Following our last appointment, I was very surprised to receive a call from the clinic 6 days later, asking us to come in for the second of three compulsory appointments before treatment can begin. We had expected there to be roughly 6 weekly intervals between attending appointments, as suggested to us by the nurse who said the whole process should take about 12 weeks. However, they were very happy to accept Lauren for the egg sharing programme, and wanted us to come in the following week for yet more bloods, amongst other things.
We attended the clinic for this second step in the process on Wednesday 30th June. First of all Lauren had tests to check her blood group and then lots of screening tests including cystic fibrosis, HIV and Hep B, and also to check her iron count. Following on from this we saw the counsellor. This is mandatory for anyone receiving or donating eggs or sperm.
We were expecting the counselling session to be pointless, and a bit rubbish if we're honest, but we actually found it a positive and helpful experience. The counsellor discussed how we felt about not using my eggs, which was a very short discussion - as obviously with any lesbian couple, the biology of the donor matters very little, so biology becomes a very low priority on the list. She then discussed egg sharing, if we go ahead with this to reduce costs, which we still haven't fully come to a conclusion on. We have the right to find out, if we request, whether our donated eggs resulted in a child being born, the year it is born, and the gender. She also discussed the possibility of this child wanting to discover information about it's egg donor (i.e. Lauren) but also, something we hadn't considered - information about its sibling/s, IE any children Lauren and I have together. Egg donation to an anonymous family is often something considered without much thought, to improve costs of something which can prove extremely expensive, but I am actually glad that these counselling sessions are made compulsory for that reason. Although we are very level headed and have considered the implications of receiving donor sperm, and donating donor eggs, we can easily see how not every couple considers every eventuality.
A form is required to be filled in by Lauren providing information about herself for the child born to the anonymous family using her egg to receive if it wishes. The bit that had been stumping us was the 'goodwill message' to the child. We see egg or sperm donation as no different to donating blood, and want nothing to do with any children born from Lauren's donated eggs, but it is difficult to put this in writing without seeming very harsh! Ultimately our counsellor helped us see that the more information we provide, the less likely the child is to want to search for us, and that pointing out that we realise how much the parents wanted him/her and we wish them the best in their life, denotes an emphasis on the child's parents, and is also quite final sounding. That said, we feel a responsibility to provide the answers to anything the child might be questioning about its genetics.
Care is taken by a clinic to avoid you being matched as a donor or recipient with someone you know, or people donating too many times. Currently, a child can find out basic information about their sperm/egg donor on their 16th birthday (physical description, ethnicity, a goodwill message from the donor, how many children the donor has at that stage and their gender), and on their 18th, can have access to information including name, date of birth, and last known address. Which obviously means our potential child/ren can find out this information about the sperm donor we use, and any children conceived by the anonymous couple using Lauren's eggs, would have this information about her.
The next part of our session was a discussion about the potential sperm donor. We have always said we will be completely honest with any children we may have, but the counsellor discussed ways of phrasing this, and the importance of involving family in this too. For example my mom often uses the word 'dad' when referring to a sperm donor. Not out of intent to offend, she simply didn't know what other word to use, but this is something we will need to address! We have found many children's books online relating to explaining donor conception, and the counsellor suggested a few more to us too.
Our journey along the IVF route has given us much to consider and think about, and we would definitely recommend to anyone embarking on the process to discuss how both of you feel about donation, receiving donations, and genetics before you start the treatment process. Many lesbian couples embark with a set route in their minds of how it will work, and this is not always the case. As our counsellor pointed out, IVF can mean learning things about yourself, biologically and mentally that you hadn't known or considered. It truly is a journey in every sense of the word.
Our next appointment is with a consultant in just over a week to run through our treatment plan for the final time - and then it's baby making time!