The importance of listening

It’s always important to listen to children…really listen to the feelings behind the words.  Actually, it’s always important to listen to ANYONE.  It isn’t always comfortable or convenient to hear what they have to say or how they feel, but listening, acknowledging their story and their feelings is what we owe everyone…although the willingness and the capacity to do so is becoming rarer in this fast moving life.  Donor conceived adults who feel aggrieved about the way they were brought into the world are speaking more loudly to us now than ever before.  Parents by donor conception don’t find it easy to hear what they say, but it is nevertheless important for us not to close our ears. There are lessons to learn about openness and of using a donor who is mature enough to understand the value  of being available to 18+ adults.  This is particularly challenging for those going abroad for donated eggs or sperm to countries where only anonymous donors are available.  It is impossible to know in advance whether the child you may be lucky enough to have will be someone for whom the information about their donor is very meaningful.  Or whether they will be like our son Will for whom knowledge about his donor is simply not of interest.

The stories of people like Will came particularly to my mind this morning when turning to my favourite Saturday breakfast reading material, the Family section of the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/26/my-real-dad-steven-gauge-adopted      On the front page was a huge picture of two men with the headline, This is My Real Dad.  It turns out that Steven Gauge was conceived at the tail end of the sixties (nearly wrote sexties) in that spirit of ‘free love’ that was kicking around at the time but his mother remained single and did not meet the man Steven refers to as his father until seven years later.  Steven has never felt the need to find his biological father and clearly this man has never had the need to find him.  Steven’s new father adopted him and they have had the ups and downs of a normal father and son relationship since then.  Steven is now a dad to two children himself and still does not feel the need to know about his genetic background or what kind of a man his bio-father was/is.

I know many, many donor conceived young people and adults who, like Steven, feel very comfortable with who they are, do not feel there is a hole in their lives or that information about their donor will help with a sense of identity.  They may have some curiosity about their donor…or more often about half-siblings, but these are not pressing concerns.  They certainly do not feel that being donor conceived has had a negative impact on their lives, and I have heard several say that they would use donor conception themselves if they found it necessary.   It is much more comfortable of course for parents to hear the views of this group of people.

By and large the DC adults who are unhappy about their situation are those who found out late and often in difficult circumstances.  Sometimes families were clearly dysfunctional, although not inevitably so.  I have certainly known those who were told or found out in traumatic circumstances who have managed to process the information and their feelings and do not now feel angry or aggrieved.  And there are those who will never forgive.  There is at least one DC adult who writes widely on these matters who says he had a great relationship with his parents and was completely comfortable with his origins up until having children  himself.  At this point he felt very keenly the loss of the genetic link to his bio-father and now seems to believe that deliberately separating natural ‘parents’ is the wrong way for children to come into the world.

As I said earlier, we cannot know how our children are going to feel.  We can love them to bits, help them feel secure and confident and in doing so give them tools of resilience, but we still cannot know how they will feel.  What does seem important is to listen to ALL donor conceived and adopted people, no matter how uncomfortable this is,  and try to make decisions that are in the best long-term interests of our children and the whole family.

This is my 100th post.

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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 The importance of listening

  1. Kriss says:

    Congratulations on your 100th post!

    It can be hard for donors to really be sure how they will feel afterwards. On the one hand you have the case of the Irish sperm donor who ended up suing for access, and on the other there is someone like Cathy (Sidaway) who is happy to meet and be involved in the life of the little boy conceived from her eggs, with no sense that he’s her child – and all the shades of grey in between. The fact you’re a grown adult with access to counselling makes a big difference, but life can always throw you a googly.

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