We have just returned from a wonderful couple of days in Cork, SW Ireland. Not only did the sun shine but the proposed workshop for about thirty parents of donor conceived children turned into an event for 130!
About twelve years ago I was first contacted by Angela O’Mahoney, counsellor at the then newly established Cork Fertility Centre. She had come across DC Network whilst reading a magazine at the hairdressers and thought the organisation sounded interesting! We have kept in touch intermittently since then and Angela has been happy to recommend DCN’s web site and literature to the many people needing donor conception coming to her clinic, one of only two in Ireland to undertake egg donation. We actually met for the first time in Dublin in September when Walter and I went to talk with the Irish Infertility Counsellors Association. Angela asked if we would come to Cork to talk about Telling and Talking if she was able to get her clinic to agree to putting on a meeting for parents. She had no idea how many people were likely to come, possibly a very optimistic estimate of 50, maybe a lot less. Of course we agreed.
The date of 1st December was put in the diary and for a couple of months not a lot happened. Then late in November we started getting emails from Angela saying that she was getting a huge amount of interest…the final number the day before being 127! The workshop format we had devised with people dividing into small groups had to be thrown out the window and a hastily devised new programme put together. We were gobsmacked, as was Angela.
Cut to a large meeting room in the Clarion Hotel in Cork, 2pm on Saturday December 1st where the second warning Angela had given us was completely confounded. She had thought only a small number of people would come because ‘Irish people are shy about talking about their personal affairs, they don’t want to meet people they might know who would then know their personal business and anyway a lot of people couldn’t understand why you would want to tell children about donor conception anyway.’ Maybe it was the collective courage gathered from finding themselves in a room full of people who shared their situation, but from the first these parents (and some would-be parents as well) were happy to talk with each other and keep the questions to Walter and me coming fast and furious. They were hungry for information and most of all to know that they were not alone. As one dad said, “I’ve been waiting eight years for a meeting like this, I’m not going to let these people out of our lives now”.
It was a huge pleasure and a privilege to be part of what must be considered a ground breaking meeting in Ireland. The thanks for making must it happen must go to Angela whose tireless work with staff as well as patients at CFC has convinced them that it is in their interest, as well as patients’, to recognise that they are doing more than creating pregnancies, they are contributing to the making of families, and that has long-term implications. Thank you to John and Susan Waterstone, owners of CFC, for being ahead of many of your UK colleagues and backing your counsellor. Also in being prepared to invest in bringing parents together in this way. Who knows what the future might bring with further meetings, potentially with children as well.
Cork itself was a delight with it’s rivers, nearness to the sea and excellent places to eat. We took an extra day and drove out to Kinsale on the coast where the light over the harbour left us speechless and the fish chowder and warm salad of fish with chilli sauce at Fishy, Fishy made for two happy and satisfied diners. We will be back!