Donor conception and the single mother. This is 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. Important changes to legislation introduced on 1st January 2010 meant that fertile single women can now access Assisted Reproductive Treatment in Victoria. They can now try to have a child using donor sperm treatment. Previously this treatment was only available to single infertile women. This is podcast two of a three part series -"Talking to Children about Donor Conception" - about a single mother raising a child conceived using donor sperm. Raising two children without a father being present was always going to be an issue. There would be a day when Dianne's daughter would wonder then ask about her Dad. How did Dianne deal with this question?
I pretty much just said; well you do have a Dad it’s just that he doesn’t live with us. And that was enough at that time. It gets a little bit trickier when they’re in kinder. She didn’t go to three year old kinder, she went to four year old kinder where you have Father’s Day activities. So we would make something for my brother or her uncle. The best way around it was getting hold of the Donor Conception Book which was from the London/UK network which was the biggest help. It was really, really good because you could expand on what it was saying about it. The book was the main element on how to explain all about this donor conception business. That she does have a Dad, that they don’t live with us, this guy was kind enough to donate a piece of him so that I could have a family of my own. Her main concern was that she didn’t have a Dad at all, that he just didn’t exist. So it was up to me to say that she did have a Dad and explained to her that he didn’t live with us. That he has also given his gift to other families as well. If she has a question you answer it, she moves on. She’s not dwelling on it. She was quite happy with my explanation and she was quite happy with the book and the fact that it written by a child rather than an adult, so she could relate to that. In fact she was almost proud of that, she was a little bit different to everybody else. I explained that we have all sorts of different families with single mums and single Dads and same sex families and this sort of thing. And that she wasn’t that much different to someone who had a Dad who doesn’t live with them but sees them occasionally.We have taken the book to creche last year so there was no hiding from it then because she really wanted to take the book to explain to everybody. And I haven’t heard her being teased or anything about it. She is fairly sensitive and she would tell me if that was actually happening. She is very confident in how she sees things, it’s just normal for her. She’s just like everybody else and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We're talking with Dianne, a single mother raising two children born through IVF from donor sperm. The law in Victoria allows donors, donor recipients and off-spring to apply for access to identifying information. For Diane it meant there was the possibility of making contact with her sperm donor. And she could apply now when her children were young.
Why did I apply now?
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.
It started off with a couple of emails which turned into a business card and an address which followed a couple of letters and photos which eventually turned into a phone call and meeting up.
What was it like meeting the donor? The donor came with his partner with his new baby, a new baby of four months.
So 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.
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 taken all this on board like it’s nothing. Not nothing, but she’s very accommodating of the whole situation.
Well 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.
Initially all I wanted was his name and a photo really, just to put a name to a face. And I got so much more. So they’re excited for me as well.
Finally, a word from Dianne's donor. Adrian has a family of his own but he sees the need for Dianne's children to know the truth about their father. And to know him.
I’d like the relationship between our family and their family to keep going. I agreed to meet 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. And she... It’s interesting to see how or to think how it could evolve, you know, she’s five years old and I’m feeling that in a way I am that father figure I suppose she is looking for or wanting to have in her life I suppose. It will be interesting to see how the relationship evolves.
And it’s a very interesting experience meeting your donor daughter because you’re not their father, you’re not their parent. You come from quite a different socio economic background, a different set of values.
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.
Donor conception and the single mother.
This has been 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.
Our thanks to Diane and Adrian for sharing their story.
The children's book referred to by Diane is "Our Story" available from the Donor Conception Network.org.