For as long as I can remember ‘telling’ and ‘openness’ have been virtually interchangeable terms when talking about letting donor conceived children know about their beginnings. You told the children so that openness could be established in the family and hopefully with a wider circle around the child as well. But the words of a donor conceived adult who has spoken at both a DCN conference and the workshop DCN held for professionals last year have rung more and more true of late. Openness is a state of mind not just something you achieve by ‘telling’.
Quite often I run what is referred to as the Psycho-social Session at the Preparation for DC Parenthood workshops run by DCN. The people who attend are mostly those potential parents (not necessarily via donor conception as some will go on to adopt or foster) who want to think more about what they are getting into – or might get into, before taking the step of starting the medical treatment side of seeking to create a family using donated gametes. They understand that there is more to it than that, and they come to explore their hopes, fears and anxieties about how different donor conception parenting might be to being the parent of a child conceived without help from sperm or eggs from another person. Those of us facilitating the participants progression over a weekend do not shy away from talking about ‘difference’; from recognising the men and women who give/gift/sell their gametes, as real people who are likely to come into the lives of donor conceived offspring at some point or another and the potentially uncomfortable language their children may use to refer to this person. Of course we talk about the importance of ‘telling’ children early and often but I have only realised recently that what we are partly, but most importantly doing, is attempting to facilitate the start of an internal process leading to openness becoming a state of mind, the final stage of which involves the ultimate responsibility of a DC parent to accept their (whatever age) child’s feelings about, and language around, their unknown progenitor and support them in whatever they need to do.
Thank you Becky.