Okay, back to the more serious stuff.
I mentioned that as well as bloods, AMH test, SIS internal exam and ordering donor sperm, the clinic requires you to have a counselling session. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m not sure whether the counselling is because you are embarking on single parenthood or because you are using donor sperm, or both. I got the impression that couples using a donor have to undergo counselling too, so maybe it’s about that aspect.
Most comments I’ve read treat the counselling as a mere formality, though you would have to hope that had I gone in there with a mad glint in my eye dressed as Alice in Wonderland and clutching one of those creepy breathing fake baby dolls, they might have tried to slow things down a bit.
In retrospect, I realise I went into the session a little on the defensive, expecting to have to prove I understood the gravity of what I was letting myself in for, that I was up to the job by myself and had thought through how I would handle having a donor baby at various stages in his life etc etc. In other words, I thought I would spend a good part of the session justifying myself. It was nothing at all like that. In fact, I pretty much led the chat, which seemed more like an opportunity for me to voice any concerns than anything else.
Oh yes, and a little irritable part of me was also prepared to be narked by having this conversation with a Smug Married with Children who didn’t really get it. So I was more than pleased to meet A, the counsellor, not just because she was very down-to-earth and friendly and knowledgeable but also because it emerged that her own family life was less than conventional. I guess the clinic isn’t stupid and this was one reason A was chosen for the job, so virtual apologies to them for having little faith.
Most notably, A seemed pretty relieved that I was opting for a non-anonymous donor. I wonder if this is one of the main issues that crop up and whether she is allowed to suggest one direction or another, probably not. She advised me to note ‘Extended’ and ‘Identifiable’ on the sperm bank characteristics form, which I had been instructed to hand into her that day.
Oh yes, my donor characteristics. Well, after my slight bout of angst, I decided for extended profile + non-anonymous donor, and whittled those 22 down to the handful nearest to my age who appealed the most – really not expecting that I would get any of them but jotting them down on the form anyway.
We were in the session for about three-quarters of an hour and it was very pleasant.
I explained my worry about whether you should tell a child about the donor’s characteristics, particularly if you have an extended profile donor with all that fabulous extra information that could build up an exciting father figure. A reckons it depends on the child but you don’t have to hold back. My instinct would be that kids don’t get that curious about details until their teens but I have absolutely no grounds for this. I think I need to read around that subject a bit.
I also mentioned I was less than happy about having to do IUI medicated, when as far as we know I have no fertility problems. A’s unequivocal response was that at 39 you don’t want to hang around and medicated cycles give you the best chance of conceiving.
Donor conception resources
She showed me a couple of books she had found on Amazon. I stupidly didn’t write down the titles but I think one of them was Experiences of Donor Conception Parents, Offspring and Donors Through the Years. Interestingly, there’s only one, three-star review on Amazon UK from a single woman who found it too geared towards couples. And I’ve just looked at the five reviews (average 2.5 stars) on Amazon US and the only two four- or five- star reviews were from couples; the other three may or may not be from singles but they are not that great. Maybe I’ll give that one a miss.
The other book A mentioned I do think I will buy if I succeed in having a baby. It’s available for order on the Donor Conception Network: Our Story – for children conceived by DI into single parent families. It explains to children between three and six how they came to be the product of a donor and talks a bit about sperm and eggs. There are variations for children born to lesbian parents, egg donation etc. Quote: “One day I said ‘Have I got a dad?’ Then Mum told me all about how a hospital helped her to have a baby, even though she hadn’t met the right person to be my dad. I am really proud my Mum could do this and I am proud of us and our family”.
I really hope the baby is proud if I get that far.
I do have a small worry about sending an innocent child into the world all blithe and clued up about reproductive science and open about how Mammy had to buy sperm from a doctor for her lonely little egg only to have schoolfriends and parents come down on him like a ton of bricks a la “Little Janey doesn’t know about adult things like sperm and eggs – what are you telling your child and can you please ask him to keep this to himself?” but we’ll have to cross that one when we come to it.
There are some great resources on the Donor Conception Network. Check out the letter from Emily to would-be single mothers. It gave me a lot to think about, which I will tackle later. I might also get my hands on the Telling and Talking booklets for different age groups.
Overall, a very positive and enjoyable experience. And the best bit? I went up to the room where you have to pay the lady behind the counter – and there was no charge. Bonus.