I make no apology for stealing the heading of this piece from the final line of a blog by the National Gamete Donation Trust’s CEO Laura Witjens. Titled ‘Dear future mother using internet sperm‘ the text takes the form of an open letter to any woman considering using a sperm donor she has met on the internet to help create her family. Acknowledging the financial cost and annoying medicalisation of the clinic route, Witjens makes a cogent case for putting the interests of their longed-for future child first by NOT choosing a guy that they have encountered on the internet and particularly not one of the several prolific donors offering their services. http://www.laurawitjens.com/3431-2/
But women contemplating an internet donor are not the only ones whose parenting job needs to start before conception takes place. It is true for anyone using donor conception. It may not seem fair that those of us put in this position by infertility, sexuality or single status should have to think about the consequences of our conception choices before we have a baby in our arms, but it is true that we are the only people who must do this because what we choose to do will have an impact on our children for the rest of their lives. Choose to go to Europe and you choose to close a door to your child having much information about and being able to contact their donor. Choose to import sperm from the US and you could make contact with loads of half-sibs and possibly the donor through the Donor Sibling Registry. Choose a prolific internet donor and you risk your child being sexually attracted to a half sibling as well as having to explain the potentially disturbing fact that they have hundreds of half-sibs ‘out there’; let alone the potential for legal claims and consequences depending on your partnership status.
This week I spoke to a woman who regretted rushing into egg donation in Spain. She knows now that she really didn’t understand the differences between treatment in the UK and abroad. She and her husband are being open with their child and their close family but it is becoming difficult for the girl, now age 9, because school friends are commenting on how different she looks to the rest of her family, including her sister who was conceived without donor help. This physical difference was a shock to her parents who had requested a blue eyed, fair skinned donor. This loving and supportive family will always be there for their daughter, listening to her feelings and helping her integrate the fact of her ‘difference’ into her life, but her mother is aware that if she had made a different choice her daughter, (who would not be the same person as the one she loves so much), would probably not have to manage these difficult feelings.
Parenting by donor conception demands that we begin our job before we have our baby.