I provide parenting advice for single mothers of donor-conceived children based on my own experience.
Becoming a Single Mother Via IVF With A Donor
When you're in the process of trying to get pregnant, you worry about IVF costs and choosing the right clinic. As a single female, you also worry about undergoing the process and task of choosing the right donor. It is a lengthy and costly process. It's also stressful—you must take various medications and injections on the right day at the right time and organise it all around your work schedule.
You are hopeful, and then you are disappointed when it doesn't work the first time. Maybe not even the second time. It is stressful, but at the same time, it feels wonderful to live in a day and age where you can even try to become a mother without having a partner. Talk about a roller coaster. The entire time, while you're travelling along to seamlessly endless appointments, you have fingers crossed that all your dreams will come true, and you'll finally get to become a mother—something you have wanted to be for a long time.
With all this going, it's hardly in your thoughts about how you'll explain to your child, when they start daycare or kindergarten, how your family is different to some others.
You Were Successful!
When you have been lucky enough to become a mother using IVF and your child starts childcare, preschool or kindergarten, they'll notice some kids have a mother and father. Some parents of other children might even tell your child, "Everyone has a father," when your little one has said they do not.
In class they will make father's day cards, hold father's day events,, and even from preschool age, they start to talk about their parents with the friends they make.
You might not have really given this much thought before. You might think there will be ways you can tip-toe around the 'father' thing. To try to keep the child 'protected' from these occurrences. But it's not needed. There is no dark secret, or anything to be ashamed of. Think of how many people in society, couples included, who try for years to conceive with and without IVF. You are a success story. Be proud.
Although it's not appropriate for children to know all there is about baby making at a young age. Your child actually, has a beautiful story behind them already of how they came to be, which you can and should consider explain to them at a young age, using age appropriate words, which will allow them to understand the basics of how they came to be, and also feel proud about it.
Every Family Is Different
Your child is not missing anything. You went into IVF knowing full well your capabilities. It was thought out and well planned. You may not have a partner right now, and your child may not have a father right now, but neither of you are missing out on anything, you both have all the love you need. Your singleness could change at any time and you family could expand. But right now you are fully immersed in motherhood and it's exactly everything you had hoped for.
Do I need to point out that every family is different? Your child will notice, and you can also point it out. Some kids have a mother, some have a father, some have both, some have two mothers, some have two fathers, some have a grandma who looks after them.
The Special Bedtime Story
A great way for your child to learn about how they were conceived from a young age is making it a beautiful bedtime story you tell them sometimes. This allows you to expand on the story as your child grows. And for me, it has made my child feel so proud that she grew into a baby just like I longed her to do.
"Do you want me to tell the story about how I became your mother? Well, there are a few ways you can make a baby grow in a ladies tummy. Usually when a person is married the man and woman can make a baby together, because to make a baby you need some cells from a man and a woman. I always dreamed I would have a baby girl. But I was sad because I couldn't make a baby because I hadn't found a boyfriend or a husband. So I decided to go to a very special kind of doctor who can help ladies who don't have partner to have a baby. I asked the doctor if she could help me have a baby and she said she could. I was so excited. It was very expensive, and she told me, it didn't always work, but I had my fingers crossed so tight (crosses fingers). And a very kind man gave some of his cells to the doctor and she put them in my tummy. Then I was hoping - please, please, please, let a baby grow... And you did! One day, I went for a special x-ray of my tummy and I saw that you were growing! You were so tiny, but you were making my tummy so big! The doctor asked me if I wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl, I said I did. The doctor asked me what I thought I it would be, and I said I think it's a girl... And she said I was right! I was so happy, I was jumping up and down, I was crying, and laughing, and so excited. I called Grandma to tell her, then I went straight to Kmart and bought everything pink I could find!"
You Have a Biological Father
There are some questions your child might also ask about your family, and you could find the following answers useful.
I try to use positive, factual language, which is age appropriate and can be expanded on as my daughter grows. I don't yet use the word IVF, as I try to keep my wording as easy as it can for her to understand at her age.
