Clare: Here at Fertility Road, we understand how complex and multi-layered the decision to take the donor route can be. Often, people have already travelled a fertility journey which led up to and influenced their decision to take the donor route. Eloise, what was your fertility journey before considering sperm donation?
Eloise: My husband and I were trying to conceive for six months naturally and when it didn’t happen, we decided to have a fertility check done at a clinic. To our disbelief, my husband’s sperm analysis came back showing zero sperm. My husband received a Klinefelter Syndrome infertility diagnosis which meant that for us to have children IVF was needed. The experience completely shifted our outlook, and purpose. After being told that we would need to have IVF, my husband underwent a Micro-TESE sperm retrieval operation in the United States. Sadly, it was unsuccessful, so donor sperm was our only route to having a baby with my eggs.
Clare: On reaching your decision to take the sperm donor route, how did you feel? And how did your husband feel?
Eloise: It all happened incredibly fast! We chose our sperm donor before my husband’s operation; in case they couldn’t find sperm in his testes. We got the news that the operation was unsuccessful the day before my egg retrieval, so we only had one night to digest that we would be moving forward with fertilizing my eggs with donor sperm, fresh, the very next day. It was a difficult time.
Clare: Did those feelings evolve over time? What changed your feelings?
Eloise: When we came back from that first cycle with donor sperm IVF, it didn’t work. We got the results back in the UK and we were devastated. I think my husband was relieved however to have a bit more time to digest the news and recover from his painful operation. When we went back to the United States a few months later to try again with two frozen embryos, we were both in a much better place emotionally and physically.
Clare: How did you approach selecting a sperm donor?
Eloise: We both had different ‘favourite’ choices, however we started the search with looks and personality traits (to best match my husband). Everyone is unique, so you can’t replicate someone, but for us, being Caucasian, having blue eyes, being 6ft 3” tall and having a humorous personality, was key. We also took into consideration advanced medical history and academic results. It also helped that our chosen donor had the same favourite food and animal as my husband!
Clare: How long does the whole selection process take?
Eloise: We chose and bought sperm in about six weeks, because we had a planned date for our IVF cycle to begin and my husband’s operation abroad was scheduled.
Clare: In your opinion, what is your ‘must know’ advice for others considering taking the sperm donor route?
Eloise: Read up about anonymous vs open and think about the child’s best interests. There is no right or wrong, but when the child is here, it soon shifts from your fertility story to the child’s story. Find a solid support network. We have an amazing free Fertility Squad with thousands of people also considering donor conception, which you’re welcome to join here.
Clare: Is there anything you wish you’d known before taking the sperm donor route?
Eloise: There will be emotional bumps in the road, but it’s the most amazing gift and we love our children to pieces.
Clare: How are you planning on telling your children about their origins? In your experience, what’s the best age to do this?
Eloise: We have already started! There are some amazing books out there to help tell the story to your donor conceived child – some of which you can personalise. We have book discounts on www.fertilityhelphub.com, if you’d like to use them. We started speaking about it from before our children could talk, more to make us feel comfortable with telling the story. Our children love reading their personalised books with us! We don’t talk about it every day but as and when it feels natural, we do.
Clare: How has your experience of becoming a mother with the help of sperm donation affected other aspects of your life?
Eloise: When our twins were six months old, I decided to leave my job in advertising and set up a community-led platform (Fertility Help Hub), which offers people around the globe all the resources, community, and expert support I wish we’d had access to at the time. It’s grown hugely over the past three years and it’s wonderful when readers and followers message us saying how grateful they are for the expertise and support. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here to see what it’s all about.
Clare: What were/are your most useful sources of support? Family, friends, donor-related groups or organisations?
Eloise: Sadly, I couldn’t find a like-minded community or support groups when we went through our struggles six years ago (hence starting my own community), however some friends and close family were everything to us. I love being connected to other parents of donor conceived children through the work I do now. I am always happy to talk to anyone considering using a donor or having treatment with donor conception – follow us on Instagram here and drop me a DM anytime.