We received this email from one of our readers, who is really struggling to accept that sperm donation is his only option if he wants to become a father. We immediately turned to Sandra Hewett, AMBICA, the amazing fertility counsellor at Thames Valley Fertility for guidance
Hello I hope you can help me. I am quite lost and do not know what to do next…
I have been married to my lovely wife for 5 years. Our dream was always for us to start a beautiful family as soon as possible. However, our plans haven’t quite worked out.
We have been trying to have a baby for 4 years now and it has been hard, really hard. We have had multiple rounds of IVF, but they have all tragically ended in miscarriage. Multiple tests later, and we have been told that our only chance of having a family is to use a sperm donor.
To say I was crushed at hearing this news is an understatement
So, just before lockdown, me and my wife were starting to talk about sperm donation as an option. Sadly though it resulted in so many arguments as I just couldn’t get my head around the idea that our baby would be another man’s child.
But then lockdown happened, and clinics closed, and the discussion about IVF was temporarily off the table. I know it sounds odd to say this, at a time when the world is facing a disaster, but life suddenly seemed so much better.
Me and my wife started enjoying each other’s company again. The words ‘sperm donor’ were no longer part of our daily discussions…and she stopped telling me that I couldn’t have a beer! Over the last two months we have been sitting in the garden, enjoying the hot weather, and enjoying life how it was before we even started talking about having a family.
But now I am scared
I can see the world picking itself up off the floor, dusting itself off and looking to start back again. The IVF clinics are opening and things are returning to a (new kind) of normal. I know my wife is going to start talking about starting a round of IVF again, but I don’t know if I can do it! I know I sound ignorant and selfish, but I just don’t think I can watch her body grow another man’s child. I want the baby to be mine!! I just can’t do this, but I also can’t lose my wife. I love her so much and I want to make her happy.
I just can’t find a solution
I don’t know how I can change my outlook on this, so I am asking if you can help me? Can you help me change the way I view sperm donation? Can you help me accept that this is going to be OK and that I will not reject my wife or our baby?
Thank you so much, Jason
I am sorry to hear of your situation and the losses you have experienced in your journey to create a family together. You have come to a point where sperm donation has been the recommended course of treatment now and of course, it is a shock and very distressing for you. There has also been the closure of clinics which, as you say, can produce mixed feelings. In helping you with these emotions I will try to condense two or three counselling sessions into this brief article!
Firstly, re the lockdown
While the popular view is to celebrate the gradual lifting of restrictions many people, like you, feel dread. I have a client with generalised anxiety which all but disappeared in her lockdown ‘bubble’ as she called it. Now she is being asked to go back to work and encounter people, the anxiety is returning.
Over these recent two to three months, a pause in a hectic and often pressured life – including the process of fertility treatment – can be good for us. Of course, some people have had work and family pressures, and those starting fertility treatment have found the closures very stressful, but for those in mid-treatment it offers a chance to take a breath. And it sounds like that is how you have both experienced this time, which is great.
So how to face the reality that you need donor sperm treatment?
Your reaction is natural and very common. You have been through multiple losses and the loss of a genetic connection to any child you might have is also to be grieved. But you can work through your emotions to come to acceptance of this. (I should add that it is also acceptable to decide not to take this route, but you need to both be in agreement).
You won’t be surprised to hear me say that counselling can help you
All clinics have fertility counsellors available, and hopefully your clinic will fund you at least one session, either on your own or with your wife. You may know that if you have donor conception treatment you need to have a session of implications counselling, but it is common that people have prior sessions to help them with the emotional aspects.
If you don’t want to take the counselling route there are Facebook groups for men with male factor infertility and other online forums where you can talk to men with similar experiences.
Another option is Donor Conception Network (DCN), which is a brilliant charity supporting individuals and couples in this position. When you join you have a telephone chat with a buddy, which for you would be a man who has children through donor sperm and he can give you his experience.
Briefly, I can offer you the following perspectives
There are around 2,000 donor conceived (DC) children born in the UK every year, so it is becoming increasingly common as a family model and a growing area of fertility treatment.
What we think of as the ‘normal’ family, with children living with two genetically connected parents, is now the minority family model (accounting for adopted/foster children, single parents, stepfamilies as well as DC).
We strongly advocate telling DC children about their origins early, and they are very accepting of it (there is a DCN book Our Story which helps). That’s not to say they don’t have questions or concerns through life, but we know that loved and supported children brought up with honesty are psychologically healthier than those brought up with family secrets, which usually come to light at some point.
If you think about it from the baby’s viewpoint, they have no idea who their parents are other than two loving (if at times fumbling) adults; they don’t grow up thinking whether or not they came from your sperm, or their mother’s egg and they don’t judge you for it. Told early and with confidence (which the book gives you) they accept it as part of their story.
Your children will bond with you because you are their dad. Full stop.
Huge thanks to Sandra and much love to Jason.
Are you now a father having used donor sperm? We would love to hear from you. Please do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be amazing to help support Jason, and others who are struggling.