TV: Donor Mum – the children I’ve never met

BBC 1, Tuesday 30 August 2011, 22.35-23.30, available after broadcast via the iPlayer

From the programme’s website:

In 1991, Sylvia was one of Britain’s first anonymous egg donors. After donating as a one-off at the London Fertility Centre in Harley Street, all she asked to know was whether her donation had been successful. But she soon found out more than she had bargained for.

Sylvia was struck to discover an article in the Daily Mail six weeks after she donated, telling the story of a woman called Joan who had successfully become pregnant using en egg donor. The clinic, the dates and the fact that they were twins, coincided exactly with Sylvia’s story. She felt sure that Joan was her recipient.

Joan had a tragic story – her two boys were killed in a car crash when they were on holiday in Crete, and in her mid- 40’s she desperately wanted to start another family. When she successfully used an egg donor, there were countless press reports that covered her moving story of tragedy transformed into happiness, and even a BBC documentary in 1994 that showed the twins as toddlers.

Sylvia felt tormented by seeing children who were genetically hers, but were in fact strangers who she wasn’t supposed to know. She was tempted to make contact, but terrified of upsetting a family who had already suffered so much. But once the twins turned 18 she felt it was right to take the bold step of contacting them.

Alongside Sylvia’s story is the story of her son Eliott. Sylvia wanted a child when she reached 33 but hadn’t found Mr Right, so she decided to go it alone. Eliott was conceived with the help of an anonymous sperm donor, and was born six months before Sylvia donated her eggs. Now 19, Eliott is ready to search for his sperm donor father.

For Eliott, born in 1991 when all donors were anonymous, his only hope is to search through DNA testing with the help of an organisation called UK Donorlink.

For Sylvia, contact with her recipient is at her fingertips. The film follows her turmoil as she decides how and when to make contact with Joan and the twins – and the extraordinary consequence of her decision.

Donors is a warm and moving film about a new kind of family emerging from the interventions of science. This film is also a snapshot of a future following the removal of donor anonymity in 2005, where more and more people will discover who their donors are after they turn 18.

 

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