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Book Review: Precious Babies - the author responds

23 January 2012
Appeared 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

'Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility' by Kate Brian

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.

23 March 2015 - by Professor Susan Golombok 
The spat between Dolce & Gabbana and Elton John – apart from raising the somewhat baffling question of what exactly are 'chemical' babies? – highlights the more pertinent question of what are the consequences of IVF, surrogacy and other forms of assisted reproduction for parents and children...
16 January 2012 - by Jenny Dunlop 
Kate Brian's book, a combination of personal stories and expert advice, fills a gap for many people who have conceived through fertility treatment, but realise that the physical and emotional impact continues well after the treatment has ended...
16 January 2012 - by Rachel Pepa 
As an informal guide to having children after fertility problems, Precious Babies has much to recommend it. There is, however, an omission which, as a donor conceived (DC) person, I found particularly troublesome - the book is entirely devoid of DC voices...
14 November 2011 - by Susan Kane 
I have no doubt that Elizabeth Marquardt's report reflects the feelings of the donor-conceived people that she studied. However, since true scientific study of donor-conceived people is not currently possible, her claims must be qualified....
7 November 2011 - by Elizabeth Marquardt 
In today's debates about the family a new phrase can often be heard: 'intentional parenthood'. The term appears to have originated in the 1990s to resolve disputed surrogacy or lesbian parenting family law cases...
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