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Category Archives: Donor Offspring Raising Donor Offspring

Back to why this all started…

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I started this blog back when I found out that I was donor conceived. I wanted a place to record and talk through this journey. What I’ve come to realize though, is that it’s not really a big deal to me. I think that’s why there have been frequent long periods of silence here. The only times my donor conception really come up are when I’m discussing the topic of donor conception or family medical history. Those really aren’t things I discuss that often. I’ve realized this is one of the smallest parts of what makes me “me”. The initial revelation was a bit rocky, knowing that my mom and dad had hidden this from me my entire life, but we’ve talked through all that, and I don’t feel that our relationship has been damaged by it. The key factor in my feeling that way is the fact that at the time of my conception, both of my parents were given the standard professional advice of the day. That was to never tell me about my conception. Fortunately, the attitudes of the professionals/experts have evolved in the 30+ years since.

Obviously, not all donor conceived persons feel like this is no big deal. There are also feelings of anger, betrayal , and loss. These reactions don’t seem to fall along lines of those who have “always” known and those with later life discoveries. There’s no pattern of those who didn’t necessarily have a great home life growing up holding the most anger.  I found that interesting. There are adults on the forums who claim that they had wonderful families growing up, but they are furious over the use of donor gametes. There are donor conceived people who fight against any kind of donor conception (this is a minority but a very vocal one) at all to those, like me, who have child(ren) via donors. So I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but here is where I am and have been for a while now.

Personally:

At one point, I was interested in identifying my donor so that I could get his medical history. Then, I found twenty.three.and.me which gave me a genetic health analysis that more than satisfied my needs. The interesting thing about that is that the results actually revealed that I was a carrier for a genetic condition through my mother’s side of the family that we had no idea about. Having satisfied the one real “need” related to finding my donor, I’ve found myself at a place where I have no desire to make contact with my donor or any of his other offspring.

On Donor Conception:

My feelings on donor conception are that it should definitely remain an option for people who could not otherwise create/expand their families. I lean heavily toward using open ID or known (actually KNOWN, not strangers found on a website) donors, but I’m not absolutely against anonymous donation. I encourage prospective parents to choose ID option or open donors, but do not fault them for making a different decision. More and more methods of finding genetic connections are popping up all the time. This makes me feel that before long, “anonymous” donors won’t have the same level of anonymity and that donor offspring will have easy access to the most important pieces of their genetic makeup without the need for open/ID option donors. This is the reason for my less than emphatic stance on this topic.

The one absolute in this whole thing for me boils down to honesty. Here and now, in 2013, when almost every expert would agree that hiding adoption from a child is wrong, why don’t we hold donor conception to the same standard? Why is it still socially acceptable to hide the truth from a donor conceived child? I absolutely cannot be quiet when I hear that someone plans to hide the truth from their child. The child in question may end up feeling like me, that it’s no big deal, or s/he might have a greater interest in some sort of connection. The point is that this is the choice of the child, not the parent. It is absolutely the responsibility of the parent to share all available information about the donor with the child. A parent is supposed to be trustworthy. Finding out that you have been betrayed by the person/people in your life who you are supposed to be able to trust the most is more damaging than any donor information could be.

If there was one piece of advice I could share with every family considering donor conception, it would be honesty above all else. THIS is the one thing that my discovery has made me adamant about. Lying and or hiding the truth about donor conception is the one aspect of this whole issue that I will always speak out against. I cannot think of a single justifiable reason to hide this from a child at this time in society. This information is part of the child’s story. S/he should have access to all of it and ultimately the control over what to do with it. The donor information BELONGS to the child, not his/her parents.

Contact with “Diblings” AKA Donor Siblings:

I don’t really have strong feelings one way or the other on reaching out to other families who used the same donor before the child is old enough to make that decision. For our family, we want Little Man to be in control as much as possible. So we try to do enough to keep as many options as we can open for him without making too many decisions before he can speak for himself. The decision of whether or not to contact donor “siblings” is a decision that should be made by each family according to their comfort level until the child is old enough to request more information. Once the child is old enough to make the decision on contact for him/herself, control should be handed over.

