There’s a regular little column in The Guardian Weekend mag called ‘What I’m really thinking’. This week it featured, The IVF Child. Not donor conceived but straight IVF, parents own eggs and sperm but conceived in a petri dish rather than as the result of a sexual act. Interestingly enough the column started with the person saying he or she had been joking on Facebook about sex among their parent’s generation (of course no-one over 50 has sex!) and how they couldn’t bear to think about it. All very normal, but then the person goes on to say how worried they feel about IVF kids not having yet lived an entire generation, that s/he feels like a lab mouse and how is it possible to know that their genes have not been compromised in some way by being ‘made’ rather than coming into being in a ‘natural’ way?
This kind of thinking is of course fascinating to a parent by donor conception. Our assumption is that we are the families that have the really life-changing decisions to make and ours are the children who may have difficulties with the way they were conceived. How dare a person conceived with their parents own gametes feel this way? Why aren’t they just grateful to medical science and glad to be alive? Of course it is outrageous to even think these things but only too easy to set up a hierarchy of pain and medical interventions to assist conception with sub-IVF procedures at the bottom, donor conception alongside surrogacy at the top and straight IVF somewhere in the middle. Without the use of a donor the family ends up all being genetically related to each other so what’s to worry about?
But clearly this person does feel anxious and worried about whether there are unknown medical implications lurking for their later life as a result of having been conceived this way. Interestingly s/he also refers to knowing they were ‘different’ in early life because their parents clearly worshipped them – being the baby they had nearly never had. This made them rather spoilt and demanding because of being so cosseted. Some therapy has apparently helped but his/her parents do not know about this. Two things occurred to me on reading this. One, how important it is that our very wanted children – whether donor conceived or not – are treated like any other child. Worship isn’t good for anyone. The second is that some DC adults will say that they cannot tell their parents how they feel about being donor conceived for fear of hurting them. This IVF conceived person seems to be saying something very similar. All parents who have used assisted conception need to be aware of this.
And my final thoughts are that this is one IVF conceived person’s view. It is entirely valid and worth listening to, but it does not constitute anything more than the perspective of one person. And that is the difficulty with the accounts by individual donor conceived people. Each is important in its own right, everyone is entitled to be listened to and have their feelings validated, but it is only when many, many people have made their views known and ideally brought together by an independent researcher, that we can really understand the wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings. There is not one truth.
I’m off tomorrow on a final jaunt of the summer and look forward to being back on 11th and 12th before Walter and I go to Limerick to talk to Irish parents about ‘telling’. That will be another story.