I am busy this week trying to set up visits to clinics so that I can understand more about their donation programmes – how and where they recruit donors and something about the counselling and preparation process for both donors and recipients. Also getting excited about Zannah flying in from New York tomorrow, although the reason she is coming home is somewhat alarming. The US authorities have turned down her application for an extension to her education visa so that she can complete her massage therapy course. An immigration lawyer advised her not to appeal in the States and to come back here asap to sort it out. Fingers tightly crossed.
There are three things I want to draw your attention to this week. The first is a fascinating interview on Radio Newcastle with a donor conceived adult and her donor, brought together via the Donor Conceived Register (DCR) – the UK register for those conceived via donation before 1991 and their donors. Sarah talks about how she realised via routine blood testing in pregnancy when she was in her early thirties, that she did not share a blood group with her father. She talked with her mother about this and very reluctantly it was revealed that a donor had been used. Sarah is certainly not the first person I have come across who discovered this discrepancy via blood tests when expecting a baby. Sarah then spent a very uncomfortable time feeling that a part of her had been taken away and the lack of honesty has caused trust problems in the family. Being a resourceful person Sarah went on the internet and found the DCR, gave a DNA sample and not very long afterwards was told that there had been a strong match to a donor who had been registered for some time. Sarah and Terry, her donor, were put in touch by email and they spent a year getting to know each other before they finally met. During this time Sarah used Terry’s email address to find out more about him, but Terry seemed very understanding of the ‘gentle stalking’ that occurred over this period.
It would seem that Terry had put himself on the UK DonorLink register that preceded the DCR partly because his life had not turned out the way he thought it might (his marriage had broken down and he had not become a conscious father) and partly because as time had passed he realised that children who had resulted from his donations might want to know something about him. He and Sarah now have a good relationship, Sarah has had the gap in her life filled and Terry has gained a daughter. Sadly, Sarah’s parents remain very uncomfortable with the situation and are unlikely to meet Terry.
Listen to these interviews, hear ‘Joseph’s’ story and Laura Witjens from DCR here – https://s3.amazonaws.com/NGDT/BBC+Newcastle+-+Jonathan+Miles%2C+05032014+1_0001.mp3?utm_source=Newsletter+Donor+Conceived+Register&utm_campaign=50b0821241-September+Update+DCR&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b6d62383d-50b0821241-92832693
The second event is the coming to the UK of the Generation Cryo series, where the Donor Sibling Registry in the States helps 18 year old Breeanna Speicher from Reno, Nevada find her half-siblings. Everything I have heard from people in the US is that this is a really sensitively made set of programmes so I for one will be glued to my TV set on Wednesday this week (9th April) when it starts on MTV at 9pm. I know some people will not be able to view this but if you have a cable package, typically Virgin or Sky then you are likely to find it there. We have Virgin and it’s Channel 134.
Thirdly, I want to give some publicity to our friend Eric Schwartzman’s Donor Conception Postcard project. Eric lives in New York with his two donor conceived children and runs a blog called Life as Dad to Donor Insemination (DI) Kids. A short while ago he announced on his blog and various Facebook pages associated with the donor conception world, that he had started a project whereby anyone with any perspective or viewpoint on donor conception matters could send him an anonymous postcard (via snail-mail). He would then publish the content of these cards on the project’s Facebook page and his blog. When asked about the goal of project Eric said –
“I am hoping it can create a site where individuals from many corners of donor conception community can in one place exchange views but more importantly perhaps see the issues from viewpoints other than their own. Promote honest discussion upon visually seeing someone else’s feeling in a postcard. Perhaps empathy can ensue.
The Post Secret site always for me results in immediate reactions and responses. There is no reading of long letters or articles. You see the whole picture immediately. I am looking to see if submissions can tell a story on a single 4 by 6 card and have the viewer see it that quickly.
So in the end my goal is to tell our stories in a single panel. For community members to participate in creating the larger story by contributing their single card to it.”
The subject matter can be anything, as long as it is related to donor conception, but Eric posted the following list to provide ideas – What is Family: Identity: Desire to have children: What defines a parent: Secrets: Relationships: The donor: Loss
The project site https://www.facebook.com/DonorConceptionPostcardProject also has lots of examples of the sort of things you might want to write.
The fascinating thing is that so far Eric has only received one postcard, and that arrived this morning. Maybe this is the opening of the flood gates but I do wonder what it is that has been preventing the many people who are usually only too keen to post their views on DC from taking part. Could it be that we are all so used to electronic communication that snail-mail is just too much bother. Or could it be the anonymity? I never hide my name (sometimes I wish I could!) and nor does Eric and so sending something anonymously feels wrong (but I have done so just the same). I think there is a lot of potential here to capture the essence of some otherwise unheard aspects of donor conception but it’s going to need loads of postcards expressing a whole spectrum of views to make it valid. Visit the project website, check the address and then join in, wherever you live.
Update on 17th April: email from Eric Schwartzman – “I will accept electronic submissions now via the email address email@example.com I will post the images received anonymously even though I will have a email address indicating who the sender is.”