Orphan Annie

My intent in writing this is not to appear ungrateful.

But it’s a major, major stuff up. One that my kids have to live with their entire lives.

And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Seventeen years ago, when I first embarked on my journey to become a parent, there was one thing that was definite in my mind. I wanted my kids to know where they came from.

It’s not a simple matter of a ‘Birds and the Bees’ talk for my tribe.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone has a right to know their biology. I remember fondly my childhood fantasies about the possibility of learning I was adopted, not because I wanted different parents (although I can recall being sent to my room for misbehaviour and this thought crossing my mind on more than one occasion) but because of the excitement of the unknown; the chance of your lot in life changing. That person (or two) out there just waiting to be found so they could make all your dreams come true. The Orphan Annie mentality. We’ve all had it.

With same sex parenting, there has to be a donor. Whether a sperm or an egg donor, a donor of sorts is required. It’s basic biology: we don’t have all the ingredients we need.

This is perhaps one of the most contentious parts of this process: to go the known versus anonymous donor path. Opinions are many and varied on this decision and ultimately it is completely subjective. The prospect of potential custody issues down the track was not something we were prepared to risk, so for me and my partner at the time, the anonymous path was our best option.

When I first began my journey to same sex parenthood, it was not compulsory in Queensland for donors to be identifiable upon any resulting children turning 18. Donors could essentially walk in and walk out, no strings attached. Since a change in legislation in 2004, donors in Queensland now must be willing for their identity to be made available to any offspring at age 18.

Whilst I didn’t want potential custody issues, I did want my children to have the choice to find out their biology. Knowing how important this would have been to me in terms of establishing my own identity, it was a non-negotiable as far as I was concerned.

We walked in to the office at our clinic, and this was the first thing we explained.

We were assured this was not an issue.

We were also told that some donors were unwilling to donate to lesbian couples, so this might narrow our ‘field’ somewhat. This didn’t surprise either of us.

At 23 years old, I understood only too well the divisive nature of the same sex parenting issue.

I can’t help but feel envious when I hear people now talk about the online profiles, pictures, heartfelt donor statements and pages of additional information that are accessible when choosing a donor these days. Our ‘donor selection’ consisted of a face-to-face appointment with a cryobiologist. It was short and sharp – we neither saw a profile, nor were we offered one. It felt secretive and awkward. It was all discussed in a verbal manner only – we received no written confirmation of our choice, nor were any notes made available to us upon asking years later. We were left with the feeling of a deal done ‘under the table’. We knew it couldn’t be though as we were going through a reputable clinic and had done our research. Our wonderful doctor knew we were in a same sex relationship and was happy to proceed with us.

I read our donor profile for the first time when I was six months pregnant with Master Z.

It had taken me the best part of a year to fall pregnant successfully with Master Z. I suffered a miscarriage before him and the months and months of fertility drugs, personal devastation and financial pressure had taken their toll.

I had no idea at all about 50% of the genetic make-up of our child and I can remember this being a strange phenomenon. What he would possibly look or be like was a complete mystery to me. I remember feeling frustrated with the clinic for taking so long, but I still felt too grateful to make a big deal of it. Finally the profile arrived. It was minimal but better than nothing.

Then our beautiful, perfect boy arrived. And he was better than everything.

We raised our darling eldest boy to the age of ten with the knowledge that he had a ‘donor’ not a father, and that when he was 18, if he wanted to meet him, we would help him. He decided from a very early age that he would be taking us up on this.

So you can imagine our reaction when we found out five years ago that the clinic in fact instead gave us a donor who is not willing to have his identity released to any offspring.

The clinic inadvertently turned us into liars. I had to go back to my boy with great trepidation and tell him about their ‘mistake’ and that he would never actually be able to set eyes on the person who was in fact the other half of his genetic make-up. He was devastated. He still gets upset about it now. I have written letter after letter to the CEO explaining what has happened. There is nothing anyone can do. I have sought legal advice. There is nothing anyone can do. All five of my children now will never, ever know where they came from biologically.

They will never see a face or shake the man’s hand who gave them life. The clinic can’t even write to him on our behalf and explain what has happened as they have lost contact with him.

Most likely, our donor doesn’t want to be found. That was the grounds upon which this donor donated, and much as I don’t like it, I completely respect that.

But that was not the grounds upon which I agreed to be a recipient.

I can be angry, and jump up and down and scream and shout, but for what? It changes nothing.

It’s just very, very sad.

11 thoughts on “Orphan Annie

  1. I don’t know either of my biological parents. But I know the parents who raised me and that is all I will ever need xoxo

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    1. Thanks Lain Nee. It is very hard for him. And no, strangely enough I haven’t completely lost hope. I’m a big believer in ‘what is meant to be, will be’ and ‘things happen for a reason’ so only time will tell. Thank you for following. Xxx

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  2. Oh Shannon. That is so tough. I was adopted at birth … wanted to find birth mother when I reached 18. The law in the NT was (and still incidentally is) that I am not allowed to see my original birth certificate or any documents surrounding my adoption. Fortunately for me, my dad (adoptive one) had my adoption done via a legal friend of his who kept identifying information and passed it on to my mum and dad just in case I ever wanted or needed it. I was fortunate … eventually found my birth mother who had married my birth father after my adoption … even more fortunate to have not grown up with them!! But that’s another story. I then had an older half sister to find … that took years, many letters, many phone calls, and eventually found one person who was willing to bend the rules slightly … tell Mr Z to never give up as you never know what’s around the corner … have you considered ancestry DNA testing?

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    1. Krystal I can’t believe how lucky you were to have that legal friend who thought ahead! Your story is very interesting. Was it a disappointment meeting your birth parents?Yes I have considered DNA testing and when Zac is of age I will definitely suggest that to him. If for nothing else, it might help him identify and others sharing the same donor. Thanks for replying!

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  3. Hi Shannon and Lisa, I read this blog finally and will be reading the next one, I think what you are doing is wonderful but I have a question, In regard to medical information that may effect your children eg. genetic stuff that can be passed down. Can you access that as I think it is good to know if there is a medical condition that runs in a family.

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    1. Hi Tracey. Yes this is exactly the reason we felt that going through a clinic was our best option. All donors are screened and family history is taken to remove the chances of genetic anomalies being passed on. Our donor has nothing that is of particular concern to us. Thanks so much for reading and for the question. Xxx

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  4. I’m holding this… kind of suspended. Your respect of him. Your betrayal and Master Z’s by a clinic that did not understand the importance of what it was doing. The fact that nothing can be done. It is sitting at the point at which an in-breath should become an out-breath, and yet cannot… There is much that could be said… you children have amazing parents, are loved, have all they need. But they do not, and you cannot do anything about it. And I suspect that hurts enormously… Hugs, gently sent…

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