question is also going to come up for her son YEARS before he even understands what IVF is.  Much less is old enough to be making decisions about who should/shouldn't know.

    He should be told an age-appropriate version early on anyway.  And little kids aren't exactly known for their discretion.  
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    I mean, would she rather they assume it was a one night stand? 

    We have a family friend (I thought she was my aunt until I was about 8) who has always been single and has a child. I remember being a teen when she got pregnant and asking my mom about it. Her response was "She either had a fling or went to a sperm bank, and she's living on a teacher's salary. You do the math." 

    People are going to be curious; that's totally normal. That doesn't mean 100 of her parents' friends are going to start cornering the kid when he's 6 to tell him about how he came to be. 
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    levioosalevioosa member
    First Anniversary First Comment First Answer 5 Love Its
    LW needs to chilllll. And realize that the second she told anyone, the secret was out of her control. What did she think people would think? There were two options for having a biological kid here. I am having a hard time understanding why she is so upset by this. Like the alternative was either something super dark, or a one night stand? People are going to ask. I also don't know about all of this hand wringing "donor baby" talk. 

    I also don't understand getting upset if someone comes to ask you about IVF for their own knowledge. They probably aren't coming to you in a great space of fertility and are really trying to grasp the alternative treatments. Have some kindness. 


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    If people ask you about IVF why not say “I think there are a ton of resources online that will be way more useful.”

    But also you think about yourself so much more than anyone else is. Truly. 

    People get excited about babies. If they know you’re single they’re bound to wonder because humans are curious gossipy folk and it happens. But if you really don’t want anyone to know you shouldn’t have said anything, to anyone. Show up with a baby and say they just arrived and you couldn’t be happier. 
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    Also- no kid gets to decide if people know about how they were conceived. You making it seem like some big secret and that’s probably going to do more damage than just saying “I’ve wanted a baby forever and made that happen. Science is awesome and I’m so glad baby is part of my family.” 
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    ei34ei34 member
    First Anniversary First Comment First Answer 5 Love Its
    It’s a pretty natural question to have.  But I’d come up with a response if you don’t want to tell people. 
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