It was exhausting but fun at the Fertility Show today. For most of the seven hours the DC Network stand was inundated with people wanting to talk about their need for donor conception and the four of us who were staffing it talked until our throats were sore…we did a lot of listening too! Unlike yesterday, when it was mostly people needing egg donation, today there was a pretty equal distribution between heterosexual couples needing sperm or egg donation. It was good to meet and listen to younger men who are infertile and who did not seem to have difficulty talking about it. This is a very positive change that we have seen developing over the last few years. We also spoke with many single women and lesbian couples as well.
I really enjoyed sharing the seminar talk with Zannah and the audience were entranced by her. Many people said in the questions following and when they came to the stand afterwards how very reassuring it had been to hear Zan’s very laid back approach to her origins. A real relief and liberation from the over-analysing they are usually involved in. She earned a particular personal round of applause when, in answer to a question, she explained that she did not feel her sense of identity was compromised by not knowing anything about her donor. She feels that identity has much more to do with the quality of relationships in the family, with friends and with the experiences she has had.
Leaving my colleagues to talk to would-be parents, I went round the stands to talk to UK clinics about their egg and sperm donation waiting lists and what they thought about the recent HFEA decision to significantly increase the money available to donors. Different responses from each clinic, although universally they had had a large number of enquiries from potential egg donors. As one donor co-ordinator said, “Those who mentioned the money are unlikely to be the ones who actually come through,”… once they realise what is involved in the invasive procedures and the requirement to be identifiable to a child from 18. This was reassuring, although another one said that she felt uncomfortable about turning potential donors down – even if she instinctively felt they were not the right people – if they wanted to go ahead once they knew what was involved. I was pleased to hear that the same person advised some 18 year olds she had seen recently to discuss it with their mum and come back in a year if they still wanted to donate. One clinic doctor, talking to me almost as the show closed, so as shattered as I was, admitted that his clinic had been paying sperm donors £250 (per cycle of visits) plus expenses and at these rates the £35 per visit was likely to find them losing money now. He said his clinic director would have a zip put on his mouth if he knew he had told me this! To be honest, I don’t think for one minute that they are the only ones.
It was a privilege to be able to talk to so many people on such a difficult journey. Somehow things were just so much more straightforward when Walter and I were on the same road thirty years ago. No sperm, nothing moving there, lots of strange shapes…no option, donor sperm or adoption. Cruel, but somehow possible to adjust to. These days things are so often not so clear cut. So many options, so many choices.