I cannot believe that I have not yet blogged this year. It’s not as if there was nothing going on in the donor conception world. It’s probably because there has been so much.
I write here from a personal perspective but my part-time job at the Donor Conception Network has never been busier. I have just finished writing a new Telling and Talking booklet for parents of 12 – 16 year olds who are telling their teenagers for the first time about being donor conceived. “Light the blue touch touch paper and retire three countries” said a friend when I told them what I was doing. Sharing information of this sort in teenage years is absolutely not the ideal time to do it, but sometimes that is how life works out. There is no avoiding the ‘rug pulled from under their feet’ moment when a young person realises that everything they ever thought was true about genetic connections on one (or both) side(s) of the family are not as they thought they were. But if parents have prepared themselves well and are ready to listen to and acknowledge all feelings and to continue the conversation (life-long if necessary) then damage can be limited and there is potential for relationships to eventually be closer because of the removal of the secret in the family.
My next big task is to write a Telling and Talking booklet for parents of young people and adults from 12 up who were ‘told’ about being donor conceived from a young age but whose parents want to be able to continue the conversation as their children grow into teenage and adult years and their needs change. I’m really only at the very beginning of this project and would welcome ideas of what needs to be included. From experience in my own family I know that views of donor conceived young people can shift as they move in to adulthood. ‘Telling’ early is absolutely no guarantee that a DC person will not want to search and have contact with their donor/bio-father or mother and/or half-siblings. And in the UK we have 2023 coming up fast, when the first 18 year olds will be entitled to have identifying information about their donor. Your thoughts are welcome.
Aside from the writing, much of my time is spent answering emails, taking part in long telephone conversations and sometimes seeing personally people who find themselves in complicated family situations involving donor conception. DC Network has been overwhelmed since the New Year by people needing help and support to ‘tell’ adult or teenage children or requesting guidance where a family is splitting up or has split up, there are ‘untold’ children and parents disagree about what should happen and who should do it. Sometimes the courts are involved, both helpfully and occasionally unhelpfully. Finding the right sort of guidance for these latter families in particular is difficult. Counsellors or therapists need to know something about donor conception and child development as well as knowledge of how the court system works and ideally be experienced in work with couples as well. These specialists are rare on the ground. It is a puzzle to me that so few therapists seem to have a grounding in child development and this is why they sometimes give very odd guidance to parents (and courts) around ‘telling’.
The office staff at DC Network spend hours on the phone listening to people’s stories. They are all very experienced and knowledgeable and are often able to help. Sometimes they need to hand someone on.
From time to time people ask why DC Network charges the amount(s) that it does for membership. It can feel like a lot. What do I get for my money they want to know? Well, alongside two wonderful family conferences a year, access to local groups and personal connections to people who share a donation or family type, plus eBulletins full of news and much more…membership fees support advocacy for donor conception families with the outside world, and the personal help and support described above, most of it with non-member families. None of this can be found elsewhere and DCN never turns anyone away. That is both priceless and worth every penny.