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Category Archives: Non-Bio Mom

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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“Invisible Family”

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Wanted to share…

http://www.brainchildmag.com/2013/03/invisible-family/

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.

Sneaky feelings

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The other day, a friend shared an incredibly beautiful photo of the moment her little one entered the world. I was overcome with emotion. Part of it was the beauty of that moment and the photo, and part of it was grief that I missed that moment with Little Man and Mommy. I didn’t even recognize before that moment that I had such a strong feeling of loss. Because of the emergent nature of Little Man’s delivery, there are no pictures of that moment in the delivery room, no pictures of the three of us celebrating his arrival. I didn’t get to be there at all. I knew that seeing photos that people post of those moments shortly after delivery caused a twinge of jealousy, but I did not realize how profound my sense of loss was until this moment.

Some people will read that and think that this is ridiculous. I agree that it’s important to focus on the fact that we have a happy healthy little guy as a result of that delivery. I do not deny for a moment that having him here and healthy should be the main focus, but I think that doing that doesn’t require dismissing my feelings at the loss of that experience. In fact, just giving myself the moment to recognize my feelings and have a good cry the other day, already helped. My hope in sharing this is that it helps someone else who may be in a similar situation know that they are not alone.

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.

Little Man’s First Eight Days

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Little Man’s first eight days were spent in the Special Care Nursery (AKA Level II NICU). We were so fortunate to not experience any setbacks in his recovery. His admission was filled with forward progress. He never even lost any weight which is completely normal for newborns. The hardest part was watching the daily needle sticks he had to endure. It seemed like every morning, his IV would need to be replaced. During these eight days, he was weaned from oxygen onto room air and received a course of IV antibiotics to combat the pneumonia caused by the meconium aspiration.

The first three days of Little Man’s life gave me a somewhat unique non-bio mom experience. Mommy was still in the hospital where he was born, and he was in another hospital about seven miles away. My days were spent back and forth between the two. After about 36 hours, he was breathing room air, and I was able to hold him for the first time. I spent hours just sitting and holding him. For 2 ½ days, it was just him and me there in that room other than the hourly vitals checks by the nurses and a short visit from his Granny.  I held him first. I fed him first. I changed his diaper first. I would try to be there at least for all of his day-time feedings during those first three days. I brought back lots of pictures and stories to Mommy. I spent my nights on that uncomfortable pull out sofa in her room getting up every three hours to help her set up the breast pump.

We were told that Mommy would be in the hospital at least through the weekend, but she was so determined to get to our son that she delivered in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, had a blood transfusion on Thursday afternoon, and was discharged on Friday around noon. We went directly from her hospital to Little Man. Mommy’s milk still had not come in, but she sat there and did skin to skin with our little guy, and they both slept while I kept a watchful eye. It wasn’t really necessary, because they both slept so soundly that neither moved an inch. That evening as Mommy pumped for the last time before going to sleep, finally back in our own bed, her milk came pouring out.

The next day Mommy and Little Man were determined to get this breast-feeding thing down. When he finally latched and started eating, I felt none of the jealousy I had feared throughout the pregnancy. I really thought being outside that close bond would be the hardest part of the whole experience for me, but after watching them both struggle so hard at his birth and work to make this connection, I felt nothing but joy and relief when they finally got it. We spent our weekend in his little room going home just a couple of miles away to sleep and getting back the next morning in time for his first feeding.

On Monday, five days after Little Man was born, I went back to work. It was so very hard. Our routine was that we would get up in time to get to the hospital for his morning feeding. We would both go in, and as soon as he was done eating, and I had changed his diaper, I would leave for work. I would count the minutes until I could leave to go back to the hospital to be with them. We got our hopes up that he was coming home Wednesday evening, but his doctor insisted that he stay through Thursday morning. So, on Thursday, I took the day off, and we headed to the hospital for his morning feeding as usual but full of excitement knowing that we would no longer have to leave Little Man behind at the hospital. Finally, we were going home with our boy!

That was almost 9 months ago. The good news is that neither Mommy nor Little Man has any lasting effects from the whole ordeal, at least not any physical ones. I think that Mommy and I are forever changed emotionally, obviously just by the fact that we became parents, but also because of the dramatic fashion in which Little Man arrived.

