OPINION: How To Answer When Donor-Conceived Children Ask ‘Where Did I Come From?’


donor conception same-sex parents

I wrote a children’s book about donor conception in lesbian families. It was well-received other than a single persistent comment.

“This is too much information for children.”

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Making the decision to conceive a child using a donor is significant. Some people choose known donors who have a role in their child’s life.

Other people, including myself, choose unknown donors. We are provided with lots of information about our donor, but no contact.

Neither approach is wrong, but each leads to different outcomes.

Research indicates that children born into a range of situations adjust positively to their individual circumstance, so donor counsellors usually suggest parents disclose to children the truth of their birth.

There really is no other option for gay or single women.

However, some heterosexual parents choose not to tell their children about their origins. This is not harmful to the family relationships, until the child eventually finds out.

Many parents allude to “not knowing how to start the conversation” or “shame in being different” as reasons for non-disclosure.

I can sympathise with their dilemma but if people consider their options carefully and prepare resources for when the time is right, they will find the discussion much easier.

Further consequences of non-disclosure arise when the child reaches adulthood. What if they unknowingly fall in love with a donor half-sibling? What if they need access to their health history?

What if they’re curious as to where they got brown eyes when their parents both have blue? Or – what if the child is angry they’ve been lied to?

We decided to tell our child from day one out of concern for long-term outcomes. I want our child to trust us and embrace the beginning of their life for what it is – an amazing privilege of science – not a dirty family secret.

To prepare, we have a scrapbook with pictures of our donor, a letter from him, a page with facts about his life, and of course, the book I wrote, ready for our child to understand their story.

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Too much information? Perhaps – but I’d rather that than a fractured relationship with my child because I was too scared to talk about it.

That “aching void” that the morally-panicked talk about happens when there is a lack of disclosure; it doesn’t tend to happen when a child is raised with honesty.