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I’m anxious. Is this normal?

Yes, it is common to have doubts, be anxious or nervous. Many of the anxieties experienced reduce or completely disappear over time. Discuss any concerns you have with your partner, close friends or family, known donor or your counsellor.

What questions should I think about before getting testing?

Here are some questions to think about before testing or if you’ve done a test:

  • What do you want to achieve out of this process?
  • Do you have somebody to support you in an independent, neutral way?
  • Have you applied for records that might help you, such as information from VARTA’s donor conception registers?
  • Are you aware of all the possible outcomes and have you thought about how you might react to these?
  • How will you respond to unexpected contact from a genetic relative?

What is my role in the family going to look like?

Many non-biological parents worry about their role in the family, particularly their role in relation to their child. This can be challenging for some people, especially in same-sex relationships, as there are no established societal norms for their relationship. Some techniques for overcoming this include sharing the practical parenting responsibilities (e.g. feeding and caring) and time spent parenting. Flexible working arrangements (e.g. working part-time, working from home) can help to share the primary-care role.
Regardless of the roles in your family, love, commitment and shared values are good building blocks for any family.

I’m in a same-sex relationship. Will my experience be different?

Regardless of the roles in your family, love, commitment and shared values are good building blocks for any family. Most same-sex parents say that while biology can be important it does not affect how they love their children. Gay fathers may not feel the anxieties associated with being a non-biological parent as keenly, or for as long, because they don’t have to deal with issues of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. While for non-biological lesbian mothers, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding can sometimes be difficult and they may experience feelings of grief and loss or feel excluded. Once the child stops breastfeeding, they often say there is no longer any difference between them and they feel more secure in their role and in their relationship with their child.

What can I do to support my family members of friends going through the donor conception process?

Listen to them. Acknowledgement and support go a long way to help non-biological parents feel secure in their role.

Where can I get more help?

Discuss any concerns you have with your partner, close friends or family, known donor or your counsellor. It can also be helpful to contact a support group or hear from others who have had similar experiences.

I want to donate. What are some of the things I should consider?

How this may affect you and your family. Will you tell your extended family and friends? Consider the genetic connection to your own children and other members of your extended family.

You will not be a legal parent of a donor-conceived child and will not appear on the birth certificate. You will have no legal rights or obligations to the parent(s) or child born as a result of your donation. How will you feel towards the person/people you help create?

  • How this may affect you and your family. Will you tell your extended family and friends? Consider the genetic connection to your own children and other members of your extended family.
  • You will not be a legal parent of a donor-conceived child and will not appear on the birth certificate. You will have no legal rights or obligations to the parent(s) or child born as a result of your donation. How will you feel towards the person/people you help create?
  • The people to whom you donate may have different values, backgrounds, beliefs, and parenting styles from your own. How do you feel about that?
  • The information you would like to share and type of relationship you would like in future with the recipient parents and donor-conceived person.
  • If you donate to someone you know, what relationship and contact will you have with the recipient parent(s) and child. What will your role be and what will they call you?

Who will benefit from my donation?

People who benefit from donation may include couples diagnosed with infertility, single women who want to have a baby on their own or same-sex couples who require a donation to have a baby. Find out more here.

Can I donate anonymously in Victoria or somewhere else in Australia?

No.

If I donate, when will my identifying information be released?

You can find out more about what information others can find out about you here.

I have unused embryos. Can I donate them?

Yes. If you are at the end of your treatment and have completed your family, you may prefer to donate rather than dispose of your embryos. Whether it is sperm, egg or embryo donation you will need to consider implications for you, your family and the donor recipients. The meaning and significance of embryos are not the same for everyone. Some people feel unable to donate their embryos because they consider them to be potential children and connect them potentially to their existing children. Others feel differently. Make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with your decision before proceeding.

You cannot donate your embryos if they were formed using donor eggs or sperm.

Find out more about what to do with unused embryos here.

As a donor, do I need to tell the fertility clinic if I or a close family member have been diagnosed with a medical problem?

It is important to contact the fertility clinic if you or a close family member is diagnosed with a medical problem that may be passed on to people born as a result of your donation. This may help people take preventive steps such as early screening for the condition.

I would like to connect with parents who have used the same donor. Which register do I use?

The Voluntary Register. If there is a match, VARTA will notify you and the other parties involved. These connections are not possible using the Central Register.

How can I get non- identifying information?

