Had a wonderful week in the sun in France but have come back to friends, neighbours and family members struggling with lots of loss – marriages, jobs, a much loved wife, sanity…all of which puts me in mind of the losses involved in infertility and donor conception in particular. Hopes, dreams, sense of self, masculinity, womanliness and control over ones life are just some of the sadnesses and challenges faced by men and women who had thought that in a modern age starting a family – having a baby – was just one of the lifestyle choices they could make when they chose…until they found that they couldn’t. Grieving the loss of the child you had hoped you could create with a loved partner – or for single woman the loss of the hope of finding a partner with whom to have a child – is something that needs to happen before being able to accept the responsibilities that go hand in hand with having a child with the help of a donor. Letting go of ‘trying to create a perfect image of us’ is how one couple put it, which sheds a different light on current debates on just how much detailed information should be available about donors. At a recent open meeting with the HFEA’s Donation Strategy Group, the only donor conceived adult in the room was shocked to find people in her workshop wanting information about shape of nose or ears of donors. ‘Don’t try to make my face’ was her response. ‘What if that child turns out to have the hook nose or cauliflower ears of someone from generations before. Are you going to send them back?’ My own take on having donor conceived children is that it is a wonderful opportunity to accept a new human being for exactly who they are and not to project your own expectations or assume a child will be a mini-me. And those parental responsibilities? Well the most important one is to begin to tell a child ‘their story’ from very early on, preferably being able to include the information, as they grow, that it will be possible for them to have contact later in life with their donor and half-siblings because they chose someone to help who agreed to be identifiable. Some DC adults might refer to this as not passing on a loss to the next generation.
Meanwhile, sometimes it can help the grieving and healing process to have a loss recognised in a slightly more formal way by taking part in a ritual that acknowledges the pain and sadness. I was glad to have brought to my notice a series of Saying Goodbye services in Anglican places of worship around the UK that are open to people of all faiths or none. If you or someone you know might be helped by attendance at one of these do go along or let your friend know about them. http://www.sayinggoodbye.org/