Secrets are harmful, and there should be no shame associated with needing third-party gametes to build a family; being conceived through the use of third-party gametes; or being the person who provided the third-party gametes.
Conventional wisdom—and scientific research—have shown that open and honest communication with young children about their donor conception is linked to better mental health outcomes and family function. Logically, the same should hold true for disclosures made by donors: open and honest communication about a donor’s actions with close family and romantic partners will help to avoid feelings of betrayal, distrust, and anger that often accompany later revelations.
How to Tell Your Partner
Be straightforward and honest. Hopefully you donated for altruistic reasons. If so, explain that to your partner. If you did it for other reasons, you should explain those as well. Be upfront with your partner about when you donated, where you donated, and how long you donated. Make sure they know that anonymity is neither realistic nor possible. Explain the likelihood that you will at some point be identified and contacted by donor conceived offspring, and tell your partner how you intend to respond when such contact is made.
Direct your partner to resources that will help explain what donor conceived people are looking for when they reach out to connect with former donors and extended family. Some partners may become jealous when donor conceived offspring appear and may take a defensive position with regard to contact. Such responses are harmful and damaging to donor conceived people, and a negative response from a partner can create turmoil and conflict. Understanding why donor conceived people make contact could help your partner understand that there is no threat to your existing family.
How to Tell Your Children
Your legal children are the genetic siblings to any person born from your donations, and they should know these people exist so they can take precautions when they begin dating. Learning they have genetic half siblings and openly discussing your status as a donor when they are children will help to avoid feelings of shock, betrayal, distrust, and even potential jealousy.
You can explain in age-appropriate terms that you donated sperm or eggs and that people who are related to your children are being raised in other families. If your children always know that they have donor conceived genetic siblings in the world, they will not be shocked, horrified, or confused if and when they are someday contacted by those siblings.
How to Tell Your Parents
As with a romantic partner, you must be straightforward and honest with your parents about your status as a donor. They should know when, why, and how often you donated. They should also be informed of the possibility for contact from your donor conceived offspring because many donor conceived people are curious about their genetic grandparents and wish to make contact with them. As with other family members, you should tell your parents how you intend to respond to future contact from offspring.
How to Tell Your Extended Family
Tell your family members that they too could be contacted by your offspring in the future, particularly if anyone in the extended family has taken a commercial DNA test.
Open, honest, ongoing communication about your role as a gamete donor is vital. Your decision to donate will reverberate for generations. Someday your grandchildren could take a commercial DNA test. If the story of your donations was never told, they will have many potentially unanswered questions.
Finally, know that these conversations can be difficult and uncomfortable, but that is especially true if you only have the conversations after your donor status is revealed because you have been identified by genetic offspring. The foundation of all healthy relationships is honesty and trust, and you must be honest with all members of your family as early as possible to avoid surprises.
If you need assistance with these conversations or navigating through the process of disclosure, you can seek the help and advice of a counselor who specializes in these matters.