Sperm or Egg Donation = Half Adoption??

Dawn Davenport

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Is sperm donation or egg donation like adoption

Is it demeaning to say that sperm donation or egg donation is like half adoption?

We did a Creating a Family show a while ago on how to know when you are ready to move to donor eggs or sperm.  One of the email questions we received called using donor eggs “half adoption”.  I haven’t gone back and re-listened to the show, but if memory serves (and it is doing so less and less these days) I said something along the lines that there were similarities since in both donor egg and adoption the woman would be parenting a genetically unrelated child.  The psychologist guest was more diplomatic (of course) saying something like some people felt that way and others did not.

After the show I received a number of emails ranging from slightly miffed to irate from women who had either conceived children through donor eggs or were considering it objecting to equating donor eggs with adoption.  It has come up on other shows and Marna Gatlin, founder of the great group Parents Via Egg Donation, told me that a heated dispute had erupted on their website message board over this same topic.

I don’t particularly like the term “half adoption”, and I don’t use it, but I don’t think it’s completely inaccurate, and I worry about the vehemence of the opposition. 

“It’s Demeaning”?!?

One email said that equating donor egg and adoption demeaned her family and her children.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Like adoption, a child conceived through donor gametes is not genetically related to one or both parents.  But, genetics doesn’t define family.

Differences and Similarities

Significant differences exist between conception through donor egg and adoption.  The woman or man that donates the egg or sperm receives compensation and is only giving up “a part”, not a whole child.  Through epigenetics, the woman who carries the fetus imparts her own influence.  The parents have more control over their child’s environment from the moment of transfer.  The mother gives birth and can nurse her child.  But even with all these differences, the fact remains that, like adoption, the child is not genetically related to the mother.

We did a Creating a Family show a couple of years ago on the lessons from adoption that can be passed on to the third party reproduction community.  We talked about many “lessons”, but the one that stands out for me is the need for children to know their conception and birth story.

Lessons Learned from Adoption

Back in the mid 1900’s many parents did not tell their children they were adopted.  The majority of parents who conceived through egg donation today do not tell their children.  One embryo donation center told me recently that well over 50% of the parents whose children were born through embryo donation do not tell their children.  Research on the children adopted in the “don’t tell” era of adoption reveals the heavy price of betrayal and confusion they paid for their parents’ silence.

I am a fairly gray person—meaning that I usually see both sides, and as a result, don’t often take an unequivocal position on much.  This “grayness” is an asset in giving unbiased support and information to people considering all their family creation options.  But this is one issue that seems totally black and white to me.  If we have learned nothing else from adoption, we have learned that family secrets are destructive, and that children don’t define mom and dad by biology.

I firmly believe most kids conceived from donor egg and sperm will eventually find out–through family members who know or suspect, from genetic medical testing, or from their parents later in life.  It doesn’t matter how, but at some point they will likely know the truth about their conception.   I am equally convinced that in 10 to 20 years we’ll see a spate of research showing that donor conceived children who found out later in life will feel confused and betrayed.  I feel like someone who sees a train barreling down the track toward a school bus parked at the crossing.  I’m screaming my warning, but the bus doesn’t move.

Not Telling = Shame

Keeping the conception story a secret reflects that the parents believe that using donor egg or sperm is a lesser way of forming a family, rather than just a different way.  It implies shame.  No child deserves to have his parents ashamed of how he came to be.  No child deserves to be lied to.

Not Telling = Lying

Although you may try to convince yourself now that failure to tell is not a lie, it soon will become a lie.  A thousand times throughout your child’s childhood, something will come up and you will have to smudge the truth.  Maybe it’s your child’s questions about her greenish/blue eyes or athletic prowess; maybe it will be a teacher’s question about a possible learning disability; maybe it’s your child’s fear over your mother and aunt’s breast cancer; maybe it’s every time you fill our a pediatric medical form and include your family’s medical history.  Over and over again you will be presented with an opportunity to tell the truth, and failure to do so could be interpreted by your child as a lie.

How to Tell

Parents who are avoiding this conversation can learn the how-to’s from adoptive parents.  Yes, the initial conversation is awkward.  You will stumble over the words and struggle to find the right tone.  (Nonchalant?  No, that’s not right.  Heavy? No, no.  How about matter of fact?  Maybe with a little more delight thrown in?)

