The single women who wish their sperm donor children knew their fathers

The single women who wish their sperm donor children knew their fathers

There is no doubt Freya McCallin was a wanted child. That she will always be loved unconditionally by her mum and large extended family is also incontrovertible. But there is another significant truth about Freya: she will never know her genetic father.

Indeed, as Freya’s mum Jessica travelled to Copenhagen from her home in South London to be inseminated with the donor sperm that produced her daughter, this omission from her child’s family tree was the one concern that preyed upon her mind.

For sperm donors in Denmark — unlike those in the UK who may be contacted by their offspring when they reach 18 — have a legal right to remain anonymous. Men who donate sperm there can’t be traced by any potential offspring.

This explains why the sperm donation industry in Denmark is the largest in the world, and why increasing numbers of British women are travelling there to undergo the quick and relatively inexpensive procedure that endows them with the greatest gift of all: creating a new life.

It also helps to explain why, because of seismic shifts in Britain’s fertility landscape — highlighted in last week’s Femail magazine cover story — the shape and make-up of our nation’s families is changing irrevocably.

'My concern is that the need to know who your father is, even if he has no meaningful role in your life'

Today, in part two of our investigation, we examine some of these new ‘diverse’ families, and speak to the single mothers — all professionals with degrees — who are raising donor children without fathers.

In last week’s dispatch, we interviewed educated women who have remained childless; either from choice or because they deferred motherhood in favour of their careers, only to find out they had passed the age of fertility.

As our report showed, the consequences have been dramatic: middle-class Britain is having fewer and fewer children, with larger families increasingly the preserve of the poorer and disadvantaged.

But the rise in middle-class women remaining childless is not the only factor at work here. Since 2008, when the law changed to allow single women to be donor inseminated, small, self-contained and fatherless family units like Jessica and Freya’s are burgeoning.

There are now two million lone-parent families in the UK — they account for one in four of the nation’s families — and rising numbers of them are headed by educated, middle-class women. Many of these, forced by the ticking of their biological clocks and their failure to find the right partner, have procreated by non-traditional methods such as sperm donation, egg donation and IVF.

Because typically these women are deferring motherhood until they are 35 when their fertility is in perilous decline, they are often having just one child. It is also financially very exacting to raise a child alone.

That is another reason why Middle England is producing fewer offspring. And why, conversely, poorer households — because benefits rise in line with the size of their family — who have relatively little to gain from limiting their fertility, are growing.

But what will be the emotional fall-out for this new generation of donor children who grow up without knowing their fathers? This is one of the great imponderables in this brave new world of diverse families.

‘The urge to discover our roots and our relationship with those who have provided half of our DNA is elemental, says Adrienne Burgess, joint CEO of the Fatherhood Institute. ‘The literature is clear: some donor children are haunted by their situation and go searching.’

Jessica McCallin, a writer and broadcaster from South-East London, chose a Danish donor for her daughter Freya because her family originates from the north of England, an area conquered by the Norsemen, and it seemed reasonable to assume she had Scandinavian ancestry.

She knew it would also be helpful to her child if she shared her blonde hair and blue eyes — as indeed Freya does. 'Not a day goes by when I don’t agonise about the consequences of my actions' Whether her daughter will be troubled by not knowing her father’s identity, she cannot say.


Posted: 11/05/2013 15:52:05


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