Different ways to build a family

We have put together a booklet full of hints and tips for people embarking on a donor or adoption journey. Here, we summarise what the booklet covers.

There are many ways to build a family.

We have collated comments and experience from parents and professionals and put them together in one place to help your thinking.

If you find yourself contemplating adoption or the use of a donor and / or surrogate, this booklet is for you.

We have some key pieces of advice:

  • If you are thinking of adopting or using a donor, listen to the voices of adopted or donor conceived people – they are who our children will be in the future. Their experience matters.
  • Understand what parents who have already gone down your route to build a family are concerned about – their concerns may be different from your current concerns.
  • At Sensitive Matters we believe children have a right to know their story. We encourage parents to tell their children as much as possible about their donor, surrogate or birth family. Tell them as early as you can . . . and keep telling them, sharing more as they develop.

For Egg and Sperm donation with or without Surrogacy we look at:

  • How do people feel about using a donor?

Sali, Founder of Sensitive Matters, and others share their personal experience and advice. The long and short of it is, don’t get so wrapped up in the process that you underestimate the importance of your feelings. Seek professional help throughout your journey.

  • Will a donor conceived baby feel like mine?

This is a common concern for parents embarking on a journey that includes donor gametes. We have some reassuring words from professionals and love this quote from Marna Gatlin and Carole LieberWilkins, MFT in their book Let’s Talk About Egg Donation: “So, here’s the thing: we love our kids. That’s the bottom line. It doesn’t matter whether or not we share DNA – they are our children. They may make us crazy and give us gray hair, but we love them so much that

sometimes we forget to breathe.”

  • Should I use a known or anonymous sperm or egg donor?

We don’t tell you what to do, rather we share views from donor conceived people, experts and people who are further down the road. Our aim is to give you food for thought so that you make an informed choice.

  • Surrogacy - what do I need to consider?

Surrogacy practices differ in different countries – so depending on where your surrogate is you will have different things to take into consideration. You will have more questions, but we have included initial information as a starter for ten.

  • Do I tell my child about their donor conception?

On this topic we do not prevaricate – you need to be honest with your children about their origins.  As Sali says: “The information about how they came to be belongs to them: it is their story.” Others share our view. We have found that people that don’t intend to tell are not thinking about their child and the impact this information would have on them if they found out much later, they are thinking about themselves. If you are unsure, we urge you to put the child’s needs first. However, we appreciate that at the outset telling feels daunting, which is why we go on to include . . .

  • When to tell a child they are donor conceived, and how to tell your child about a donor?

The answer to when is easy – as soon as possible. Children are never too young – if they don’t understand the words, there’s no harm done, and it enables you to practice your narrative. And in answer to how, there’s no right or wrong way, but many parents find books helpful as they help you find the right words. Clearly, we hope you will use our books.

  • What about donor conceived siblings?

People question whether and when they should find out information and whether they should initiate contact. We include what people have shared with us. Parents clearly need to make their own choices, based on their research, instincts and own circumstances.

  • Other tips

In collating all the above content, we had so many information gems handed to us, we included those we felt would be most helpful to intended parents.

  • Where can I find help and support about donor conception?

We’ve included sources we’ve found most useful. The list cannot include everyone so please forgive us if we haven’t included your organisation or preferred information source.

And for Adoption we explore:

  • Can I choose the child I adopt?

We include the views of Susan Romer, JD, PhD. She has been an adoption attorney in the US for 25 years, is a recipient of the US Congressional Angel in Adoption award. She is known not only for her legal skills but also for her keen understanding of the emotional issues and pressures in an adoption.

  • Should I tell my child they are adopted?

If you adopt a child from birth, or when they are very young, you are in a very similar position to a family with a donor conceived child – at some point you will need to tell them their story. Not telling is not an option. And telling them while they are very little has numerous advantages – there will never be an awkward reveal moment, there will be no secrets . . . Tell them and tell them early.

  • Should I go for an open or closed adoption?

The different practices in the UK and the US influence the answer to this question. There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. There are clearly advantages and disadvantages to both routes. As with everything, we encourage parents to put the child front and foremost when making the decision. And we advise parents to listen to the experts and those who have been through experiences similar to that they are contemplating.

  • How to build a good relationship with the birth mother?

The relationship you have with your child’s birth mother is obviously impacted by the degree of openness of the adoption. It is worth remembering that your relationship with the birth mother impacts your child’s relationship with their birth mother . . . and this in turn can impact their security, their self-esteem etc. This is usually very complex and needs professional support. Birth mothers vary enormously. Many parents tell us positive stories about birth mothers.

  • What should I consider when adopting a child of a different culture?

We include advice from experts, parents with lived experience and adopted children to give you things to think about when making this decision.

  • What challenges will I face adopting as a single parent?

This view from Coram Adoption is most heartening: “Research shows that children adopted by single adopters do just as well as other adopted children emotionally and in other outcomes.”


  • Do gay parents face extra challenges adopting?

Gay parents certainly have things to consider when adopting, and they may come across prejudice, but they may find advantages too.

  • Should I tell friends and family our child’s adoption story?

This will depend on your family’s unique story. Your family has to decide what you think is best. But ask advice from social workers and those with experience.

  • Will love be enough?

Angela Braniff, @thisgatherednest, is the mother of 8 adopted and biological children. She makes this true but heart-breaking point: “We go into relationships with other people believing that if we just love them enough, we can fix them, we can heal them. But there are some situations, some traumas that love just isn’t enough to cover.”

  • Where can I find help and support about adopting?

We’ve included sources we’ve found most useful. The list cannot include everyone so please forgive us if we haven’t included your organisation or preferred information source.

We hope you find the booklet helpful. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions, suggestions or comments.

Download the booklet here.