If you start early enough, you’ll be having this conversation with an infant or toddler who is more interested in chewing on the book or your finger, so the only one embarrassed will be you.  By the time the child starts to comprehend, you’ll be an old hands at both the words and the tone.  Gradually and naturally more information is shared through the years in a series of small conversations.

There are few black and whites in modern fertility treatment.  The lines will blur even more in the future as scientists develop more ways to help people conceive.  This is the future and it is good.  But as we march into the future, for goodness sakes,  let’s take with us the lessons from the past.  Never is this cliché more apt: If we fail to learn from the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.   The ones who will pay the price are the kids.

P.S.  #1: We have a list of suggested books for help tell children their conception story.

P.S.  #2: If you are a parent via egg donation, the PVED site is a must visit.

P.S.  #3: For an interesting review of some of the lessons from adoption that might apply to third party reproduction, read “Old Lessons for a New World: Applying Adoption Research and Experience to Assisted Reproductive Technology”  by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

Image credit: Tom Fassbender
First published in 2009, updated in 2015.

03/06/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 69 Comments



69 Responses to Sperm or Egg Donation = Half Adoption??

  1. Jessica O'Dwyer says:

    As an adoptive parent I agree 100% with your statement, Dawn: “…in 10 to 20 years we’ll see a spate of research showing that donor conceived children who found out later in life will feel confused and betrayed. I feel like someone who sees a train barreling down the track toward a school bus parked at the crossing.”
    I feel the same. Is anyone listening? ~ Thank you.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Jessica, I think we are making progress. We have a ways to go, but at least now most people who are using donor gamete or embryos at least think about the issue of disclosure.

  2. Gail Sexton Anderson says:

    Hi Dawn,

    This was a great post. I always encourage my clients to be open with their children from a very early stage, in fact starting with pregnancy, so that they become comfortable with sharing their child’s conception story. Prior to becoming pregnant the story belongs to the parents but once they become pregnant it their child’s story. Their child is a product of his/her parents love relationship. This child would not have come about if it had not been for the two of them. He or she is a unique outcome of love.

    If their conception story, as you have pointed out, is always part of their lives it never has to come as a shock it is just part of the fabric of their lives.

    Thanks again Dawn for all that you do!

    Best,

    Gail

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Thanks Gail.

    • Anelle says:

      Dear Gail, a child created through fertility treatment with donor egg or sperm may indeed be a product of his/her parents’ love relationship, but please keep in mind a child may also be a product of ONE PARENT’S love. Please do not exclude single parents undergoing fertility treatment and longing for a child. I plan to have a child via egg donor and sperm donor — and of course will tell my child how s/he came to be in this world, as you say for it to be a natural part of the fabric of their lives.

      • Jamaine@PlacidWay says:

        @Aelle – i agree on you, my sister who happen to be a lesbian also went on egg donation and sperm donation process. Now she already have her 2 year old baby boy. The thing is she is open and willing to explain to the child if the time comes that he will be asking things like who is his father. There are a lot of single parents who went the same procedure just to have a child. And it is not a basis for a family to have a father or mother it’s about LOVE – single or couple.

  3. Dawn says:

    In my opinion that is exactly how the conversation should go. For the most part kids don’t talk about their conception much, so the beans will probably not be spilled when she is young. When she is older she might chose to share that she indeed did not get her blond hair from you, but many kids simply don’t think it matters enough to share outside the family. If it does become a problem, there are some books out there for adopted kids that talks about the difference between privacy and secrecy that might work. By the way, there are some pretty good books to read to your daughter to help normalize conception through donor egg. We list the best ones I’ve found at our Suggested books Page under Infertility Resources.

  4. Dawn says:

    Tory, I’m sorry you are stuck in this uncomfortable place of grief and indecision. Sometime indecision is beneficial because it buys you time to grieve. You can find out all you want to know, and probably more, about our consulting service on the consulting page of http://www.CreatingaFamily.org.

  5. Dawn says:

    Lynn, the point is not what you call it. I don’t like, nor do I use, the term half-adoption. The point is that your child has the right to know that she was conceived through donor egg. By the way, I know you didn’t mean any offense and I’m not trying to be picky, but all moms, whether by birth or adoption, are their child’s mother in the greatest sense of the word. As I said in the post, genetics doesn’t define family.

