A time for men to speak up

Spending time in the office today waiting for the software for (yet another) new printer to install I picked up The Gift of a Child by Robert and Elizabeth Snowden.  This was probably the first book ever written for the general public about donor insemination and I remember looking for it in the bookshop of the Family Planning Association just after it was first published in 1984.  I asked for, “a book about AID” (artificial insemination by donor, as it was known then) and was first directed to books about AIDs, before correcting the sales assistant who pointed out Gift of a Child.  This book became Walter’s and my bible.  It was the only evidence we had at the time that anyone else in the world had needed to use a donor to have their family.   As Will was just one we avidly trawled the book for help in sharing information with him.   I’ve just talked to Walter and he recalls, as I do, that Bob Snowden’s script included something about”borrowing seed from another Daddy” but the office copy has a version that is remarkably similar to the language that we still use today.  Who knows if earlier editions did have these words but I do recall Walter using it with Will and wondering how on earth he was going to explain how to give the seeds back!

The page that the book opened at when I picked it up today was very topical.  Recently, we have had several families contact the office with difficulties about ‘telling’ and/or relationships breaking down in the family.  Talking further with the callers we have been finding that these are often couples where the woman has put pressure on the man to have a child…or more often another child, that he is very ambivalent about for a variety of reasons.  Although we would always say that it is never too late to face and manage difficult feelings and situations, the Snowden’s advice from nearly thirty years ago remains true today and of course applies as much to egg as it does to sperm donation –

“As well as seeing DI from the point of view of one’s partner it is also important that each individual recognises what their own attitudes and feelings are; they must be true to their own judgement of what they honestly believe is for the best.  It is unlikely that a decision to have DI will work out well if one of the partners is rushed into a decision by the other, or if one of the partners agrees to the procedure reluctantly or half-heartedly only to please the other.  The time to express any doubts or misgivings is before treatment is begun – it is too late once the baby is on the way”

Just occasionally it is a woman who comes under pressure from her partner to have a baby by any means, but far more often it is men who allow themselves to be bullied into consenting to sperm or egg donation when this is not something they feel comfortable about or they don’t want to have a child – or another child – anyway.  I know women cry guys, I know you would prefer to lead a quiet life and not have to deal with these things but there are times when you either have to engage and make a proper decision or just refuse to sign the papers.  It’s a child’s future at stake here.

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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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One Response to A time for men to speak up

  1. Richard Woolven says:

    Olivia,

    As you know, my family situation is currently changing and this is a subject that I have considered quite deeply in light of those changes. I should point out that my wife never put pressure on me and my enthusiasm for using DI was never half-hearted. I love my children with all my heart and they are the only children I could ever want to have had. So in that regard I don’t feel like I fit into the group of men you describe. And yet what I did do was pressure myself to be ready to start ‘solving’ my fertility issues when instead I should have been coming to terms with them and dealing with them. I should have felt ok to ask my wife for time to grieve and accept and I didn’t. I felt that because I had no issue with using a donor that meant that I must be ready to start treatment. Which I wasn’t.

    If I could offer any piece of advice to men in the situation I experienced it would be to give yourself time. Even if you feel you don’t need it. Because, not wishing to be presumptuous, but you’re wrong. You’re not ok. Your world has changed forever and it always takes time to come to terms with that kind of change. No matter how sure you are you want a family and no matter how ok you are with having a donor. And if you don’t give yourself that time, the stress and pain of treatment could well tear apart the family you’re trying so hard to create, when all you needed was to give yourself a little time.

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