How my feelings have changed:

There was a time before learning about my own status that I was threatened by the thought that someday my non-biological child would want contact with his donor or the donor’s other offspring. When my mom told me that I was donor conceived, I realized that the feelings I have/had for my dad were not at all affected by the revelation. The only thing that changed regarding my relationship to my (only) father was that I felt even more loved knowing the extent my parents had gone to while TTC. This made me realize that my feelings about our son one day possibly wanting to reach out were completely based in fear. The idea that we should try to share as little as possible with him because *I* was scared was selfish. We will be honest with him when he asks questions, and we will provide him with age appropriate pieces of his story along the way without waiting for his questions. I hope that he always knows that he was the priority in ALL decisions we made throughout this process, and that if we fumble along the way that we were doing our best. He deserves nothing less. This is his story to tell, not ours.

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Types of Donors

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There is a lot of confusion even within the community of people who have conceived via donor insemination about what the different labels regarding anonymity of donors actually mean. This is especially frustrating for me as a donor conceived person. If people do not even have a full grasp of the terminology, how can they make a fully informed decision? So just in case you’re stumbling across this post and could use a better understanding of all the labels and options, here you go…

Two types of donors are typically available from cryobanks.

  • Anonymous donors have no ID or contact options. Unless, at some point the donor contacts the bank and wants to allow for contact (this is rare), the only information ever available to offspring will be the profile information from the bank.
  • Willing-to-be-Known (WTBK) Donors, also known as ID Release Donors, have agreed to contact from offspring. Typically this option becomes available when the child turns 18.
  • Some people choose not to go through a cryobank. Most of the time, donors found through a registry or known previously by the family are referred to as Known Donors regardless of the actual level of contact or how well they’re actually “known”. These arrangements go from biological relatives of the non-biological intended parent to the equivalent of a one night stand and everything in between.

    The last possibility that comes to mind is a co-parenting arrangement. This is when there is an agreement in place for the donor to be a parent to the child whether legally or otherwise. This is the only time you should even remotely assume that it would be okay to refer to a child’s donor as the child’s dad.

    I know it can get confusing, but using the right terminology, especially when discussing the effect of anonymity on the donor selection, is critical.

    Requesting Your Input

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    I have a friend who is a late discovery adoptee. She was in her 30s when she found out that she had been adopted as an infant. I was in my 30s when I found out that I was donor-conceived. We’ve been discussing a joint blog post mainly focused on our feelings regarding donor anonymity as it relates to our children (we each have one) conceived before our discoveries and to the ones we hope to have in the future. We agree on many points but do have our different views and want to explore that with this post. So, where you come in is that we’ve chosen to do this in an interview format and would appreciate any questions you would like for us to answer as part of this co-post. Also, if you would like, please feel free to share a link to this post on your own blog or Facebook so that we might get a broader range of questions.

    Thanks!

    A Change in Plans

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    After Little Man was born, we asked Mommy’s OB when it would be safe for her to get pregnant again. We had assumed she would carry all of our children, and we knew that age wasn’t on our side. The OB recommended starting trying again in 9 months. As we began to approach that 9 month mark (early 2012), something started gnawing at me, and so this twist in our plans began…

    Deciding to carry a child was not easy for me. There were a lot of reasons I felt like I shouldn’t – that I should just be happy to be a mother and not complicate things. The problem with that was this feeling I couldn’t shake that I would regret that decision some day when it was too late if I didn’t at least try. I don’t have a need for biological relation to my child, but I do have the “need” to gestate, to grow and nurture a child inside my womb. So, when I finally admitted to myself and then to Mommy that this was something so important to me, we started to look into all those things I felt should/would/could keep me from becoming pregnant.

    I had always worried that I inherited my mom’s fertility issues long before we were actually planning for children. This was before I knew that I’d been conceived using donor sperm. When my mom told me that her doctor during the time she was trying to get pregnant had attributed much of the struggle to my father’s issues stemming from Agent Orange exposure, that worry became less intense. I felt like maybe I wasn’t doomed to a decade of struggling and multiple miscarriages before I could carry a baby to term. That was my mom’s reality, but maybe, I wasn’t doomed to repeat it.

    One thing always at the front of my mind is my Fibromyalgia. I was afraid to put any more “burden” on my body. I also knew that I was not comfortable taking any of the daily medications I had been prescribed just to help me function, while pregnant or even while trying to conceive (TTC). Lastly but certainly a big one for me, I didn’t want to pass this on to my child. My mom has it, I have it, and I didn’t want our child to have it. That is the worry that led us to speak to the RE about reciprocal IVF (in vitro fertilization).

