It has taken a long time to complete but I am pleased to say that the updated Telling and Talking 17+ booklet is now available from DC Network. It took so long because I wanted to go back and talk to some of the families that my husband and I have helped prepare to ‘tell’ their adult children over the last few years. Not only talk to the parents but to their offspring as well. It was a fascinating and very moving experience and the stories of five families are woven into the text. I also spoke at length to an older donor conceived adult who discovered her origins when she took a DNA test for genealogical history reasons only to unexpectedly uncover an explosive family secret. Recent UK research with donor conceived adults which will be the subject of forthcoming articles, was also made available to me. With all this additional material I hope I have been able to produce a document that will encourage and support parents of adult DC people to ‘tell’ their children, whilst at the same time being true to the wide range of responses and feelings reported by DC people who have found out about their origins as adults. It’s a balancing act but no punches are pulled.
As a taster, here are the Final Thoughts at the end of the booklet. You might want to keep in mind that the intended reader is a parent or parents who have yet to ‘tell’ their adult child.
“Making the decision that your adult child should have the information about how they came into your family has probably taken you beyond where you would usually feel comfortable emotionally. None of us likes to be in this place for very long. It is impossible to say how your individual child will take the news but DC Network does not know of any donor conceived people who would have preferred not to know.
This booklet has focused a lot on loss. This is because acknowledgement of loss is an important step in the process of re-assessing the decision you took so long ago. Deciding that secrecy may no longer be in the interest of your child or any of you is a big step. Hearing the truth may cause your children to feel an acute sense of loss themselves. Loss of what they always assumed to be true, loss of trust and for some, loss of genetic relatives. That this is so should not sway you from trying to tell the truth about their origins as best you can. The message from the families I went back to talk to was that taking that stomach churning leap and ‘telling’ was absolutely worth it. Parents felt supported by the preparation they had sought and hugely relieved that they did not have to live with the secret any longer. Offspring were mostly very respectful of their parents for having prepared themselves so well and compassionate about the agony they had felt about keeping the secret for so long. There was relief at the explanation of differences between parents and children or siblings (although these exist in genetically connected families as well) and pleasure all round in being able to talk openly about family characteristics and what features and traits might or might not have come from the donor.
As with all family stories, in the end it is not so much about what has happened but the way we are able to make sense of it that leads to being able to integrate it into part of who we are. If the story you tell your child is coherent and rings true (probably because of the emotion that accompanies it) it will be much easier for your child to take in and sooner or later see your perspective, alongside managing their own feelings.
Putting your children’s feelings first is of course not always easy. Right at
the beginning and as time passes your buttons are likely to be pushed by memories and issues your children might raise and need you to respond to. This can stir up old feelings of sadness, uncertainty and fear. Such feelings are absolutely normal and part of parenting (which as you will know does not stop once your children are adults). But they do need managing and this means facing and dealing with them rather than pushing them deep down inside and trying to ignore them. Be kind to yourselves. You have taken an enormous step by ‘telling’. Continuing to acknowledge things you could have done better in the past can be helpful, listening to your children’s feelings is more than valuable, but getting help and support for yourself is also important. Talking with your partner or a counsellor or finding a close confidante as Philippa did, can help sort out the things you need to face and deal with and what your child now really needs to do on their own.
Feelings of loss or confusion can come and go over the weeks, months and years for your children as well as for you. Sometimes they may feel fine and at other times they may not. Donor conceived adults may need independent counselling – somewhere they can express themselves completely honestly and confidentially – either in the first weeks after being told or sometime down the line. Your support of their need for this is likely to be welcomed.
Deciding to ‘tell’ is not without risk or anxiety, but many worthwhile things in life involve some risk-taking. After all, we grow as people as a result of making courageous choices. There is much to gain for everyone.”