Little Man’s Birth Story (Part 2)

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The relative calm didn’t last long. Mommy started to have break-through pain after a couple hours. The nurses got approval to up her epidural several times, but even at max dosage, she was in tears. I didn’t know what to do, and looking back on that time I feel terribly guilty for not being a better advocate for my wife. The nurses kept questioning whether she was feeling pain or “just” pressure. My precious wife, through tears, was having to convince these people that she knew the difference between pain and pressure and that she was most certainly in pain. They said that her epidural was maxed out and that the anesthesiologist had gone for the day and the next one hadn’t arrived yet. (At this point I’m questioning our decision to deliver in the smaller hospital. We chose the smaller hospital, because they advocated rooming-in and would only take your baby from the room if you requested. They would help as much as you needed, but only if you asked. We wanted to spend the first few days caring for our own newborn, having him sleep in our room, and basically not leaving our sight.) The nurses assured us that when the anesthesiologist did arrive, they would have him check the epidural. In the meantime, they decided to do internal monitoring so that they could have a more accurate reading of the contractions. I felt lost and in WAY over my head. I just wanted to make the pain stop. I wanted my wife to have a break. I kept thinking that if this just wasn’t non-stop…if she could just have time to rest…I wanted to help, but instead I just felt like a helpless spectator.

Around 3PM, before the anesthesiologist had come in, Little Man’s heart rate showed a decel that stayed down a little too long for comfort. Two nurses rushed into the room and immediately called the doctor. Mommy was put on oxygen and turned on her side, and the Pit0cin drip was slowed. Little Man’s heart rate came back up and stayed steady. The doctor talked with us, and we all agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest to continue as planned and try for vaginal delivery. She believed the fact that Little Man’s heartrate had recovered with minimal intervention, and that he tolerated a subsequent exam where she literally rubbed his head, strongly indicated that vaginal delivery would be possible. Our OB had been highly recommended, and we’d grown to really like her, and more importantly, to trust her. We were following her lead. Mommy was dilated to 5 cms now but continued to labor in pain.

During the next few hours, the OB, and one nurse in particular stayed in our room almost constantly. They were Mommy’s cheering section, and they helped me find a voice to support her through the pain. Despite the boost, I started to wonder how much longer Mommy could take this. She would go from crying to uncontrolled shaking to a look of pure determination back to crying… Over the next several hours, they increased the Pit0cin drip back to the max dosage in small increments. Little Man tolerated this, but Mommy was miserable, and I felt sick watching her struggle. Eventually our cheering section left to deal with other issues, and we were left to deal with the pain alone again.

Around 7PM, Mommy said she couldn’t handle the pain anymore. I asked the nursing staff to get the doctor. The doctor examined her and she was 6cms dilated. To hear anything less than complete made me feel totally defeated. How can someone work so hard for a measly centimeter? At that time, they finally got another anesthesiologist to come in and evaluate pain management. He noted that her epidural dose was more than twice what they normally administer, and she was still in obvious pain. He said that there must be something wrong with the placement and decided to do a new epidural. While he was still taping up the new catheter, Mommy fell asleep sitting up in the hunched over position required to place the epidural. She actually started snoring. For some reason, the first epidural had stopped working shortly after it was placed, and as soon as this one kicked in, the exhaustion overtook her, and she fell asleep. My wife had labored through Pit0cin contractions for 11 hours at that point. She had only had a working epidural for about 2 of those and had been on a full dose of Pit0cin for most of them. I felt like I had completely failed. Wasn’t my most important job to be her advocate? Why hadn’t I insisted that they do something about her pain sooner?  As soon as the anesthesiologist finished the procedure and they laid Mommy back down in the bed (about 50 minutes total from the time the doctor said Mommy was 6 cms), the doctor checked her again, and she was at 9 cms. The OB said that most likely, the change in position and finally being able to relax had helped Mommy progress more in those 50 minutes than she had in hours.