  6. Pro egg donation says:

    Egg donation is a complicated issue. If you are not affected there is usually a very different attitude than if you cannot really get any children. One should always think about the people who are unfortunately unable to have child.

  7. Tess says:

    Egg donation is VERY different from adoption.

    With egg donation, the child’s mother is the woman who gave birth to him. Not so with an adopted child. Also, with egg donation, the child is still genetically related to his father and siblings. However, many adoptees live in homes where they are genetically related to no one in their family.

    Lots of adoptees (especially those with an axe to grind) want to speak out about donor-conceived children, but they really need to stay out of the discussion. It is not their experience and not their arena to talk in. They fail to realize how different donor conception is from adoption.

    • Ettina says:

      Many adoptive parents request to be informed if any siblings of their child are available for adoption, so I’ve heard of a number of adoptees who are related to their siblings.
      Anyway, I think it’s ludicrous to think we can’t learn from the commonalities between adoptees and children conceived from donor gametes, just because it’s not EXACTLY the same. Things that adoptees and donor-conceived children share:
      Having some genetic traits they don’t share with either parent – which may affect appearance, personality or health risks
      If parents keep it a secret, being misled about their genetic background
      Having people out there somewhere who are complete strangers but genetically closely related

      Those points have important implications for a child, and must be acknowledged and handled somehow. Why not learn from others who have dealt with those issues before?

  8. Sue T. says:

    I think one point that maybe gets lots sometimes is that adoption doesn’t JUST mean you don’t share genetics with both parents. Yes, adoptees and children of third party reproduction share that one aspect – but that alone doesn’t make it “like” adoption or “half” adoption. And while I’m pot stirring – it is also why I feel that embryo donation is not adoption. They are all beautiful and valid ways to build a family – one not better than another; but they are not the same.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just fed up: Of course being honest with YOUR CHILD doesn’t mean it has to be announced to everyone you meet, just as an adoptee doesn’t have to start every conversation stating they’re an adoptee. Of course there’s a difference between privacy and shame. But when it’s the child herself being “protected” from information about her own life, I think that does send the message that it’s shameful.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The prejudice against adoption in many of these comments is sickening to me. And fear and shame are overruling logic and ethics. Saying it’s too complicated to explain egg donation is ridiculous. What, like it’s not complicated to explain adoption to my daughter? Not only does it require explaining biology/conception but also complex social issues. It’s our job as parents. Period. Dawn, great posts.

  11. Christa says:

    I read the post and the responses. All were interesting, some were passionate, and all seemed to be parents… I am an adoptee. While I realize this is not directly related to the topic at hand, for those commenters that said genetics weren’t important, I have to tell you you are wrong. Every new doctor I meet asks me the same set of questions about family history. This information would be very useful for potential risks. Genetic history is also critical for filling in the picture of a complete human being. Regardless of what you think about “family”, our genetics make up a big piece of who we are culturally. I have always known I was adopted, but as the adoption was closed have ZERO access to my own history. This amounts to a civil rights violation that I have no control over. For all of the parents of kids with donor parents, please tell them. It won’t make you less of parents, but it will help complete your child. Don’t make your child a victim like so many adoptees already are. You have the information – just share it. With love and understanding BEFORE they are teenagers.

  12. Julia T. says:

    This is a really good one. Thanks for resharing

  13. marilynn says:

    Wow. If a person wants to raise all their own children themselves, they don’t donate their eggs or their sperm or their embryos. When you tell a person that they are the offspring of a donor of course it means that their biological parent gave them up. There is even a contract signed by the donor that says exactly that about their offspring born under contract. If you read the contracts they give up their children not their eggs. Their eggs are a means of obtaining the children that they are promising not to raise.

    • EggDonor_Random# (no humanity) says:

      We don’t know any better, because the clinics lie, seduce us and spit us out like an abusive lover.

