Talking to your donor-conceived child about their conception

June 18, 2012Carole No Comments »

Now for something a little different. Usually, I talk about the “how-to” of donor conception but the real heavy-lifting comes after the fact. Most IVF programs who offer third-party conception options (donor sperm, donor egg or embryo) typically encourage or require their patients to consider psychological counseling so that they have an opportunity to consider all the emotional/psychological issues that arise with having and raising children that were conceived with the help of a donor’s gametes or embryos.

One topic that usually comes up is if/when/how to tell the child that he/she was conceived with the help of a donor. How do you start that conversation? A library-student friend of mine  (Thanks Karen!) made me aware of a wonderful resource via Patricia Sarles, a librarian with a special interest in donor-conception.  Ms. Sarles has compiled a list of books written for children and young adults that discusses donor-conception in a way that is age-appropriate for kids. The site even helpfully groups the books by egg donor, sperm donor, embryo donor, surrogacy. You’ll even find books about regular IVF and gestational surrogacy. Some books are even written by donor-conceived kids. From a library list-serve, In Patricia’s own words:

“I have significantly updated my blog, “Donor Offspring: Books for Children,” since last year. These books are nearly impossible to find because there are no Library of Congress subject headings for “donor offspring” or “children of gamete donors.” My blog is the only one of it’s kind on the Internet. I know because I have searched hi and lo in both English and French. It also includes books for children conceived via IVF, surrogacy, and gestational carrier, any and all assisted reproductive technologies. Here it is if you want to take a look: I have also added three new books about donor offspring characters in young adult  lit on my blog, “Donor Offspring: Books for Teenagers,” here:
For the first time in young adult literature, the book “Catch & Release” by Blythe Woolston has a character conceived via egg donor. All the rest have characters conceived via sperm donor.” 

For adults just wading into the waters of third party conception, you will find an assortment of books for you at the Infertility Network, a Canadian charity focused on providing information and advocating for the needs of  patients using donor-conception ART methods and their offspring. Some of the adult-focused books you can find there (and buy from their site)  include:

  • Behind Closed Doors: Moving Beyond Secrecy & Shame
  • Building a Family with the Assistance of Donor Insemination
  • Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide
  • Experiences of Donor Conception: Parents, Offspring & Donors Through the Years
  • Families Following Assisted Conception: What Do We Tell Our Child?
  • Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates: Answering Tough Questions & Building Strong Families
  • The Offspring Speak: Report on the 2000 International Conference of Donor Offspring
  • Sperm Donor Offspring: Identity & Other Experiences
  • Third Party Assisted Conception Across Cultures: Social, Legal & Ethical Perspectives
  • Truth & the Child 10 Years On: Information Exchange in Donor-Assisted Conception
  • Who Am I? Experiences of Donor Conception

In the US, the Donor Sibling Registry, is a good source for information not only about how to talk with you child about donor conception but also, if desired, how to connect with half-siblings with shared sperm donors. A previous blog post discussed this organization in more detail,  Who’s my Daddy? The issues of sperm donation.

If you are aware of other good resources, please don’t hesitate to list (with link, if possible) in the comment box below. Sometimes, it does take a village to both conceive and raise a child. Best Wishes.

Update since publishing post: Here’s another source of children’s books to discuss infertility or donor conception with your young child. Carmen Martinez Jover is an artist and children’s book author who has herself struggled with infertility. More about Carmen and her work can be found here. Here in carmen’s own words are her descriptions of the children’s books that she has done.
1 & 2
“A tiny itsy bitsy gift of life, an egg donor story”

1)for girls and 2) for boys
A touching children’s egg donor story about a happy couple of rabbits, Pally and Comet. You accompany them in their longing to have a child, the waiting and the moment the mother is informed she has no eggs to conceive. One day a good lady rabbit brings her a tiny itsy bitsy gift of life, which is the egg –the half– she needs to conceive. The rabbit’s tummy then begins to grow and finally her baby bunny is born and the happiness of how this family is formed is shared.

3.- “Recipes of How Babies are Made”
Natural conception, egg donor, sperm donor, embryo donation, surrogacy and adoption, are explain compared to making a cake. For a cake you need flour, eggs, milk etc, that come from wheat, hen and cow, you mix the ingredients and bake in an oven. For a baby you need a sperm and an egg, that come from a man and woman. You mix and in a womb the baby grows for 9 months. This is a children’s story which explains in a very simple way all the different methods used to conceive children nowadays.

4.- “The Baby Kangaroo Treasure Hunt, a gay parenting story”
A sweet children’s story of how two kangaroos: Jack and Sam, a gay couple, have their own baby by means of an egg donor and surrogacy. Using kangaroos in the story enables children to easily understand the methods related in their conception in a simple and loving way.

5.- “I want to have a child, whatever it takes!”

In a clear, sincere and transparent way, Carmen describes autobiographically the problem of infertility, representing it through the images in her painting. After telling her story of the constant struggle between doctors and syringes, the author decides to paint chairs as a way of relief; chairs which express each one of her longings, each moment of sadness, each situation of powerlessness which this kind of situation brings. She concludes with a beautiful lesson, which demonstrates that there is always a future and a personal growth to become a better parent for the child that will come no matter under which procedure.

© 2012, Carole. All rights reserved.

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