I have written about the pitfalls of known donor insemination before but sadly a news item in The Independent yesterday detailed the decline of yet another relationship between donor and recipient, and their respective partners, into “mutual loathing” involving bitter litigation and a custody battle. Once again it is a lesbian (recipient) and gay (donor) couple fighting it out and, as in other cases, it is the donor and his partner who want more time spent with the children than the mothers are prepared to allow. The two children involved are girls, one in her early teens and the other nearing her tenth birthday. Making a series of orders and saying he wanted the litigation (which has lasted nearly six years) to end, Mr. Justice Cobb observed, “I fear that the childhoods of A and B have been irredeemably marred by the on-going court conflict.” Sad does not get near how I feel about what all these supposed adults have done to these children.
It is unclear from the newspaper report as to whether the two couples had made any sort of agreement before they set out on what the judge described as “a wonderful and thoroughly progressive endeavour.” But we know from the several previously reported cases (and others known to DC Network) that so often arrangements are made on the basis of friendship and a mutual fantasy of things working out well that rarely stands the test of time…and in particular the existence of actual children. Women become more protective and men – and I think this applies particularly to gay men – become much more emotionally moved and involved by their act of creation than ever they anticipated.
An agreement, drawn up after long-heart searching as well as with great logic and pragmatism – and definitely with the aid of a lawyer who specialises in such things – will not be legally binding but it can be seen as a clear and strong indicator of the intentions of all parties. And maybe better to have as a donor a heterosexual man – ideally in a stable relationship and already a father to a child or two – or like the young man who spoke at DC Network’s meeting in Leeds recently, who donated to a lesbian couple who live abroad. He wanted to help friends of friends, but knew he was not ready to be a father. He does not feel like a father to the little girl who is now two but is absolutely prepared to be known to her once she starts asking questions. He feels being a short plane ride away is a good distance. Of course how she will see him is as yet unknown.
Maybe what I am trying to say here is that heterosexual men may be more able to distance themselves from the emotion of creating a child. As a heterosexual woman I know that men’s ability to compartmentalise their feelings has it’s downsides too, but maybe when it comes to sperm donation, particularly with lesbian couples where there are two parents, it is helpful. Gay men, now only just beginning to be able to realise their potential as fathers via egg donation and surrogacy, may be much more susceptible to being ambushed by the strong emotions of child creation. I am not saying that heterosexual men aren’t enormously moved by becoming a parent (Walter certainly was and he was not able to contribute genetically) but they may be better able to separate an act of donation from the role of parent.
As I said to a single woman at the Fertility Show who was contemplating a known donor…please, please think long and hard, be careful of what you wish for…and definitely contact Natalie Gamble nataliegambleassociates.com before doing anything!