  14. Shayne says:

    I donated my eggs about 3 years ago to a friend and her husband who could not have children. I know the children that we made, I receive photos of them, and we’re in constant communication fairly often. I believe that if someone receives eggs to make a baby, and they don’t tell that child before let’s say 12 that they are not related to their “mom” then the parents will be in a world of hurt as the child gets older and into young adulthood. Withholding that information is selfish on the parents part. Not telling a child where they come from is probably the worst thing a parent could do. I also do agree that egg donation is half adoption. Genetically the children we made are not connected to their mother, and their mother paid money to buy someone elses DNA to make a child just like parents buy a child that is not genetically connected to them when they adopt.

    • Dawn says:

      Shayne, thanks for sharing from your perspective as an egg donor. I appreciate seeing things from your side, but I want to point out that although adoption services cost money, adoptive parents are “buying a child.” We also prefer the concept that an egg donor is being compensated for her time and hassle and health risks, not that she is selling her eggs.

      • Naomi says:

        Dawn,

        Embryo donors are not compensated anything for their donation. Considering typically donated embryos are originally the product of a husband and the full biological siblings of the original husband and wife, I very much feel that embryo donation is adoption moreso than egg donation or sperm donation. Especially since resulting children are genetically related to neither one of the recipient parents. I am a embryo donor and every single time I look at mine and my husband’s children I think about /see the children that were created from our embryos.

    • EggDonor_Random# (no humanity) says:

      Very well stated, Shayne.

      I am building a relationship with one of my donor offspring and her parents, and it’s been very positive.

  15. Laura says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone desiring a child of their same race.

  16. There is no *reputable* social science research equating disclosure in the adoption context with disclosure in the egg donation context. None.

    Trying to equate the two relies on the (baseless) assumption that genetics makes you a parent. While kids who are adopted may have four parents (birth mom, birth dad, mom and dad with some variation in the case of same sex couples and single parents) kids who are donor conceived have only two parents. Donors are not parents legally, morally or ethically, unlike birth parents. Donor have no parental rights, responsibilities or emotions. Birth parents have all of those–for at least some period of time–and continue to have emotional ties even once the legal ties are severed. To equate the two is insulting to birth parents who placed for adoption and ignores the biological connection between a mom and her egg donor conceived child.

    As for kids having a right to know how they were conceived….do you know what sexual position your parents used when you were conceived? Does a child have the right to know he was conceived after his dad raped his mom?

    I’m not saying that disclosure isn’t a good idea in donor cases in order to avoid inadvertent discovery by the child, but it doesn’t equate to a legal or moral right to the information.

    Just fed up: I couldn’t agree with you more about the shame v. privacy distinction. I do want to however mention one thing–the reason that recipients meet with social workers is not to evaluate them as in for a home study but rather to educate them about issues that may come up. For example, it’s important for couples to think about their options for disposal of excess embryos at the end of their family building and their options regarding disclosure. Social workers can help them think through these kinds of issues so that both parents can be on the same page. Social workers can also review with them the donor’s mental health evaluation. Thus, these social worker consult are vastly different from adoption homestudies.

    • Dawn says:

      Catherine, thanks as always for your thoughtful comments. While you are right that there is no research (that I’ve been able to find) equating disclosure in adoption and disclosure in gamete donation, there is much research on the destruction caused by family secrets. In my mind there is a big distinction between what sexual position your parent’s favored and what your genetic and medical history is. I don’t think this information need be a big deal to a child, and I don’t think it in any way lessens the maternal connections, but I do think that children will likely find out, and I worry that many will feel betrayed–not by the facts, but by the lies.

    • Ettina says:

      I don’t think sexual position matters, but I do think a child has a right to know they were conceived by rape – especially if they are being raised by the parent who was raped. However, given how emotionally charged that topic is, it must be handled very carefully.
      I was sexually abused before my younger brother was even born, but it still affected him, and we all agreed he deserved to know why his sister sometimes got scared of his maleness. So in bits and pieces, as he matured, we explained what I’d been through. And it wasn’t even connected to him in any way!
      For a child conceived by rape and being raised by the rape victim, they are going to run into triggers. They may look like the rapist, or share some of the rapist’s mannerisms. They may ask questions about their other parent and be confused when those questions trigger a negative reaction. They deserve to know it’s not their fault that their parent is sometimes upset by innocent things they do.

