Need information about donor conception from the horses mouth…look no further

I went to see our lovely grand-daughter yesterday so didn’t have a chance to write about our wonderful weekend filming twelve donor conceived children and young people.  Throughout Saturday and Sunday parents arrived at our house in N.London bringing their donor conceived children from as far afield as Cheltenham, Birmingham and Exeter.  Two or three over eighteens made their own way but hour by hour they all rang the doorbell and came in to wait to be interviewed and filmed by Kat, our film-maker.  Pizzas were eaten, crisps and biscuits disappeared by the bucket-load whilst one by one each child or young person disappeared to different corners of the house to be asked questions and have their answers recorded on film.  Our participants included one of the oldest egg donor conceived people (a ripe old 20 year old!), two young people conceived by embryo donation, one into a single mum family and another with heterosexual couple parents, a boy and a girl each being raised in lesbian mum families, a pair of 12 year old boys conceived by sperm donation being raised in families where their siblings are either conceived with a different donor or without help from a donor at all, and last, but definitely not least, two sixteen year old girls who share a donor and refer to each other as sisters, although they are growing up in different families.   Each and all were happy to talk about how they feel about being donor conceived, what they remembered about being told, when they first understood what it meant, what if anything they tell their friends about it and how they feel about the prospect (and actuality for two of them) of having half-siblings.

There is nothing so immediate and vital as film, as DC Network has found with the first two DVDs (then videos) they made over ten years ago.  A Different Story, which includes Zannah and Will when they were 16 and 19, made a huge impact on parents and professionals when it first came out but as all the young people featured were conceived by sperm donation into heterosexual couple families, it has been clear for some time that a new film that included all family and donation types was needed.  DCN will now have separate films to show at Preparation for Donor Conception workshops for single women and lesbians and those for heterosexual couples and by the end of April there will be a combined film available to buy from the DCN website.  In the meantime A Different Story and the Telling and Talking film, which features parents and children in all family and donation types talking about Telling, are available from dc.network.org

It was a huge pleasure and privilege to meet so many confident and articulate young people over the two days.  Huge thanks are due to them and to their parents for giving up hours of their precious weekend to be part of this project.  I know that future donor conception parents will be immensely grateful.

And another resource for potential and actual parents likely to come out later this year is the booklet that is being written by donor conceived young adult Sam.  I have just seen the latest draft of his thoughts on being donor conceived, the morals, ethics and law around donor conception, the end of anonymity; his views on siblings and donors and what they mean to him and advice on ‘telling’ (basically just do it) and much more.  Written in the very readable and humorous style you might expect from a recent journalism graduate, Sam doesn’t avoid the difficult questions but neither does he prescribe any particular practice either…except for complete honesty with donor conceived children, something he feels is their inalienable right.  Can’t wait to publish this.

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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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25 Responses to Need information about donor conception from the horses mouth…look no further

  1. My parent's donor is my father says:

    That’s great! Can’t wait to see/read it. But I think it’s important to look and listen further than 12.

  2. oliviasview says:

    Of course, we don’t feel 12 is definitive at all. Just the number we could fit on a reasonable length film.

  3. marilynn says:

    You mentioned asking about the prospect of having siblings. By ‘having’ them I suppose you mean that they might exist whether they have met them or know they exist. I’d be interested to hear their responses.

    Did you or have you ever inquired as to their feelings about about other relatives of the donor? Because it is a far more certain thing that they exist, at least in the case of grandparents we know they had to exist at one point or another or their bio parent would not have existed to have donated!. There is the donating bio parent themselves and any siblings they might have and those siblings children as well who are their cousins. The other children of that bio parent are their half siblings whether they were donated or kept and raised by that donating parent. The interesting thing about their cousins, aunts uncles and grandparents is that these are their full on paternal or maternal relatives. They are not half unless they are a half sibling of that donating bio parent. Also as the donor’s offspring get older and start reproducing themselves they wind up having hoards of nieces and nephews which means their own children will have unheard of multitudes of cousins living often in the same region. It becomes quite a big family 20 or 30 years after they are born you know? And then those people have an interest in knowing who the donor offspring is and all.

