A really hot Monday morning and I’m off to visit the Network family who have lived the longest (apart from my own family of course!) with children who are conceived both with and without donor conception…in this case, egg donation. This interview is one of a series I am doing for a new booklet about and for mixed origins families. Last week I talked on the ‘phone to a single woman, I’ll call her Stephanie, whose double donation child was conceived abroad. She has an older child from a previous relationship. It was a fascinating conversation as Stephanie was willing to be very open about her desperation for a second child and how these feelings had narrowed her perspective to the point where she would have done anything to have him. She had the support of a UK clinic (the one she had previously attended for several IVF attempts) in going abroad but they did not offer any counselling around the prospect of double donation and how conception abroad would put any child she had in a different position from children conceived in the UK. When I asked if counselling at this point might have made a difference she said she thought it would…it might not have stopped her but it would have helped her understand what she was taking on.
She is certainly taking it on now by being open with both her children, having developed some lovely, age appropriate language to talk to them both and having some counselling sessions to help face and manage the reality of her youngest child’s situation. I can’t help admiring her courage and forthrightness in being willing to be so honest with herself and her determination to put her children’s interests first.
But Stephanie’s story does raise significant issues about going abroad for donor conception and maybe even more for the role of UK clinics when they know individuals and couples are going down this path. Some clinic counsellors do see women as a matter of course when they are known to be contemplating going abroad, but they are rare. Much more likely clinics see it as ‘not their business’ or costing them money. They may even stop their counsellors from offering sessions. All clinics are supposed to concern themselves with ‘the welfare of the child’. Sticking your fingers in your ears and going La, la, la should not be option where the future of a child is concerned. How come it suddenly isn’t their business when the clinic is supporting and doing pre-egg collection testing in the UK but embryo transfer takes place overseas?