Page URL: https://www.progress.org.uk/witmt2oliver

It's just always been there, I've never known any different: Oliver'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.

I've always known I was donor conceived, as far back as I can remember. I was born in June 1991, before Government legislation creating the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority came into force in August of that year, so my chances of finding any donor relatives are slim.
But I don't mind. My mum's been active in running the Donor Conception Network (DCN) all my life, so I've always been surrounded by donor conception - either through attending DCN conferences with her, or through the myriad of donor conception books that fill our study!
As a kid, I always found that my interest in donor conception issues used to spike before and after attending the conferences. But most of the time, my genealogy wasn't even in the back of my mind to be honest. Curiously, while I'm always happy to talk about being a donor-conceived young person, my younger brother (who was conceived with a different donor) isn't interested at all. I don't think it's a problematic issue for him - it's just not something that he's interested in.
My parents decided to begin the process of 'telling' before I could possibly have been old enough to understand, so that there would never be a point when I could remember 'being told'. It's just always been there, I've never known any different.
Obviously, as I grew older, I understood a little bit more each time I was regularly 'retold', with the DCN's My Story book as an aid in the early years. My parents always used plain, technical, language to explain ('donor', 'sperm' and 'conception') rather than trying to simplify or use metaphors. I remember the moment the penny dropped, when I was around nine or ten years old, that my brother was actually, technically, only my half-brother. Apart from that, I don't remember any major revelatory moments - no 'aha!' occasions or 'big talks'.
Telling has never really been a big deal, due to having a very small family. I had a forward-thinking granny, who was always cool about it. Apart from that, my only other family members are my Australian aunt and uncle, whom we're not particularly close to and who haven't been told. This was my parents' decision, but I agree with it. There's a difference between secrecy and privacy, and there isn't really a need to tell such personal information to people you're not particularly close to. Not knowing doesn't affect their lives at all.
I'd say that I feel more interested in meeting potential half-siblings than I am interested in meeting the donor himself, although this fluctuates. Sometimes I feel like I want to know some personal information about the donor, but sometimes I just want practical information. I'm quite a worrier, so possible risks of hereditary illnesses are always quite high on my information wishlist.
I do have basic, non-identifying information about the donor from the clinic, which I can share with you now: He was six feet tall, weighed 76kg at time he donated, and had grey/blue eyes, fair hair and fair skin. His blood was type A negative. He was a medical student, and he gave his interests as music, literature and theatre, travel and sport. I also know from an earlier information request that he specialised in geriatrics and wanted to become a GP. He also liked football and rugby, and was described by clinic staff as 'good looking'. You now know literally know as much as I do about my donor.
Not knowing my donor or any half-siblings doesn't affect my life dramatically. I know that some donor-conceived adults find the lack of information a lot more difficult than I do - a 'missing piece of the jigsaw' is an analogy that's often used. I've never had feelings that intense, I'd simply quite like to know more. It's more curiosity than necessity. I think this laid-back attitude is probably because of how close I am to my family, who raised me - I've never felt the need to supplement them with more family members. My parents have always been honest about my low chances of finding any relatives, due to having been born before the relevant legislation was passed, and it seems pointless to put effort into a big quest with so little to go on.
I am currently registered with UK DonorLink, and have been since my 18th birthday (I'm now 21), but so far I haven't had any matches. The service will shortly be closing, with the responsibility for the register handed over to the new National Gamete Donation Service (NGDS). While I'm pleased that the project will be kept alive, I worry about how effective it'll be, given the inevitable smaller budget. Still, I've indicated to the NGDS that I'm more than happy for them to continue to keep my registration on file.
The removal of anonymity in 2005 set a precedent that donor conceived people have a right to know their parenthood. Although it's very difficult to make that right retroactive, the Government should go to all reasonable lengths to allow older donor-conceived people to at least have a chance of making contact with their genetic relatives, and the continued existence of a donor link register is an essential part of that. If the service were to close permanently, it'd probably be the final nail in the coffin for my chances of finding any half-siblings I may have.
The main reason why I've participated in interviews and panel discussions and contributed my story like this, throughout most of my life, is because I hope it'll encourage parents to be honest with their children about their conception from birth. I'd like parents to tell their children they're donor-conceived before they can talk, before they can walk! Tell, tell, tell. It's not even a choice really, these days - odds are they'll find out one way or another at some point, and it could be emotionally catastrophic if that happens during adulthood. By telling children early, they will simply see it as the norm like I do, as they've never known any differently.