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Frances ' Interview 18

Age at interview: 45
Age at diagnosis: 32
Brief Outline: Frances had treatment with donated sperm to conceive her twins, after her husband's vasectomy reversal did not work.
Background: Frances is a full time mother to her twin daughter and son, conceived using donor sperm. Ethnic background' White British.

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Frances and her husband did not initially intend to have children - he had already had children with his previous wife and had had a vasectomy. But after they married they decided they wanted a family of their own. Her husband had a vasectomy reversal operation but it was not successful. So Frances decided to try treatment with donor sperm. She got pregnant with the first attempt, but the first pregnancy had to be terminated after she started unstoppable bleeding. Doctors discovered she had a blood clotting disorder, and so her second pregnancy was closely managed. She gave birth to twins when she was 35. They were aged 10 at the time of the interview. Her treatment took five years in all. She and her husband divorced when the children were four years old. She and her ex-husband have been open about talking to the children about their genetic heritage, introducing the subject when they were aged nine.

 

Frances and her husband decided to try for a family, even though he had already had a vasectomy...

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Well initially we weren’t going to have children because he had had a vasectomy. He had three grown up children from his first marriage and he didn’t particularly want children. And he was the one that changed his mind initially and said, actually he would like to see if there was some way we could have children. 
 
Okay but once he had the vasectomy there was no way that he could produce sperm in other words is that right?
 
Ten years ago no. I mean what I don’t know with the improvements in technology since then whether they can now extract sperm directly. I am not sure if that is true any longer. I think perhaps now there would have been other alternatives. 
 
But when you were going through it…? 
 
But when we were going through it, it wasn’t being done. ICSI had just started at that stage was very experimental. And we weren’t really given many other options. It was sort of if you want to try and get pregnant you will need to get donor sperm. And that was when donor sperm was anonymous. Which it isn’t any more. And one of the problems with people now who want donor sperm is there isn’t any. Because with the anonymity removed from the donor they are almost no donors. So it has sort of, the theory was just to solve one problem for the children, so that they could find out about their natural father later on. But of course, since then there are very few children being born. Which I think is a real shame.
 
Describe to me the process for you of changing your mind and deciding that you wanted children.
 
I think, my husband brought it up first when we were on holiday. And it was sort of like Pandora’s box once he brought it up I absolutely decided that yes, that I did want children, having always known with him that I wouldn’t be able to have children. I had accepted that as part of the terms of the relationship. But it was like a Pandora’s Box the moment he said that he would like to consider the possibility. I was like right fine we are doing it [laugh]. Both guns blazing. Absolutely determined from that stage that if I could possibly get pregnant I was going to.
 
 

Frances had not been expecting that she and her husband would have a family. When he suggested...

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Well initially we weren’t going to have children because he had had a vasectomy. He had three grown up children from his first marriage and he didn’t particularly want children. And he was the one that changed his mind initially and said, actually he would like to see if there was some way we could have children. 
 
Okay but once he had the vasectomy there was no way that he could produce sperm in other words is that right?
 
Ten years ago no. I mean what I don’t know with the improvements in technology since then whether they can now extract sperm directly. I am not sure if that is true any longer. I think perhaps now there would have been other alternatives. 
 
But when you were going through it…? 
 
But when we were going through it, it wasn’t being done. ICSI had just started at that stage was very experimental. And we weren’t really given many other options. It was sort of if you want to try and get pregnant you will need to get donor sperm. And that was when donor sperm was anonymous. Which it isn’t anymore. And one of the problems with people now who want donor sperm is there isn’t any. Because with the anonymity removed from the donor they are almost no donors. So it has sort of, the theory was just to solve one problem for the children, so that they could find out about their natural father later on. But of course, since then there are very few children being born. Which I think is a real shame.
 
Describe to me the process for you of changing your mind and deciding that you wanted children.
 
I think my husband brought it up first when we were on holiday. And it was sort of like Pandora’s box once he brought it up I absolutely decided that yes, that I did want children, having always known with him that I wouldn’t be able to have children. I had accepted that as part of the terms of the relationship. But it was like a Pandora’s Box the moment he said that he would like to consider the possibility. I was like right fine we are doing it [laugh]. Both guns blazing. Absolutely determined from that stage that if I could possibly get pregnant I was going to.
 
And how old were you at that point?
 
I was, I would have been just before I was 30. Because I was 30 when we married. So right about 30. And I was 35 when the children were born.
 
Okay. So it took five years?
 
It took five years, yes.
 
Right. So why did it take that long?
 
I think because after the vasectomy reversal I think my husband was determined that it was going to work and that the children would be his, and I don’t think at that point I had actually considered donor sperm as an option. I hadn’t really thought about if the surgery didn’t work, how we were going to try to have a child. 
 