    So have you asked about how they feel about not knowing all their other relatives on the side of the donating parent? Just siblings? If so is there a reason why you have not or would not ask how they felt about the relatives other than their siblings? Siblings is both a health concern and an emotional concern but as we spread out it becomes more health related than emotional and I understand that. Health wise the need to identify their relatives is the same regardless of the emotional closeness assigned to any particular kinship roll. I’m trying to keep it objective.

    Also have you ever asked them how they feel about the possibility that these relatives siblings donor et al might be looking for them and want to know them whether they are interested or not some day they might get a ring or a knock. Heck it might be me helping one of their relatives. I’d be interested to know how they react to the possibility they might be important to others they are related to. My personal experience is that it never occurs to anyone that they might be important to their bio family.

    • oliviasview says:

      If I talk to most of the early-told donor conceived adults I know about their ‘other relatives’ they just look at me as if I am mad. They mostly don’t think of them as such. They are simply either ‘people they happen to have a genetic connection with’ or ‘people in the family of my donor’. Read Sam’s book when it comes out.

  4. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Understood, it was the “look no further” comment that I was referencing to. Do people with these kind of experiences ever contact you?
    http://www.anonymousus.org/stories/index.php?cid=2#.UxX736423DM
    The Business of Humanity
    I was told last October, only five months ago. That may seem a lengthy time to someone else, but I suspect I will still be trying to understand my feelings about where I come from for the rest of my life.
    For as long as I can remember I have hated my ‘social father’. At an early age he was physically abusive, and as I grew older the hitting stopped and the verbal abuse began. He is not my father nor do I consider him as such. He was prejudiced and chauvinistic and I could not wait to grow up and go to college and escape somewhere and never come back.
    But there was my mother, who I loved and still love today more than anything. I know how badly she wanted me, and the man she married could not give her a child. I am not angry with her for what she did, for accepting the sperm of a stranger, but I cannot help but be angry at the world for the precarious situation I am and will always be in. I love my life immensely, but I cannot completely declare it all righteous, for then I would be saying that I agree with the capitalistic commercialism that surrounds my existence, and I don’t; nor can I entirely condemn donor conception, for then I would be condemning myself. I read something similar to that effect by another donor-conceived child, and it was surprisingly a small comfort to see that someone else felt the same way.
    Last October, when my mother decided to divorce my ‘social father’ I was thrilled. He had made us both miserable and we both had a chance at happiness now. I didn’t know I wasn’t blood related to him. But when she told me about my true father only a few days later, the only thing I felt that night was relief and happiness. I was not related to those monsters, for not only had my ‘social father’ been abusive but his family had as well. From the very beginning I was curious about my real father, and the papers listing his personality traits and accomplishments are no consolation. A piece of paper cannot fill a void like this.
    My mother’s divorce is still being finalized. A few months ago, her ex-husband-to-be began to continuously call me and yell and insist on telling me I should be grateful that he signed the sheet of paper that permitted my existence. He still disgusts me whenever I think about him.
    I don’t much like the fact that one half of me, one half of the me that sits here in this body that types this, was conveniently stored in a vial for a few years somewhere in a laboratory. I do not like it at all that I only exist because a graduate needed money to pay for his doctorate. Most donors would be decent enough to lie about their intentions, say they donate to help needy families, but my father was quite blatant. He told the complete truth on the donation forms, that he needed the money for a Ph. D. and that he wasn’t donating to ‘contribute to his fellow man.’
    I know my father is not stupid in the slightest. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a Master’s degree in Human Developmental Psychology, and now because of the money he got from me and my 22 siblings, a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology. But one wonders how sick and twisted he had to have been in order to tell his future children quite plainly that he didn’t want them and they only exist because he needed money for school. He knew better than anyone else what that would do to his children’s minds, being well acquainted with how the human mind works and reacts, he knew the pain those words would inflict.
    To any potential donor my word would be, ‘don’t’. Please do not condone the practice of depriving children of their families. Because no matter how much anyone may want a baby, donor conception has been and will always be about the child. Because I am part of a generation of children that derive from billion dollar corporations commercializing life, corporations that sell human beings. The effects of and reactions to this process vary from donor child, but the overwhelming response is that we are damaged individuals because of donor conception. We walk around with holes in our chests because of the uncertainty and injustice.
    We as children of donors, children of strangers, are not normal people or ordinary people, but we are people all the same. We are not freaks of nature. We are not abominations. We are not monsters. We are victims and survivors. We are people society does not understand. We are scarred more so than others, and we know all too well how cruel the world can be. No one but another donor child could ever understand the weight of these words. But we continue to persevere through the cynicism that is thrown at us.
    I mourn the things that I will miss, another family I will never have. While I consider my donor to be my father, I know it is likely I will never knowingly meet him, and he will never be there for me as a normal father anyway, so I don’t consider myself as having a father. It is hard, to say the least.
    But what kills me, sends me reeling when I allow it to is that I cannot ever truthfully say I have never met him. Or that I have never met my brothers and sisters. Because I could have unknowingly sat next to my brother on a public bus, or passed my sister in the hall in elementary school, or my father could be the next man I see reading the newspaper at a cafe. They could live next door to me. And it is these things that murder me and torture me more than the commercialism of my existence, it is the unknowing of it all that makes me die a little inside every time I hopelessly scan a crowd for a familiar feature in someone’s face. It is instinct for me to search for my family, and every time I go out and for the rest of my life I will be searching the crowds, trying to find them, and all the while feeling like a foreign body anywhere I go.
    Date submitted: March 03, 2014

