Making Contact. When sperm donors and families meet.
This is a program from the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority or VARTA in Victoria, Australia... at VARTA.org.au. Made possible by the Victoria Law Foundation.
The law in Victoria allows donors, donor recipients and donor conceived people to apply for access to identifying information.
In this program we hear from a sperm donor who has a number of children from his donations. And we also hear from Dianne, who used his donation to have two daughters.
For Dianne it meant there was the possibility of making contact with her sperm donor, Adrian. And she could apply now when her children were young. This is what happened.
My name’s Adrian, I’m just about to turn 40. And I have a lovely partner and a one year old child. I currently work for government and for a lot of my life I’ve been an environmental activist.
Initially it was back in the late 80's it was on the radio or being advertised around the uni where I was at Melbourne Uni and there was a call for donors. My brother did it initially. I thought about doing it and started the process then stopped. Then later on when I hit my late 20s I thought it has always been in the back of my mind. I thought about it, my brother had donor children now. I’d intended to do it then. Part of it was there was the appeal at the time was I think were people who wanted to have children and couldn’t.
It was just something I thought would be nice to do.
I mean people find it... I suppose a little bit surprised when they hear it. It’s more out of interest and enquiry rather than a negative thing I’ve got back. The attitudes to sperm donation... Most people around my friends and family are quite comfortable with it.
Regarding information about my offspring, I didn’t seek any, I knew that as I donated in the late 90s the kids, once they hit 18 they’d be... if they were aware and if they wanted to could get access to their personal details. I was sort of expecting that in 10 or 15 years time that these people might come knocking on the door or make phone calls or whatever.
Interestingly enough we were contacted here by the centre here and they informed us that one of the mothers and child that came about from one of the donations were interested in making contact, was a single mum. And like would one of us come in and have a chat about that. And during that process there was an envelope on the table that was sitting there and I though Oh! I know what that is. It’ll be a list of all the children. And I was asked if I wanted to see the list and I said yes OK. And in that sense I’d have some information around the children that had been born from the donation.
For Adrian there were some choices he had to make. He was now in a long term relationship and his partner, Bryoni, was to become involved with the possibilities that lay ahead.
I met Adrian about two years ago and very quickly decided that we wanted to try and have a baby. And we were immediately successful. So that was a surprise. He told me prior that he had a number of sperm donor children that he had never met and that they might get in touch at some point. And I was fine with that.
When we were approached by the registry to make potential contact by the donor family it was a difficult decision. The decision we had to contemplate... and we were two thirds of the way through our own pregnancy with me and my partner. It really came at quite an intense time. My partner had quite a difficult pregnancy and we had this approach close to the end of it. And both of us felt quite positive about it right from the start. There wasn’t anything negative about it. It was just that we had to consider how we would... link the possibility surrounding meeting the donor family into our lives at that given time.
So I was very pleased when Adrian told me that you, the mediator, had contacted him saying that one of the donor families had got in touch and wanted to make contact. So I was really pleased, with maybe a few queries but that was about all. I thought it was a very good thing.
I know that legally there’s no obligation of any kind but I think once you’ve made a relationship with a child you can’t just step away from it easily. So that if you see they are in need or something that makes their life better then you want to do everything you can to supply it. I know he’s legally not the father, he’s still the biological father and that commitment, I imagine, would... Adrian is a very committed man so he would feel that commitment very keenly.
We made a decision to have our child first and spend some time getting to know our own child before my donor children. I thought it would be unfair potentially on my child and unfair potentially on my partner if I made an emotional connection with my donor children before I made one with my own child.
And then after a period of time when we felt comfortable, we thought OK. We’d think about meeting them and that sort of stuff. And I think we did exchange letters fairly early on in the process and that was fine. That was really emotional. They gave me letters and pictures and you can see yourself in the child. And both the children are really beautiful.
We went around to their house. Yeah, it was really nice. The mother was really nice. The little one would have been one and a half year old at that time was charging around being a terror.
Dianne is the mother of Adrian’s donor-conceived children. She had choices to make too. She could apply for information about Adrian.
Why did I apply ? My first child has asked about it so in my own mind I was obliged to follow up any leads that I could. I just didn’t want it to become a big deal for her when she became 18.
Doing it early makes it feel like it’s a normal thing, it’s not a big deal. When she’s 18 if she happens to find him then it may be a big let down. I didn’t want it consuming her and now it’s just part of her every day life.
Diane was always positive about having her daughters know about their beginnings. But what was it like the day she met her donor, Adrian?
Yes, I didn’t know whether to shake his hand or kiss him or hug him or thank him or what... I didn’t know. It was a bit of an awkward silence there for a moment as they all came through the door. But they went straight for the photos on the wall and compared features I guess between his son and my kids.
But he’s such an easy going person that it wasn’t nerve-wracking for long.
Finding the donor and meeting up with him has been quite amazing. I’m the first to be amazed. Like my friends and family are even more amazed.
I have become a friend of his on Facebook so I know a little bit more about his life. And he would know a little bit more about my life and see photos and what have you. If it hadn’t been for Facebook he would probably take quite a long time to get to know.
I have to consider his partner in this whole situation. It’s just amazing that she’s I have to consider his partner in this whole situation. It's just amazing that she's taken all this on board like it’s nothing. Not nothing, but she’s very accommodating of the whole situation.
My girls are both very different in personality and as time goes on I think my eldest will take it in her stride as to how she will deal with things - conceived by a donor.
I’d like the relationship between our family and their family to keep going. I agreed to meet with this family on the basis that the daughter was interested in meeting me. I felt that the primary concern was the mental health and well-being of the child. That was my motivational factor to meet them.
I think we get on really well. You know, we’re still quite tentative. I think both sides are still feeling out the relationship but very open to whichever way it goes.
But it’s all very different. The eldest daughter... Adrian’s eldest donor child calls him Donor Dad last time we saw them and I thought that’s good.
It is a really interesting journey. It’s got a long way to go. And I’m not sure that it’s ever going to stop. It’s really exciting. I’m hoping that over time that the relationship between our family and their family will grow. From our perspective we’re planning only to have one child. We’d really appreciate if they were in our lives and that Lucien felt she had two older half sisters. You know they become your sisters and he become their brother over time. And yeah it’s really nice.
It’s been a very big journey. One which continues but we certainly had some hurdles and come to some end points as well. Chapters have closed, new ones have opened. But I think that the biggest anxiety has been and gone and that is actually conceiving and having children and having the delight and the opportunity to go ahead with the whole venture. And secondly having a donor that actually wants to have something to do with us. Very exciting.
Making Contact. When sperm donors and families meet.
This has been a program from the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority or VARTA in Victoria, Australia at VARTA.org.au. And made possible by the Victoria Law Foundation.
Our thanks to Adrian, Bryoni and Dianne for sharing their story.
For more information surrounding assisted reproductive treatment go to VARTA, that's V.A.R.T.A. at VARTA.org.au.