Because as I say it wasn’t until I was at the gynaecologist one day, and she said to me, “Well you could consider donor sperm because obviously the surgery hasn’t worked. Or it may be that you have a problem that you haven’t investigated.” Because at that point actually I hadn’t even though to have myself investigated to see if there was any reason that I couldn’t get pregnant.
 
 

Frances was calm and confident that doctors were able to manage her blood clotting condition. She...

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How did you find the rest of the pregnancy after you had got through the sort of first weeks. Was it…?
 
After I got through the first weeks and knowing what had caused the problem the first time, so they were therefore, once the problem was known there was no cure for it, but there was a way to contain it. So there is a blood substitute, there is a clotting agent you can be given, a clotting factor. It doesn’t last very long, you don’t need it unless you start to bleed again, but at least all that was in hospitals everywhere. It was all over the place. So I felt quite relaxed that that wasn’t going to happen again. 
 
I actually, for the most part during the pregnancy. For the middle section of the pregnancy I was absolutely fine, because once I got over the morning sickness and I didn’t worry about the pregnancy. I don’t know, I had no tests done, because you can’t test very easily with twin pregnancies for a lot of the things that you normally test for. Blood tests in twin pregnancies don’t work because there is so much pregnancy hormone because you have got two babies that if you test for all sorts of things it doesn’t work. They couldn’t do, they couldn’t put a needle into me, so they couldn’t test. So… and then I can remember thinking well suppose they could test, and there was something wrong with one baby and not wrong with the other baby. What were you going to do with the information. So I just blithely went along totally. 
 
And I remember being very calm about it. And I can also remember feeling strongly that it would just be fine.
 
And it was.
 
It was fine. That was in the middle stages of the pregnancy. Towards the end I became less sure. Towards the end I did start to worry, partly because my son wasn’t growing so I was having lots of extra scans. And being told basically to sit down and eat and see if we could get the baby to start growing again. So that was a worry and then I did start to worry about the delivery and whether or not it would go smoothly or whether or not I would bleed again and whether that would be it. And I did have my Will rewritten before I delivered the children.
 
 

Frances and her ex-husband had explained to their twins that they were donor conceived.

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What age did you tell them?
 
We actually told them this summer, so they were nine. 
 
I always intended to tell them from the moment they were conceived. I don’t believe in secrets and I don’t believe in the sort of secrets that always come out at the wrong moment and always cause enormous emotional turmoil for people.
 
My husband was less certain about telling them. Which was slightly odd because he was actually adopted and he didn’t discover it until a very awkward age about his adoption. So I would have thought he would understand very well how traumatic it can be to find out these things at the wrong moment. 
 
And there has been a lot of research done about children conceived with donor sperm. Or with donor eggs and there is a network, there is a website with very, very good information and that say a) that you really should tell them as soon as you feel comfortable and its less obviously, if you haven’t you haven’t but you really need to try to tell them before puberty. That once they get to puberty and they have got all of those questions and angst about who they are anyway. To be given that information at that stage is very, very difficult for them to cope with. And if you tell them before puberty that, at a stage when they can understand, pretty much what they are being told, it just becomes part of who they are, part of what has always been and it is not, it is not such an issue for them. 
 
So I was determined that this really was the time that they needed to be told. 
 
And did you tell them together?
 
We did tell them together.
 
And how was that?
 
It was fine. It was interesting. In that way with fairly young children you spend a lot of time worrying enormously about how they are going to react and in point of fact my son said it was a bit strange to think that daddy was daddy but wasn’t daddy in some way that he wasn’t quite sure about. And they had quite a lot of questions about the mechanics of the entire procedure and that was about it. Then they wanted to know if that was it and if they could go and do something else now, thank you very much [laughs].
 
So I will bring it up with them again though in six months or so just to see if they have any questions that have been sort of formulating because I think that sometimes happens. But they are remarkably unphased about it.
 
And how about you? Were you quite nervous about telling them? 
 
No. I wasn’t. No I think my husband, my ex husband was. I think he was very worried about it, but no I just felt very strongly that they needed to know and that it was about the right time for them to find out and to be told, because otherwise they were going to find out somehow. 
 
 

Frances didn’t tell people, she didn’t want people asking her about it.

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It was just you and your husband?
 
It was just us. I didn’t really talk to anybody. I suppose it was that sort of, well if I don’t manage to get pregnant you don’t really want everybody knowing that you are desperately trying and you know, people get to a certain point with you and they start saying, “Oh when are you are going to have children,” and things anyway. And you sort of don’t want to say, “Well we are trying to have it, but it is not working out and it is not going well and you know, thank you very much for asking.” 
 
So no I didn’t tell people. Very few people knew that I was trying to get pregnant.
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