Just after 9PM (25 hours since the induction began, 13 hours since Pit0cin was started), Mommy was finally fully dilated and effaced. The doctor had Mommy try a practice push to see if the epidural needed to be turned down, but we would wait for Little Man to get into better position (ie: lower in the birth canal) on his own before really starting to push. At this point the OB reminded us about the meconium she’d seen in the amniotic fluid. She reassured us that everything should be fine but not to worry if we didn’t hear Little Man cry right away. They would want to suction him really well before stimulating him too much. The meconium had fallen off my list of concerns somewhere along the way. Now, it was back front and center. I tried to trust the doctor’s reassurance and help my wife focus on the finish line. It wouldn’t be long now, and I didn’t want her to know how worried I was. I think really that’s the theme of my entire experience – feeling some of the strongest emotions of my life and trying to protect my best friend from knowing just how terrified, scared, exhausted, and lost I felt.

Just before midnight, Mommy started to feel more pressure. So, the RN called for the doctor. She arrived, and just after 12:30PM on Wednesday, and told us that it was indeed time to push. On the first contraction, Mommy got in three pushes. I was feeling so proud of her for the strength she’d found somewhere deep inside and so anxious to see Little Man enter this world. On the next contraction, Mommy pushed, and Little Man’s heartrate plummeted into the 60 and 70s. This is the moment when things started to go crazy, and I lost all concept of time. The doctor told the nurses to give Mommy oxygen and for Mommy to get on her side. This time, that didn’t work, and now I saw the concern and urgency wash across everyone in the room. I felt sick. The doctor quickly explained that Little Man was still too high up in the birth canal to use the vacuum or foreceps. They would be taking Mommy in for an emergency c-section. There was no time to prep me for the OR. If Little Man’s heartrate stabilized once they got in the OR, they would send someone out to get me ready. I followed them to the red line on the floor in front of the OR doors and watched until they disappeared from sight. No one came back out to get me.

I backed up against the wall and stood staring at those doors. I listened and waited and prayed and hoped to hear my son cry. I willed my wife to be strong in there alone. I cried. I haven’t talked much about my mom (Granny) being present during labor, because she very much stayed on the sidelines. She was there if we needed anything, but wanted this experience to belong to us. She barely spoke unless it was to ask if she could get us something. This is when I realized she was there and was so grateful for her presence as I slumped into her arms. Later on, while we were still standing outside those OR doors, I would get short with her. She was worried about me, and I got upset with her for even thinking about me when all thoughts should be with my wife and son. In that moment, I felt like it was totally inappropriate for anyone to be concerned about me, but looking back, I don’t know how I would’ve done it without her. I should probably tell her that…

I didn’t let myself cry for long. I was too busy listening for anything coming out of the OR. I couldn’t see anything or hear anything except for the stream of people who kept coming onto the L&D floor rushing into that OR where they had my wife and son. No one could tell me anything. The longer I waited, the more I knew that it had to be bad. I ran through so many scenarios in my head. Would they get him out in time? Would he be okay? Would he have permanent damage? What if things went wrong? What if Mommy was having complications? What if I lost them both? How would I go on? What if I lost my beloved wife, but my son made it? Would they let me take custody or would I have to fight to take him home?

I waited for what seemed like an eternity outside the OR. Finally, one of the nurses, as she passed me to retrieve something to take back into the OR said that they were both “going to be fine”.  So they’re not fine now? What does that mean? Why is this taking so long? Of course, I couldn’t actually articulate any of these questions, and she definitely didn’t have time to answer any of them. I knew they were both alive and “going to be fine”, and I cried out of relief.

Finally, Little Man was wheeled out of the OR in an isolette and into the nursery where he was surrounded by doctors and nurses. I was terrified, and I didn’t know whether to run to his side or stand back and let them continue to work. The neonatologist (one of the many medical professionals I had seen paged into the room after the surgery had already begun) called me over and explained to me that Little Man had swallowed and inhaled meconium. They said that his bowel movement had occured in utero days ago, because his umbilical cord, finger nails, toe nails, etc were all stained. He was barely breathing at birth and had to be intubated. His initial APGARs were only 3 and 4 out of 10. However, the team was able to stabilize and extubate him before bringing him out to the nursery. He told me to stay there with my son, and the nurses made a spot for me beside him so that they could continue to work, but I could be there too.