Parents, donor-conceived people and donors can request and receive non-identifying information about each other from their fertility clinic, or from VARTA, at any time, without the need for consent. This includes:

  • physical characteristics – height, eye colour, blood group
  • social information – ethnic background, medical history.

Options include:

  • treating fertility clinic
  • Voluntary register
  • Central register.

People linked through donor conception can lodge information via the Voluntary Register. If a match is found all parties will be notified.

I am writing my statement of reasons. What should I include?

A statement of reasons is a short document explaining your motivations and what you would like to happen (both short and long term) as a result of the application. Your completed statement of reasons is forwarded to the contacted party and can help them understand why you are seeking information and/or contact.

  • Write in a way which conveys your voice and what you think and feel, so that the other person forms a greater understanding of you as a person. VARTA staff have expertise connecting people linked by donation so they are able to provide helpful feedback.
  • Keep it simple and clear. Consider what the other person may like to know about you. As this is likely to be the first information the other person will receive about you (and may be their first introduction to somebody with whom they are connected by donation) it is difficult to know how they will respond to your application. Let the other person know a little bit about yourself. Ensure that the information you share with the other person is what you are comfortable revealing. If there are specific questions you have, this is the time to ask them.
  • Respect the other person’s wishes. It takes time to get to know another person and at this very early stage it is sensible to approach things in a respectful and carefully paced manner. For example, instead of stating ‘I want to meet you’, you could say ‘one day, if you’d like to, it would be my hope that we could meet’. It is likely that one or both of you may be feeling some trepidation about the situation so it is advisable to tread lightly in the beginning.
  • Be clear about your short-term and long-term goals. It is helpful for the other person to understand how you would like to begin to communicate with each other initially, and if this goes well, in the future. Some people want only medical information or information about cultural background and do not want ongoing contact. Others would like a friendship if they find they enjoy each other's company. People often like to begin to exchange information with each other via email. While some people might use their general email address, others prefer to begin correspondence using a non-identifying email account to protect their privacy. People may also choose to share photographs.
  • Social media and internet footprint. The more information you share, the easier it is for the other person to find you on the internet. This is the time to update your social media settings if you want to protect your privacy or if you are a parent and wish to protect your child's privacy.

You can read more about writing your statement of reasons here.

I am writing my first letter. What should I include?

Your introductory letter or email is often the first form of contact between someone with whom you are connected by donation. It is best to write a short message that gives some information about you and how you would like the contact to progress.

You may find it is one of the most challenging letters you ever have to write. It may be hard to know what to say. It is important that you:

  • write in your own voice
  • are honest about what you think and feel
  • keep it simple and real
  • let your personality shine through
  • let the other person know your ideas of what you would like to happen in the future.

Start by introducing yourself. This may be the first information the other person has received about you. It may also be their first introduction to a person with whom they are connected by donation. As you may not know what kind of involvement they wish to have with you, it is better to keep your introduction simple. Consider sharing why you are interested in knowing more about them. You may have already received some non-identifying information about them. This may be a good opportunity to write a few short sentences about what you know or to identify something that the two of you have in common.

What will you call each other? The terminology surrounding donor-conception has not yet evolved enough to describe these kinds of relationships. It is difficult to know what to call each other. The language you use should develop over time if you establish a relationship. Knowing the other person’s first name can help ease this awkwardness. If you do not know their name, you could perhaps address the letter to: ‘Dear donor’, or ‘Dear donor-child’.

Respect the other person’s wishes and feelings. It is good to be open with them as to what you would like, but do not force your ideas upon them. Instead of ‘when can we meet?’ you could say ‘one day, if you’d like to, it would be my hope that we could meet.’ It is likely that one or both of you may be feeling some trepidation about the situation so it’s better to tread lightly in the beginning. You may each prefer to correspond by letter or email for a while before meeting. It is important to reassure each other that you respect each other's feelings and wishes about future contact.

Maintain your boundaries. Remember that you do not know this person yet. While you may be genetically linked, this does not mean that you will get along. It is likely they are very honest and genuine people, but it is sensible to take the usual social etiquette precautions you would normally follow. Until you get to know one another it is best to maintain some boundaries. Only share to the level that you feel comfortable. It is your choice whether you share a photo of yourself or provide your surname.

Social media. Be aware that the more information you provide, the more able the other person is to access information about you via the internet. You may wish to change your privacy setting on your social media accounts.