  17. Just fed up says:

    Using a donor egg is not an adoption, at all. There is no need for social workers to get involved. I personally am offended that some clinics require the prospective parents to meet with social workers. They are not adopting!

    Yes, many people in egg donation circles insist that you not only tell your child how they were conceived, but tell everyone you come in contact with. You might as well tattoo “Egg Donor Baby” or “Sperm Donor Baby” on your child’s forehead. The militant “you must tell everyone” attitude of a particular online group for DE moms is why I don’t go there anymore. Its fine for them to state their opinion, but they can’t force others to do as they believe. They even tried to argue that a woman must tell a gynecologist at a routine checkup, that any past pregnancies were from DE. After that ridiculous tidbit, I left for good.

    Also, its false logic to say that because something is kept private, that means its “shameful”. I don’t tell most people about surgeries I’ve had, does that mean I am ashamed of them? No, it simply means it is private and no one else’s business.

    • Donor conceived says:

      I think there are deep insecurities that you need to work on. Don’t let your own insecurities prevent your donor conceived child from knowing his or her origins. Apparently, your own insecurities trump the best interests of the child. No mother should withhold the fact from her child that her child is not genetically to her and keep that as a lifetime secret. Why start a mother child relationship with a lie? What else are you going to lie to your child?

  18. your a family, we are a family. If we can help these children by makng them part of our families then what else matters?

  19. I am so very tired of people BELIEVING that they have some right to comment on how people become parents. I am not at all bothered by teachable moments, like when my daughters little friends or dancemates ask innocently (like, "I wanna know how this can be!") and I explain adoption for that age group and when I can, I talk to the parent to tell them about the exchange if they need to continue the conversation. I think that people BELIEVE that they have the RIGHT to ask intrusive questions about my child, such as "Was she drug exposed?" I really want to ask them if either they were drug exposed or was their child drug exposed , but know that their prejudice is about adoption and about race. My daughter was a private domestic adoption and I never wanted a white child. I think that that is why it was fast. I have had friends who had a baby in their arms 14-60 days after finishing their home study. I have had friends who waited for months to a year or so, but it had to do with race.

  20. Well said Ann-Maire and Jackie. As I said, parenting is not defined by genetics!!! Wow, Ann-Marie, that was a fast adoption. I am always cautioning people to not expect such quickness.

  21. I am my daughters Mommy. We share no genes, but we share our hearts. It really is that simple. We would not be closer if I birthed her. She would not be more mine if I had birthed her. Adoption is not second best. Using donor sperm is not second best. Using donor eggs is not second best. Using anything else to assist in becoming pregnant (I am not up on all of the processes!). I make the analogy that from the start of home study to placement, it took six months. If a homestudy was the same a conception, and the rest of the work was pregnancy, then my daughter was a preemie. But that does not make donor sperm and donor egg the same as adoption any more than me saying I was pregnant. And I am no less Mommy.

  22. AMEN Anne Marie…. We have a little gitl with us who has been here since she was six months old. She yoo has a birthmom and a birthdad(dad is in Jail) . But neither have them have been a parent to her. shes 3 1/2 now.

  23. Ok, adoption is NOT where a birth parents gives away a child. That is demeaning to the child and the entire process. Sperm donors donate sperm which may or may not assist in the conception and production of a child. Egg donors donate eggs, etc. Blood donors donate blood, bone marrow donors donate bone marrow, kidney donors donate kidneys. When are we ever going to come to terms with parenting having nothing to do with genetics? I am the mom of my daughter. My daughter does have a birth mother and she has a birth father. Neither of them are a parent to her. There is no shame in any of the parties of adoption or medically assisted conception. The only shame is that some folks are trying to legitimize different routes to parenthood as being superior to another.

  24. I completely agree with what you said. It makes it seem shameful to form a family through adoption or other non-genetic means to get so upset with the terminology. no matter what, the child is yours and you should be proud of how they came to your family, no matter how that was.I also completely agree that children deserve the truth very early on. I worry a lot about people who don't plan on telling their children that they may find out later in life through some medical crisis or something.

