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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Happy, Grateful, and Lucky!

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Yesterday, I was reading one of my favorite blogs Regular Midwesterners, when I came across a comment that caught my attention and linked to a page that basically said if you were not “IVF-made” or adopted, then you should consider yourself lucky. Let me stress for a second that this page was linked to by a reader of Regular Midwesterners and is not affiliated with the site itself.

The blogs linked to from that original link, which I refuse to post here, were full of entries arguing against the use of donor sperm, eggs, or embryos and against adoption. I find it especially interesting that the first page even used the term “IVF-made” when the real point was to say that not being raised by both of your genetic “parents” is the problem. This, to me, already pokes holes in the validity of the argument, when you consider that IVF technology is often employed using the sperm and egg of the couple intending to raise the child. I am not saying that people are not entitled to their own opinions or feelings, but these blogs were what I would consider inflammatory and over-generalized, and the statement  “ivf-mades and adoptees are adults like you, but not happy for the gift of life or feeling grateful or lucky to be adopted – candidly, you are lucky to not have either of these starts to your life,” in particular actually made me quite angry. The best I can do, since I am not an expert in the field of reproductive technology or the long term effects, is to tell you the story of two people who stand in direct contrast to the statement I quoted above – myself and my wife.

I do, in fact, consider myself lucky! Imagine for a moment that my parents had not so desperately wanted a child… It is not as though they made the decision to use donor sperm over having a child without assistance. It was obvious after nearly a decade of trying without assistance that they were not going to have a child that way. During that time, they also had a failed adoption attempt. They had so much love to give and wanted to share that with a child. So they sought out help. I had an amazing childhood. My parents were/are incredible parents, and now my mom is an amazing Granny. I have no doubt that had my father been given the chance, he would be over the moon at holding the title of Grandpa. I cannot imagine them not having had the opportunity to raise a child of their own, and I count myself lucky to have had them as my parents. I do not feel “abandoned” as some of these bloggers claim they do, because some stranger deposited his sperm in a specimen cup and donated it to be used for my conception. I actually feel quite the opposite. I feel loved and wanted, because my parents, the ones who raised me, wanted me badly enough to go to such lengths. Why would I feel abandoned by a sperm donor who quite frankly, I’m sure had sacrificed sperm for much, ahem, less noble causes?

As I have mentioned before, my wife, “Mommy” was adopted. I cannot speak for her directly, but I will share some of the things she has told me that make it very clear she is grateful to have been adopted and would disagree with the above statement as well. She has told me that she does not feel abandoned. This is someone who was left at an orphanage by her birth parents. She doesn’t feel abandoned, because she was chosen. Her adoptive family had all these children to choose from, and they picked her. She was wanted. She also feels fortunate, because at the time of her adoption, she was not doing well in the orphanage and required medical treatment including a blood transfusion. Her adoptive family took her in despite her illness and made sure she had what she needed. Even after adoption, she did not have an easy childhood with the loss of her adoptive mother to a terminal illness. She still feels grateful to have been adopted. She would love to find her biological family, but that desire is not mutually exclusive with feeling fortunate and is definitely not an indication that she feels abandoned.

So color us happy, grateful, AND lucky – all those things we’re not supposed to be as the product of artificial insemination with donor sperm and as an adoptee. I hope this entry gives comfort to those of you who are raising children whom you have adopted or have conceived with the help of reproductive technologies and/or donor sperm. We don’t all grow up resenting those who gave us life or gave us a home. Some of us will be forever grateful and love you all the more!!

Note: This post was read and approved by Mommy before publication.

Objectively…sort of

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Taking a step away from my very personal account in the last post, I do feel the need to clarify that I do not advocate keeping the truth from children conceived through donor sperm. I defended my mom, not because I believe that what she did was necessarily correct, but because I know why she did it. Little Man’s story will be quite different. Growing up in a two-mom family, there will be no assumption of “fatherhood”. So, his special conception will always be a part of his life story. I’m sure we will discuss it often and in varying degrees of specificity throughout his life. Even if our two-mom family didn’t require eventual explanation to our offspring, I like to believe that we would be open and honest. I’m also grateful for the many resources available to us now that will help us navigate this journey…resources that weren’t available to my mom.

“Do you believe that history repeats itself?”

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These were the words Granny, my mom, spoke to me, her voice trembling with tears in her eyes, just before she revealed to me that I was donor-conceived. She had kept this from me for nearly 31 years, and just weeks before Little Man was to join us, she had finally found her way to tell me.

Do I have hard feelings about the fact that she didn’t tell me sooner? No. I wish that she had, but I am not upset with her that she didn’t.

I think to understand my answer, you probably need to know the kind of relationship that I have with my mom and some of my background. We are very protective of one another. So, I need to point out that she feels very bad about having kept it from me for so long. She continues to apologize for not telling me sooner, and I think she still worries that I am mad at her.

I struggled with depression as a child, and by the time I reached high school I was really struggling with finding myself and finding my way. Considering the topic here, I should point out that this struggle centered around knowing that I was gay and not because I had any feelings that I didn’t belong in my family. Around that same time, my mom was coming to terms with the fact that the advice she had received to keep my conception story a secret was misguided, but she feared that I wouldn’t be able to handle the truth at that point in my life. Part of me thinks she was right, and the other part of me cares more about her motivation than whether she was justified. I continued to struggle with identity and belonging throughout college and post-graduation until I found a community where I felt accepted, a church where I belonged, and the love of my life. That is when I started a relationship with my wife and came out to my family. Just a few months after I really started to get my feet planted, Grandpa B, my dad, had a devastating accident which left him paralyzed. He would spend the next six years in and out of the hospital with illness, infections, and other complications before passing away. Granny, during that time, again, felt like she couldn’t add something else to my stress and sadness. Whether she was right or not does not matter to me as much as knowing that she only did what she did out of the thought that she was protecting me. To know Granny is to know that she lives from her heart. She loves deeply and is fiercely protective of her family.

That brings us back to that moment where this entry started. Finally, seven months ago, my mom found her way to tell me how I was conceived. She finally realized that the time would never be “perfect” and that the upcoming arrival of Little Man was her best opportunity to open the discussion. We have talked more about it since and continue to have open communication on the topic.

This is obviously all new to me. I am now navigating life as a new mom with this new piece of my history. Strangely, I feel more “found” than I ever remember feeling.

Family Tree

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The obvious place to start is with our family tree.

 

Just to clarify a few things, especially for those of you less familiar with the genogram notation:

  • Mommy was adopted by Grandpa L and Abuela who already had a biological child, Uncle.
  • Abuela passed away when Mommy and Uncle were rather young, and later, Grandpa L married Grammy.
  • After years of trying to conceive, in the late 70s, Granny and Grandpa B sought the help of an infertility clinic at a major university’s medical center. Using anonymous donor sperm (all donor sperm through this program was anonymous), they conceived Momma.
  • Mommy and Momma are a same-sex couple (obviously) who chose to expand their family through the use of donor sperm from a sperm bank. The donor they chose was an anonymous donor. After years of trying, they got pregnant, and Mommy gave birth to Little Man in the spring of 2011.