Thinking back over my ‘donor conception’ journey - which I realise has now been some 14 years - there is a theme that has run through the whole thing. The theme reflects qualities I hold dear, qualities I ‘inherited’ from my parents and qualities I have passed on to my children – and they have nothing to do with genetics! At the heart of everything there has been honesty, trust and openness. I have also realised that going through the journey with these qualities uppermost in our thinking and actions has had a positive effect on both my husband and me, our children and even for other people. My personal and strongly held belief is that without them the journey is much harder for us as parents and even more so for our children.
Even before we entered the ‘donor’ world, the honesty and openness of our Fertility Consultant and the trust we placed in him was key. We trusted his judgement and relied on his honest advice – to not give us false hope at vast cost financially and emotionally and to guide us in the right direction.
I struggled through what I now know was a grieving process and had to be honest with myself about my own feelings in order to come to terms with, and embrace, the idea of a child that would not be genetically connected to me. It made me explore the very reasons we want to have children – that wish to carry on, or even to hold on to, family we have lost. I feel that, because of all this soul searching, from very early on I saw my potential child as an individual – very much their own person (or people as it turned out) rather than a mini-me.
There was even a wonderful positive consequence of my willingness to be so open about the donor conception with family and friends. Through a close friend, we recruited an altruistic donor. If I had not had those explicit conversations with friends this would not have happened - and it led to two other families being helped as well.
As for the absolute trust our children placed in us to be open with them, it was always going to be that way for me. I didn’t even hesitate when the clinic’s counsellor asked us if we were going to tell our potential children. “Why would I want to keep such a secret from someone I was going to love?” I knew personally the consequences of not being honest for the person that child was going to become from my Mum’s experience of being kept in the dark about her adoption as a child – it affected her all her life.
We have always been open with our children about the donor. This positive attitude is something they have picked up on. From an early age we have told them about their story and, with the help of the DCN Telling and Talking Workshop, from the age of about 4 they have understood about the donor lady. The questions have got more involved as they have got older, but I always answer as honestly as I can. The fact that they are comfortable asking me awkward questions reflects how at ease and positive they are about it all and the trust they have in me to be straightforward with them. I believe that because they have been brought up within an atmosphere of complete openness, as I was, they have inherited those qualities themselves. We long ago reached the stage where the ‘information’ was theirs and not mine to tell and I always ask them before telling someone new – they have never said ‘no’ – and will happily talk about it to their close friends.
Looking to the future, I think they will want to know more about the donor and trace her when they are 18. And I know they will trust me to help them without feeling awkward about asking. In my usual positive way, I am looking forward to it and the prospect of possibly finding out about this important part of what makes my children who they are - to being the open and honest person they can trust to guide and support them.
Written by Gill in 2018.