Keep it simple. Keep the first letter light in tone and short. You do not have to say everything straight away. While you are likely to be extremely curious, it is best not to ask too many questions. Decide on the things that you really want to know. It is also okay to ask for an updated medical history.

I am writing my first letter. Are there any examples of letters?

Sample letter from a donor-conceived person:

Dear Peter,

My name is Laura and I believe that I was born as a result of your donation. Over the years I have thought a lot about what to say to you. There is so much I would like to tell you. I would like to firstly thank you for donating and giving me the gift of life. Without your help my Mum and Dad would not be parents and I would not be here.

I also want you to know that I am not asking or expecting anything of you. I hope my letter does not cause you any distress. I do not wish to cause any disruption in your life or to intrude on your family. If you do not wish to have contact with me I will understand.

One day I would love to meet you if you would like, but that is entirely your decision. Perhaps we could correspond for a while and get to know each other a little first. I would be very interested to know about your medical history, what you are like and whether we share any similarities in personality, interests or appearance.

I imagine you might have some questions about me too. I grew up believing I was the biological child of my Dad. When I was around 15 years old, my parents explained that they needed the help of a donor to have me. I am now 34 years old. I married a wonderful man, named Dave, 7 years ago. We have 2 beautiful children, Sarah who is five and Ben who is two. I work as a nurse part time and I enjoy swimming and reading.

Ever since I knew about you, I have thought about you and wish you very well,

Laura

Sample letter from a parent:

Dear Donor,

I don’t know how to begin to thank you for the unique and precious gift you have given me. I am a 37 year old single woman and thanks to you I am now a mother to my cherished daughter, Olivia, who is four years old.

There are no words that can express the gratitude for your kindness and compassion. It takes a very special person to help someone that you don’t know and have never met.

Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough. I look at my beautiful daughter and think about how my life has changed since I have had her. I now can’t imagine my life without her. I can assure you that she will be loved and well looked after. If you would like, I am happy to send you a photo of her.

If you would be interested in having updates as to how my daughter is going, I would be only too happy to send you an annual letter on her progress. If you would possibly feel comfortable to meet one day in the future so we can thank you personally we would be keen to do this. No pressure! I will respect whatever you and your family feel comfortable with.

I sincerely hope your life is as full of happiness as the happiness you have given me,

Best wishes and thank you again,

Olivia’s Mum, Linda

Sample letter from a donor:

Dear Donor Daughter/Son,

I wanted to let you know that over the years I have wondered about the people who may have been born as a result of my donation. Are they happy, healthy and well looked after? Do they know they were created with some extra help from me? Do they want more information about me – my medical history, my personality and interests and my appearance?

Perhaps it would help you to know why I donated. I was a young person at the time. The clinic was looking for donors. I had some understanding of infertility because I had close friends who were having trouble becoming pregnant. I wanted to help people who wished to have children but could not do so. Since then I have married and had children of my own but I never forgot my donation.

I just want to let you know that I am happy to give you this information and to possibly meet if you would like this…or not. I am comfortable to do whatever you would like. I am very conscious of your feelings and also, of your parents’ wishes and certainly don’t want to intrude. I am very clear that I am not your parent and I want to reassure them and you that I don’t want to take on a parenting role as you have these already.

I wish you all the very best in your life,

Chris

Does my donor have any legal responsibilities for me?

Regardless of when the donor donated, the donor has no legal rights or obligations to a child born as a result of a donation. Donors are not the legal parent and do not appear on a donor-conceived person’s birth certificate. Donors are not responsible for maintenance or any financial responsibility towards donor- conceived offspring.

Donor-conceived people do not have a legal claim on their donor’s estate.

I am donor-conceived. How can I make sure my partner is not related to me?

Some donor-conceived people may be concerned that they are dating or in a relationship with a potential half-sibling. Non- identifying information can help to rule out potential donor siblings. However, if the dates correspond with your partner, you can ask them to apply to see if their details are found on the Central Register.

Genetic testing is also an option.

I want to connect to my donor siblings. Which donor register should I apply for?

The Voluntary Register allows people who have been involved in donor conception in Victoria to record information about themselves and their wishes regarding exchanging information with other people on the register, including donor siblings.

If two or more applicants are matched on the Voluntary Register, they are each contacted and can exchange information, if they both wish.

If there is no corresponding link on the Voluntary Register, then you will need to wait until someone you are linked with applies. Many donor-conceived people are unaware of their origins so will not have applied.

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