Donor Conception

Living as a donor-conceived adult: Alice’s story

Alice Underwood  |  1 Jun 2022


Just what is it like, to be a donor-conceived adult? And, are our assumptions more a product of traditional norms, than reality? Today, we hear from Alice Underwood, a theatre-maker and donor conceived person, with a story to tell.

Alice is an Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Happy Accident Theatre Ltd. Her debut show, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Get, Baby” is a play about nature, nurture and everything in between. Read on for a glimpse into her story, and the common misconceptions of being a donor-conceived adult.

Over to Alice – 

Living as a donor conceived person

Until very recently, I struggled to properly articulate my feelings about being a donor-conceived person with an anonymous donor. I could never find the words I felt other people would relate to and when I did find the words, it seemed like people made assumptions about me, based on this fact.

For me, that I’m a donor-conceived person doesn’t hugely contribute to who I am as a person. I am a woman, I am a writer, I am a performer — and I happen to be a donor-conceived person. Whilst it forms part of my identity, it does not define who I am. I find this an incredibly difficult narrative to describe to people. The line of questioning that ensues tends to go something like this: “Do you know who your donor is?”, “Why not?”, “I think I would want to know.” When I was younger, this would get trapped inside my head and play on a loop, making me doubt my decision to not explore my biological identity.

In 2019, I decided to share my story through theatre. Theatre has always been a huge part of who I am; influencing who I’ve become more so than my donor-conceived identity. I find it hard to speak plainly but I have always had theatre where I feel much more able to articulate myself. People like to say to me, “It’s mad that if that woman hadn’t donated her eggs you wouldn’t exist,” and yes, they’re right. But that isn’t the point.

Even if, in a parallel universe, the exact combination of cells managed to occur in a “more natural” manner, I wouldn’t be me because I wouldn’t have the same mum.

My family is not defined by biology.

My family is bigger than biology.

Initially coined as a love letter to my mum, the idea of Don’t Ask Don’t Get, Baby, evolved to being a love letter to mothers, donors and fertility specialists – with the help of my best friend and director, Izzy Carney.

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As an adult, I’ve refrained from registering with the HFEA to find any information about my donor. I have had very little to do with the fertility community and to an extent, I didn’t really know it existed. [Editor’s note: it does! And if you’d like to be a part of our supportive community, download our free app here.]

Every time I considered finding out anything about my donor, I haven’t followed through. And I know now that it’s not because I’m scared, it isn’t because I am lazy, it’s because their part in my story has ended. I am grateful to my donor every day, but they have done what they needed to do for me and my family. There is nothing missing from my life. If anything, I have an extra part. A superpower. And it isn’t just mine. My mum and I share this superpower like we share so many things. But I never feel more like hers than when an acquaintance surveys us both and says, “My god you two look alike.” My mum and I look at each other with our matching green eyes, we smile and say, “Really?”

living-as-a-donor-conceived-adult-alices-story

A still from Don’t Ask Don’t Get, Baby at The Space in July 2021

When the show was programmed at The Space in 2021,  I said, “If one donor-conceived person sees this then I will be happy.” After some people picked up the live stream of the show on Instagram, I was introduced to this fertility community. I had recipient parents and their children sending me messages thanking me for shedding light on the topic; sparking interesting conversations as to why donor-conceived adults might choose (or choose not) to find their donors or related half- siblings.

Family is bigger than biology.

Read next – How I feel about being donor-conceived – Bee’s story

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If you’re donor-conceived, have donor-conceived children or are considering using a sperm or egg donor, our fertility community is here for you. To be a part of a supportive community who “get it”, download our free app.

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