Susannah (or Zannah as she prefers to be known) daughter of DCN founders Olivia Montushi and Walter Merricks was recently interviewed by email for the first book to be written for parents and professionals about donor conception in Germany. Here are her answers to questions from Petra Thorn, a counsellor and family therapist. Zannah, aged 21, is happy for her thoughts to be shared with DCN members.
I don’t remember a specific time when I was told – I have always just known. There was a time when I didn’t understand it properly but no young child is likely to understand completely until they are older. It is difficult to say what it was like to be told early because there was never a time when my parents sat me down and ‘told’ me – the information was just always around and I accepted it as completely normal. It was always an open subject at home –I could ask questions when I wanted to. It has not been a big issue in my life, I don’t think about it all the time.
I never felt ashamed about DI from day one because of the way my parents told me so it wasn’t something I felt I needed to talk about but if we were talking about biology or who looks like who in the family at school I was happy to tell anyone about it. It actually made me feel special and interesting. I liked being different. Although I was rather insecure at school for a long time about many things, this wasn’t one of them and never could be.
There has never been a question about who my father is. It seems stupid to me to question this as a father is someone who loves and raises you, not the person who provided the sperm to make you. I have always known from the earliest age that ‘Daddy’ means love and not sperm. This did not change during puberty. Actually, as I came to know and understand boys and men I came to realise what a fantastic person my dad is and to love and respect him for being able to face up to his infertility. It takes a real man to do this – my dad taught me what a real man is.
The way to manage DI in a family is to be open and unashamed about your decision. Parents have to let go of their own feelings and focus on the needs of their children – my parents managed to do this and I respect them for it. I can trust my parents totally, feel wanted and loved by them. I have respect for them for ‘telling’ me, unlike, if I was to find out now, the lack of respect shown to me would affect my relationship with them in the most detrimental of ways. Hiding DI seems to imply that it is something bad, to be ashamed about, that their children are something to be ashamed about.
DI is both very important, because it’s about half of my genetic background, and not important at all. It has always been relatively unimportant in my daily life. It may come up in conversation about every two or three months. I am registered with UK DonorLink as I am intrigued about any information that I could find out about, but I don’t think about this very often. It would be a waste of energy and my life to obsess about it.
Young adults may struggle with DI because of the way it has been handled in their family. I can’t really comment any more because their situations are very different to my own. I feel really sorry for anyone who has cowardly parents who cannot face the responsibilities that go with the decision they make to use DI to create a family.
I think donor conception is a completely acceptable way to create a family IF and only IF parents are prepared to be honest with their children AND anonymity is ended everywhere. It is a human right to have the choice to know where you come from.
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