23 January 2012
ByAppeared in BioNews 641
Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility
By Kate Brian
Published by Piatkus Books
ISBN-10: 0749954019, ISBN-13: 978-0749954017
Buy this book from Amazon UK
I was delighted that Rachel Pepa's review of my book Precious Babies (published in BioNews 640: Precious Babies - a donor conceived person's view) concluded that it had much to recommend it as a guide to having children after fertility problems as that's exactly what the book is intended to be. I wasn't surprised that she didn't feel it addressed her issues as a donor conceived adult because the book is not about donor conception or adults.
Precious Babies is a book for those who are pregnant or new parents after fertility problems. I appreciate that donor conceived adults don't like being referred to as 'babies', but the use of the word in the title is not 'patronising'. I use it because the book is about babies and young children.
Rachel Pepa says I was 'clearly keen to present a positive picture of life after donor conception' in my chapter on donor families. I wasn't keen to present any particular picture but rather to learn from interviews I carried out with parents, academics and leading figures in the field. This chapter is not about the rights and wrongs of using donor gametes from the perspective of a donor conceived adult; it is about pregnancy, birth and the early years from a parent's viewpoint.
The chapter includes the testimony of a father who describes with great candour his difficulty coming to terms with using donor sperm and details the ongoing issues it causes. A mother explains the fears she faced in pregnancy after using a donor egg and her worries about the lack of a genetic link weakening the maternal bond in early childhood. Many of the issues my interviewees raised had not been aired so openly before and I was keen to relay them honestly and present a clear picture of how parents feel.
The reviewer suggests that I have been disingenuous by referencing positive findings on donor families from the work of Professor Susan Golombok at Cambridge University who has carried out a substantial body of research in this area. Suggesting that Professor Golombok's findings are flawed, she points to a single American study which found that some donor conceived people had 'very bad' attitudes towards their conception. These findings are not surprising as the study recruited participants through an internet support group for adults conceived through sperm donation. The majority had only been told about their conception as adults and they had little or no knowledge of their donor.
Although Precious Babies focuses the early years, my final chapter is a postscript looking forward to the teenage years and beyond, including a snapshot view from a handful of teenagers and young adults whose parents had fertility problems. I was interested to learn whether they felt any stigma about their parents' infertility or the use of assisted conception and whether they felt this had left any mark on them. I'd originally intended to include the views of at least one donor conceived teenager or adult in this section, but had concluded that the issues were completely different and would distract from the question I was trying to address.
I can appreciate that for a donor conceived person the impact of the use of donor gametes may be central to any discussion about infertility, but just hundreds of the 3.5 million people experiencing fertility problems in the UK at any given time will use donor gametes to conceive. There are clearly issues around donor conception that Rachel Pepa would like to be able to discuss in a wider forum, but I would argue that a book for parents about pregnancy and the early years is not the place to look for coverage of the specific views and needs of donor conceived adults.
Read Rachel Pepa's review from a donor conceived person's point of view, and Jenny Dunlop's review from a counsellor's point of view, of Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility.
Buy Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility from Amazon UK.