  5. oliviasview says:

    I’m sorry you read the ‘look no further’ in that way. It really wasn’t meant to be limiting in any way. It is very important that potential and actual parents by donor conception read immensely sad stories like the one you have pasted here. Mostly people in that position don’t contact DC Network but if they do they are welcomed and supported in the same way as anyone else. DCN does not seek to cover up abusive practices around donor conception. Our aim is to educate intending parents and help them come to an informed decision about whether donor conception is the right way for them to create a family. It is not right for everyone, particularly those who have difficulty in adjusting to their own infertility and see genetic connectedness as a vital element of family formation. ‘Telling’ the child when young and being open to all the child’s feelings as they are growing up is another important element.
    I know this is unlikely to satisfy either you or Marilynn and that you would both prefer that DC did not take place but as I have said before I am an ethical pragmatist, believing that people will find a way to have children and better that we find ways to do donor conception well rather than drive it underground.

    • My parent's donor is my father says:

      Olivia wrote:
      “Our aim is to educate intending parents and help them come to an informed decision about whether donor conception is the right way for them to create a family.”

      Which is why I support you. ‘Donor’ conception is not for everyone.
      *****
      A new story submitted to Anonymous Us by a person who was considering using ‘donor’ conception:

      “Thanks to all of you for the raw but necessary truth…

      I’m 43 and married my husband just over 2 years ago. We have been trying to conceive naturally for a while, even before we married, but that hasn’t worked out. I always wanted to be a mother, and always thought it would happen one day. We went to see an IVF specialist a couple of times but it looks like my eggs are not too good. Many people have suggested using an egg donor, but besides the cost, I’ve been struggling with the idea.

      I’ve been thinking about what I was like as a teenage girl, giving my parents a difficult time for one thing or another, and how would that be if I had a teenager challenging me. How would I feel towards the child. How would he or she feel towards me in times of trouble? Would she wonder what her real Mom was like? I’m not a perfect person by all means. My Mom and Dad are still married, but my Dad has always been – let’s just say: a shit at times. If during the times he has been a shit, and if he was not my biological father, I am pretty sure I’d be wanting to find out more about my biological father. Instead, I have a reference point for when and how I might be a shit at times, and can blame him and work on myself, and laugh about it together.

