Are you currently considering donating sperm, ovum or embryos to assist an infertile person or persons who wish to conceive a child?
You may have a very personal reason for wanting to help others in this way, and perhaps even know the people you want your donation to help. You may simply want to “help others”, or share your good fortune as a parent, and not know or care who will benefit from your donation. The decision may seem a simple and uncomplicated one.
You are to be congratulated for your desire to help others in this special way. However, if you do make the decision to donate, this will have an important impact on the people who receive your donation, on the person who is born as a result of your donation, and even on you.
About Gamete Donation....
Donor Insemination, or DI, has been practiced for many years in Australia. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) techniques have also allowed women to donate ovum (or “eggs”) and couples to donate embryos.
In the midst of all this technology, it can be easy to forget just exactly what is being done. The donation of sperm, ovum or embryos is not the same as the donation of kidneys, livers, and hearts
A whole person will be created. And not just a newborn baby, but a person who will become first a young child, then a teenager, then a young adult, and eventually a parent and grandparent in his/her own right.
This person, and his/her family, will have the same needs as other individuals and their families. The need to be safe and secure. The need to be loved. The need to be treated with respect. The need to know about personal heritage and history.
Not Your Child....
Donating your sperm, ovum or embryos allows for the creation of a person who will be cherished by people who have longed for a child. You may rightly say that the child who is created is not your child, even thought he or she is genetically your offspring. That the parents who raise the child will be the parents in every sense.
All parents will tell you that it is the challenges and traumas of parenting, not just the “birthing”, which creates strong bonds between parents and children. Most adopted people and their adoptive parents have strong, positive feelings about adoption and develop close relationships that last a lifetime. Parents and children don’t need to share genetic material to love and be committed to each other.
However, more than one hundred years of adoption experiences in this country has taught us that genetics are important too.
How Gamete Donation Affects Children and
It was once believed that adopted children would not want or need information about their “birth” parents, if the adoption was a success. It was even believed that children who were adopted would be better never knowing of the adoption. It was also thought that birth parents didn’t care about, and would be better never knowing about, the child who was adopted. In short, everyone should just get on with life and forget about the adoption. The adoption was an “event” that had happened, not a process that would continue to have an effect on the individuals and families involved.
Some people would prefer to believe that people born using donated gametes will not want or need information about the donor, to whom they are genetically related. They would probably be better off not even knowing the truth of their conception. The donors won’t want or need to know how their offspring are faring, because they are “not their children”. The donation of the sperm, ovum or embryo was just something that once happened.
We now know that it is normal and healthy for adopted people to want to know the truth of their origins, and to need information about their genetic history. We now know that adoptive parents want and need this information too.
We also know that birth parents often think of the child they gave up for adoption, want to know if he/she is well and happy. They don’t want to take over parenting the adopted person but they don’t stop caring or wondering, either.
Both parents and offspring of families created using gamete donation are increasingly stating that they also want and need to have information about the gamete donor.
We now also know that many donors think of the child that was created, and wonder about his/her welfare and whether he/she has questions about them. Most donors don’t expect that they will feel this way, but find the donation, and the growing child or children probably conceived as a result, play on their mind as time goes on.
All of this is normal.
The Impact of Your Decision to Donate
Obviously there are many people, and a great many issues to consider in your decision about whether or not to donate your gametes. No one is more important than the person who will be created; your genetic offspring, but your own feelings are very important too.
Take some time to consider how you might feel about your donation in years to come. One or more people may come to exist as a result of your donation. They will genetically be your children, although legally, and socially, they will be the children of the parents to whom you are donating your gametes. They may eventually have children who will be your genetic grandchildren.
You have a special and indisputable link to any child you helped to create, and therefore some very special responsibilities which no one else can assume on your behalf.
Can you imagine how donor offspring might feel? To wonder about who they may look like, where they get their talents and personality traits from, what their genetic family history is and what this may suggest about their own potential? To wonder why you donated, and if you cared about their future?
How would you feel if your genetic offspring needed a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from you in the future? Or felt a desperate need to meet with and talk to you, even if just once?
Can you imagine how it must feel for parents of children with all these questions? Will these parents be able to answer their children’s questions?
How would you respond if, one day in the future, you were asked to meet with your genetic offspring and his/her parents? Your answer may depend on whether you keep your donation a secret from important people in your life, or not. It may also depend on how many genetic offspring arise from your donation.
At this time, it may seem easier for you to focus on the creation of a healthy baby for loving people who have longed to be parents.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the responsibilities of donation, then don’t ignore them. Don’t donate!
How You Can Really Help....
If, after reading this information sheet and discussing your decision with friends and family, you still want to donate your gametes, that will be terrific. But whatever you do, don’t simply leave your gametes at the clinic!
As a first step, it is important that you leave information about yourself that both parents and the child can have access to. Medical history is important, but so is information about your personal history, your personality and talents, and how you feel about the donation. You can leave a letter, and even a photo, at the clinic at which you donate.
It is also important that you are open to a possible request for information, and maybe even contact, at some time in the future. To do this, it will probably be important for you to tell special people in your life about the donation, and the possibility that you have genetic offspring who may need some information and/or contact with you at some time.
Make sure that you leave enough identifying information with the clinic to enable you to be found in the future.
If you feel uncomfortable about having a number of genetic offspring. then you may wish to ask the clinic at which you donate to limit the number of pregnancies which arise from your donation.
It’s possible that you don’t know anyone else who has donated gametes. You may think you don’t know any parents whose children were born using donated gametes, or any people who were themselves conceived using donated gametes.
You might have thought this would be an easy decision, and now realise it isn’t. If that has been a painful realisation, take heart in the knowledge that it is an important one, and you are now much better equipped to make, and live with, this important decision.
Creating a life, and a family, is a powerful and generous act.
It is important that you get as much information as you can about the consequences of your decision.
Talk to people about your decision. If you feel you can’t, that may be a sign that donation isn’t right for you. A secret as enormous as this will be hard to bear for a lifetime, and may prevent you from fulfilling your responsibilities to your genetic offspring.
Other donors, adult people who were conceived using donated gametes, and parents whose children were conceived using donated gametes, may be able to help you to make a decision that is right for you, and those who will be affected by your decision. If you don’t know people with these personal experiences, contact the Donor Conception Support Group of Australia. They can help potential donors of sperm, ovum and embryos,
and can give you important insight into the complicated issue of gamete donation.
It is very important that you don’t rush your decision. Take time to make a well-informed decision that you feel you can live with for the rest of your life. A decision that you feel will have positive implications for those who will be affected by it.