Should you tell your children they are donor conceived?
Answer from: Elli Papadopoulou, BSc
One of the most difficult challenges parents face is whether to tell their children about the donation or not. The discussion regarding disclosure is also relevant in adoption, and conventional wisdom has changed over time. In the early days common advice to parents was non-disclosure. Over time this perspective has shifted dramatically and now it is well accepted that it is of benefit to be open with your children about their special family story. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine suggests that, although it is the choice of the recipient parent whether to disclose or not, it is strongly encouraged that the donor conceived person is informed about the use of donor gametes.The decision for disclosure should be thoughtfully considered by all intended parents so that it will be in the child’s best interest. It is important to understand the ramifications of both telling and not telling, now and into the future.
There is a wonderful book by Dr. Elaine Gordon called ‘Mommy did I grow in your tummy’ that may give you a few good ideas on the topic. Here are some key issues to consider – both of ethical and practical value…
#1. When is it a good time to disclose about one’s genetic origins?
And who does the information of egg donation belong to – the parents or the child…?
#2. Secrets are difficult to keep, and sometimes the truth can be even unintentionally shared. To what effect, one wonders…#3. Laws regarding reproductive rights are constantly changing and there is a good chance that files regarding gamete donors may be opened at any time.
#4. How comfortable are you with your feelings about egg donation? Is there something you need to acknowledge and work on, before sharing this information with your child?
Working with a mental health professional with a specialization in fertility and reproduction, could make a great difference in how you feel about, and share this information.
Answer from: Nurit Winkler
One important point to bring up is whether to tell the kid or not. There is a lot of discussion about this and in the US now, everyone is pushing into saying which I agree with. But I also feel it is extremely paternalistic for anyone to come and tell a family what to do, ultimately it needs to be something you are comfortable with doing. If you are looking at literature and the studies, telling the child is a way better way to go and it is very important how you tell them, how you couldn’t have your own so e.g. I chose the best genes for you, for me to carry. There are many empowering ways for you to do this and it is important for you to say it earl on. One of the reasons being that the child discovers later on in life through services such as 23 and me, and there will always be this secret that runs in the family and children are especially sensitive when something is hidden from them and they don’t understand what this black hole is, it could be something awful. There is always this cloud that could pass through when something is being kept hidden and unsaid in the family, that potentially could be discovered later and be traumatic. Therefore speaking of whether you are going to be a good parent, we all hope so, but whether you are going to be a good parent or not, has nothing to do with an egg donation, it’s your own expression of who you are. Is the kid going to love you? Absolutely! It won’t make a difference but those things about telling them or not are very important.
Why should we tell children that they are donor conceived?
If your child was conceived via IVF treatment using donor eggs and/or sperm, most fertility counsellors recommend telling them as early as possible. Certainly, some children may be ready earlier than others and it is an entirely individual thing. However, we should be aware that no family secret is kept forever and it’s beneficial to start introducing your child to the idea before they are pre-verbal. The communication should be adjusted to the child’s development and understanding.
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