I am a DC adult conceived via an anonymous sperm donor to heterosexual parents. Interestingly my younger brother was naturally conceived a few years later with the help of fertility medication. My parents were told it was in my best interests never to tell me, however as time went on my mum felt that it was more important that I knew. When I was 13 my parents separated, and it gave my Mum the chance to tell me. Unfortunately it came out in an argument about my father and it wasn’t the way she wanted or planned to tell me. At the time I was taken aback and shocked by it. It made me consider all the relationships I had with my father’s side of the family and what had changed for me now that the similarities between me and them couldn’t be due to a genetic connection - simple things, like being left handed and artistic, I assumed had been passed down from my dad’s family.
It was strange finding out as a teenager as there were so many transitions happening anyway and I wasn’t sure who to talk to about it as friends didn’t understand and no one in my family knew. The internet and google didn’t exist! It took me many years to feel comfortable about speaking about it. I had counselling which was really helpful, I hadn’t realised there were that many feelings to process. But it helped me realise I needed to speak to my dad about it and get the reassurance from him that he loved me in spite of being donor conceived and that he understood why I was curious about the donor and that it wasn’t a reflection on him. That conversation was a powerful turning point.
I’ve developed a very strong relationship with both my mum and dad as an adult. I’ve been lucky enough to have three beautiful children who were naturally conceived. My son knows that Nannie and Grandad used a kind doctor’s seed to make Mummy and as he’s got older he knows what that means for his non-genetic relationship with my dad. He said, the donor helped to grow my body, but Grandad helps to grow my brain. And just like that - he’d hit the nail on the head. Having children made me realise I needed to know more, that the genetic void was becoming scary as I didn’t know what I might be passing down to my children.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I did a DNA test and I was fortunate to be connected to a close cousin - someone who turned out to be the donor’s first cousin. When I said my background and date/location of conception he knew exactly who the donor was. He contacted his cousin for me but the donor declined to be in contact. Thankfully his cousin has remained in contact and I am so so grateful for his leap of faith in an (online) stranger in telling me about his/our family about my genetic great grandparents. I found out I am genetically half Northern Irish! When I found out the information it was amazing how much it made a change for me. I felt like a weight had been lifted - I hadn’t realised how much that weight had been there. I felt complete. I had my mum and my dad, and I had both sides of my genetic history - I was a whole person and I had information to pass on to my children - I had their information too.
The wider impact of DNA testing and the internet is huge. It means people are finding out about their genetic origins more than ever now. There is no such thing as complete anonymity any longer and that is a brilliant thing. Hopefully this will encourage families to be open and honest about their decisions to use a donor to build their family, and see it as a fascinating element to be celebrated rather than hidden.
Written by Lou in 2018.