Telling your child they were conceived using donor embryos: Karen and her children Sarah and William
We took nine and a half years to eventually get this one and she has got a twin sister too and they are 19. And then I had William five and a half years later and like I said I used donor embryos. We went through all the ICSI’s (micro-injection treatment) and using ourselves and whatever and finally we were lucky we were offered embryos which I jumped on that because I had already done it using a sperm donor. And it was fine and we have been talking about it to our kids and they have known because as soon as they were born I talked to them. And as they got a bit older anything on the TV, because there was a lot of IVF would be on the TV and actually one of my specialists was on and I was saying, he helped you and he helped you. So they were just brought up knowing, so part of also doing it from such a young age I got to practice my story, my language, because no one had had children conceived with embryos, donated embryos I should say. So I didn’t know how I was going to talk to them and explain it all to them particularly about donor. All the other medical side of things is easy but when you actually have donor that is where it gets a little bit complicated.
William is actually with different donors than with Sarah and Rebecca and one, an example of how I used to talk to the girls about, once I got pregnant they were at Kinder and one of the funny things we were actually, they were doing kinder gym and the teacher came up to me later and said to me, ‘Oh I hear you are pregnant with an embryo’ and I said, ‘Yes I am!’ And so they knew the terminology from early on and that sort of stuff and then also with the girls being in Kinder I knew William’s donors were blue eyed, light hair, where as you can see Sarah has got gorgeous dark curly hair, she had Israel, part Israel donors. So I knew if I had a child through using his donors they would be most likely blue eyed so I made sure I explained that to them to my girls in case you know, he was a blue eyed blonde boy, which he was. But then Sarah got a little bit upset because she wanted to have blue eyes like me and of course her father actually, Terry has brown eyes, so I said, ‘Well you know you got brown eyes like dad’ and she said, ‘No I want blue eyes like you.’ and I said,’ lucky you can get contact lenses to change them!’
Because with William we have actually had contact with his donors all the way through and we always will, whereas the girls we don’t know whether we can contact their donors at all because they were donated in ‘93, whereas with William; we always knew. Anyway I send cards to thank them and they send cards back to me and they have sent photos and it is only recently I have, William has actually viewed the pictures of his donor family so, but over the years, he is 14 now, I have written to them and just gave them a bit of an update of what is happening with him and things like that. It is just recently where he has decided he wanted to view them, so he knew about it and eventually once he got old enough to understand it and eventually he did. So again we have got different donors, I had to be able to explain that to the girls where they may not ever be able to meet them; whereas Will he has got the choice, he can.
Look my mum is mum and dad is dad, my sister is my sister and even though I don’t look my brother we are not genetically related at all, he is my brother, I don’t know; it is just really simple to me, we were always told growing up so. I just don’t see it as a big deal if that makes sense.
William (Son): I kind of look the same, to my brother and sister a little bit, exciting yeah, curious, I have been for a while so.
I know like in biology or health at school whenever we got kind of on the topic I was like, oooh, oooh let me tell my story and so I got to tell my story and people weren’t negative they were just really curious about the whole thing, there was no negative.
There was, also back to what you were saying about a five year old in primary school, if one of the kids wanted to show and tell something about, because we had been in the paper a couple of times with some pictures and they wanted to take their pictures that were in the paper. So I would go and talk to the teacher first and explain it all and then we would decide what sort of tack to take and whatever, but there was never any issues ever, and all the way through, even when I was trying to get pregnant, all through the IVF, everything, everyone knew. My mum, I come from a Catholic family, 8 children and my mum is very catholic but she was a bit hesitant at the beginning, she didn’t quite understand but if she wanted me to stay around, she had to stick, and she did and she loves them to death.
And one of the things is deciding to do; to use donor sperm or eventually embryo was if my husband and I couldn’t deal with it ourselves we didn’t care about anyone else, we thought it is going to be our family we are creating and luckily we have had no problems at all. I have really had no negative situations at all. I never thought to be a secret because I never really heard about using donor sperm before, when first started using donor sperm, and you got to counselling, as you probably all know and I thought well why wouldn’t you tell? I just, because it is nothing to be ashamed of or anything. And my husband and I we both, are both open and honest about it and I think sometimes when you are, show your joy or your feeling about it all, people take that on board, will ask you questions if you they are interested. Some people just don’t really care less; you are in your own world it doesn’t matter. You know when I had the girls, because Rebecca was dark haired too, you know I had my twins and of course you look at them, look at me, never looked like me at all you know, but they were twins, they were so excited for you, so happy for you, especially twins.
Audience: Do they say things like, oh they don’t look like you?
Yeah and I go, ‘No they don’t’ and I go ‘Thank God!’ (Laughter) Whereas when Will came, he is blonde and blue eyed so people tend to maybe say something a bit more. But you do get used to it and it becomes funny actually sometimes what people say. People forget your story because I know when you are doing it all; it is your story and you are really, really into it, but then, and you do wonder about other people think and how they are going to affect you because that is well what life is, humans but in the end it is you and how you feel and when you get this baby. I had no problem connecting with them or, they are always my children, no one could ever say, oh but don’t you ever think, because I have got a big family, a lot of other children and actually that is one of the. They sort of would notice, oh Sophie looks like, one of them would look like my sister or something, they would notice things but.
Sarah: I just like to think of it as, it is just another way to have kids, like times are changing and people are going to have to learn to be accepting if they are not and it is just another way to get a family.
William: Also it’s a really good friend making thing you know, oh like,’ You were frozen?’’ Yeah I was’ ,’ Oh I wish I was frozen!’ (Laughter)
No because we were the first ones, we were the first ones to try it so I just said, yes thank you! I was just lucky they turned out like this. Trust me you do think are donors ugly? Do they use ugly donors? (Laughter) Yes you do! Because you have all these, the unknown you could just go round and round and round.