Q&A With A Donor Conceived Adult
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to grow up as a donor-conceived child? Ever found yourself worrying about the feelings or concerns that your own donor-conceived child could possibly have? Or maybe you are unsure of whether or not to use an anonymous donor as your path to parenthood?
If you can relate to any of the above, this post may help you to find the answers you are looking for, by giving you an insight into Rosie's experience.
Rosie (now in her twenties) was a donor-conceived child and was raised single-handedly by her mother.
She was born in the United Kingdom in the early 90s, before the country's current law surrounding anonymous donors was put in place. Up until 2004, sperm donors in the UK had the right to remain anonymous. However, the law changed in 2004 prohibiting anonymity and allowing donor-conceived individuals access to identifying information about their donor once they reach the age of 18 (this is known as an 'open donor' in the United States). Unfortunately, as Rosie was conceived before the law change, she is not allowed access to this information.
British law now requires donors to register both non-identifying information (e.g., medical history) and identifying information (e.g., full name and date of birth).
Rosie kindly agreed to work with us and answer some of your questions regarding her experience and feelings surrounding being donor-conceived.
She has expressed to us that these are just her personal experiences and feelings, and not every donor-conceived person will feel the same way or have had the same experiences.
So, let's get on with the Q&A!
Did you ever feel like you were “missing out” on something or feel any kind of loss not having a “father”?
"Not during childhood, no, and never have I yearned for a father figure. It’s only been in more recent years that I felt I’ve potentially missed out on the other side of my DNA- not from a nurturing father perspective, but more in terms of half siblings and extended family."
How did it impact your identity? Did you ever feel ‘weird’, ‘different’ or ‘diverse’ in a negative way?
"Yes, I often felt weird or different, but more because I had no access to information due to anonymity rules. I felt resentful that I had been denied something that others had, and denied information that I felt I had a right to, but that I legally can’t. Part of feeling weird came from never having contact with others in my position as well, and only knowing nuclear heterosexual families."
Did you know about being donor conceived from a young age?
"My mum told me when I was about 6/7. I remember feeling like I wasn’t as ‘normal’ as other children; I felt like the hope I had for a potential father being available was gone, and it was a little like a bereavement for me at that age. I’m glad I grew up knowing though; I know from others that finding out later in life can be very hard to deal with. I would say the sooner the better, because even at 6, I remember feeling upset by the revelation."
How often did you talk to your mom about being donor conceived and how did she approach the topic? Was she able to answer your questions and help with the feelings you had about it?
"From what I remember, she approached it scientifically and in a very matter of fact way. She didn’t revisit the topic, and let me lead the way- which was good in a way, because I wasn’t ready to process it at the time, but in another way it encouraged me to bury everything, and not reach for answers until I was much older."
Did not having a father figure affect your relationship with the opposite sex?
"Who knows! It’s impossible to say- I have functioning relationships with men in my personal life, but find them harder to trust than women. I think it’s important to remember that lots of kids have no father figure, and anything can impact someone’s relationship with the opposite sex. I wouldn’t say being donor conceived had a huge impact, but would say that encouraging happy interactions with male teachers/relatives can only be beneficial for DC kids."
Did you want to meet or find out about your donor? Is there anything you wish you could have seen about the donor growing up? A photo, information, a note etc.
"Yes and no. I’d love a photo, just to see physical characteristics, but not for emotional attachment. A note to say why they chose to donate would be amazing, as I often had the thought that he could have just wanted money, which made it feel seedy and like something to be ashamed of growing up. I did however find out much later in life that he was a fireman and interested in charity work, and when I read this I instantly felt better about the type of man he might have been. I remember crying in a car park with relief. It was an important turning point for me, and I cherish that information, even if I’m not actually bothered about meeting him. I think access to information is very important."
Do you know your donor siblings or have contact with them?
"No- this is what I struggle with the most. I know I have 21 donor siblings. I keep the letter with their ages and genders folded up in my purse. None of them have registered to be found. This might be because they don’t want to, or can’t, or because simply don’t know they’re donor conceived, which really hurts. I often feel something is being kept from me- not by my mum, but potentially by others who have chosen not to share the truth with their DC children, meaning they can’t reach out even if they wanted to. I feel more for donor siblings than I ever have for the donor."
Did you ever worry that wondering/talking about your donor would hurt your mom’s feelings?
"Yes. I don’t speak to her about it. I know she’d be honest with me if I asked, but I hate the idea of her thinking she wasn’t enough for me, which she absolutely was. I feel as though I have to be respectful of her choices and of her experience. I struggle to put my own questions above that, and ultimately, I know she can’t give me the answers that I’d like, as she opted to use sperm that was legally protected by anonymity in the 90s, so it feels a little pointless."
Would you consider using a donor yourself? If yes, what decisions do you think you would make differently/the same as your mom’s?
"This is so difficult. My ultimate answer is yes, however I feel torn- my worst nightmare would be my child asking me why I’d put them through being DC, when I know how hard it can be. Having said this however, I feel MUCH differently when considering using a donor who is happy to be contacted. This changes everything for me, and would be the condition I’d need to answer yes.
I admire how unapologetic my mum is of her choices, and of how thankful she is to simply have me and my brother. I wholeheartedly know that she was and is the only parent I need. However, I would definitely speak more openly about the donor. I would include his interests/what you know into the child’s life, and I’d make sure to have contact with other donor conceived/adopted families- I’d also crucially reach out and involve donor siblings of my children in their lives from a young age, if I could."
Advice - do you have any advice on how to approach the topic with children?
What would be your advice to other donor conceived people?
"My advice would be to remember that how the child reacts is not a reflection on you. Do your research on how DC people feel (internet groups, Facebook groups, etc) and take that into consideration. Be supportive of what the child wants, and be as open and honest as you possibly can, making effort to normalise being DC within your household so that it doesn’t become a negative. Also know that every single person is different in how they feel in regard to being DC. I’d give other donor conceived people a big hug if they are struggling, and encourage them to reach out to others (my DMs are always open to anyone!) and to test on AncestryDNA, to increase the possibility for finding answers."
A big thank you to Rosie for taking the time to answer these questions and for providing this wonderful insight!
Rosie is happy to be contacted with any further questions or concerns you may have. You can reach her via Instagram @rosieandella.
Thanks for reading!
Same Sex Parents x
February 22, 2019