March at IVF babble is all about empowerment and what better way to kickstart this month than talking to Erika Tranfield, the inspirational co-founder of amazing website, Pride Angel, which connects same-sex, straight and infertile couples with donor conception options worldwide.
Erika is a lovely, energised, bright eyed blonde who exudes both a passion and a steely determination to do all within her power to help other gay and lesbian couples and individuals to have a baby. Erika and her partner and co-founder of Pride Angel, Karen met at work eleven years ago – they are both microbiologists
I was keen to understand Erika and Karen’s motivations for devising Pride Angel.
When you realised that you wanted to start a family, who did you turn to for advice and guidance on your options?
Erika: “Our daughter is now 17 – when Karen conceived her 18 years ago there was absolutely no information available for lesbians on how to have a baby. Karen had very strong views about wanting her child to know who the father was so she had a friend who was happy to donate.”
Was the lack of information available the reason you started Pride Angel?
“Nine years ago we decided we wanted to have a baby together. We found very little information available on the Internet – the Sperm Donor forums we came across were generally unregulated, gave very little advice and support and often involved men wanting to donate sperm through sexual intercourse which obviously shouldn’t happen and shouldn’t be encouraged for legal and health reasons. We wanted to create a site where people felt safe. We are now very excited to have found our donor, through Pride Angel.”
How does Pride Angel work?
“Pride Angel is a connection service run along very similar lines to a dating website – there are obviously limits to what we can do but we believe we are the only service that closely monitors the profile of every user. We have a system whereby someone can report abuse and members can be suspended if they are breaching our code of conduct.”
Will you want your baby to know your donor?
“Yes, absolutely – he will also know our family and we will know his family. So, from all our perspectives, there is more love for the child who will have extra grandparents, extra brothers or sisters – all of which can surely only be more positive for the child.”
What would the motivation be of someone donating sperm?
“Various reasons. Sometimes there might be infertility in their family and they think to themselves – that’s something I could help somebody with. Sometimes they might have seen something on the media and they think that’s something I could do to help. People don’t seem to understand that often people just love to give.”
If a donor is happy to be involved in the child’s life that is about a lot more than simply donating your life-giving sperm?
“Yes. There are three different levels of Donors – the first level likes to meet the recipient face to face. Through a Clinic the donor doesn’t get to meet the recipient and we feel that is actually very important – that is why we set up Pride Angel. The donor would be happy to be contacted by the child at a later date if the child chose to do so.
The next level is where the Donor would be willing to be contacted by birthday and Christmas cards and to send the child an occasional gift to say ‘I’m here, I’m your dad.’
The third level is more of an uncle figure – he would see the child maybe two or three times a year but probably not more than that as they would become over-involved in the child’s life – there is a fine line between that and co-parenting.”
Is legal advice important during this process?
“Absolutely imperative – a big part of our website talks about the importance of communication, communication, communication. It’s very important to have legal guidance throughout – when going through the Donor Agreement there are so many emotive considerations. It’s so important to have that person who is one step removed.”
Do you believe the lack of sex education information and support for gay and lesbian youngsters and support in schools can become a barrier to becoming a parent later in life?
“Yes, absolutely. Teenagers are often struggling with their sexuality and identity – added to this is the fear of not being able to have a child. Explaining their parenting options would alleviate some of that pressure.”
Choosing an egg or sperm donor must be a huge and exciting decision to make, but also very nerve wracking. What advice do give on how to make such an important choice?
“We advise people to take as much time as they need to make sure they are choosing the right Donor. At the end of the day we are simply a connection service. We try to support and empower people with advice and guidance but ultimately it comes down to the individual’s choice.”
Once you have found someone a donor or co parent, how long are you with him or her on their path to parenthood? If difficulties arise are you there to offer further guidance and support?
“We try to offer as much support as we can whilst acknowledging that we are not experts. On our newly launched website provides access to a board of experts who can be contacted by internal messaging for the convenience and peace of mind of our members. It is so much better to be able to contact someone through us than have to try and find someone on the Internet which can be very confusing and overwhelming.”
IVF babble is very proud to be working closely with Pride Angel who are clearly making some very significant differences to all gay and lesbian couples who wish to have a baby.
We are delighted to announce that Erika has agreed to be a member of our Board of Experts to give advice regarding lesbian and gay parenting options. To find out more visit Pride Angel at http://www.prideangel.com