I looked down at him. His face was swollen and bruised. He looked like he’d gone into the ring with a professional boxer. He was under a hood for oxygen support and was very pale. He did have a head full of hair and his Mommy’s nose, the best I could tell. The nurse reassured me that I could touch him. I reached out and ran my finger down his chest. His chest was soft and warm but was retracting deeply as he struggled with each breath, and I cried some more. I no longer had any control over my emotions. I was so relieved that he was okay, and at the same time, I was wondering why they hadn’t brought my wife back to the room yet. I walked out to see if there was any news on her progress but no one could tell me anything.

I went back to Little Man’s bedside, and as I walked up to him, I softly said “Hey, buddy…” He turned his head in my direction, and I looked into his eyes, and lost it all over again. I felt like he knew me from all those months spent reading and talking to him while he was in his Mommy’s belly. He recognized my voice, and he knew I was there. I don’t know how long I stood there talking to him. I felt like just knowing I was there might be comforting to him. Not being able to scoop him up and hold him was agonizing. So was knowing that he and his Mommy had missed out on those first precious moments of bonding that we’d envisioned. While at his side, I watched as he endured needle sticks, suction, and gastric lavage among other things. I wanted to take it all on for him, but again, I found myself feeling like a helpless spectator.

I reluctantly left his side to check on my wife again. His doctor stopped me as I did to explain that he would be transferred to another hospital where they were better equipped to care for him. I was told that he would most likely develop pneumonia, and he was immediately started on IV antibiotics to ward off infection. They expected him to make a full recovery with no lasting effects though. Finding no update on Mommy, I went back to be with Little Man.

Finally, Mommy was wheeled back to her room. The OB came into the nursery to talk to me. She explained that Mommy had required multiple meds to stabilize and that she had “significant blood loss” during surgery because her uterus wouldn’t contract. I would later hear them actually use the term “hemorrhaged”. I left the nursery to go see her. She was so pale and heavily medicated. She kept asking me if I could put Little Man to her breast so that he could nurse. She was scared she would drop him but wanted him to be able to breastfeed. She also wanted to make sure I got to hold him first. She didn’t utter a single word of concern for herself. Her only worries were for us, and I was in awe of her and more in love with her than ever. This is my wife, selfless to the core.

No one had explained to Mommy how traumatic the birth had actually been for Little Man. Even if they had, due to all the medication, she couldn’t remember for more than just a few minutes at a time. Having to explain to her again and again that we couldn’t hold him, and he couldn’t nurse was killing me. Every time I had to tell her, she was heartbroken. I was the messenger that was breaking her heart over and over.

I was back and forth between my semi-conscious wife and our newborn son until about 4AM when Little Man was finally prepped for transfer. I told the transfer team that even if Mommy might not remember it, I wanted him wheeled to her bedside before they left with him. They were happy to do that. This would be the first time Little Man and Mommy would meet on the outside. They raised the isolette above the level of Mommy’s bed, and wheeled Little Man as close to her as possible, and she reached for him. He wrapped his little hand around her finger. Mommy asked me to take a picture of the two of them before he left. This snapped me out of my pinpoint focus long enough to realize that she and I weren’t the only ones in the room crying. We finally had our family, and they were both “going to be” okay.

As the transfer team left with Little Man, I encouraged my wife to give in to sleep. I planned to head the 7 miles or so to the hospital where our son was transferred as soon as they called to say he was settled. However, once Mommy fell asleep, the full weight of exhaustion and a sense of bewilderment hit me. I knew that I shouldn’t be driving, and the nurse that had been part of his transport team would be with him all night and had promised to call at the slightest change in his status. I made my uncomfortable bed and cried myself to sleep.

Writing this part has really drained me, especially since I tried to really remember just what I was feeling and to be as honest as possible. I want to do some more reflection and summarize the blur that was the next week or so of our lives. I’ll do that in my next post. For now I leave you knowing that my wife and son both made full recoveries, and we’re loving our life with a sweet, talkative (in his own language, of course), funny, and more mobile every day eight-month-old. ♥