I read this beautiful essay on the Fairfax Cryobank site. The last line brought tears to my eyes as I contemplate my children
growing up and leaving for college. This essay is for any of us who have created our families with the help of someone else.
My daughter, Monica, is applying to colleges. Like her older brother, she will soon be going out into the world. Where has the time gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we received a diagnosis of severe male factor infertility and we were faced with making the decision as to how our family would be built?
When we began our infertility journey and joined RESOLVE in 1983, our focus was on pregnancy and babies. We could not even imagine this far ahead in time, when our children would be making decisions about college. But we did have fears about the future.
Will Our Child Resent Being Conceived with Donor Egg and Sperm?
We choose donor insemination (DI) to build our family, and much later continued our family building efforts through donor egg and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Although a support group helped ease some of the isolation we felt, we didn’t know anyone who had taken this same route to parenthood. We had no idea what the future might hold. What if our child someday resented how s/he had been conceived? What if s/he grew into an unhappy adult with psychological issues?
‘Mom, can you proofread my college essay before I send it out?” Monica asked me, bringing me back to reality. “The application said to write 250 words or less on the theme, tell us about the world you come from,” she continued, offering me her seat in front of the computer. With her standing beside me, I began reading:
The College Essay That Answered the Question
“The world I come from is ordinary, comfortable and stable. I have two normal parents and I’m cushioned between two brothers, one younger, one older. On the outside we are a traditional American family. When I talk about family, I always refer to them as normal, loving people who are always there for me. I often forget, however, that we are not ordinary.
Our family is different because both our parents had infertility issues. My brothers and I were all conceived with the use of donor gametes. Although my brothers and I were born with the aid of donors, it doesn’t matter. In fact I rarely think about it and it always seems to slip my mind.
While others may be solely dependent on external validation, I have learned that life is not just about how you appear on the outside and how people view you. I have grown up open-minded. I believe that I am less critical and judgmental than other people because I know that things on the outside are not always what they seem. I understand that things that are different should not be feared and deserve acceptance that ordinary situations receive.”
We Were Told Not to Tell
“What do you think?” she asked eagerly.
“It’s fabulous. It’s wonderful how open and positive you are,” I said, blinking back tears.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” she asked.
“Some individuals conceived using donor gametes have issues,” I told her.
“Why would they have issues?” she wanted to know.
When we began our journey to create a family over two decades ago, we were told by the medical community not to reveal the method of conception to any resulting children. This advice was accepted by 95% of couples utilizing DI at the time. I found this recommendation odd, considering the history of disclosure in the adoption community and the negative consequences of withholding information. But DI was way behind the social advances and acceptance of adoption, and still is. There was never any doubt that we would tell our children from the beginning, though we proceeded with some trepidation. There was no one to guide us. We felt like trailblazers.
As our children grew, stories began cropping up in newspapers, magazines and online bulletin boards featuring troubled donor-conceived individuals. Monica knew nothing of these negative views of donor conception, because I had tried to shield her, cutting out and disposing of these articles so she and her brothers wouldn’t read them. I hoped that those stories represented a vocal minority and assumed that individuals who didn’t have an issue with how they were conceived would have no need to talk to the media. Even if they did, well-adjusted and content individuals wouldn’t make for very dramatic or sensational journalism.
Now that I read Monica’s essay, I finally realized that I could let go of the fears. There was nothing to shield her from anymore.
“Why would someone have issues because of how they were conceived?” Monica asked me again.
“Some people don’t view things the way you do, honey,” I said.
Monica looked puzzled, and then shrugged her shoulders.
I now understand that her perception of her conception history was a mirror of how I viewed my infertility experience. We both saw it as something that enriched our lives.
Our children are a gift, created from a gift, and as they venture away from home, they are our gift to the world.
Did that last line break you up too?
Image credit” vvvracer (Random high school graduate.)
Add Your Comment
Kimberly when you say knowing their roots do you mean knowing who their their maternal and paternal relatives are and also being known to their maternal and paternal relatives?
I like the title of the seminar your presenting because your talking about a person’s family of origin. You are recognizing that they have and are part of their very own family which is the family of their bio parents who reproduced, who they are the offspring of. That is very respectful
“This distinctive webinar, presented by subject matter experts, explores why parents using donated egg/sperm/embryo should tell their children about how they came to be a part of the family. ”
I think that is a pretty good way to put it; how exactly did they wind up separated from their maternal or paternal family or – yikes – both!? How did they come to join this other family? What happened to their own family? What methods and tools were used to extract/exclude them from their own biological families in order to place them in or join them into the families that currently have custody of them?
It’s super important to tell people the truth about who they are and are not related to. Telling them who the are not related to (ie the family that’s raising them) is the first half of telling, the second half will be telling them who they are related to.
I have not reunited any families separated by parents who gave up an embryo yet. Honestly I’m kind of fearful that I might search backwards find the people who ‘donated their embryos’ and find out that they were not ‘their embryos’ after all but rather some other couple who were just working for a clinic offering their reproductive services and parental absence under contract. I’m afraid that I’ll tell someone I found their parents and then they’ll be devastated to learn that those people were not really their parents after all but just people that paid their parents to make them and give them and their siblings up. The consolation will be finding a full sibling of course. The realization that they were really manufactured and given away more than once first by their parents and then by the people who and paid to have them created and abandoned because they were “left over” or were a grade B embryo. I’m hoping that websites like FTDNA will get advanced enough to circumvent a donating party if they are not really the person’s parents. I don’t think the technology is there yet.
Thanks for posting this. I think it is the first article I have read that really addressed my deepest concerns about using donor gamets–namely how those children would feel about their conception as they grew up. It is nice to know that there is a way to present the use of donor gamets to children that leaves them still seeing themselves and their lives as normal, and that most of it has to do with open and honest disclosure.
Wow! What an excellent essay. Children born through donor conception are interested in knowing about their roots! Next week the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center is presenting a webinar titled:
Telling Donor Conceived Kids: Family Origins
This distinctive webinar, presented by subject matter experts, explores why parents using donated egg/sperm/embryo should tell their children about how they came to be a part of the family. We will also discuss methods/tools parents can use to educate their children about their unique method for joining the family.
I always enjoy reading your blogs Dawn!