To Tell or Not to Tell?
Before we conceived our children by donor insemination we both agreed to tell them how they were conceived. At the time we did not really discuss it, we just knew it was the right thing to do. We realized only years later why we had come to this decision. For us living in openness and honesty is the healthy way for our family to be. Keeping knowledge as important as biological identity from our children would have been like a millstone around out necks. Our children are growing up knowing how they were conceived and for us telling them the truth was a measure of our respect for them as individual human beings. I remember some time ago reading a book, which posed the question, “If a person never knows the truth how can they be harmed?” Secrets are not quite as simple as that. Living with a secret can be extremely hard. To keep the secret of a child’s conception means that there will always be a certain division in the family. On one side there will be those that know the secret and on the other those, most especially the child, who don’t. (Experiences of Donor Conception: parents, offspring & donors through the years, Caroline Lorbach 2003)
“We told my parents, my sisters, his parents, and brother. We held off for a bit telling friends, but then we started getting stressed about it, going through the process and trying to get pregnant. We had made it clear to our friends that we were going to have a family. After a while, when we still didn’t have kids, it was noticed. And, of course, people started asking questions, like why we weren’t pregnant yet. So we told people, which made it so much easier. But these were my friends (overseas). It was strange for us in Melbourne because within three to four months I fell pregnant. So sometimes it was hard, in hindsight, to find the way to talk about it or bring it up. Sometimes with friends in my mothers’ groups, I put out feelers. Then if someone seems interested I usually explain. Most people haven’t got the foggiest about donor sperm or egg. I feel I am educating the masses. All our friends would know. A few acquaintances might not know. People just say things and they just presume.” Mother of two toddlers conceived through DI Courtesy: Telling about Assisted Conception Infertility Treatment Authority 2006 (now Victorian Assisted Reproductive Technology Authority)
Donor-conceived adult, told as a young adult:
"In order to have not gone through this pain, from the time I could hear 1 would have liked to have known, to have that honesty. You can never get that trust back. Especially from your parents, who teach you most of the things in your life ...Since that trust was ripped away, I have difficulty trusting anyone. Especially knowing. that others knew, everyone other than my brother and I knew, and they didn't say anything. We aren't weird or bad. Why keep it a secret? It should be spoken about. I feel a donor offspring must know the truth. Why can't it be an option on the birth certificate to register everyone, including the social father and the donor? They should all be there. It's such a lie. I am also very frightened of cross-breeding issues for my children and the generations after. I should have access to that information and to medical information. I have had medical issues with my children,...but we can't trace where it's from. It's a jigsaw of unfitting pieces. This needs to be about fulfilling the needs of the baby, its rights. It's going to be a human being... Dad doesn't want to speak about it. Mum sometimes will, other times not. She just wants me to forget it. If, then, they'd had more knowledge and different support, that would've been good. They didn't even have counselling, which wasn't available then. Instead they've not addressed their issues. So all their issues have been dumped on us and added to other issues. My friends will ask me, 'Why don't you keep searching?' But not with my parents still alive. It's far too difficult, too much hurt for them... Parents need to ensure that the child doesn't find out through anger. They need to be bringing the child up with love, trust and honesty. If they want you to be honest with them, they need to be honest with you. 1 think about it all the time." Courtesy: Telling about Assisted Conception Infertility Treatment Authority 2006 (now Victorian Assisted Reproductive Technology Authority)
Gamete donation: parents’ experiences of searching for their child’s donor siblings and donor T. Freeman1, V. Jadva W. Kramer, and S. Golombok Human Reproduction, Vol.1, No.1 pp. 1–12, 2009 For full article click here
Despite the limitations of the sample, this study provides valuable insight into the experiences of families who are open about donor conception and of the decisions and dilemmas facing such parents. A particular set of issues that was raised relates to disclosure. At each stage of the searching process, there are points at which the child might or might not be told, from registering with the DSR, to finding, contacting, meeting and developing relationships with donor relations. The age of the donor offspring may also have an important impact on experiences of donor relation searches. The mean age of the parents’ oldest (or only) child in the current sample was 8 years, limiting the extent to which the effects of searching for donor relations could be explored. A further limitation of this study is that it is based on parents’ reports of children’s experiences.
“On my good days, I pretend the baby is adopted”
Mother of 4 month old donor offspring