In this webinar, Eloise Edington, BFA, Founder & Director of Fertility Help Hub, is discussing the difficult decision of moving from partner’s sperm to donor sperm and gives advice on how to approach it.
It’s a very good question. We used California Cryobank and we saw photos of the donor as a child. I don’t know whether they do photos of adults now. This was four years ago so I wouldn’t know the answer to the adult photos. For us, personally, we didn’t actually want to see adult photos because we didn’t want to taint the perception of that person for us to make judgments about them, seeing them as an adult, whereas seeing them as a child removed that reality slightly at the time, which made it slightly easier to move along with for some reason. But with Fertility Help Hub, I am working with Cryos International around doing a sperm and doing a conception and they definitely do offer adult photos. They have a new website which is amazing and really easy to navigate and they’re there to help guide you too. It’s worth having a look around seeing a mixture of profiles and seeing what works best for you. If you want to message me after this and you have any more questions along the way, just let me know.
100% I need to caveat before I say this that it is totally a personal decision. There’s no judgment cast. From what I have read and I’ve read a lot actually about donor conceived children before we picked the donor, and those who were donor-conceived with a known donor seemed to, generally, have less of an issue with it than those who couldn’t seek the genetic donor. That’s why we wanted to go down that route – telling the children. Again those who hadn’t been told and found out because of a medical issue or something happened, where it came to light when they were 16, they had more than issue and they were more scarred by it. I think that the other thing that I was going to say about open anonymous is that you’ve got to remember that anonymous doesn’t exist like it used to.
Now we have the virtual world so with all the family tracing people can do, you could pick someone anonymous but you cannot guarantee that in 30 years’ time it will still be in an anonymous world. I think definitely think about that because I’ve spoken to friends of mine who have got donor-conceived children with an anonymous donor and they have accepted that is the way forward. They find that actually quite comforting now.
I knew that it was a very small chance of him passing it on because, with his Klinefelter’s syndrome, it’s a fluke thing that happens at conception whereby and I don’t know the medical terms but I think that an extra chromosome comes into the mix. It’s not a hereditary thing and it’s a fluke thing that happened at his parents’ conception. What I did worry about was the fact that if they did find sperm I knew that it would be weaker than men who don’t have the condition so I was nervous that I would have gone through all of this had my eggs there and we would have lost a lot of them because the sperm wouldn’t have been strong enough to make a blastocyst or a potentially good embryo. We actually never got to that point because there wasn’t any.
To begin with, we were very open with family as I mentioned in the talk. We took a couple of days or maybe a week to tell the whole family. We did it in stages because of the shock and my husband wanted to find out more before we started telling them, especially my side, because obviously, he’s the son-in-law.
We told our very closest friends not all but it was hard for some of them to understand. We were also younger than a lot of our friends having children at the time so I think for those who weren’t in a trying-to-conceive-scenario, they may not have fully understood the pain that came with it. Whereas, ironically, now some of those friends are struggling themselves. Since we’ve had the children, now everyone knows and because we’re telling the children, we don’t mind people knowing, in fact, we’re proud of it because it is who our children are. It’s part of our family story; it’s part of their story. They wouldn’t be here without it and we’re not ashamed of it.
We’re delighted that we’ve had them this way and that’s why I started Fertility Help Hub and I’m very public about our story on there. I do a lot of posts about donor conception and feature a lot of people who have been through donor conception or thinking about it. I have just published an article by the LGBT Mummies Tribe who talk about doing it in the same-sex relationship and the kind of differences or difficulties that arise with not being seen as the true mother in a same-sex relationship. So that’s an interesting spin on it that I hadn’t actually anticipated or hadn’t thought about not being in that situation.
Also, having spoken to some same-sex couples, making the donor selection is a different experience because they’re not trying to replace someone else’s genetics, so they can look for things and have probably more of an open mind than if you’re looking to find someone similar to your husband. I would say be comfortable with who you tell, in time it will get easier so obviously what I’m doing now. Everyone does know. My husband is now comfortable with everyone knowing but it did take time and it took him getting to know the children and grieving before that happened.
Does any do any of your colleagues know I would ask? Because sometimes I feel that people will help if you tell them. But sometimes it is very daunting to tell them. I was in a situation where I had to tell work because I needed time off to go abroad to have treatment. So I had to be transparent. But would I have done if I had done it at home? I don’t know. I probably would because I’m just like an open book that’s just the way I am but that’s not for everyone. What I found hard about talking to people at work about it was that when I let my guard down I’d become very upset. Also, I did feel that it had an impact on my career development. It is very difficult to have other work colleagues getting pregnant or giving birth at the same time. I remember the pain of seeing people come in with their newborn babies at that time and I just have to go out and go and get my lunch or something like that to just get out of this situation.