      I’ve expressed these concerns to my husband, doctors, Mother, and others and they all say “No, it wouldn’t be any different, you give birth to the child, s/he is yours.” Or something to that extent. But I just didn’t think it could be as simple as that. Would my Mother love my child(ren) as much as her other grand kids? I met a woman who told me she had two sons conceived with an egg donor (and she and her husband are since divorced). She told me that she wasn’t going to tell her sons that they are the product of an egg donor. That would be an awful thing to find out years later. I’m curious to know the fate of a gay male couple I’m friends with on facebook. They now have 3 children, using a separate egg donor and a family member as a surrogate.

      Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because it seems that everyone and their Mother, are having children… except me. But then I remind myself that it is okay, I’m still whole, my husband loves me and maybe I would be a bad Mother. I would feel so guilty to have gone to such trouble to bring a child meant for another woman into the world and then realize they didn’t want me as their Mother. How tragic is that.

      I think I was already convinced myself that egg donation wasn’t a good idea, so I searched the web for egg donor experiences to find out how life does turn out for the donor recipients and their children, and I found this site. The sad and heartbreaking stories here have just underscored my every fear. Thank you all for the raw but necessary truth.

      Date submitted: March 04, 2014″

      http://www.anonymousus.org/stories/index.php?cid=6#.Uxcv9z9dWlc

      • gsmwc02 says:

        “Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because it seems that everyone and their Mother, are having children… except me. But then I remind myself that it is okay, I’m still whole, my husband loves me and maybe I would be a bad Mother.”

        See this is the kind of stuff opponents of DC and adoption want infertile couples to believe. That they should just be thankful for what they have and not feel any pain from infertility and that they would be awful parents. They want them to feel guilty for desiring something that the fertile world takes for granted.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        “Feelin weird….
        I had a single mother by choice, she has been the only mom I know and the only person I will accept as my parent. she had no issues telling me that I was conceived by a donor and although it was ‘normalized’ for a moment, as I grew up with questions about my origins it wasn’t as normal any more…

        I look at history, and there are dads, I look at wildlife, there are dads, I look at society and there are dads. Dads are everywhere, maybe its media but I feel like I’m missing out. I feel like I will never know what it’s like to be in the arms of a man who loves me unconditionally in a innocent non-sexual way, and who will be my other half. I will never know what it’s like to bond with my other genetic parent, I will never know what it’s like to look at the rest of nature and know I was conceived the way I was suppose to be…you know, outside a science lab….and not on a dish to be shoved into a refrigerator.

        But these feelings make me feel like I’m a bad child; I betrayed my mother, and some of her feminist friends who praise her for being a single mom, and not taking help from a man . On TV the Cryo Generation seems just fine, and because they aren’t screaming out “I want a dad!” I feel as though my feelings are invalid and selfish. But then I think “shouldn’t kids’ feelings come first?” But then I think “no because our parents made us, so we should always be grateful for whatever they do.” But then I think “that’s not fair, why bring a kid into the world just so you can be happy?”. But then I think oh shit, I’m being selfish and betraying my mom again!

        She’s nice to me, yet she made my dad anonymous on purpose so I could never find him, even though she had both a dad and a mom, and she’s even close to her dad. Do you know what it’s like to hear her stories about the awesome dad she had, and all the great things she did with him, that I will never have? It burns. It burns so hard I can’t talk because I choke.

        I can’t say I’m for or against sperm donning, because I guess some kids don’t mind… but what people tend to forget is what about the kids who do mind? Do we matter? Why should our childhood and our feelings be sacrificed, so our folks can have the parenthood experience of their dreams? I thought parenting was about the cute babies, not the parents.. I just feel weird about it. I’m sure Im just some terrible daughter and I probably don’t matter… I mean, if I did, my dad would probably want to see me, but whatever. My dad is a stranger, who jacked off to woman-trashing porn, and sold his sperm to a woman he doesn’t know on the Internet, for sixty dollars. Thats the dignity of my conception, two strangers exchanging money for ‘materials’ over Craig’s list, and that’s all I will ever know about him.

        FYI it burns like hell….
        Date submitted: March 08, 2014″

        http://www.anonymousus.org/stories/index.php?cid=2#.Uxxhbz9dWlc

      • Liz says:

        “I can’t say I’m for or against sperm donning, because I guess some kids don’t mind… but what people tend to forget is what about the kids who do mind? Do we matter? Why should our childhood and our feelings be sacrificed, so our folks can have the parenthood experience of their dreams?”

