The most important consideration for both of us was “how did I feel about all this” and we definitely did not want this person to become an unexpected member of our family. We were helped very much by the excellent counselling service available once we made the decision to go ahead.
Finding out your partner donated
Finding out your partner donated sperm or eggs can be challenging. Donors may not discuss their donations with their partners and family for a range of reasons. Some may feel embarrassed or ashamed of donating; some may believe there is no reason to tell as their donations were anonymous; while others may feel it is irrelevant to their current life. There are also donors who intended to tell their partner but have found the subject difficult to discuss.
On the other hand, there are donors who are proud of their donation and have been open with their partners and others from the time they donated.
A parent or a donor-conceived person has applied for information about your partner
Some people may learn that their partner donated sperm or eggs as a result of an application to the donor conception registers. This can be confronting – not only to find that their partner donated but that a person born from the donation and/or their parent may want more information about, or contact with, their partner. It is likely to take time to process this information and to decide what to do.
Why do donor-conceived people or their parents apply for information?
Knowing where you come from is important for many people as reflected in the popularity of building family trees and visiting ancestral homes. Some donor-conceived people want genetic or medical information only; some are also interested in learning about their donor’s personality, interests, and whether they share common traits. There are donor-conceived people who wish to correspond with their donors or perhaps to meet them. It is likely to have been a big step for the donor-conceived person to lodge an application and they may be feeling apprehensive about the outcome.
What does this mean for us?
It is common to feel confused about what an application to the donor conception registers could mean for your partner and for your relationship. Sperm and egg donors are not legal parents which means donor offspring have no legal claim on their donor’s estate, nor do they have any parental rights in relation their donor offspring.
You may have other questions arising from an application:
- Will the offspring want just information or to meet?
- How many offspring are there?
- How old are they?
- What are they like?
In VARTA’s experience donor-conceived people who apply for information about their donors are respectful of the donor’s wishes and sensitive to their and their family’s privacy.
Partner’s common reactions
Some people may welcome news of an application for information. They may see their partner’s donation as a generous and altruistic act and are therefore open to contact with the person/people created as a result. Partners with this approach may appreciate why the donor-conceived person wants more information or contact and see this as positive outcome for them and their partner.
Alternatively, some partners may feel uneasy about their partner’s donation, perceiving it a potential intrusion on them and their family. They may feel uncomfortable that the donor has children outside their relationship even though this has not occurred as a result of a relationship with the mother of the child or children.
How might this affect our children?
Some partners may view contact with donor-conceived offspring as positive for their own children, providing them with an opportunity to form relationships with ‘donor-siblings’. Some partners may be concerned that contact with donor offspring will diminish their partner’s relationship with their children while others may have concerns about the potential for their children to unknowingly have a sexual relationship with their genetic half-siblings.
My partner and I haven’t had children
If the donor and their partner have not been able to have children, applications from donor offspring may prompt uncomfortable emotions. Painful feelings of loss and grief about not being able to be a parent may resurface. However, some people may view a connection with donor offspring as an opportunity to develop a positive new relationship.
If the donor and their partner plan to have children but have not yet done so, it may be challenging for the partner to know that any future child they have will not be the first or only child genetically related to their partner.
Where do I fit in?
Partners of donors may question what their role should be in relation to any donor offspring. A donor’s partner is vital in any donor-linking connection. If the donor’s partner does not feel comfortable about connecting, it will impact on the donor and their decisions in relations to their donor-conceived offspring.
VARTA encourages a donor’s partner to be included in all stages of donor-linking. As a donor’s partner, VARTA staff encourage you to:
- raise any concerns you have with your partner and/or contact the VARTA counsellor
- attend the information and support sessions at VARTA together with your partner
- participate in decision-making
- contribute to correspondence or contact with donor offspring or the parents of offspring.
Partners and children of donors have access to donor-linking counselling, intermediary, and support services, just as donors themselves do. VARTA encourages the donor’s partner to be included at all stages of donor-linking.