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My children have a wonderful life, but part of them will always wonder where they come from

by Tracy, parent to donor-conceived children

Anonymous donor in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). What a mouthful. When my journey started in the early 90s, this was hardly a known concept. Who would choose this method for having a baby? And why would you? Even my doctor thought I should ‘just’ find someone in a bar to have consensual unprotected sex with. As if it is that easy and not without risk. But when you are desperate to be a mother, in your early thirties without any long-term partner in sight and your biological clock ticking way too fast, it suddenly seems like the most obvious and preferred choice possible.

My initial attempts at getting my doctor to agree to a referral, which you needed even as a self-funded patient, were wasted on an old-fashioned belief that children needed two parents and this was ‘unnatural’. But I persisted and nine months later, my GP finally referred me to a private hospital, because at the time the NHS would not treat a single woman.

I have no regrets, and if I were to ever meet ‘Mr Donor’, I would shake his hand and be eternally thankful for his selfless act that changed my life for the better.

I was delighted to be accepted to their programme for artificial insemination, the cost of private IVF was a bit too far from my reach. Little did I anticipate the disappointment that failure brings as attempt after attempt failed, even when I received hormone drugs to help with conception.

After several years of failed attempts, but plenty of persistence, I got a breakthrough as the NHS exceptionally agreed to treat me. Sadly I still had to pay for my treatment, but at least I could manage the payments which were cheaper. Within months, I started IVF treatment and my first attempt was a success! Twins – eek!. So, there I was, 37 and pregnant, but it didn’t quite go to plan, somehow my life just never does. I did give birth to a beautiful daughter, but sadly my son was stillborn.

I took time to grieve, but I also knew I had to keep trying. I could not let my daughter be a single child, after she had such an unusual route into the world. Less than two years later, using the same donor sperm, I brought my second daughter into the world.

Raising two girls as a single mum is hard work, but I count myself very lucky to have two beautiful daughters – now in their mid to late teens.

Anonymous donor sperm was the only route for me to fulfil my motherhood ambition and I knew when I signed up for treatment that the donor would always be completely anonymous. There would be no chance for me or my children to find out who the donor was at any stage, as my treatment took place before the law on donor anonymity changed. I did not take this decision lightly, but I was happy to accept the terms if it meant I had the chance to become a mother.

I have no regrets, and if I were to ever meet ‘Mr Donor’, I would shake his hand and be eternally thankful for his selfless act that changed my life for the better.

But, it’s different for my girls. They did not choose it this way.

My beautiful daughters should have a right to know about their history and their genetic make-up and they want to know, to understand a bit more about where they come from. It won’t change who they are, or more importantly, who they love, but it will give them a sense of place and belonging that I cannot give them. They have a small family from my side including one set of grandparents, an aunt, uncle and one cousin. But they don’t have a father. Even if we were the largest family in the world, I would still want this for them, their right to know their full identity.

When my eldest turned 16, she was excited that she could finally find out certain details about her donor and potential siblings, through the HFEA She was only able to find out non-identifying information about her donor, but she found out that she had 11 potential half-siblings out there somewhere, all born before her, that she may be able to meet one day. However, you can only join the Donor Sibling Link when you’re 18 years old, and this was very frustrating for her.  Carrying the knowledge of her half-siblings and not knowing if it would lead anywhere for two years is hard enough for grown adults, let alone a teenager.

Finally, on her 18th birthday she was able to register on the HFEA Donor Sibling Network, which she did that very day.

I always knew that anonymous donor IVF was never going to be straight forward but finding out that out of her 11 siblings not even one had registered an interest on the sibling network was heart wrenching. After all that time waiting, it felt like it was all for nothing. It’s hard to understand why her half-siblings have not signed up to the sibling network, maybe they don’t know the network exists, or maybe they don’t even know they are donor conceived.  

While my daughter has a wonderful life with a great future and is very much loved, she can go on without more knowledge about her extended ‘family’, but there will always be a moment where my daughters will wonder and want to find out more. Wouldn’t you?

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Review date: 8 October 2023