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How To Tell Your Child They've Been Born With Help From An Egg Donor

16/10/2017 11:50 BST | Updated 16/10/2017 11:51 BST

Each year I speak to hundreds of couples who all ask me the same thing: 'How do I tell my child how they were conceived?'

It may sound like a strange question.

After all, who wants to think about their mum and dad and the birds and the bees?

But my job is to counsel those undergoing fertility treatment - in particular using donated eggs.

While the rules surrounding the anonymity of donors varies from country to country, there is no legal obligation to tell a child they have been born as a result of a donor.

Indeed at the point most patients come to me most of them are still unsure what to do.

I never tell a couple - it's not my place. Instead, I help them to reach a conclusion that's right for them.

Whatever their decision, there's a few 'dos and don'ts' I generally advise.

Don't tell family and friends if you don't intend to tell your child

This is one of the biggest mistake parents can make. A lot of parents decide not to tell the child but then tell family and friends instead.

In these cases there's a huge risk the child can find out from someone else.

Deciding whether or not to tell the child is complex and there's no right or wrong answer from a psychological or academic sense. But whatever you decide, make it consistent.

If a child finds out from someone else it can make things much more complicated.

Don't talk before the child is able to understand

It is usually better to start the conversation with a younger child, but it depends on how mature their understanding is.

You shouldn't try and sit a two-year-old at a dinner table and tell them they're from an egg donor. It simply won't work.

The main thing to remember is it's wise to talk to your child when you feel they're ready to understand it a little bit.

Do share the information in a playful way

If you do want to tell a child, do so in a playful way.

This could be done as a fairytale. You could start the conversation by saying 'Once upon a time, there was a nice lady who helped us a little bit to create a baby.'

The important thing is to use simple language and in a playful way which the child can relate to.

Do allow time for questions

Give them a lot of time for questions. The child is going to have many of them.

The family has to be prepared to discuss the whole IVF journey, not just the end result.

The child is also likely to tell their friends, who might ask their own questions which could be relayed back to the parents.

Be open, honest, and encourage them to talk about it, if that's your choice.

Don't use negative language

There's one huge mistake that parents can make, and that's to say the child is not theirs.

There are different kinds of parents: biological, psychosocial and legal. When parents decide to undergo egg donation they are everything apart from the genetic parents.

Once the parents realise they are most parts of the branch system, they start to realise how important every other element is to their child.

It doesn't mean that just because the child doesn't share the same genetics they will not take their habits or their views.

It just means one small cell is not from the mother, but they are the mother in every other sense including going through all the prenatal care, the pregnancy, and the birth.

Do think about the donor

At IVF Cube the donors and the receivers receive counselling in parallel.

Donors usually ask about the future of the child and about the patients we have. They are not allowed to know the specifics, but they want to have a general understanding of the kind of person who will be receiving the egg.

Ultimately, they want to know the child will be in good hands.

We remind donors they are not making a child, they are just donating a cell. Most donors think of it like this and if they don't, they won't pass the psychological testing which is required to become a donor.

Usually the donors are mothers of their own children and wouldn't give them up for the world. They know the difference between donating a cell and being a parent.