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We wanted our children to know their donors: Kate's story

This case study forms part of the Progress Educational Trust (PET) project 'When It Takes More Than Two', supported by the Wellcome Trust.
It incorporates links to terms in an accompanying Glossary.

When I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28, it was a complete and utter shock - it wasn't even something I'd heard of before. The doctor told me I'd have to consider egg donation to get pregnant, but at the time, I thought I'd find it really weird or that it wouldn't feel like my child.
After about a year, I began to think of it as an option. So my partner and I put our names on a waiting list, which was horrendously long.
We'd just decided to go travelling for a while, when a colleague - someone whom I didn't socialise with, and probably wouldn't have counted as a good friend at the time - offered to donate her eggs to us. I think that's quite unusual; most people I've met have done it through anonymous donors or family members.
It was a funny situation, because when we were put on the waiting list, we'd been through various characteristics and I'd said I'd like the child to have my build, height, hair colour and so on. My donor doesn't have any of those, but it didn't seem to matter at all. The main thing was that she was a known donor whom I really liked and was totally comfortable with. Nothing else was important.
We talked about it. I gave her some more information, and she said she was very sure it was what she wanted to do, so we started the process. By that time, I was nearly 31.
We were very lucky, because it worked the first time and was amazingly uncomplicated. Obviously it had some stressful points, and stages where we didn't think it would work. Going through counselling with my partner, our egg donor and her partner was a slightly unusual situation, but overall the process was about as stress-free as it could be. Both the donor and her partner were brilliant, and have been ever since.
When I was pregnant, I did worry that we might not bond, or that the child might feel more like my partner's than mine. But when I actually had my daughter, who is now 5½, we didn't have any issues.
A few years later, we decided that we wanted a second child, and wanted to use the same egg donor. We had two frozen embryos, but that was at a time when the freezing techniques weren't as good as they are now, and neither worked. This was pretty devastating. The donor had just had her own child and was a bit older, so the timing wasn't right for her to donate any more eggs, and we had to rethink things.
With such long waiting lists and those failed attempts, we just wanted to do it immediately - we felt so awful that it hadn't worked - so we contemplated going abroad. This seemed to be the quickest way, but eventually I decided that it wasn't what I wanted to do.
I didn't want my children to have any unanswered questions, and while it wasn't something I thought about the first time around (probably because I wasn't as aware of the issues), the second time around it was really important that we had a known donor. I wanted both my children to be able to have relationships with their egg donors.
Then a friend from my antenatal class said that her sister thought it was something she wanted to do. Going for a drink with my friend's sister for the first time was very strange, as we'd never met - it was like going out on a blind date! But the main thing was that we got on, she was doing it for the right reasons, and I felt comfortable with her.
So we began the process. It worked the first time, but I miscarried at eight weeks. We had two frozen embryos, but the first one didn't work. Happily, the second (and last) embryo was my son.
I am very comfortable with it, but I don't tell everybody about it. Close friends and family have always known, and I try to tell people who I think I will become long-term friends early on, before it ever becomes an issue.
It's a hard balance, because you don't want it to be a secret in any way, but I'm conscious that my daughter might not want everyone to be talking about it (for instance, no one at her school knows). She's known since she was tiny, even though it was in simple terms at first. I didn't want her to remember being told about it, or have it be a shock. Now, I think she'll never remember it being any other way.
The difficult thing was making it clear to her that not everybody has children in that way. I didn't get that quite right at first, because she started talking about how when she was grown up, she was going to borrow eggs from her friend at nursery! She's very relaxed about it though, and hopefully it'll stay like that.
The most fantastic thing is that both of my children will meet these amazing women who wanted to give us their eggs, and were prepared to go through so much to help us have a family.
When you're desperate to get pregnant, it's very easy not to think about the child and how they might feel in the future if they can't know the donor. I'm not saying it's in any way wrong; it's just something to consider.
I know lots of people don't do it the way that we have, and I'm lucky to have a very supportive partner who just wanted a family and didn't mind how it happened - not to mention meeting two women who were so kind as to donate their eggs.