    For those of you less versed in reproductive assistance, reciprocal IVF is when one partner’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized with the intent to place the embryos into the other partner’s uterus. We wanted to use Mommy’s eggs to make embryos that I would carry. We had a long meeting with the RE about this. I honestly wasn’t even sure he would go for it since Mommy is already considered to be advanced maternal age (AMA). He did though. He said that he would do that if we wanted to, but these were his concerns. There’s no data on how likely it is that our child born using my eggs would have Fibromyalgia, but there is plenty of data that shows how much age affects egg quality and the possibility of fetal abnormalities. We would be taking eggs seven years older than my own to make embryos. He said that he would be more concerned about that than the chance that a child may inherit Fibro. That discussion along with some other information led us to start looking into regular IUI (intra-uterine insemination) using my eggs and donor sperm.

    So, after many long discussions and lots of reading, we decided that we would move ahead along the path of considering IUI with me carrying. Now, it was time to address the rest of my concerns. My other concerns about Fibro and pregnancy were greatly reduced by a visit with my rheumatologist. She said that in her experience, women with Fibro who get pregnant do really well. Something about the pregnancy hormones helps alleviate the symptoms of Fibromyalgia in the majority of cases she’d seen. I also have anecdotal evidence of this from e-friends I’ve made over the past few years. (This makes me wonder why they aren’t researching some sort of hormone therapy to treat Fibro, but I digress) The rheumatologist and I made a plan to wean me off several medications, and I set up an appointment with my general practitioner to discuss the others. All of my care providers were very supportive of our decision which certainly helped me to feel more secure in it.

    By the time I was finished with my GP, we had a plan and a timeline. We were moving forward and started to look at donors. This was the same month as Little Man’s first birthday.

    …to be continued

    Wanted

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    This post over at Offbeat Families really spoke to me. When people ask me how I feel about having been conceived using donor sperm, I tell them that it assures me that my parents wanted me even more than I knew…that they went to extraordinary lengths to have me. This poster says it beautifully in the last two paragraphs of her post. Though neither my parents nor my wife and I had to go “all the way” to IVF, the sentiment is the same.

    “She will know how much we wanted her, our precious result of a mad science experiment gone wonderfully right.”

    http://offbeatfamilies.com/2013/01/sperm-donors-ivf-and-mad-science-experiments

    Thoughts on dads

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    Back when we first began our journey to have a child, I obviously knew that s/he wouldn’t have a dad. I did, however, imagine the roles that our dads, Grandpa L and Grandpa B, would play in his/her life. I always imagined that Father’s Day would be devoted to the doting grandfathers. Sadly, just over a month after our first attempt at TTC, Grandpa L passed away suddenly from a short battle with Lymphoma. About three and a half long years later, we finally got the wonderful news that we were indeed expecting. Five days later, we lost Grandpa B (my dad) to complications related to his paralysis. That first year, at least, after my dad’s passing was spent grieving my loss. As time has passed, I’ve transitioned into grieving more for Little Man’s loss. I’m sad that he won’t have these incredible grandpas who his moms were so lucky to call “Dad”. My mind knows that the gender of Little Man’s parents matters far less than the fact that he has two of us who love him with all that we are. My heart still hurts that he’ll miss out. I’m quite capable of teaching Little Man how to wield a hammer, throw a football, and bait a hook, but I have not and never will be one of the guys… He was supposed to have his grandfathers for that.

    I realize that this perspective may be controversial to some in my community. I’m not saying that my son NEEDS a dad. I just wish that he had our dads around, because I have such fond memories of the relationship I had with mine.

    Biology is the least of what makes a family

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    I can say that with more certainty than ever before. My cousin’s DNA results finally came back. We have basically 0% blood relation. This means what I’ve suspected for a year now. Approximately half of my DNA was passed down from an anonymous donor. My daddy is not my biological father. He is however, my father in every way that matters.

    I think a lot of people expect me to be upset about this…to need time to process…time to grieve. The thing is, I feel like I’ve already done all of that. This time last year, my mom told me that they had sought help getting pregnant, that donor semen was involved, and that she wasn’t sure if my dad was my biological father. I processed so much then, that now, more than anything, I just feel relief at having an answer. The only aspect of this that has been emotionally difficult for me is that it makes me miss my daddy. My grief over losing him is intertwined with this quest for information.

    Most of the people in my family who know about all this thought for sure that my DNA would show that daddy was my biological “father”. I share so many physical and even temperamental characteristics with him. It just goes to show how so much of what we attribute to biology is also heavily influenced by environment. On the same note, my wife took a picture of our son and me the other day. He and I were both looking into the camera. When I saw the picture, I was amazed at how much alike we looked…at how we were making almost identical expressions. I know in my heart that my father loved me as much as I love this little boy, and really, that’s all that matters.