In 1975 Graham was diagnosed as having testicular cancer and had one testicle removed. In the 1990’s, after numerous tests, he and his wife were told they had ‘undiagnosed infertility’. This is Graham’s story of how, with the help of a known egg donor, he came to be the father of twins.
The fateful day which changed our fortunes was one in which the leading consultant in one of London’s premier fertility units confused us with another couple he was treating and said “of course there is always the option of donated eggs as I have told you before”.
After being taken aback by the mistaken identity and memory failure of our consultant we reflected on this bombshell. We wanted to try egg donation now! We wanted a resolution to our fertility questions so that we could get on with our lives. My partner and I quickly came to the decision to try, even in the face of the fact that any chance of relatives donating had gone with the passing of time. As this piece is about ‘my story’ I can only say how I approached this decision.
We had to wake up to the facts that with the lack of donors in the UK we would not be able to give up our search until we had, if necessary, tried treatment abroad where we were told donated ova were possible.
My own medical issues had led me to contemplate the possibility of sperm donation and helped me understand and support my wife’s decision process. I was careful not to pressure her to a premature decision. In the end fate intervened. Without informing us a close friend had been contemplating helping us through egg donation - only to find she was above the recognised age limit for the procedure. This friend told our story to a woman who (by a wonderful coincidence) had been touched by a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme on the shortage of egg donors. Some time later this friend of a friend called offering to be our egg donor if we were interested.
There was a short window in which we needed to decide due to our potential donor’s travel plans who also informed us she had already undertaken the necessary pre-donation counselling and was ready to donate now.
My wife was resolute in her acceptance of this amazing offer and I supported that decision wholeheartedly. We were doubly aware of the generosity of our donor with the knowledge that she had not yet had a family of her own. Over the next weeks my wife and I got to know our donor and her husband as the wonderfully altruistic people they are. From the start we knew we would want any children to have an on going relationship with, not only their donor but, who knows in future maybe her own family.
I am not saying it was all plain sailing, the abruptness of the offer caused me to have, well not so much a wobble as a reality check. After all the children I had imagined having in my minds eye bore a physical resemblance to the woman I loved, same brown eyes, spirited character, pointy head. I was wise though to share my mourning or fears whatever you would call those feelings, with two close male ex-football friends. After their firm reassurance telling me about the amazing diversity of their own children, I was able to move on and we raised a toast to moving ahead with the help of our egg donor. It is good to talk these things through after all.
Having the opportunity to share the good news of pregnancy and birth with an empathetic donor only served to reinforce our immense feelings of joy and gratitude. I always try to be aware of the cues my wife sub-consciously or otherwise gives out as to the frequency of contact and I am sensitive to our donor’s needs also in this respect. We always try to keep our donor informed of any public interaction we have through the DCN. Our instinct is to be inclusive when it comes to telling the children, wider family, or DCN members about the circumstances of their conception.
For the most part I feel our children stand to gain enormously from the diversity of their background - having a New Zealander as a donor as well as their Scottish mother. I know that they will be the recipients of huge emotional wealth from our donor and her partner. I can only see our children as being enriched by the experience of having a wider circle of relationships with people who genuinely care about them.
The only thorny question that remains is whether the children will wear a Scotland, England or All Black rugby shirt. I suspect all would reply “No contest!”
If there is a post-script it is my realising the wisdom of a prediction made by our donor - a nanny by profession. She told me of the natural ease with which she bonded with those in her care. By now I realise this remark was a relative underestimate of the strength of the bond I enjoy with our two much wanted children. I can say for both myself and my wife that our pre-conceived anxieties rarely arise, having been replaced by the gratitude we feel towards our donor and her partner.