        If I were teaching a philosophy class — this would be an interesting excerpt for a writing prompt.

        Is it ever immoral for mothers to conceive and give birth? Is birth always the preferred outcome? Is it more ethical for single mothers, with unknown fathers, to abort, rather then give birth? Does she have an obligation to consider adoption, even if it is not her personal preference? why/why not?

        If some percentage of children will experience emotional pain, as a result of their less then ideal familial circumstances, does that mean it is ethically preferable that the birth not take place? Why/why not?

      • gsmwc02 says:

        Great point Liz. While a pain a DC person might have shouldn’t be ignored it can be argued that many kids face emotional trauma’s during their childhood. Divorce comes to mind for me. Many kids are damaged because of their parent’s divorce. Does that mean we should restrict reproduction to only those married couples with stable marriages that we know will never divorce? I don’t think so.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Liz wrote: “If I were teaching a philosophy class — this would be an interesting excerpt for a writing prompt.”

        That actually is a topic of many philosophy debates…such as this:
        “The ethics of genetically enhanced monkey slaves”
        http://blog.ted.com/2014/02/19/the-ethics-of-genetically-enhanced-monkey-slaves/

        “Let’s say it’s the future and you can genetically program a being, like an engineer can currently program computer software. Would it be ethical to create a perfect slave? Is it permissible to create a being that, were it acting freely, would not elect to do anything other than serve you? Or do you have an obligation to give it human-style, personal-freedom-seeking agency?

        In my view, you have to look at two factors: First of all, the life of the perspective of that being. Would that being have a complaint that it was created in that way? Say you did create a human-chimp chimera that was like a dog, but much, much smarter. It loved you unconditionally and did what you wanted and was a sort of slave, but it enjoyed it. Does that being have a complaint against you? If it hadn’t been created in that way, it wouldn’t have existed. In that sense, it’s not harmed. On that ground, there isn’t an objection to it.”

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        And transhumanism/gnosticism debates. It’s a philosophers playground!
        “Human Personhood: The Domino Effect”
        (January 2010), posted on YouTube (yes, I had the flu at the
        time!):

        PART 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7RD3G5qn_k

        PART 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nddmv_YcDoY

        PART 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDL4JBCt85E

        PART 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_M1yZR8Ji8

        PART 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9EEkgldBmA

        PART 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ23Sg84oSk

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        And transhumanism/gnosticism debates. It’s a philosophers playground!

        For example:
        See Dianne Irving’s: “Human Personhood: The Domino Effect”
        (January 2010), posted on YouTube
        and J. David Velleman’s written pieces, “Family History”, “Love and Non-Existence”, “The Gift of Life”

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        In case you don’t want to read up on all of that heavy heavy debate, I’ll give you my personal cliff notes…it’s all about relativism/nihilism vs. human dignity, natural law and personal responsibility. You can probably guess which side I lean towards.

      • Liz says:

        Your students may become confused if you abruptly switch questions for your writing prompt.

        But you could generate a fun discussion about hypothetical monkey-slaves.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        I agree Liz. When the argument of slavery is brought up I tune the discussion out. It’s an insult to people who were actually real slaves not pretend ones.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        “Your students may become confused if you abruptly switch questions for your writing prompt.
        But you could generate a fun discussion about hypothetical monkey-slaves.”

        Yes, that is a more advanced thought experiment/discussion – but it’s related and I agree it would be a fun discussion! I’d love to take that class.

  6. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Fair enough.

  7. oliviasview says:

    Yes, Sam Gregory.

  8. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Heh. Okay. He has history. I won’t say any more here.

    • Sam Gregory says:

      Mysterious! I do have history (born 1991, went to school in 2002, university 2009, work 2012), as we all do. Though I’d be fascinated to know more about exactly what your oblique comment means?

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        No worries Sam! That comment was just in response to my guess as to who Olivia was referring to. I’m looking forward to reading what it is that you are putting together that Olivia will be publishing.

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