Donor Conception treatment on hold? This could be the time to do some good work

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.

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 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.


About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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5 Responses to Donor Conception treatment on hold? This could be the time to do some good work

  1. Jojo says:

    I read this blog post with interest and, would like this opportunity to comment on some of the issues raised.

    Firstly, I want to thank you for discussing the issues surrounding telling donor conceived individuals the truth about their origins here. I’m sure we all agree that the needs of donor conceived people and their parents to be able live authentic lives where truth and honesty about origins are sacrosanct, should never be at the bottom of anyone’s list of considerations.

    Information about a “donor” conceived and preconception adopted individual’s origins and identity is not recipient parents information to keep to themselves. It’s ours, our identity. We aren’t machines or mechanical toys with certain bits of information available and other bits scrappable because that suits the family picture (although many of us feel like commodities for sure).

    We really should have moved beyond discussions about the pros and cons of telling an individual that they are donor conceived and I repeat, I am grateful to you Olivia in the work you do in encouraging recipients parents to do so. But… it should be an absolute given that it happens. One of the DCP (donor conceived person) groups of which I am a member is currently running a poll on this topic. Not one person has come out in favour of not telling.

    I think it is important as well that you should all understand that there is no such thing as “donor” anonymity any more, whether you tell us or not, because of the advent of direct to consumer DNA testing. “Donor” conceived people are very resourceful and very driven. Very many of us have as desperate an urge to know who we come from and to make sense of our authentic identities as you have to have a child. Our biological parents – all of them, really, really matter to vast numbers of us.

    Secondly, I would like to raise the issue of commissioning parents who might be thinking of going abroad for “treatment” and ask a question. Have you considered what this means for the to-be-created child who will one day become an independent thinking adult? If the result of this decision is that one or more of your child’s biological parents is from another country or continent and you then return home…. you are intentionally separating your child from its biological family, culture and heritage geographically to suit your own wishes. When in the 20th century, orphans were sent far away to Australia and Canada it was rightly seen as a scandal for which governments have issued apologies. To me, there is very little difference between the two.

    Thirdly you talk about the devastation individuals must be feeling at the current suspension of treatments. “Donor” conceived people know all about devastation too. We know the devastation at being separated from those from whom we were created. We know the devastation of genetic bewilderment and disenfranchised grief when, if we dare to express any negative views about the practice that created us our opinions are dismissed in a wide variety of ways. We know the devastation and confusion at having to make sense, world wide of, not having proper access to our medical heritage and maybe having vast numbers of half siblings, of never knowing grandparents aunts, uncles and cousins and with whom we may have so very much in common.
    l think it’s worth highlighting that ‘the person’ who provides sperm/eggs/embryo may be just ‘a person’ to each of you but he, she, they are our biological fathers, mothers, parents. And it is the act and nature of “donor” conception and preconception adoption that separates us from them and our wider families. Just because recipient parents in effect choose that we are not to know them in reality does not alter the factual relationship and it should never be diminished by what l am going to call ‘neutralising terminology’.

    The bottom line is this: “donor” conception – whether you intend it to or not, whether you like it or not, separates the person created by it from its family.

    A wise friend of mine once said “alienating a child who becomes an adult from half of his biology is the same as erasing half of him”

    So, as a “donor” conceived and preconception adopted adult I would say this to you during this time of Coronavirus when we have all been told to stay at home:

    • We are going through difficult times, all of us. Don’t let this prevent you from telling your child their origins. Your child has a right to know their authentic identity which allows them to be who they truly are.

    • If you are thinking about using any kind of third, fourth or fifth party reproduction to create a child in this country or elsewhere, research: be brave enough to look at the increasing number of independent testimonies of donor conceived people on a wide variety of sites. Think about the lifelong impact on any human being you might create. It’s very sad, but love is NOT enough.

    • YOUR “donor” is your child’s biological parent/parents. Their Mother or Father or both. Their relatives are your child’s biological family. That missing family forms half of your child’s identity.

    I totally agree with your statement “only actions that hurt others are not allowed”. The thing is….the mere fact of BEING donor conceived hurts very many of us created this way. It causes far too many of us lifelong trauma and difficulties. And that IS worth thinking about.

  2. oliviasview says:

    Strong stuff as usual from you JoJo. As I know you would acknowledge not every DC person feels as passionately about their rights as a DC person as you do, but I would absolutely endorse and support what you say about a DC person’s right to have information about all their progenitors and to be able to follow this through to their own level of need. Wendy Kramer’s new book Donor Family Matters is very good on the ‘relief’ that making contact with genetic relatives can bring.

  3. Y says:

    totally agree with the sentiments expressed by Jojo!

  4. Sarah says:

    I concur with JoJo. Olivia, you say that ” Wendy Kramer’s new book Donor Family Matters is very good on the ‘relief’ that making contact with genetic relatives can bring.” Uh… that’s not ‘relief’. It’s not a nice, optional extra. It is our fundamental human right as set out in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and anyone who does not tell their child the truth and facilitate them maintaining personal relationships with all their biological family is trashing the human rights of their own child. Something to think about in lockdown.

  5. oliviasview says:

    More strong stuff from Sarah. Again, not all DC adults would concur with all your sentiments but I have only ever come across one DC person who wished she had not been ‘told’. Openness, as a state of mind, by parents seems to me fundamental to parenting by DC. Being able to facilitate maintaining personal relationships with bio family is rarely an option currently. Known donor relationships, as they are currently entered in to, do not always work out well but I do agree that this is the way forward for the future.

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