Is donor conception right for us?
This is a decision that sometimes takes quite a while to make. Donor conception is not right for every couple who have come to the end of the fertility treatment road using their own eggs or sperm. Some may feel that adoption offers a more equal situation for both partners; that fostering could offer fulfillment or that adjustment to being a couple without children is the most positive way forwards.
Making a decision that you can both feel comfortable with means spending some time grieving for the child you cannot have together and for the genetic child of a much loved partner. Also for losses that are personal to each of you or to do with the assumptions and meanings that others can thoughtlessly place on the inability to make a partner pregnant or conceive with your own eggs.
Reading and hearing other people’s experiences can be life changing when the same old thoughts and feelings keep going round in your head and you and your partner have run out of new approaches to the subject.
There are several things you can do –
- Join DC Network. A very important part of our work is breaking the isolation felt by so many by putting people in touch with each other. See Benefits of Membership
- Come on a Preparation for DC Parenthood workshop. These are for people who have still to make up their minds if donor conception is right for them and those who have chosen to go ahead but want to learn more.
- Read the appropriate Letters in the Planning a Family series that are aimed at would-be parents of egg or sperm donor conceived children
- Read one or more of the books in our library that are recommended for your situation. If you are a UK member you can borrow them free of charge. Also read on-line, download or buy the Telling and Talking booklet for parents of children aged 0 – 7. The beginning sections are essential reading for couples making the decision to go ahead or not.
Each of us seems to be handling this differently. How do we get on the same page?
Men and women often have very different approaches to decision making, particularly when issues have a strong emotional component. Infertility and ways to get around the difficulties are no different and in many ways more sensitive than most because of the high value that society places on the ability to make babies.
Typically, men would prefer not to talk about their own or their partner’s fertility problems and women would like to have an on-going conversation about them. Men would prefer either not to think about it at all or to spend quiet time researching on the internet, but preferably not reading books. Women like to chat on fertility forums, research the internet and read anything they can get their hands on. These are stereotypes and there are significant numbers of men and women who do not conform to their gender type, but at DC Network we have talked to enough couples (and know from our own personal experiences) that these approaches ring true for many people.
Different responses by men and women are normal but the stress of fertility difficulties and treatments can reveal the cracks in relationships that have not been so obvious in better times. Alternatively, they can bring couples closer together. The challenge is to find a way to respect each other’s way of dealing with the situation and move forward together in your decision making.
What can help is –
- Reading the appropriate Letters in Planning a Family series which address this topic
- Joining DCN and coming to local meetup or national conference, where men and women can meet separately in groups. Men particularly seem to enjoy being with others in a small group.
- Attending a Preparation for DC Parenthood workshop where, again, there is an opportunity for men and women to meet and talk separately as well as together.
- Talking with a counsellor. They can help it feel safe to talk about things that feel scary to say when you are alone as a couple. Counsellors are very used to partners approaching the issues in different ways and can help men and women see the perspective of the other person. Every UK clinic has at least one counsellor available, but you can also find someone outside of your clinic via the British Infertility Counselling Association www.bica.net or contact DC Network to be signposted to counsellors near you.
What about the child?
Although fertility treatment is all about creating or adding to a family, it is almost inevitable that the focus of attention will be on conception and less on how donor conception issues and questions might come up in the course of family life. Trying to think of yourself as a parent of a five, eight, twelve or twenty year old is very hard when conception itself seems so elusive. However, unlike those who conceive without donor help, it is important to try and put yourself in your child’s shoes at different ages as using donated eggs, sperm or embryos has long term implications for the whole family. If you can feel proud, comfortable and confident about the decisions you have made then your child is likely to as well.
What can help in keeping the child in mind –
- Join DCN in order to talk with parents of donor conceived children about how they made their decisions and what life is like in a DC family.
- Read the Telling and Talking booklets for insights into how children change in their understanding of their beginnings as they grow up.
- Read accounts from donor conceived adults about how they feel about their origins. Note the differences between those whose parents seemed comfortable with their decisions and were open with their children from an early age, and those who only learned of their donor conception later in life.
These stories can be found on this site, in many of the books available in our Library and on other web sites.