Sharing the blessing of motherhood

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Who is the kindest person you know?

Ask people that and they are twice as likely to choose a woman over a man.

So says virtually every woman you know, plus Share the Love, a recent survey on kindness.

But another survey, carried out on behalf of an organisation far more vital than the Mrs Crimble’s bakery brand, is proving a huge endorsement of the generosity of women.

The first ever comprehensive study of the highly controversial practice of egg-sharing between women undergoing fertility treatment has been released. And it reveals a striking level of empathy and generosity of spirit.

Controversy has surrounded the practice of egg donation since it began in 1984. But whether you agree with it or not, it is now commonplace; egg-sharing at IVF clinics started in 1998 and now supplies 60 per cent of all donated eggs in the UK. In April, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority endorsed egg-giving by introducing a £750 payment to attract more donors.

The reason why is clear; an ever-growing number of women are developing fertility problems because they are leaving it later and later to have children. There is a huge need; but opponents of egg-sharing fear huge repercussions.

They worry egg donors could just be in it for the money, or that they might deeply regret their decision to give another woman the chance to have a child genetically part theirs. Particularly if their own fertility treatment fails and they are left childless.

But a two-year study of 86 women undergoing treatment at the private London Women’s Clinic reveals their fears are groundless. Women’s own sense of decency, fair play and generosity wins out above everything else.

The University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research discovered a third of the clinic’s egg recipients were single women on average 11 years older than the donors, of whom 27 per cent were lesbians. Having already embraced the idea of using donated sperm, they felt giving eggs made perfect sense.

And rather than money, the desire to help others was at the root of the women’s decision-making. All had thought deeply about each other’s predicaments. Said one donor: “It felt right to share.”

Contrary to expectations, donors whose treatments failed were actually comforted by the thought that what they had done had benefited someone else desperate to have a child.

Truly these women, who have never met and likely, never will, are sharing the love - and the greatest gift. And all because they know the same pain and longing caused by the inability to conceive.

Whatever problems modern lifestyles cause us, and whatever scientific miracles come about to ease them, the most important thing is that the kindness and compassion, which are such a vital part of a woman’s psyche, prevail.