  25. Marilynn Huff says:

    The woman who provided the egg successfully reproduced herself even though she did not carry or deliver her own baby. Its not possible to reproduce yourself by having another woman’s fertilized egg implanted in your womb. You will deliver a baby that appears to be yours but is in fact a reproduction of the woman the egg came from. The baby is of her flesh and blood not yours. You will have carried and delivered and nursed is not your own it is her own. There will be no evidence of your biology in the baby’s DNA and on paper she will appear to be the baby’s mother no differently than had she delivered the baby herself. That is because she is the baby’s mother. That is the truth. It does not make her a good mother, nor does it mean that she did not intend for you to raise the child without her involvement. Her motherhood can be ignored but it cant be erased. It’s a mistake to pretend that you have a biological connection to the baby. The fact that you and the baby are not related won’t have any impact on how much you love each other.

    Does dna make a family? Of course it does. Would you ever have sex with your sibling or any blood relative willingly? While it would be gross for siblings to hook up in an adopted family, everyone knows that the only reason its gross is because they were raised in the same house as brother and sister. Had one of them been adopted by another family it would be completely ok for them to date. There are people who we are naturally suppose to exclude from the pool of potential mates. In order to do that we need to know what our immediate relatives look like. If you do not know what they look like there is a very good chance that you’d gravitate towards family members that you “have so much in common with”

    There’s a lot more than siblings to consider, there are first cousins, aunts, uncles, the anonymous mother and grandparents to avoid in the sexual sense. I personally new a woman that had to tell her adopted son he was adopted when she learned he was living with and engaged to his own aunt. His grandmother was pregnant at the same time his mother was pregnant and gave him up for adoption. The result was that he had an aunt born the same year as him, in the same city. They’d gone to the same school. The adoptive mother recognized the last name and realized how much the girl looked like her adopted son’s real mother.

    That kid was angry betrayed and really grossed out at the incestuous relationship with his aunt. So now you need to think about how many siblings the babies your having are likely to have, how many cousins etc all living within 25 miles of your own homes. Don’t stop there consider the grandchildren that you will someday have and think of how many first cousins they will have living near them. It’s a real good thing that kid did not have any children with his aunt. The only reason the adoptive mother was able to stop the relationship was because she had met her son’s real mother before she adopted him. I’m just saying think about what you’ll be getting your family into and if you’ve already done it you really need to tell them sooner than later.

  26. Marilynn Huff says:

    I forgot to mention – flip the same situation around – a woman who wants to be a mother can’t carry her child and pays a surogate to carry and deliver the baby.

    Is the surogate the mother or is she? She’s likely to feel that the surogate delivered her child for her. To her DNA is everything. From a scientific standpoint she’s right but would those of you who are raising a child from another woman’s egg feel differently? Do you view the surogate as the real mother? Is motherhood solely based on intent? Or who paid who?

  27. A MOM! says:

    This is pure B_ll Sh_t. There is nothing about donor egg that is like adoption. These are our kids and you are just going to make them all screwed up if you try to treat them like adopted kids. Most of us went with donor egg over adoption for a reason!

  28. Whytellitsdumb says:

    I don’t think the child has a right to know they were conceived through egg donation. And it has nothing to do with shame, but the truth. If I were to do this, I would say that I had IVF because my tubes were blocked or something.

    But the fact is more than genetics makes a mom. It takes genetics and gestation. Without both sides it is just an adoption. So the truth is the gestation mom is as much the mother as the genetic donor from a technical standpoint and more so from the social standpoint.

    I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Two complete strangers could have a similar or even near-exact medical history. My fiance and I both have alcoholism and cancer as part of our family tree and we share the same blood type.
    Genetics is way too overemphasized. Every human being has one common ancestor.

    If I had annonynous DE I wouldn’t tell my child. I don’t see the point. You will already know their medical history and if you chose right, they will be more similar to you than not anyway and their ways and mannerisms will come from being raised by you. Bringing the donor DE into the picture ignores all you went through to get your child. Why bother with that?

  29. Layla says:

    Here’s the nuts-and-bolts conversation I plan to have — indeed, have begun having — with my 15-month-old daughter, conceived via IVF with an egg donor, and definitely more interested in chewing on her toes than in knowing her origins:

    “All babies come from an egg and a sperm.

    “Eggs come from ladies, and sperm comes from men.

    “Sometimes, Daddy’s sperm doesn’t work well, so a doctor takes sperm from another man and puts it with Mommy’s egg.

