Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Tuesday 28th July 2020
Today I spoke with Carmel Dennehy who is a counsellor and psychotherapist. As part of my treatment with CRGH, they requested that I spoke with a counsellor in advance to discuss the implications of both egg donation and surrogacy.
We began by discussing my personal circumstances. Why I wished to start a family through surrogacy, how young I was and maybe I should wait a little longer to find a partner with whom I could share the adventure with. I explained the difficulties I felt were present when trying to find other men who have the same burning, passionate desire for fatherhood, especially in those who are around my age or older. I’m not saying they don’t exist, it’s just they’re hard to come by. No, single is fine by me! She agreed that being single would mean that there would be no arguments over the decisions that would need to be made over the years. Who would be in charge of the late-night feed? Me! Who would be changing nappies at least 10 times a day? Me! Who would be present at all the first times? Me!
The conversation then moved on to the implications of starting a family through egg donation. I had done a fair bit of research in regards to the legalities of egg donation and the rights of the child as they grew into adulthood. However, Carmel was able to add detail to some areas that I had overlooked. I knew that a child born from egg donation may wish to make contact with the donor from 18 years of age onwards and that, whilst the donor may have agreed to contact at the point of donation, this is not legally binding and they could change their mind in the future. As such, I would need to prepare my child to manage their expectations.
From the age of 18, as a donor-conceived adult, my child will be able to exchange contact details with people who also share the same donor. This will be possible through the HFEA’s Donor Sibling Link (DSL). It is important to note that not all donor-conceived adults join the sibling link.
One thing I had considered, thanks to David’s enlightening blog, was the phenomenon of genetic attraction. This is where a strong sexual attraction may develop between close blood relatives who first meet as adults. Whilst rare, there is a possibility of my child having a relationship with a donor-conceived sibling. Egg/Sperm donors can potentially have their gametes used to create children for up to 10 families. A single family may have several children from donor material. Therefore, my child could by chance meet a donor sibling at any point in their lives. At the point my child turns 16, and should they wish to start a physical relationship with someone, my child and I can make a joint application to the HFEA to find out if they are genetically related (presuming they too are a donor-conceived child).
One aspect I had not considered was that of consumer genetic testing. With the rise of services such as Ancestry and other DNA testing and matching websites, there is the possibility for donor-conceived children to identify other donor-conceived siblings or even the donor themselves (or one of their relations). By opting-in (or not opting out) of said services, this could also make donor-conceived children identifiable.
Carmel made me aware that, as part of the egg donation process, a donor is required by law to inform the clinic or the HFEA of any inherited disabilities or physical or mental illnesses affecting the donor or any related family member now, or any time in the future. I was aware that donors are compensated for their time and travel. Expenses are no more than £750 per donation. Also, Donors can access non-identifiable information via the HFEA to identify if their donation resulted in a live birth/births, the gender and year of birth. This information would not include the child’s birth date as this would be classed as identifiable information.
Finally, we discussed “personal descriptions” and “goodwill messages”. Should a donor wish to leave a message of goodwill to the recipient/donor-conceived child, these messages will be shared before treatment. This is an important piece of information which tells me, and in turn allows me to tell my child, about my egg donor and who they are as a person.
Having discussed the key areas involving the egg donor, we moved on to discuss the surrogacy process. We discussed the possibility of pregnancy complications and I explained I agreed with CRGH’s policy of only transferring one embryo per transfer. Multiple embryo transfers can result in multiple pregnancies i.e. twins. Whilst the majority of multiple pregnancies result in healthy babies, they also have added risks which affect both babies and surrogate.
We also discussed screening tests for chromosomal abnormalities/PGS (preimplantation genetic screening). In the event of my unborn child being diagnosed with foetal abnormalities, this would be discussed with my surrogate and clinic to establish how best to manage this.
Finally, we discussed the process and the law around applying for a parental order. In addition, we discussed the process of engaging with the surrogate regarding drawing up a surrogacy agreement.
The counselling session passed very quickly and Carmel was incredibly easy to talk to. She suggested that, as I was on the waiting list and about to create embryos, we should arrange a second session in the future, potentially after matching with a surrogate. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Carmel for her time and look forward to speaking with her again in the future.
Wednesday 29th July 2020
Today I had a very brief conversation with Shanee, the lead surrogacy nurse at CRGH. We discussed what to expect when I attend the clinic for my pre-treatment testing. Firstly, I would need to have a virology screening. The blood test will screen for a range of different viruses and genetic abnormalities. Whilst the result for many of these tests would only take a few days, some may take two to three weeks before a result is returned. In addition to this, I would need to provide a sperm sample for the clinic to perform a semen analysis (See Entry #8 for full details on this).
Furthermore, Shanee informed me that she would provide me with a “Characteristics Form”. This would be required for me to identify the characteristics I would want to see in a potential egg donor, e.g. hair/eye/skin colour etc. I will elaborate more on this in a future blog entry.
Looking forward, I will be attending the clinic in London on Wednesday 5th August. Thank you all for your continued support and following my story. In my next entry, I hope to document my experience at the CRGH clinic. Fingers crossed for good weather!
Until next time, keep the Dad dream alive!
Read more from my Dad.Be blog here
Follow me on Instagram @stephens_surrogacy_adventure