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"How I told my kids they have a donor, not a dad."

Last year my daughter started kindy. I knew when she started kindy, it would start to dawn on her that she didn’t have a dad – and other kids did.

I’ve always been open about her and her brother’s situation, but she never made comments about her dad until last year. I’m a teacher, and I wanted to be prepared for the questions she, and her brother, might ask. I’ve decided honesty is the best policy.

You see, both of my children are from the same anonymous sperm donor. My daughter is four, my son 20 months old.

The fairytale – meeting a wonderful man, having a family – has been Missing In Action for me. I have had a few good relationships, and two relationships that could best be described as disasters. In my early 30s, I thought ‘If I don’t find Mr Right, I’ll pop to the sperm bank and get some sperm at 40’.

In my late 30s, and in a terrible relationship, I decided come hell or high water I was having kids. I contacted a fertility clinic and started the process.

It’s not as easy as you think to ‘pop down and get some sperm’ to get pregnant. The waiting list are as long as your arm, it’s very expensive, you can’t be too old – and you actually need to be fertile.

Big tip … actually MASSIVE tip: Don’t think you can just fall pregnant because you want to. It might look easy for celebrities to fall pregnant after 40, but it’s not. After 40, it’s hard work, and your fertility plummets into nothingness by 45. At 45, most fertility clinics won’t even take you on with your own eggs as your chance of falling pregnant is zero per cent. Do it earlier rather than later if you can.

when kids ask about donors
Julie Cavaney – whilst pregnant!

I fell pregnant, and Katie was born when I was 40. When I was 42,  I desperately wanted a brother or sister for my daughter.

I was sprinting against the fertility clock. Some months my cycle would bust as I ovulated to early. I ran out of embryos and had to harvest a new set. I had to  juggle daily blood tests and internal ultrasounds with a toddler in tow, and I nearly ran out of sperm straws from the same donor.

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It’s not for the fainthearted, and you don’t have husband or partner to cry to or talk to about IVF’s daily grind.

I finally fell pregnant just after my 43rd birthday.

The big question is – do my children know? My toddler is too young but Katie has started to say things.

Around Fathers Day, she mentioned her dad for the first time. She came running out from the classroom, saying she wanted to give her picture to her dad. I was a little bit shocked, but only because I wasn’t expecting it on that day. I don’t know what day I was thinking it was going to be.

I just said “Sweetheart, you don’t have a dad, but you can give it to Uncle Craig”. She was happy with that.

Then, over Christmas, we went to look at the Christmas lights. Katie pipes up and says “I wish my dad was here”.

I said: “Katie, you don’t have a dad.” She said: “He’s gone away”, but I replied “No, you don’t have a dad. He was never here”.

She seems to accept my answers and moves on with what she is doing. Although she is mentioning her Dad more and more and I know more question will being coming.

I imagine as they get older, the kids will want to know as much information about their donor as possible; how they can contact him (if they want to), what was he like, what does he look like, if he’s in Western Australia (where I live) and if there is a photo.

I do have some information about the donor but no photo. I don’t have any names or contact information. There is a Voluntary Donor registry here in WA where the donor or offspring of donors can put their information to find either their donor parent or their offspring, but it is only a voluntary registry. Information can’t be accessed until the children are over 18 years old.

When, and if, this all happens I strongly believe being as open and honest as possible will be the best approach. If my children want to meet their donor, I will support them every step of the way. I want them to be able to do this together and discuss it with each other. They are their own support team.

I hope that this will help once they hit school and have to answer question from their friends. I’ll encourage them to be open and honest – in fact, I think it’s vital. If they have always known, if I have always talked about it easily and answered any question, I believe they will feel comfortable with it as I do. I’ll tackle each issue as it comes up.

when kids ask about donors
Katie and her two children.
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Single Mum’s by Choice are a growing family unit, and I have yet to come across someone who hasn’t been supportive of what I’ve done. My family and friends are all on-side, and if someone isn’t I don’t care. I am too old and busy to care about what some unknown person thinks of my situation. If anything, people are interested and polite when they ask questions. A few times I’ve been asked if I’ll have more. Too funny. Two is enough for one. I only have two hands, one for each. I am happy with that.

I want my kids to have always known they have a donor, not a dad. I feel very strongly about using the word ‘donor’ rather than ‘dad’ so it’s a clear cut line for them. It’s why I wanted to make a book for them. It’s a simple story to introduce the concept for them, they have a donor not a Dad. I have done two version of A Baby for Mummy, one that explains donor conception for young children (IVF) and the second explaining artificial insemination (IUI) for young children. I hope they will help other single mothers explain donor conception to their child.

I have been through both of these treatments to try and fall pregnant.

I have been able to met other Single Mothers by Choice through the SMC site, single mothers groups and via friends. They are an amazing bunch of women creating the family and lives they want.

Here’s my advice. If you want to baby and you’re still meeting Mr Wrong, do it anyway. And do it earlier rather than later. Having my two beautiful children have been hard work, but isn’t all parenting? I would have move mountains to get them, and in fact I have.

So can you.

Julie Cavaney is a senior teacher, the founder of Mumpreneurs WA, Nucerity Consultant and a single mother by choice. Both her children are by an anonymous sperm donor. She has written two children’s books to introduce the of sperm donors to her children.

You can contact Julie at Mumpreneurs WA, on Facebook or on Linkedin.

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