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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Spit Kits

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This is how I have begun to refer to the test kits from the genetic testing company. In case you hadn’t already guessed from that title, the testing is done on saliva collected from the client. I ordered 2 yesterday. They should arrive by next week. I’ll be able to take the one to my paternal first cousin over Easter weekend. The other is for me. I didn’t expect the anxiety I’m feeling over all this. It’s not anxiety in necessarily a negative way. It’s just that the knowing my “answer” is right around the corner is giving me a ton of nervous energy. Ever since I ordered the kits, I’ve been taking health and behavioral surveys on the company’s website. They work with a lot of programs that compare the genetics to the survey answers to try to find genetic markers for things ranging from the pattern of hair growth to depression. It’s neat to know that my data will be submitted anonymously to help further such research.

I know that a lot of people are afraid of the “big brother” aspect. What if my information were to fall into the wrong hands and be used against me for insurance, employment, or any other purpose? The scientist in me says that someone has to be at the forefront of this technology to further research and that there are legal protections against such use of this information. I’m sure the legal protections are not flawless, but I’m willing to take the risk – a risk that I perceive as very small – to both find my answer and maybe help a researcher find his/hers.

That’s the only update I really have for now. I’ll keep you all posted on this process.

Donor Dilemma – My answers to some pertinent questions

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In the world of sperm banks, there are 2 types of donors. There are “anonymous” donors who are just what they sound like. Then, there are “open” or “ID release” donors. These donors agree to have their identity released to any offspring resulting from their donations once that child reaches age 18. The third type of donor someone might use is a person they already know – a known donor. In that case, a sperm bank wouldn’t be involved in the process.

Why did we choose an anonymous donor for Little Man? The answer is, quite frankly, because I was scared. I was scared that someday, Little Man may see his donor as more of a parent than me. I was threatened by the fact that he would have the option to contact this donor at age 18 – a man who had a genetic connection to him, when I did not. I was scared of the idea of this donor someday being a part of our lives no matter how small that part would be. I look back on that decision and consider it selfish and misinformed. Mommy had left the decision mostly up to me, because she didn’t feel strongly one way or the other.

Now, I regret that choice. I did not know about my own conception until just a month before Little Man was born. My own experience has opened my eyes to the fact that we should have kept all of Little Man’s options open. The decision to make contact or not should have been his. Maybe he will be like me and have no desire to reach out. Even so, the decision was not ours to make. If someday he comes to us with the desire to track down his donor, I will do everything in my power to help him short of violating the donor’s privacy. We did, after all, agree that he would remain anonymous. Some anonymous donors have a change of heart and register on sites such as the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). This will probably be the only opportunity Little Man has to track down his donor’s identity if that is what he wants to do someday when he’s not so little anymore.

If we try to have more children, which type of donor will we use? This is where it gets even more difficult. As much as I regret pushing so hard for an anonymous donor the first time, if we attempt to conceive again, we will go anonymous again. Why? Because the only mistake I can think of that would be bigger than making the wrong choice again would be Little Man having to deal with the fact that his sibling(s) was given an opportunity that we took away from him. My commitment to all of my children will be the same. I will stay engaged in the DSR and other registries and share as much information as I can gather when they come to me with questions. As much as I regret making what I feel was the wrong decision the first time, I cannot imagine giving the option of contact to future children knowing that we’ve already taken it away from Little Man.

Just a note: Back when my parents used a donor, there was no decision to be made. All donations were made anonymously in the program they were a part of.

The whole conception story as I know it

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Being the product of donor insemination (and knowing it) is all relatively new to me. It was just last May that my mom first revealed to me that my parents had used donor sperm to conceive. She told me the whole story at that time, but as with any retelling, things that were forgotten at first tend to come up later in conversation. So I’m still learning details and things like who in my family already knows. This is an interesting journey to put it mildly. At times I feel overwhelmed with information. At others I feel at a loss as to where to find it.

One thing I have learned is that in the late 70s, it wasn’t uncommon for clinics to mix the prospective father’s semen with the donor’s to “promote bonding between prospective father and child”. This is what they did in my case. Even knowing this, I basically just assume that it was the donor’s sperm, because my parents were unable to conceive (with the exception of one pregnancy that ended in miscarriage) for nearly 10 years. Their doctor attributed the infertility to low sperm count and chromosomal abnormalities due to my father’s exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Since my father had already passed away once I found out, there was no simple paternity test option.

Ultimately though, I am still left with the question of whether I’m a product of my father’s DNA or the donor’s. There are tests I could have run with my DNA and DNA from his siblings, but they are thousands of dollars which make them cost prohibitive for us.

Then, through the DSR (Donor Sibling Registry) community forum, I found out about a genetics testing company. I talked to the company, and they’ve assured me that the fact that they use autosomal DNA as well as mitochondrial (maternal) and Y-chromosome (paternal) DNA means they can give me a conclusive answer to this lingering question. It’s also hundreds of dollars instead of thousands, and on top of helping me to determine my genetic background, it will give me important information on diseases, syndromes, etc that I may be a carrier for. This can be especially important if it is proven that half of my “family” medical history is unknown due to being donor conceived. Also, I’ve talked to one of my cousins, and she has agreed to provide a sample for screening as well. This will allow comparison of our DNA profiles to see if we are in fact first cousins by blood. I will be pursuing this in a couple of weeks.

This still feels surreal, because I thought this option wouldn’t be a realistic option for probably the next decade at least. I truly don’t care what the results show, but the opportunity to find out being within my reach is still surreal. I just need to know the full story.

More on this later. I know I’m going to need to talk through this whole process.