Welcome back (I can’t quite believe you came back for more.) So where were we? Oh yes, the fact that the idea of my hypothetical offspring might have hundreds of half siblings was totally weirding me out. The limits are set in the UK for a number of reasons, not least to avoid half siblings meeting and falling in love. Maybe they think in a country, like the US, that’s so big it’s less of a concern. But — not for the first time — it made me grateful that the UK had made what seems like such an eminently sensible decision on all this. Not just the ten family limit, but also the importance of donor information being accessible to the child when they turn 18.
I can’t say how I would have felt if I’d had the option of using an anonymous donor. My gut reaction is that it wouldn’t have appealed. I believe in honesty (says the girl who writes an anonymous blog and still hasn’t told her parents she’s frozen her eggs, let alone that she plans to try to conceive on her own, don’t worry, I’m all too aware of the irony), and so I would never be anything other than honest with any child about how they were conceived. Much of the research seems to suggest that it’s keeping secrets that causes problems in donor conceived families, and I’m a curious person, who likes definitives, so I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had no way to trace my parentage.
So despite the fact that I was utterly seduced by the volume of information — baby photos, adult photos, voice recordings, personality tests, medical profile — that, for a price, naturally, the American mega banks were prepared to share, I pretty much ruled them out. It wasn’t just the possibility of a gazillion half siblings, it was the fact that when you dug around, there were other, more concerning issues. Information about medical issues not being passed on to donor offspring, lack of communication, records being lost. And I know that the bigger an organisation, and the more customers they have, the greater the likelihood of some of those customers being disgruntled, but despite that, it all just didn’t sit right.
All but one. One bank appeared to be the Holy Grail of banks — The Sperm Bank Of California. I literally couldn’t find one person with a bad thing to say about the place. It’s a non-profit, with a history of encouraging donors to allow their details to be passed on to any offspring on request when they turn 18. On request they also facilitate contact between half-sibling families (more on this later….) but crucially they have a strict ten family limit. I fell in love. And not just with the bank. With a donor who sounded perfect — physically, intellectually, emotionally — the search was over.
Only it wasn’t.
Two things happened. One, I found out that the bank didn’t actually ship to the UK, because although their donors allow the bank to hold details of their identity, they haven’t sanctioned that information being passed on to a third party i.e. the HFEA. And two, with my thyroid levels just about where they needed to be, I finally went for all those blood tests. And whaddaya know, I’m CMV negative.
How, HOW, after all the colds, minor illnesses and general unwellness I have had over the last 40 years have I managed to escape getting CMV? I mean, I knew I was special (jokes), but how have I ended up in the estimated 20 per cent of the population who is CMV negative? (Quick recap, being CMV negative means, according to my clinic anyway, I can only use a CMV negative donor — more details here.) And, of course, Mr Perfect was CMV positive. Which, as the bank wouldn’t ship him to me anyway was, I suppose, some consolation.
But, with the only US bank I trusted now ruled out, it was back to the drawing board…