    “Sometimes, Mommy’s eggs don’t work well, so a doctor takes eggs from another lady and puts it with Daddy’s sperm.

    “That’s what happened with you. My eggs didn’t work well, so we got a doctor to put another lady’s egg with Daddy’s sperm. You were created, and the doctor put you in my belly where you grew for nine months. We were so happy when you were born!”

    That’s basically it, at this point. As she gets older and wants to know more, I’ll start using terms like “genetic parent” or “egg donor”, and will offer to share information on the donor if she asks.

    I only have one concern, and it’s minor: Although everyone in our family knows how she was conceived, very few of our friends do. It’s entirely possible my daughter might spill the beans down the road, either to one of our friends or our friends’ children. That will be a little awkward, yeah. But it won’t kill me, and it’s a risk I’m willing to take in the name of disclosure.

  30. Pete and Zoe's Mom says:

    You’re opened up a can or worms with this post. I hope you’ll stay away from such controversy in the future. I really do like your shows and blog, but you totally missed the mark with this one. Stick with what you know.

  31. Andi says:

    Dawn, I’m a fan. I can’t say I agree with you on this, but I always appreciate your insight and perspective.

  32. Paula says:

    I think this blog makes good sense. I think the reason you’ve gotten skewered is because people are afraid. I know we were afraid when we talked to our kids about adoption. I worried that they would feel like they were less mine. Now that they are 6 and 8, this seems like such a silly fear. By the way, I just finished listening to your show on creating attachment using lifebooks for your kids. It was terrific!!! I’m so glad it didn’t make me feel like I had screwed up by waiting.

  33. Chairman says:

    Dawn said:
    Lynn, the point is not what you call it. I don’t like, nor do I use, the term half-adoption. The point is that your child has the right to know that she was conceived through donor egg. By the way, I know you didn’t mean any offense and I’m not trying to be picky, but all moms, whether by birth or adoption, are their child’s mother in the greatest sense of the word. As I said in the post, genetics doesn’t define family.
    ++ ++ ++ ++ ++
    Actually Dawn, you are saying that genetics does define family. That’s why you say that the child needs to know his/her genetic connections.
    You also say that “all moms, whether by birth or adoption, are their child’s mother in the greatest sense of the word.” While that may be a good sound byte, it is not a law of nature and you can’t guarantee your child is going to think way that once you let the cat out of the bag. That’s why some people are no-tell.

  34. Ray H says:

    We were faced with the decision of sperm or egg donation in the beginning of our process because I was diagnosed as being sterile (zero count) and my wife had a blocked tube and they weren’t even sure if they could get her ovulating.

    But, just like IVF we drew the line at donation. For us, we didn’t like a human being determining which sperm and/or egg to use. As our doctor told us (he’s one of the leading in the state) it’s often the best of what they got. Mankind is a highly tuned “machine” and the idea of a human being trying to reproduce (no pun intended) what occurs naturally, just didn’t sit well with us. We have found that stating this really has gotten people mad at us who have done either IVF or donation. So, we went the adoption route. But as odd as it was we got pregnant. My reproductive urologist later ran a test and found out that I went from zero to 175mil/ml which said he’s never seen before. My wife calls it a miracle (I’m agnostic she’s of faith which makes an interesting combo)

    Through this process, I’ve noticed that Americans have a rather bizarre view of adoption that gets even weirder when you start talking about donation, surrogacy, etc.

    This is also a country where legal pundits where saying that Debbie Rowe wouldn’t have a hard time finding a Judge that would overturn the TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) that she signed when she handed the kids over to MJ. The sheer fact that it wouldn’t be hard to find a legal entity to ignore that document tells you that in the eyes of the courts DNA matters a lot more than who raises kids.

    Heck, my brother’s son isn’t legally his. His wife had a boy with her previous boyfriend who has had nothing to do with the kid since conception. But he won’t sign the paperwork that would give my brother any kind of parental rights. They were told by a family court Judge that if anything happened to his wife, his son would HAVE to go live with the sperm donor (what his wife refers to the guy). A man he’s never known.

    But back when we were being told about egg donation and sperm donation we were told that we’d have to adopt the genetic material being donated because legally the child would be that donor’s. Adoption is a legal term and I’ve come to realize that it also has an emotional meaning.

