While working as a doctor, [I’ve seen] that egg/sperm donation or surrogacy isn’t questioned in terms of the impact that it may have on the child. I would say in fact, that it is celebrated. Celebrated in the sense that people are not allowing themselves to be constrained by the idea of what a traditional family should be, are being ‘true to themselves,’ and claiming their right to a family.
When the subject of egg/ sperm donation or surrogacy comes up during informal conversations with other doctors (and indeed most other people I speak to), I have brought up how this may affect the child, in a very non-confrontational way it has to be said, but I have never found anyone that has shared my concerns, and the conversation quickly falls flat.
Based on my experience of the health service in the U.K, concerns like this are never raised when a patient embarks on fertility treatment or surrogacy. I saw a number of patients who were going through the process, and although I wasn’t involved directly, I would do things such as request blood tests, and write letters to the fertility clinic on patients’ behalf. Our job as doctors seemed only to support the parents as much as possible.
In one of the GP practices I worked in 2 years ago, there were a number of male couples who had children by surrogacy. One of senior doctors told me that our catchment area had the highest number in London (I am not sure if that is true). I happened to notice that most of the surrogate mothers were based in America, and I am told that this is because their surrogacy laws are different there, and it is easier to arrange the surrogacy. One parent I met told me that the process from start to finish costs in excess of £50,000. I could not help thinking that this sounds like a business. Anyway, I met a number of these children and their parents, and while I had no immediate concerns, and it was obvious that these children were very much loved and wanted, I cannot help but worry about the effects the separation will have on the children in the long-term.
Like many children who were adopted in the 80’s, my birth parents had a number of difficulties. I had to be separated from my birth mother due to her mental health problems at one week old. I was placed in foster care, and then went to live with my adoptive parents when I was 9 months old. My birth mother contested the adoption, so it did not actually go through legally until I was 3 years old. I saw my mother twice when I was in foster care, but had no further contact with her after that, as the policy was for ‘closed’ adoptions then. My birth father originally did not support my mother, but later did, and always made sure that his contact details remained on my file. I eventually met him when I was 23.
My adoptive parents gave me an incredibly loving and supportive home, and I have a younger brother who is also adopted. Things haven’t always been straight forward for me or my brother. I have had therapy, and I still see a therapist now. Not everything can be explained by adoption, but many feelings that adopted adults speak about resonate with me.
One thing I will say about my own story, is that despite all the difficulties, I know that my birth parents for a short time had a genuine and loving relationship, and that means so much to me. I love the one photo I have of them together. I love that my dad invited my mum to his parents’ house for dinner (I was told this by his sisters who I have met). Children conceived via egg or sperm donation won’t have any stories like this. There just seems to be something very clinical and anonymous about the whole process, and again, no one ever seems to talk about that.