I’ve done quite a lot of lives actually with other vloggers who have undergone that donor conception route to talk about that. It’s probably more that you’re telling them at this stage because you also want to prepare yourself, you want to get used to saying the words and to using the right narrative but there are some brilliant books out there that help with that such as “You were made for me” and I read books like that to my children at night, or in the day, and it breaks down donor conception in a very child-friendly way. Obviously, they’re not going to get it straight away but it just makes it more manageable even as the parent reading it.
What I find is that I’ll be telling my eldest about it and she’ll say “yeah, yeah, that’s nice” or something like that and repeat it, and then she’ll say “can I have ice cream?” and so the attention span isn’t that long. But it shows how, at this point in time, it’s not a big thing but who knows what questions will arise soon. With three children, they may all be react differently to it. There’s no way of knowing what that will be like. One may want to go and find him [the donor], two may not. One may have a problem with it, the others may not. So it totally probably depends on the characteristics of the child.
I talked about that in a live that I did with mum blogger ‘Defining Mum’. You can watch it back through the Fertility Help Hub website. Yes, I was worried but I’m not anymore. I was before. I was really concerned about it when I was pregnant but then I spoke to other people about it and from now working in the space I can how every day it is and families are created in so many unique ways but actually it’s becoming quite normal for people to have children through IVF for same-sex couples or donor conception or surrogacy. I think that in every classroom there probably will be some children who have been created in non-traditional ways. So I think part of the narrative of us telling them that we’ll be putting the emphasis on “you were wanted so much and that’s why we went for these trips to the doctors and the doctor mixed mummy’s eggs with a kind donor’s sperm.
It’s a bit mental. There’s only 18 months between them so in some ways it’s really hard because it’s so full-on. But in other ways, I think that because the twins are the same age they’re all into the same stuff, except when they are starting to argue about what they watch on television because they want to watch different things. But it is amazing. It’s hard work but it is amazing and I’m working very hard on Fertility Help Hub so juggling the family and the platform I’ve created is hard but a good challenge.
No, I had one family member who’s through my husband’s father’s second marriage who we knew had used egg donation. So I talked to her which was amazingly reassuring to speak to someone who had been through it, but not sperm donation. That is why I love what I do now and the Instagram community and they’re trying to conceive community. I get messages literally every day from people asking about donor conception and things like that. It’s so nice to be able to help people who are going through this process and worrying about the future to see someone living it three years on and that would have helped me so much at the time. So that’s another thing that I’m so grateful for, meeting people where it can help them, talking to someone who’s being happy to talk about it down the line if that makes sense.
That’s a really good question. I think that there are probably things that are easier and probably things that are harder in a couple. If you get to my website and have a look in the blog section – the most amazing woman wrote an article and you can message me after the webinar for me to send you the link. She raised an incredible article for Fertility Help Hub all around doing it solo and she set up a brilliant network specifically for women going into solo motherhood. She tells you what to expect.
Without having done it, I can’t say, however, I think that the things that will be easier doing it on your own are things like possibly picking a sperm donor because like I said my husband and I disagreed about who we were going to choose. That was really difficult emotionally. You feel like you’ve got there and then to have to change and then to keep going back and forth. I remember just crying on the floor with him just begging it to be over, whereas if you’re doing it on your own, you can I’m sure you might ask friends and family but you could probably come to a decision more easily potentially and quickly.
I think it’s just about making sure you’ve got a support network around you. I think also if you’re doing it as a heterosexual couple, you’re doing it because one of you has lost your genetics so you are going through the grieving process which I don’t think that you will be going through as much doing it on your own. However, clearly, it’s a difficult decision to make if you are wanting to be doing it in a relationship so it’s really hard for me to say. But I definitely would love to send you a link to this lady who wrote for me and I’m sorry I can’t think of her name off the top of my head. She helped so many women doing it on their own so that would be really good.
Actually, the decision was made for us because as I said at the beginning we saw a urologist in London and then my husband did some research online and found that the surgeon that he ended up having surgery in New York had one of the highest success rates for microTESE sperm retrieval in the world and was part of the pioneer of it. That was really was a no-brainer for us given the cost were the same. We were always going to New York, he works for a particular clinic or hospital so that decision was made for us and then I was sent a list of three specialists to pick from. I picked one and she was absolutely fantastic and now I’m doing lots of work with her on Fertility Help Hub. It’s so lovely to still be in that world and in that contact when you’re so grateful for the help that they’ve given. I have been doing a lot of work with clinics and someone wrote an article about choosing a clinic so again if you want to pop me a message, I can happily share the link.
Yes, it is but I can’t remember I think it might be under Inspiring Stories in the Blog section but if it’s not look at ‘see all articles’ and it will be there, it was a couple of months ago, it was probably around January/February time so you might have to go back a little bit because there’s been a lot of articles since then.
I don’t know but if I can put you in touch with the lady I mentioned who wrote the article for me. I know that I’m sure she can help you. Are you talking about starting the process on your own? Because I guess it depends on which point you’re talking about. If you get pregnant, of course, people will know but, yes, I would love to put you in touch with her because I think that would be really helpful.