In the past, sperm and egg donors were given full anonymity and donor-conceived children were prevented from ever accessing identifiable information about their donor. However in Australia, donors are legally required to be identifiable.
Sperm donation is somehow a taboo and offensive subject. When this unconventional way of child bearing is considered, it is better done in secrecy for the sake of the soon-to-be family of the child.
But today, Children conceived from egg or sperm donation now have the right to access the name and contact details of their donor, once the child turns 18.
Exercising such right may take your family to an emotional journey. However, preparing your child for this information is extremely important, and should start when the child is still young. Supporting donor-conceived children begins when you tell them the unvarnished truth for once. Here are some ways how to lay your cards on the table.
1. Be Open And Honest
You may feel vulnerable about using a donor and not having a genetic link to your child, but lying will not protect your child or your position as a parent. In fact, it has the potential to destroy your child-parent relationship if they find out when they are older. This issue is mostly relevant to heterosexual couples – once the child of a same sex couple is old enough to understand about conception, it will be obvious that there is a missing link. Even so, it is important for all families who have used donors to talk about it.
Keep the conversation open, honest, and developmentally appropriate. Your child should also know about the donor that helped their family to have a baby. Allow your child to ask questions, and answer them as best you can. If you need help, there is a children’s book that tells the story of conception and parenthood in the technological age called “Where Did I Really Come From”, by Narelle Wickham.
2. Define Family
Emphasise that a donor is not a parent. Their donor is a wonderful person who gave life, but they did so without the intention of being a parent. The two roles are very different, and if your child initiates a search for their donor in the hopes of finding a parental figure, they are very likely going to be disappointed.
Write a book for your child about how your family came to be and include your child’s donor information (height, age, hair colour, clinic details) as part of the story. This is a handy way to keep important donor information safe for your child, while also continuing to reinforce the definition of ‘family’, ‘parent’ and ‘donor’.
3. Don’t Take It Personally
When your child decides that they want to contact their donor, it is your job to take the emotional ride with them. Your child is not trying to replace you. You are their parent, and they know that. It’s just human nature for them to be curious about their donor, and it is their right to have information about their genetic history. Also remember – it was ultimately your decision to use a donor in order to create your family.
Don’t be offended or upset that they are interested in contacting their donor. Instead, take an interest, show your support, and offer to go with them when they meet their donor.
4. Prepare Them For Rejection
Donors are under no obligation to form an ongoing relationship with donor-conceived children. Of course, some donors want to meet up regularly, introduce donor-conceived children to their genetic relatives, and form a friendship. Other donors are uninterested in repeated contact, and may even decide against meeting their donor-conceived children. Sometimes when donor and donor-conceived children meet, there can be a clash of personalities or ethics which can be disappointing for the child.
All of these scenarios can be extremely difficult for the donor-conceived child to process, especially if they were unprepared. Connect with a counsellor who understands donor conception issues (for example, a counsellor connected to a fertility clinic) or a support group for donor-conceived children to help your child work through their expectations before contacting their donor.
If you were in this situation, how would you tell the truth to your child about their real parents ?