If you are considering or are on your way to becoming a parent of a child conceived with the help of a donor, you may be curious to know how it feels to be a donor child. But there is no one-size-fits-all-definition. Except for a slightly different story of origin, people born from donor conception are just like everybody else – complex individuals with their own mind, emotions, and attitudes. In other words, donor-conceived people are very different from each other, and so are their feelings about being donor-conceived.
Donor-conceived people are generally doing well
Susan Golombok is a Professor of Family Research and the Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge. She has studied different family forms including donor-conceived children and has published several books on the topic. Her studies show that donor children are well adjusted and that they are no different from children in other families. She explains that donor-conceived children who are told about the donor early on, do not seem to be distressed - they are either not very interested in their origins or are curious to know more. Children in different family forms may however still experience stigmatization: “the make-up of their family does not affect the wellbeing of these children, but intolerance of their family does.”
Important points from Susan Golombok’s findings:
- The general public tends to assume that family structure matters a lot to children, but family structure matters less than we might think.
- If anything, the mothers and fathers of donor-conceived children have better relationships with their children, most likely because it has been such a struggle for them to become parents.
- Good communication with children is crucial, and parents who tell their children about the donor early on have better relationships with their children in their teenage years.
- Despite the good relationships in these families, some donor-conceived persons are interested in finding out more about their origins, and for those who are interested, it is important to be able to obtain information about their donor and donor siblings.
- Problems for these children are not caused within the family, but by how people outside the family react to them.
Personal stories from donor-conceived people
How do donor-conceived people feel about the fact that they were born with the help of a donor? This is of course very individual. In the following, you will find personal stories from three persons who are donor-conceived. They are now adults and have been kind and willing to share their stories with us.
Emma’s story: “I always felt like the most wanted child on the planet”
Emma was born with the help of sperm donation. Her donor is Non-ID Release (no contact), which Emma considers a relief. She has always known that a donor helped bring her to life, and together with her family, they have talked openly about it at home. In this video, Emma shares her experiences, how she feels about being donor-conceived, and her advice for parents of donor-conceived children.
You can also read this blog post with an interview with Emma.
Uffe’s story: “I have always had a dad, even though we do not share the same biological genes”
Uffe’s parents also used a Non-ID Release Donor. When he was around 10 years old, his parents told him that he was donor-conceived. Unlike Emma, they have not really talked about it in his family since then.
You can read the full interview with Uffe here.
If it had been possible, I think that I would have liked to have met him. But since it was only anonymous donors back then, and therefore it has never been an option, I have not spent a lot of time considering it.Uffe (48)Donor-conceived
Fredrik: “It has always been part of my story”
When Fredrik was 5 years old, his mother took him and his brother for a walk at the beach. Here she told the brothers a story about being born under a lucky star. She told the boys that it had been very difficult for their mother and father to have children naturally and therefore, they had used a donor.
The fact that I know I came into the world with the help of a donor, and moreover that my parents have told me about the whole process and have been open about it, has given me, if even possible, a closer relationship with them.Fredrik (31)Donor-conceived
New generations of donor-conceived children
There are many different perceptions of what it means to be donor-conceived and the importance this might have for a person. A simple Google or YouTube search will show you different persons sharing their personal stories - some of them are positive, and others are not. For some, being donor-conceived is not a big issue, and for others, it is a very big part of who they are.
When you read and watch these stories, it is important to remember that donor conception has evolved rapidly through recent years. Laws have changed and so has the general attitude towards different family structures. Donor-conceived children born today will grow up in a different reality than the donor-conceived persons who are now adults. The use of ID Release Donors (possible contact), the recommendations about being honest and open about using a sperm donor, and the increase in children born with help from a donor, have all radically changed these perceptions.