I am having a round table, inside my head. It's being attended by various speakers, but two in particular are causing the most stir. First, there's Donor Bea - the Bea who had more embryos than she could use and decided to donate them to another couple, then went on to donate some eggs as an encore. Then there's Recipient Bea - the Bea whose ICSI failed; who turned to consider donor sperm.

Both of them are Thinking Of The Children.

"But there's not just The Children to think of," says Recipient Bea. "I mean, let's not be ageist. People over eighteen still count for something, don't they?

"You know - I'd love it if everyone's life here was simple and uncomplicated. Mummy and Daddy could have a 'special cuddle' which makes a baby. Then another - and hey presto, we're all growing up like the Brady Bunch. Except the Brady Bunch was a blended family, which is a whole complication in itself. And I guess that's my point. Things are always complicated. You do the best with what you've got.

"This is what we've got. We've got adoption, gamete/embryo donation, or giving up entirely.

"Give up? Well, frankly I can't see how that benefits anyone - especially not the donor kids. How can it be a benefit for a child to not exist?

"And adoption doesn't give me a pregnancy. I'm sorry, but pregnancy reduces my risk of contracting a highly unpleasant and life-threatening cancer, for which I have a family history. Allow me to be selfish enough for a moment to not want that. Allow me to be selfish enough to want to reduce my risks in any way possible. And if I can pretend to not be selfish for a moment, I also don't want it for Mr Bea or The Children. It's not nice for them either. I've been there.

"Which leaves us with donation. You know, I don't believe it will be the easiest road for any of us. But I believe we'd get there in the end. Me, Mr Bea, Little Bea, and Our Donor/s.

"Donor Bea - I know you understand me, or did once. Remember what it was like, and donate."

Donor Bea frowns. "I want to, but I'm worried."

"Worried about yourself, or are you Thinking Of The Children?"

"Perhaps worried about our existing children. How would it feel to have a sibling or half-sibling out there somewhere, being looked after by someone else? Perhaps worried about Mr Bea - but he's a big boy, and can speak up for himself. Certainly worried about people's expectations. What would The Parents expect of me? What would The Children expect of me?

"But these are issues I think I can muddle through. I guess mostly I'm Thinking About The Children themselves. You were the one who said it, Recip. We have a family history of cancer. We used to have issues with creating children out of our genes at all. Do you remember those times?"

"Yes, Donor, I do. But we were young, then, and overly dramatic."

"No we weren't. It was a serious concern. But facts are facts. We're probably not going to get cancer. We might not pass on any predisposition. And even if we were to get sick - we're sure we'd never regret existing. And we concluded our children wouldn't either. In spite of all.

"And in any case, we figured our possibly-cancer-predisposed genes were a long way from being worse than average. We were bright, we were, if not stunningly beautiful, at least naturally slim. On balance, we thought our genes were ok. Remember, Recip? We Thought Of The Children. And we decided to have them anyway. And Mr Bea agreed.

"But here's what we promised them, that they wouldn't suffer our anguish. We promised to be open, no matter what. We promised to tell them our whole family history. We promised they wouldn't find out, as we did, when we were already in our late teens. Because that was no time to find out. That was too hard."

"I remember, Don. I remember how angry we were, and for how long. I remember wondering how our parents could have thought they were doing the right thing. And I remember forgiving them, at last - even understanding them a little. I remember realising we wouldn't want to swap them for the world, but promising not to repeat their mistake."

"So how can I donate my genes, knowing that others may not share my view? Knowing that, even if they did, law may prevent them from accessing that information before The Child turns eighteen? How can I donate under those conditions? How can you receive?"

Recipient Bea pauses. There is the sound of a whole audience not breathing, as they wait for a reply. When Recipient draws in, finally, a long, slow breath, it echoes all the way from my head to my bowels, and even my heart stops and waits for her reply.

"I don't know. Maybe we can't."

There is an awkward silence.

"Maybe we need to change the conditions."

"I'm afraid," says Donor gently, "to remove a donor's right to anonymity. I'm afraid the donations will dry up. What would that mean for you?"

There is another pause. Then Recipient nods quietly.

"But there are more like you," she says, at length. Then she smiles, and winks. "You're just not that special, Don. There are others - more each year. We just have to find them."

"And they are...?"

"The new generation of donors. Those who are willing, not just to perform the act of donation, but also to take on the responsibilty. To be invisible, but available."

"And where does that leave the recipients - the Parents?"

Recipient Bea shrugs. "I'm not so special either. When it comes to the crunch - we'll be Thinking Of The Children."

This post in honour of Richard, whose blog you should visit if you haven't already.


Richard said...


You write beautifully. You've just made a grown man cry, but in a good way.


ColourYourWorld said...

Bea, you know I love your writing. I have read this post many times and it touches me every time.

How are you holding up during your 2WW ?

Bea said...

Thanks, guys. I was beginning to think I'd said something weird or offensive because - no comments! Not that I was about to retract anything...

It's nice to know you both appreciate what I've written.

Vee - ah yes. You'll be referring to the 2ww we thought was going to start almost a week ago, which is now going to start next Monday. I guess we're not going to be 2ww buddies after all. How are you going? You're really in the business end of things now - always the toughest time.


ColourYourWorld said...

Sorry I should have commented earlier, did mean to leave you concerned.

My 2WW isn't too bad so far the worst part is yet to come, I will try my hardest not to freak out or fall apart...I did said try :)

Good Luck for monday, I will be thinking of you !

ColourYourWorld said...

I meant to say didn't, didnt mean to leave you concerned.

Bea said...

Vee - don't get me wrong - I don't want to sound like I expect or demand comments... it's just usually there's a couple and since it's a controversial topic and all, well.

Anyway. I'm wishing good things for you this week.


Bea said...

And P.S. your comments, Richard and Vee, were worth gold. Thanks for them both.


Meg said...

..And as for me, i just couldn't think of anything to say that made me feel like I was doing your writing justice..

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