‘Telling’ donors own children…plus more offspring views

Although I have stepped back from the front line of DC Network, one of the continuing great pleasures of my long association with the organisation is the contact I have with people overseas.  Recently Kate Bourne the author of the lovely book Sometimes it Takes Three to Make a Baby emailed to ask if I knew any publications to help donors tell their own children about their role in helping another family come into being or for the children themselves.  Kate now works for the Victorian Assisted Reproduction Treatment Authority (VARTA) in Melbourne Australia and she says they are increasingly being approached by donors with requests for help of this sort.  Sadly, I had to tell her that I am not aware of any publications of this kind, the only resource I know being a small amount of information and guidance on the web site of the National Gamete Donation Trust.   I suspect that the new book Finding our Families, being published by the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) in December will include something of this sort, but I can’t be sure.

Providing support and resources for donors and their families certainly chimes with the current zeitgeist in the donor conception world.  Recognising donors as real people and for their role in the foundation, if not actually the development, of families is something that prospective and actual parents are increasingly understanding.  It may not feel comfortable but it is real and needs to be managed, particularly for those people who have conceived in the UK since 2005 and whose children are going to be able to know at 18 the identity of the man or woman who gave their gametes so generously to help bring them into being.

Kate also drew my attention to a series of short films of donor conceived adults talking, taken at a recent meeting for prospective parents in Melbourne.  As usual, there are a range of views and the two who had not found out about being donor conceived until they were adults, have quite mixed feelings.  The two others had been told from a young age. Both have now met their donors, something that remains unusual although not unknown in the UK.  What came over very clearly is how very important it is for parents to deal with their own stuff BEFORE having their children.  One girl was very tearful as she talked about a situation that continues to this day where part of her family still do not knowing that she is donor conceived.  She assumes that her parents are ashamed of using donor conception and in turn she has had to battle with the shame also.  Shame.   Have a look.  They make an impression  http://www.varta.org.au/experiences-of-donor-conception/

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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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6 Responses to ‘Telling’ donors own children…plus more offspring views

  1. Kriss Fearon says:

    I remember working on that project with UK Donorlink (as was) back in 2008 when I was still involved with the Trust – and you also gave feedback 🙂 Something that could be improved on I’m sure, but at least it’s there. There’s also a great piece of writing, possibly in the blog, from a sperm donor about telling his wife and getting her agreement for him to donate, and how they handled the whole situation together. It is really important to have these conversations.

    Lovely videos – although sad to hear the experiences of finding out that were not so great.

  2. marilynn says:

    I know that yall mean a lot of the stuff you say figuratively, but it never takes three to make a baby, it takes two for the moment anyway. It can take three to raise one maybe but when it boils down to it only two make the baby and anyone else involved is encouraging or assisting but they would be lying if they said they made one. i wonder why if reproducing is not suppose to make people parents why do people who dont reproduce use vague tricky figurative phrases that imply that they reproduced not the donor? its often written as if the donor assisted that person in reproducing when really they asisted the donors reproduction by paying the lab fees. its important to remember it takes two healthy reproductive systems to create a third person

  3. marilynn says:

    I am very curious to know whether its a true sense of naivete on the part of the donor or whether its real arrogance. The fact that they don’t want to raise some of their children does not change the fact that their children are all equally relate to them and their relatives. They will still be full 1st cousins to their sibling’s children and full grandchildren to their parents and technically though they might hate to admit it, full children to themselves. The fact that they don’t want to raise them or think of them as their own children is just how they happen to feel about some of their offspring and the question really is, what makes some of them more valuable to them than others?

    As far as I can tell we have a cultural bias towards the offspring we create with people that we are married to. For years unmarried people were told to give up their children to married people who wanted them and then later on in life they’d keep the children they had created with their spouses after they’d gotten married. I really think this carries over into the minds of donors today which is sad because it sort of sends the message that children are only worth keeping and raising if you created them with your spouse or romantic partner. Then with donor offspring there is kind of a double whammy that one of your biological parents would want to keep and raise you themselves but only if the parent they are not in love with is fully excluded from your life along with their entire family for at least the first 18 years of your life.

    The idea that the donor has their ‘own’ family, that their children raised by others would be disrupting their life is quite hard on the people I’ve been helping in their searches. Which brings me to the topic of shame that you raise at the end of your post. I think its great that you want to eliminate the shame factor. You seem to be very dialed into the fact that people who raise donor offspring might have hang ups and embarrassment that can be hard on donor offspring and its great that you want people to get rid of that. There is the ever-present element of shame looming over donor offspring when it comes to the donor and him/her not thinking of them as their ‘own’ children worthy of acknowledgement or inclusion within their ‘own’ family when clearly they are no different than the children they raised themselves. The idea that the person that made them might be embarrassed to let their other siblings or their spouse or relatives know is a very real weight on the shoulders of those I’ve been helping in their searches. They don’t want to disrupt or interfere with their lives because they did not intend to be their parent and there is this sense of what makes them less deserving of love and attention than the rest. It is something to think about. I know that you often dismiss what I’m saying as being impossible but I come here to your blog out of sincere concern for the people in the same situation as those who are now my friends. They are quite anguished by a fear that their own families would be ashamed to admit they exist.

  4. marilynn says:

    So what I mean is that its fantastic that former donors want to talk with the children they are raising about the children they did not raise. Thank God for that truly. Encourage that. Just don’t forget that shame on the part of the donor and that the donor does not think of the kids they donated as being ‘theirs’ is part of that shame thing that donor offspring are just made to deal with every day.

    • Kriss Fearon says:

      Donors over here don’t feel ashamed. There’s a stigma for sperm donors associated with having to masturbate at a clinic, but otherwise donors feel proud that they’ve helped an infertile couple. A lot are men who already have children and who want another family to experience that joy.

      It is very difficult for some people to find the words to talk to their children about reproduction and sex, and to have that conversation around how the donation might have happened. That’s where the difficulty lies, I think. But shame? No.

      • marilynn says:

        You are a rare, kind and outspoken donor. Of the people I’ve reunited I have not found any donor parents to be ashamed, not at all. But if you have been told growing up that the donor did not want to be a parent and that they donated to give someone else a family that they have “their own children”and “their own” families and that they don’t think of their offspring as family, well then their offspring will feel less important than the kids they kept and raised. I am not talking about a donor being proud they donated and proud they helped form a family I mean proud of the kids. Like would they walk them around the office and introduce them to their coworkers would they introduce them to all the members of their family and show a level of interest in them that was comparable to the interest they show in their other offspring’s lives? Thus far I have seen pretty much that although that would be across the board with any bio parent who has not raised their kid. And generally this is a relief to the kid who was thinking the bio family would not be interested in them or would be ashamed of them or would not view them as being part of the family.

        You’ve said before that you and your family would welcome the opportunity to meet your offspring. If you have that chance I’m sure that your openness with your family will make them feel good about themselves. Never being a secret to your family. Knowing you were proud to say they existed before knowing who they were. That is quite the thing to make them feel good about being themselves.

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