It was great to meet with old friends in the fertility support world at the Fertility Show yesterday. But even more rewarding were the conversations that Emily, the two Carolines’ and I had with visitors to the DC Network stand. These were heterosexual couples – he usually shy, the female partner more familiar with the language and feelings around egg or sperm donation; lesbian couples, sometimes with a tricky backstory of other children from previous relationships, and single women, hopeful of starting a family but often sad at the absence of a partner. The questions are often similar, either with a practical bias like which clinics have the shortest waiting lists or more nuanced and tentative, filled with the uncertainty and enormity of the step they are taking. It is easy to slip into a kind of ‘patter’ but so important to keep in the forefront of ones mind that for THIS particular person or couple, all these questions and feelings are raw and immediate and need responding to with compassion and sensitivity. It is exhausting to work at this level and I was shattered at the end of the day (as were the others) but in the commercial environment that is inevitable at such ‘shows’, it felt very important that the DCN stand should be a place of refuge from the hard sell and somewhere where the future of families, rather than ‘just’ the making of a baby, is held in mind.
It was very pleasing to find that the news that egg donation is now properly available in the UK with waiting lists in many clinics at well under three months, was reaching the public. We definitely had fewer people coming to the stand who thought that their only option was to go abroad and two women told me directly that hearing my talk about openness and the availability of information for donor conceived people, had changed their minds about egg donation in Spain. Of course DCNetwork is not ‘against’ people going anywhere they choose for fertility treatment, the organisation simply believes that it is important that people understand the differences and what they might be taking on for the future by making such a choice. And thank goodness there is real choice now.
Unfortunately, the dinosaurs are still roaring about the impact of the ending of donor anonymity on the availability of sperm donors in the UK. In an article on Cryos the world’s largest sperm bank in Saturday’s Guardian, Dr. Richard Fleming from Edinburgh firmly puts the blame for shortage of donors at his clinic at the door of changes in the law. Doesn’t he know that colleagues in England have discovered that by targeting a different sort of man and changing the practices of the clinic, for instance so that they open at times convenient for donors rather than themselves, it is perfectly possible to recruit identifiable donors. Why is it that lazy journalists seem to prefer to print the bad rather than the good news?