Once we both agreed and accepted the fact that our family is complete, my wife decided that she wanted to donate her eggs to single women or couples who cannot conceive using their own eggs. It’s a decision that she made on her own, but one that we both agree is a good idea. More on my own involvement later.
Between the two of us we know many children who were born via In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) within our closest circle of friends, colleagues, people my wife meets through her role as a natural healthcare professional, people I network with through my writing about family issues and even within our own extended and blood family.
We know children whose mother’s eggs were fine, and so was their father’s sperm, but IVF was needed to help the process along. We know children who are the product of their mother’s egg and a donor’s sperm. We also know children whose mother’s eggs were unable to conceive so she has used the eggs of a donor, yet those children are genetically connected to their father with his sperm being A-okay.
We’ve seen IVF help conceive children for heterosexual couples as well as gay and lesbian couples. That’s people we know on a personal level, not just human interest stories on the news or in magazines. We’ve seen the child or children born via this process grow in to happy kids who are much loved by both parents, whether that parents is genetically connected, or simply the only person that the child will ever call Mum or Dad, and may only ever know as being their parent.
As individuals who truly felt blessed once we became parents, my wife and I know that, despite all the crap that goes along with being a parent, there is so much joy that a child bring. And although children can make you feel stressed, tired, anxious, annoyed, tired, pained and tired (did I mention “tired”?), we both feel that this is something that neither of us would have wanted to miss out on. Knowing that some women’s eggs cannot conceive, and some men are firing blanks within their sperm, my wife and I both decided long ago that we would step up to the plate and donate to help out.
Over the last ten nights or so I have been assisting her by injecting a hormone into her in preparation for her procedure to remove her eggs for donation. In the last two or three days, I have had to stick two lots of needles into her. Needles being needles, they hurt for a brief moment when they go in and whilst they are in, but it’s a small sacrifice that she is willing to go through, and I’m proud of her for doing it. Tomorrow is the day that she will go through the procedure. We are spending the evening apart as the clinic is in a different state from the one in which we live and she took a flight earlier today in preparation for her early morning appointment in the hospital.
Going back further than those ten days of injections, over the two months leading up to this current month, both my wife and I had to do a couple of counselling sessions with a psychologist to make sure that we have thought this through. Now, this is where I’m going to suggest something that many people might find astounding; I don’t believe that I needed to be as much a part of this process as I have been. That’s either given you the impressions that I don’t care, I’m being lazy, or something else that may have crossed your mind, but it hasn’t crossed my mind. But lets just take a step back in time for a moment.
Our first son was born late 2008. Our second son was born mid-2011. Somewhere in between those two years and eight months, a school friend of my wife’s mentioned that they were problems with he and his wife conceiving naturally, and the problem was with the genes of his own little swimmers. As a result, they were seeking the services of an IVF clinic in Sydney, not too far from our home. New South Wales is reflective of Australia as a whole with the demands for donated sperm greater than the amount of sperm being donated. Knowing this, when it was asked of me as to whether I would consider, and seeing that the suggestion was raised by a good friend of my wife’s, I was happy to put my hand up to find out more about the process.
I can’t and won’t go into the details about how and why this fell through, but I didn’t end up being a sperm donor for this couple. It was not because I didn’t qualify, but it just didn’t happen. Based on the criteria that must be met to be a sperm donor, back then, just as I believe it still would be today, I am a healthy person who could easily pass all the health checks, both physically and mentally in order to be a donor. Even though I finally stepped up to become a blood donor within the last year, I haven’t gone that step further to help create an anonymous life rather than saved one.
The reason why I bring this up in the story after suggesting that my involvement in my wife’s egg donation is probably more than it needs to be is because as a married couple (de facto relationships are included in this), I need to give consent for her to donate. Even though it was her who made the suggestion to me about donating sperm for her friend and his wife, she would have had to have given consent and would have had to have done at least one counselling session with me to make sure she was truly comfortable with me donating my sperm.