Do I have a dad?
No, I haven't found a husband yet. I might one day. But you have a biological father. Some people call him a 'donor', because he is the man who let me use some of his cells to help make you grow in my tummy. He isn't part of our family, but because you are made from the same cells as him, as well as mine, he is called your biological father. But you do have your uncles, and your Grandpa. Every family is different, some kids have a mother and a father, some have two mothers, or two fathers, or only a dad. Some kids share their time between their mum and their dads house.
Did he help any other ladies make their babies?
Yes he did. He is a very nice man who wanted to help ladies who couldn't have a baby. I am so happy he did that, because I have you!
Can I meet him?
No, because he isn't part of our family. But he is very kind for letting me use his cells to help make you. I have a little bit of information about him that the doctor gave me; I'll tell you what I know about him. And, the law at the moment is, when you're 18 you will get sent his contact details if you want to contact him then you can.
Does he know I grew into a baby?
Yes! He knows because I sent a really big thank you card for the doctor to give to him. In the card I said thank you for doing something so wonderful to help me have my beautiful daughter.
Can I meet the other children?
When you are 12 you will have access to chat online with your diblings (current Xytex set up). But before then, if there are any other parents who used the same donor who want to talk with us or meet up with us, then we will. Some parents use Facebook or other sites to try to connect with other parents who used the same donor. They sometimes call their children's biological brothers and sisters 'diblings'. I'm happy for you to know them, because they are made up from the same cells as you on your biological fathers side. But it's not always easy to find them and some parents don't want to do that, or they prefer to want to wait until their child is older for their child to decide if they want to do that.
Welcome Opportunities to Connect
The laws on contact with your child's donor vary depending on the type of donor you used and where you live. Those laws and the donors privacy should always be respected and protected. It is likely that you and your child will not have any contact with your donor at least until your child is 18 years old. This does not prevent you from forming connections with other parents who have used the same donor as you.
Xytex currently offers a limited opportunity for parents who have successfully conceived with the same donor, and who have registered their births, to exchange moderated messages and photos with each other through a feature on their website. Children can log on and chat with their diblings once they are 12 years old. There are also websites and many Facebook groups for making and viewing donor sibling connections.
We must accept that parents will have different views on connecting with other parents who have used the same donor and have young children. But the reality is, when you made the decision to have a donor conceived child, you made a conscious decision to bring a child into this world with no connection to their biological side. This was your decision, not your childs. Your child is a dream come true, and already has everything that they need right now. But if only for the faint possibility of future curiosity (and there will be some in years to come), never deny your child access to information about their biological connections. There is simply no reason to justify you denying your child of this. Take any opportunity you have within the law to welcome connections with other parents who have used the same donor as you.
In years from now, even the smallest piece of information you have gathered to give your child about their biological brothers and sisters (and there is likely to be some out there), will be important to them because they do have such limited information about their heritage on their biological father's side. In life, everyone wants to know something about their heritage.
If you decide to wait until your child is old enough to beg you to help them find out some information, some opportunities to connect may have already be missed. I imagine it would be a significant life-changing journey for them to undertake as a young adult, for example, if they found out they had six brothers and sisters willing to connect with them, after growing up as an only child.
My daughter has a photograph of her biological sister. She is a few years older than her, and lives a short drive away. It is a photo she will probably keep forever. She is fascinated by it, as am I, because the little girl looks very much like her. This is all she has and all she knows about her sister. Apart from, we also know that her mother does not want to meet up with us. Not because she doesn't like us. She has just not explained to her child how she came to be, and therefore feels it is not appropriate (or she doesn't know how to) explain it to her now, at her age. There is a chance she may never tell her.
I do not understand what she is trying to protect her from. I see it as a missed opportunity for biological sisters to form a friendship, and for the little girl, whose name we do not know, the chance to know she has a sister, not far from her, who looks just like her... Imagine if this little girl was you.
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