Information is good – mandatory counseling for sperm

As part of the process for having IUI or IVF with donor sperm, we are required to go see a counselor. I thought I would be kind of offended by that (why is it basically only the lesbians who need to see a counselor?) but actually, I ended up feeling that there were specific issues around donor sperm that were important to talk and think about before having a child. Like for example, how to explain it to him/her, and how to refer to the donor when speaking to your child (as ‘donor’ or as a ‘helpful stranger’ – not as the father, that is confusing, misleading and problematic for the idea of developing your own family. Not that we’d have referred to the donor that way anyway I don’t think – but still, good to know).

Also, the main thing I came away feeling was that EVERYONE going through this process, donor sperm or not, should have to see a counselor. We know straight couples who have gone through this and it’s been really hard on their relationship. One advantage we have as lesbians is that we’ve never tied sex to procreation, so there’s no sense of it being ‘pointless’ now, which is something I’ve heard from a straight friend when they realized they couldn’t conceive naturally. That sort of stuff would be really good to talk through with a trained third party!

The therapy session was really very good, relaxed, and positive, and the therapist stayed with us for an hour and 20 minutes, 30 minutes over the allotted time, just because we were having good discussions and she could because she didn’t have another appointment that day. Talk about a different approach to the last guy!

We did talk about our frustration with the lack of communication (among other things, in between these two appointments we’d received a letter about our treatment that listed my AMH count without any context. On the upside, it’s high. On the downside, it’s really really high. Trying to look up info about it online was a mix of no info and bad info, and we were left feeling nervous and uncertain about what it might mean. She obviously is not trained in the medical side and couldn’t interpret it for us, but it was good to talk about the lack of info and how that might be frustrating). We also looked at some picture books aimed at helping kids understand different kinds of families, and talked through our feelings on donor sperm (weird but necessary). She also gave us info on support groups and voluntary organizations, and other places where we could talk to other lesbians going through the same things.

Overall it was a really good experience, and we were left feeling much more positive about the overall process than we had been. And I was once again amazed at what the NHS provides – we (and anyone using the fertility clinic, not just the donor sperm-ies) can have as many appointments with the counselor as we want, at any point during the process. What a great resource! I wish that could be available for every single parent to be in the whole UK!

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