I just don’t think that the spouse has the right to say what their respective partner can or can’t do with their sperm or eggs. Now, when I say that, I’m talking about in the clinical environment. Of course, morally speaking, there is obviously going to issues should a man decide to donate sperm to a woman the natural way outside the realm of an IVF clinic, and more within the realm of him directly injecting it from his penis into her vagina, even if the sexual intercourse was with a lesbian, or deemed non “sexual” and merely for the purpose of procreating. I’m sure that this sort of arrangement has been done between consenting adults with the full approval and support of the man’s wife, but for the purpose of what I am talking about, I’m ruling out this scenario because it’s not in context.
When I decided to give blood, my wife didn’t need to give consent. I know that we are talking about two completely different things here with the recipient of my red blood cells never going to know that they received MY blood, and nor would they come knocking on my door hoping for a relationship should my 500ml of reddy-goodness be swimming through their veins. But she didn’t have to give consent to that, so why does she need to give consent to me donating sperm?
And by the same token, why do I need to give consent to her donating her eggs? Those eggs belong to her and she has every right to do what she wants with them.
Now I’m not suggesting that partners should go sneaking behind each other’s backs and do this without a conversation, or at least having the decency to mention this to their partner because it IS a fairly big decision, but once that discussion is had, both the trust factor and the support factor must come into play. What I am saying there is this; once my wife has brought the topic up with me, once we’ve discussed it and agreed that it’s a good idea, this should be something that the individual should be allowed to run with without written consent from their partner. I was happy to visit the Justice of the Peace with my wife to get the papers signed by an official witness, and I was happy to be a part of the psychological discussion with the consultant, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t think that I needed to.
If within a relationship this topic is broached, whether it be sperm donation or egg donation, and the other partner is against it, I still believe that the person who wants to be the donor should be able to make the final decision on their own to do this. The repercussions of disagreement on this are personal for the couple to work through and it shouldn’t be the business of the clinic, nor any government agency.
During our counselling discussion I brought up many reasons why I was going to be going along with this decision of my wife’s to be a donor as if I was taken out of the equation. You see, my life could end tomorrow through illness or accident, and I would be out of the equation so any objections, fears or thoughts of my own about this process would be redundant. And of course, after the eggs have been used and once children are born from her eggs, she too could have her life cut short through illness or accident, and my connection to the child or children is nothing more than them being the half-sibling to my own two boys, but not having any blood ties to me.
Although it’s not something that one might think about whilst being within a relationship, I’m thinking globally with this, not just about our own situation; the fact is, many marriages end in divorce, or de fact relationships end in the parting of ways, and if a spouse had refused to give consent to their ex-spouse while that person was in the prime of the life to donate, they have had way too much control over their partner’s life and future than what they should be able to have.
The connection of the prospective child or children to our own boys was discussed with all those “what ifs” thrown into the mix. What if the child born from the donated egg is a girl who grows up to fall in love with one of your own sons and their direct blood line connection causes drama of their own should they choose to procreate? With an estimated 23,931,744 people currently living in Australia (as of today) according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and based on projected growth, that’s a probability akin to 1 in 12 million that either boy will be facing, and those are odds we were both willing to take on.
With the child or children being born 1,000kms away, they have just as much chance finding and falling in love with their anonymous half-sister as they do landing in Los Angeles and hooking up with the daughter of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in 20 years. Random, I know, but that’s exactly right; it’s all a bit random.
Of course, my involvement in process of her donating has been minimal. I answered the questions asked of me in the counselling session, I assisted with the injections of hormones (I’d like to say that hurt me more than it hurt my wife, but once I got past the first day’s injection with minimal fuss for me, it was a pretty easy thing to do), and I signed the paperwork. But of those three things, the supportive role I played in administering her drugs, and then the further added support I have offered her during this journey of hers should have been enough.
She doesn’t need my consent to play this important part in the lives of a couple struggling to conceive. And even though with the change in the law giving the IVF child greater rights and a greater ability to track down their biological donor parent once they turn 18, this is really not something that should be a concern greater than that which should be nutted out back in the early discussion days between the partners when the idea is first brought up.
And to finish off, and to bring it back to our own personal situation, if there is anything that a husband should have to give consent to and sign a form to acknowledge this consent, for me, that would have to be for any trips my wife makes to the hairdresser…. especially when getting 12 inches of hair cut off.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that the partner needs to give legal consent?