2017 Survey Results: Talking About Sperm Donor or Birth Father

One of the concerns women have embarking on the Choice Mom path is how to talk about the origin story with your child — will they resent not having a dad, how do you talk about a sperm donor?

The Choice Moms survey in 2017 was done in conjunction with University of Minnesota family researcher Muzi Chen about how we talk about “the daddy question” with our children. Of the 285 responses to our Fall 2017 survey, 249 were mothers and 36 had not yet become a Choice Mom.

Some results are reported in the Choice Mom Sperm Guide. More open-ended comments from women to come in a full Choice Mom e-guide about “talking to our children.” In the meantime, here are topline results.


Statistically:

  • 75.10% had conceived their oldest child with medically assisted reproduction using donor sperm
  • 11.62% had used both donor egg and donor sperm
  • 4.15% had become a first-time mother through adoption
  • 3.32% had used donor embryo
  • 50.72% had used intra-uterine insemination (IUI)
  • 44.93% had used in-vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • 56.73% had used an open-identity or Identity-Release® donor
  • 40.38% had used an anonymous donor
  • 2.4% of respondents had used a known donor

Note that while these numbers are reflective of the Choice Mom community methods to motherhood, it is not a comprehensive survey, but indicates the data of those who took the survey about ‘answering the daddy question.’


Of those responding, 59.91% had started to talk to their child about the man with whom they share a genetic connection, and 40.09% had not yet done so.

The term preferred in referring to a sperm donor includes:

  • Donor – 76.74%
  • Biological father – 17.05%
  • Father – 6.2%
  • Donor dad – 6.2%
  • Genetic father – 3.8%
  • Dad – 3.8%
  • Him – 3.8%
  • Birth father – 2.33%

When asked the age in which the mother started telling the origin story to her child:

  • 59.38% – from birth to age 2
  • 15.63% – age 2
  • 12.5% –- age 3
  • 6.25% –- age 4
  • 2.34% – age 5
  • 2.34% – age 6

When asked how the child reacted, with all options applicable:

  • Accepting — 47.29%
  • Indifferent — 38.76%
  • Curious – 37.21%
  • Excited — 5.43%
  • Confused — 2.33%
  • Upset — 1.55%

Respondents were asked to indicate what resources were used to help them tell the story:

  • Storybooks — 67.19%
  • Online/in-person advice from other Choice Moms — 40.63%
  • Conversation with a mental health professional — 12.5%
  • Fertility program staff — 3.13%

How frequently do the mothers have the conversation:

  • Occasionally (3-6 months) — 37.3%
  • Infrequently (6-12 months) — 18.25%
  • Fairly often (1-3 months) — 15.08%
  • Frequently (at least once a month) — 15.08%
  • Very rarely (less than once a year) — 13.49%

Demographically, the education level of Choice Mom respondents was:

  • 46.05% master’s degree
  • 26.32% bachelor’s degree
  • 23.68% doctorate
  • 3.07% some college

A Glimpse Into the Survey’s Open-ended Questions

Q: What concerns do you have, if any, about talking to your future child about the man with whom he/she shares a genetic connection?

  • Donor later changing his mind about being open to contact once child is 18.
  • That despite my efforts to normalize the situation, the child will feel left out when interacting with peers who haven’t gotten the same messages.
  • I’m just concerned whether she will ever feel bad about being unique in this regard compared to her friends, and how she will be treated by others. I am also somewhat concerned about times where she might feel confused and resent me for the choices I’ve made. I hope that she will appreciate that she can choose to contact both her donors if she wants as they’re both open donors.
  • I am concerned the child would be disappointed not to have a relationship with him. I am worried the child would be sad about missing this common experience. I am worried the child would be disappointed in me for choosing this path.
  • None. It’s 2017. Families aren’t always the traditional Mom and Dad. I plan to be honest. I don’t think there is much stigma surrounding this process anymore.

Q: What is your plan regarding talking to your oldest child about the man with whom he/she shares a genetic connection?

  • I will maintain full transparency. All my friends and family know the situation and I will talk to my daughter as soon as she is able to understand. I’ll seek out story books that help explain it. I’ll share the information I have with her regarding the donor, and encourage her to contact him when she is 18 if she wishes.
  • Using books I will tell her that mommy went to a doctor to help her make a baby. That the doctor had access to donors who wanted to help women like mommy.

Q: What concerns do you have, if any, about talking to your oldest child about the man with whom he/she shares a genetic connection?

Many respondents said they had no concerns, or skipped the question. Some of the responses:

  • That she will seek him out and find he is not a good person, abusive.
  • Will it make sense? Is it at the right age? Will he want to know more than I can provide?
  • That I might be uncomfortable talking about it and that my son picks up on that. But I hope to become very comfortable talking about it with him and others in my life.

Q: What was the first conversation like?

  • It took me by surprise but was just a simple conversation that then ended when she saw a cute dog run past. It felt natural as I had told my daughter about her conception from day one.
  • It is a hard conversation. He is just curious and wanting to know if the subject is taboo. I just don’t want to mess up.
  • He asked why. Said he would like to have a dad. I answered what would he do with a dad. He wanted someone to play with. I asked if I could do those games, he answered, kind of.

Stay tuned later in 2018 for the full e-guide about ‘talking to our kids about the origin story,’ including resources/storybooks that helped.

— Mikki

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