We are living in the strangest of times. Told to keep our distance from those we love but don’t share a home with as well as stay away from our colleagues and friends. Told not to leave the place we live in unless it is for a very short list of reasons. Our minds are full of anxiety, not just for family but also for jobs, for our futures…
Donor conception would seem to come rather low on the list of things to worry about at the moment and if you have already started ‘telling’ your children this is likely to be true. But if part of your future that is being put on hold includes plans for donor conception procedures either in the UK or abroad, you may be distraught that your hopes for a family are being delayed to an uncertain date in the future. The HFEA have told all UK fertility clinics to complete the treatment cycles for those women currently mid-treatment but to put on hold for three weeks the start of any further cycles of treatment. Chair of the HFEA Sally Cheshire, an ex fertility patient herself, has written an open letter to those hoping to cycle soon, saying how sorry she is that this has had to happen but that the decision has been taken on scientific advice. There could of course be further delays after this initial period. https://www.hfea.gov.uk/about-us/news-and-press-releases/2020-news-and-press-releases/an-open-letter-to-fertility-patients-sally-cheshire-cbe-chair-hfea/
Those of you planning to go abroad will almost certainly have received similar information from your clinics, plus most international flights are cancelled and Spain, a popular destination for egg donation, is under lockdown at the time of writing.
The devastation some of you may be feeling is absolutely understandable. There is nothing anyone can do to alter the circumstances under which we are all having to live at the moment, but here are some tips, both general and some specific to DC, that might support you through these difficult times and help you to use this time well to prepare for parenting by donor conception.
- If you feel sad, angry or anything else, let yourself feel the depth of that feeling. Cry, pummel a cushion, have a good scream. Do whatever is necessary to allow the feeling to come out. You may be exhausted afterwards but you will feel better. All feelings are allowed, only actions that hurt yourself or others are not. Keeping feelings bottled up inside never does anyone any good.
- Try to stay in the moment, living neither in the past or the future. It’s not easy to achieve but worth the effort and can stop the endless what if’s (we’d made up our minds and done that cycle earlier in the year) or catastrophising (we’ll never have a family now). We know it sounds boring, but slow, deep breathing really can help when you are feeling anxious and upset.
- Ideally talk with someone who is likely to be able to listen to you without judgement. Everyone is having to deal with difficult stuff at the moment but just having someone listen to what is important for you right now can be very helpful.
- When you are feeling calmer and hopefully more positive, think how you can use this extra time to help prepare yourself to be a parent by donor conception. Naturally your focus has been on your infertility or reason for using DC (either with or without a partner) and ways in which it might be possible to have your dream of a family come true. You really, really want a baby. But the majority of your relationship with the person you conceive, give birth to and raise will be with an older child, teenager or adult. Now could be the time to think about what that relationship might be like if you decided that openness with them about DC was the right thing to do or you decided to keep the secret. There is lots of information on DC Network’s website to help you make this very important decision.
- You might want to talk with your partner (if you have one) or a close friend about what having a child by donor conception means to you. Do you feel the egg/sperm or embryo that is going to help you conceive is just a clump of cells someone would have discarded anyway or are you able to acknowledge that it is a very real person (or people) who have allowed their gametes to be used to help you conceive. Do you feel it is reasonable that any child you have might want to know about this person or people someday? How do you think you might feel if you were a donor conceived child/teenager/adult?
All these not necessarily comfortable questions are important to think about before going ahead with a gamete donation procedure and here is a perfect opportunity to really think them through now rather than after a child has been born. DC Network is a great organisation to support and help you in thinking about them all, no matter where your starting point is. Email them via the website https://www.dcnetwork.org and someone will get back to you very quickly.
I hope very much that you will be able to resume your journey to a family later in the year when this Covid -19 crisis has passed. In the meantime be kind to yourself and others around you, make good use of this extra preparation time…and know that DC Network is there for you.