The Rights of Children

An egg donor and mother of a sperm donor conceived child tells why she would be happy for children born from her donated eggs to have access to information about her.

I am 32 years old and my 31-year-old husband Pete has Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. We knew from a fairly early stage in our relationship that he would need some sort of fertility treatment to enable us to have children.

We were initially drawn to ICSI and were thrilled at the prospect of being able to have our own genetic children. Unfortunately, only 7 of Pete's sperm were obtained after TESA (which stands for testicular sperm aspiration- and yes it's as painful as it sounds!!) and as they had managed to obtain 14 eggs from me we were told that it would be sensible to fertilise half of them with donor sperm. We had initially rejected donor sperm as I felt it was important that Pete had his own genetic children (incidentally it was less important to him!) but agreed as otherwise the eggs would be wasted.

After enduring two unsuccessful attempts to conceive, the first with ICSI using Pete's sperm and the second IVF using donor sperm I realised that I was equally as devastated by both failures. The fact that one set of embryos did not contain Pete's genetic material did not affect the way I felt about my failure to get pregnant.

At this point we were faced with the prospect of trying ICSI with TESA again or going for "straight" donor insemination. By now Pete's physical health had deteriorated and we felt that it wasn't worth the stress of another surgical procedure given that we were by now equally happy with the prospect of using donor sperm. We then went for donor insemination and it worked first time!

We now have a 3 year old daughter and in the intervening period I have donated eggs twice. Although my main reason for donating eggs was altruistic it has also helped in my attempt to come to terms with the fact that Catrin is a donor baby. I thought very carefully about my decision especially as I would love to have more children of my own but due to the fact that my husband is now very severely disabled I don't feel that is an option. However I don't feel any sense of parental responsibility towards my eggs - the eggs were a gift, given freely and without expecting anything in return. It was done in order to help someone else have children and I do not in any way consider them my offspring!

However, I do feel that the children born as a result of using donated gametes have rights and need some information about their donor in order to make sense of their genetic background. I feel that Catrin should be able to find out as much as she wants about her genetic parent at whatever stage she feels the need to know about her genetic origins. I have already obtained her donor profile and was delighted to find out that her donor's reasons for donating were not dissimilar to mine i.e. he has children and has donated his sperm out of a desire to help childless couples given that he has friends who have suffered from infertility.

I feel that even if I don't particularly want to be identified as an egg donor it is more important that any children born as a result of my donated eggs grow up happy with the level of information they receive. Because of this, I have said in my own donor profile that I would be happy to be identified in the future should the law change or should those children wish to know more about me.

At the end of the day, we are the adults in this equation and as such have a responsibility for our children's well-being. If Pete and I wanted children so desperately then we must be prepared to behave responsibly and give our child as much information as we can because secrets are so damaging to family life. If this means that people find out things about us that we would rather they didn't know then it's up to us to deal with it! It also means that I take my responsibilities seriously as a donor and accept that although I am not at all curious about any children born from my eggs, that they may be and that they have a right to find out who I am and why I helped their parents to have a child.

Finally, I would like to thank the Network for making me aware that I had a responsibility to be open with my child. Until Catrin was 6 months old, we had no intention of telling her that she was a DC baby and I worried constantly about whether she would find out and reject us. Once I read the stories in the newsletter I realised that there was another way - to be open and honest from the start! I told everyone I knew about DC and felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders! I've not had a moment's regret and the story I heard at the Network meeting I attended recently confirmed that it was absolutely the right thing to do. We heard of a woman of 28 who found out barely 6 months ago she was donor conceived and the devastating effect this has had on her relationships.

The sooner we stop shrouding the whole thing in secrecy and have the information to enable our children to seek out their genetic parents and thus complete "their story" the better it will be for all concerned.

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