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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.

About Momma

Back in the late 70s, my parents used donor sperm to conceive. The product was me. I did not know until the month that my own son, carried by my wife, was born, that I had been conceived any way other than the "old-fashioned way". So, here I am, the non-bio mom to a little guy who was conceived with the help of donor sperm having been conceived through the use of donor sperm myself. This is surely an unusual family dynamic, but I am certain that it is not entirely unique. I reside in the Midwest with my wife "Mommy" and our son "Little Man".

3 responses »

  1. Knowing your story and your feelings about using an anonymous donor for Little Man I had wondered what your decision would be for subsequent children. You are in a unique place that you will be able to understand (some) of your children’s feelings about having an anonymous donor. We will likely use the same donor for #2 that we used for #1 so that they will have a genetic tie to one another.

  2. Thank you for acknowledging the role that fear plays in these decisions. That’s not easy to do. Like you, we’ve found our thoughts on the donor and donor conception as a whole shifted once we were parenting, though for different reasons. I think I’d likely do the same in your shoes — sticking with the same donor — but it’s not an easy choice. At all.

  3. I also want to thank you for saying what is hard to say, and the 2nd donor question is one I have grappled with myself. We had a chance to use a known donor for #2. We would only do that now if no other options are possible (ie. we run out of money) as our first child is from an anonymous and popular donor.


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