Telling your child that they are donor conceived definitely means that some other people need to know. Many parents feel instinctively that the information belongs to their child and that they should be the first to know. This is a very respectful but not very practical position as children cannot be expected to fully understand what donor conception means before the age of around 8. If at age 5 they mention to granny something about ‘the kind lady who gave mummy an egg to help make me’, granny needs to be able to respond with interest and support rather than shock and sadness. And leaving ‘telling’ your child until they are old enough to understand risks your own rustiness in talking about the subject having an impact on how your child receives the news. Relatives and close friends are also likely to wonder why you have not trusted them earlier with the information.
There is no official research on the subject, but DC Network has no evidence that children mind others knowing about their donor conception before they do. In fact there is a chance that they would find it very odd and raise their suspicion that all was not well if others close to them did not know.
Of course not everyone needs to know about how your child was conceived. A good principle to keep in mind is, ‘Is this in my child’s interest?’ when contemplating sharing information. Teachers and doctors, for instance, are likely to find the information of value in supporting your child and understanding any medical conditions they may have. Acquaintances who comment on who your child looks like – and all manner of strangers are likely to do this - can be responded to in vague terms.
There are many reasons why parents may feel anxious about sharing the news of donor conception with others. There may be strong religious beliefs around assisted conception in the family; parents may be aging and infirm; relationships may not be good or there has been previous evidence of intolerance of difference. What is important is that potential and actual parents think carefully about the REAL reasons for anxiety about sharing information. Could the root cause be elements of shame or embarrassment attached to infertility or the use of donor conception? If so, then taking steps to address these will help in clarifying just who does and doesn’t need to know.
What can help?
Join DC Network to meet others who have faced these questions before you.
Read the two new booklets published in June 2013 on Telling and Talking with Friends and Family and Our Story, this latter booklet being intended as a gift for relatives and friends to help them understand about donor conception and what it means for the whole family.
Come to a Telling and Talking workshop where issues about talking with friends and family are shared alongside ‘telling’ children.
Read the section on Talking with Others in the Telling and Talking booklet 0- 7
Contact the DC Network office for links to counsellors and organisations who understand donor conception matters and can talk through thoughts and feelings with you.