Counselling helps to explore, acknowledge and to gain understanding of the implications of conceiving with the help of a donor or co-parent, not just now but in the future too and not just for the recipient but their family and wider networks.
Part of acknowledging the implications means recognising loss; for single women, lesbian couples, heterosexual couples experiencing infertility, gay couples – in fact for most people trying to conceive with assistance there is often a loss of fantasy around not conceiving through even mediocre sex with a soul mate or failing that, self-insemination.
Planning conception, thinking about it for some time, or a long time, can give false reassurances by suggesting that everything has been thought of, so therefore everything will feel absolutely fine. It can then feel confusing if a recipient has any sort of emotional wobble. Anxiety, fear and panic along with the more positive feelings of extreme hope, excitement and optimism means an emotional rollercoaster is wholly appropriate at any stage of your pathway to parenthood.
The British Infertility Counselling Association produces Best Practice Guidance on the themes that need to be included in a clinic based Implications Counselling Session, but clients are always welcome to discuss anything that comes up for them in their session.
Treatment in clinics would mean three sessions of counselling, a recipient’s individual session should be attended with a partner if conceiving in a relationship, providing an opportunity to acknowledge the implications around only one being a genetic parent. Where a lesbian couple is having intra-partner treatment, as both Mums are involved in growing their baby, the feelings around not making a baby with a genetic part of both of you can seem less important at conception stage, but can become a bigger issue later on, as it was not acknowledged and/or accepted sooner.
Counselling can provide strategies to help manage the high levels of stress associated with trying to conceive with assistance; a huge study confirmed that stress does not impact on fertility, but what we do when we are stressed can and sometimes does have an impact – managing stress well so we don’t turn to unhelpful coping strategies such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can sometimes be a boost to your fertility.
Counselling before any attempt to conceive is made can also help you to shift the focus from getting pregnant to thinking about a child. For many people the possibility of a real baby is kept a safe distance away, a coping strategy to try to stop us getting our hopes up, often incorrectly thinking we’ll therefore be less upset if it doesn’t work out as planned.
Gaining an understanding in your counselling around how a child processes the loss of fantasy associated with donor conception can help to explain why openness from an early age is recommended. A child who grows up knowing, not remembering when they were told about their conception has the opportunity to make sense of what being donor conceived means to them, age appropriately, within the loving, trusting, open relationship they have with their parent/s.
Counselling can also help to explore your thoughts and feelings around the importance of how your donor is identified. How we think on a conscious level can often be in conflict with how our unconscious is processing. For example having a donor dad, biological father, genetic mother or egg Mum, for a child can give a sense of another parent who if not behaving as an archetypal or stereotypical view of parents, can promote an appropriate sense of loss, disappointment or abandonment. If a donor is known as a known donor, our unconscious understanding of a donor is someone generous, donating, giving and a relationship with such a person can be based on how it is, not how our unconscious perceives it should be.
Contact arrangements can often be organised with great clarity prior to a child being conceived, often a little person can change everyone’s feelings around contact, not just with the donor but their wider family too. For recipients it is important to be able to explore not only how a donor feels but the views of their family also, for example are the donor’s parents hoping for a grandparent role in any way.
Counselling provides an opportunity to explore…
Find a specialist counsellor UK: www.bica.net/counsellorbypostcode