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.)