I Found Out As A Teenager
When I was conceived, IVF donor embryos in Australia was in its infancy. It may be hard to comprehend in in our twenty first century, extremely emotionally aware culture, but as little as twenty three years ago the advice given to my expectant parents was parallel to the advice which is now widely recommended. Seminal IVF consultants and phycologists greatly endorsed waiting to tell your child that they were donor conceived until they were deemed ‘old enough’ to understand the complexities. Today, the advice is vastly different. We are encouraged to tell our children truthful information, adapted into age appropriate language, from the moment they are born. But that is now, and this was then. In my parents and the experts’ minds, this age was approximately eleven to thirteen.
Myself, I was in year six of primary school when one day after school my parents called me into the lounge room to talk. As a child I was a ‘royal pain in the butt’, as my father would so lovingly put it, so I assumed I was due for another ‘the new rules in this house are’, or the ‘the state of your bedroom’ conversations. Instead they told me the truth. A lot of people assume in this one conversation my entire life changed, and I guess to some extent it did. But it was an earth shattering all-encompassing moment that splintered me into an entirely different person. A lot of people I tell this story to can only imagine it going that way. The can only imagine I was shocked, upset and betrayed. I wasn’t.
The truth was, biologically I wasn’t related to anyone in my life. My mother couldn’t conceive biological children, she had gone through a very early menopause, and my father, who is quite possibly the greatest man to have ever walked this earth, refused to use his sperm to conceive with an egg donor. He didn’t want my mother to raise a child she felt was more his than hers.
Going through this moment as a teenager was hard in some ways. I guess I had always known I was ‘adopted’, as I call it. There where clues along the way and this explanation made it all snap into place. But despite this it never changed me. My parents were still my real parents. My mother grew me inside of her own body for nine months. I still carried my father’s family name. My grandmother was still the woman I admired most. My parents were still the ones who slaved over my dirty nappies, heaved my temperamental toddler butt to the hospital when ear infection after ear infection struck me down, and gave me my all insights into the world.
But I did struggle knowing I had siblings that I would never be raised with. I was condemned to be an only child, something I had hated since I was old enough to have memory. While I still felt that my parents where my parents, and my grandparents and aunts and uncles where still connected to me, I suddenly felt like my cousins, one of whom I had grown up being best friends with, had been stolen away from me. I was very aware no one I had ever known in my life had been a blood relative. And I was upset that I no longer knew which part of me was nurture and which part was nature. Was there health conditions I needed to know about? Did my sister and brother look like me? Was there a chance I would accidently one day date my biological cousin without knowing? I was still me, but who had Loren actually been this who time? None of it was a lie, but what was Mildren and what was DNA?
It got better with time. It became the new me. I owned my new story and didn’t listen to anyone else’s opinion, because really, for once in my life, I am the centre of this story. Not society, not my friends, not my parents, not my biological relatives. Just me. I am the person this affects the most, so I have to live it, love it and own it. I was proud. But I continued to live with these important questions relating to my true identity for nine years. No one else in my life had this story, no one else could relate or understand, my parents were standing on the other side of this issue and while they had empathy, they couldn’t sympathise.
That is what I hope this group will change. That was then, this is now. Now more and more children are being raised with this story, more and more kids are not just egg or sperm donated, they are embryo donated. We need a community for the parents who embark on this journey, the biological parents who are brave enough to place their trust in humanity and make a donation, and most importantly the donor conceived children who are brought into this world. Together with everyone on this page, I want to strive to keep this story going, and most importantly I want to add all of your stories so that everyone who is touched by embryo donation knows they are never alone.