This personal story was written by Michelle in 2018.

We went to Spain for our egg donation, where you do not get to choose any preferred donor characteristics. I know this differs from other countries, where prospective parents can see detailed profiles and photos of donors and can select accordingly. When we went to Spain some 12 years ago, their policy was to give you reassurance that they would try to match to your physical characteristics as far as possible and they asked for photos of both parents and any existing biological children to help them do this.

When we first heard that was how they did it, it was a bit disconcerting and we did have to think about it a lot. But ultimately, I think it was right for us to just surrender ourselves to the process and not worry too much about donor characteristics. I appreciate that this would not be right for other people, and I have had some interesting discussions about this with other donor parents, some of whom have carefully selected (or intend to select) particular characteristics in their donors.

But at the time, and even more so now we are so far along the donor journey, I would not have wanted the burden of choice, because of the potential for disappointment. Human genetics are immensely complex and there are no guarantees that if you select a sporty/intelligent/musical/handsome donor that your child will turn out that way themselves. Are you prepared for how you might feel if your child does not turn out to have any of the features you carefully selected for? Would you blame yourself for having chosen unwisely, for thinking you could have done better?

Another important reason for me in not wanting to select for any particular traits or characteristics is that donors (and clinics) will, quite naturally, emphasise their positive features. So parents may be attracted to the donor who is highly academic, without knowing that he is also unsociable, difficult to get along and has few friends. Parents may choose a donor who states that she was a great gymnast in her youth, without knowing that underlying those amazing skills was a degree of hypermobility, which may manifest itself in an entirely different (and negative) way in your child. Parents may choose a donor who states that they are artistic, but who doesn't state that they are also prone to anxiety and mood swings. You get the picture, I’m sure - there will be a lot of information that is not included in any profile and some of what you didn’t know may turn out to be more important than what you did know.

Another thing to consider, which we now only realise with hindsight, is that your child will themselves change as they grow and develop - our daughter, for example, slept tremendously well as a baby and toddler and we certainly (and gratefully) thought that she seemed to have inherited a good sleeping gene from the donor. However, by the time she was 6, she had developed (and 5 years later, still has) significant sleep problems – so, do we now attribute that to the donor’s genes instead? My feeling is that you could drive yourself crazy if you have set expectations and are always looking to see what a specifically selected donor may have passed onto your child. Our preferred route was to accept that we would know next to nothing and be prepared to take what comes.