egg donor who waited 19 years to see the twins she helped create has spoken of her joy at finally meeting them. And the woman who relied on the donated eggs to have children says ‘she gave me my life back’. Sylvia Barr had a son from a sperm donor, and decided to donate her eggs in order to give someone else the same joy.
But when she read in the Daily Mail about Joan Isherwood, whose twins were born by an anonymous egg donation, Mrs Barr realised that she was the biological mother. And last night a BBC documentary showed the first meeting between Mrs Barr, Mrs Isherwood and their children.
The extraordinary story will contribute to the debate over the right of children born from donors to know the identity of their biological parents, a right enshrined in law since 2005.
Mrs Barr discovered that twins Katherine and Jonathan were her biological children after reading about Mrs Isherwood, and seeing her on TV discussing the death of her sons David, four, and Andrew, nine, killed in a terrible car crash which left her unable to conceive.
But she waited until the twins turned 18 before trying to contact them. Happily, they and their mother jumped at the chance to meet Mrs Barr ‘I was very nervous, I didn’t know what to expect,’ she told the Daily Telegraph. ‘There is no etiquette or protocol for such a thing but Joan came straight towards me and gave me a hug.
‘It was surreal: I was looking into the eyes of my genetic children.’ Mrs Barr made the decision to donate her eggs soon after the birth of son Eliott, now 20. She says that it was a struggle not to contact Katherine and Jonathan after she had discovered their identity.
‘If I had lived nearer I would probably have gone and sat at the end of their road just to see them,’ she said. Mrs Isherwood, of Warrington in Cheshire, said that the new family link was unexpected but welcome. ‘We were told it was a totally anonymous decision and as far as I was concerned that was the end of it,’ she told BBC Breakfast.
‘But I often used to wonder because not only did Sylvia help to create the twins but she actually gave me my life back because I felt as though my life had been destroyed.’ She added: ‘I was so grateful to be given the chance to create a second family that had I met Sylvia on the day she donated the eggs I would have been absolutely thrilled.’
Mrs Barr, of Brockham, Surrey, one of the UK’s first anonymous egg donors, said she had discovered the identity of her recipient ‘early on’ and had been keen to get in contact with the family. She had done so after ‘tactful and sensitive’ help from the charity UK DonorLink, she said. The charity forwarded her letters to the Isherwoods, and she received an email from Jonathan just half an hour after the family heard from her.
She told the documentary, Donor Mum: The Children I’ve Never Met, that there had been a ‘stark decrease’ in the number of egg and sperm donors coming forward since the law giving anonymity to donors was lifted. ‘I would say that it is evident from our experience that it can work and you can have a relationship and that people do not need to be threatened by it,’ she said.
‘There is a connection there, it is undeniable and I do not see anything wrong with it, everybody has their own opinion, but I feel it has been good, it has been a positive for all of us. ‘It has got to have been positive for the twins to know that missing piece of their jigsaw.’