    In my mind it’s not a half-adoption but just an adoption by the part of the mother. It’s probably easier to wrap one’s mind around the opposite. Where the sperm was donated. Because in that case, it would be no different than if the wife had a child before they had met (from a legal standpoint). But, in the case of egg donation it’s nothing like when a husband had a child before they couple met because in this case the wife is carrying this baby.

    It is complex, but I personally think it’s complex on a legal standpoint. But, I’ve often been accused of being devoid of empathy (my doctor says it’s my Asperger’s).

    As far as the little lies go, it’s not just with egg/sperm donation. I know of at least 2 couples who picked what country to adopt from so that they subsequent child would have the greatest chance of looking like them so they’d never have to tell the child they were adopted

  35. Tory G. says:

    You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about but we are still confused. You said once on show that there is a greiving process when your dream of your biological child has died. I think that is where we are. We are sitting on the fence now trying to decide what to do next. Donor egg, adoption, embryo adoption? My friend used you last spring to help make this decision and she said you were really helpful. How do I set up an appointment?

  36. WeightWatcher Momma says:

    I found you the first ICLW and continue to come back. Yours is one of the few “educational” blogs I’ve found. Like this post–I hope I don’t have to use donor eggs. My husband would prefer to adopt. I just hope all the crap we’re going through will work so I don’t have to make a decision. If we do do donor eggs, I guess I will tell. Really, I can’t imagine not telling the child. It would seem kind of weird to know something like this and not tell. And why not tell?? Anyway, thanks for providing some meat in you blogs.

  37. Kari says:

    What an interesting discussion. I haven’t spent much time considering either option as we’re not quite there in our journey, I enjoy reading other’s opinions though. Thank you for this post!!

    ICLW

  38. hll says:

    You’ve given me something to think about. I’ve forwarded this to my hubby. We need to do some talking. Our wonderful perfect boy is only 2, so we need to start talking fast. I started reading and immediately went on the defensive. The part that made me stop and then made me squirm a little is the part about a thousand little lies. We switched pediatricians recently and I committed one of those little lies when I filled out my son’s medical history. The weird part is that I didn’t even think about it until I read your blog. My dad recently had a heart attack. Will my son think he has a predispostion to heart trouble? I still see the argument against telling since I think it could be really confusing and maybe better to bring up when he’s old enough to even get the idea of conception, but I do see your argument for early telling. I don’t like to think that I would ever lie to him about anything.

  39. Momtoboys says:

    Parenting is all about putting our kids first. With donor eggs it is hard to know exactly what it means to put our kids first, but you make a great case for telling our kids.

  40. Lynn says:

    I can understand why it would be upsetting to couples who had gone this route to think of it as adoption. With the mother have gone through labor and, in many cases, breastfeeding, I think she has earned the right of feeling that way. She is the child’s mother in the greatest since of the word.

    I do respect your opinion though!

    ~ICLW~

  41. P. Russo says:

    I think that the people who say tell, tell, tell, just don’t understand that it isn’t that easy. You are asking us to tell something that is so complex that even most adults don’t understand it, so how can you expect a child to understand it. And you are also ignoring the fact that their is very real prejudice in the world against kids and families created by egg donation. If the whole world knows then they will look at my child as if they are some kind of freak and they will look at me as if I’m nothing more than a babysitter. You might want to believe it isn’t so, but ask any egg donor parent community and we have horror stories to tell. With adoption you have a nice neat story, but the story with donor egg is very confusing.

    Dawn, I don’t really disagree with what you wrote, but I just think it is much harder than adoption. But, I do appreciate that you don’t shy away from talking about it and I have always really really appreciated your forthright acceptance of it as just another way of forming a family. I think your attitude and shows are going a long way to change the prevailing attitudes about donor eggs. Please keep up this work for all of us and for our kids.

  42. Lisa RM says:

    Coming at it from the other side of the fence, I was an egg donor for a friend, and the idea of “anonymous” ED was never an option for me. The idea of lying to a child about their own origin and medical history- that scares me. And I’m not being dramatic when I say “scare.” Is a gamete donor a parent? Not at all. Is their contribution important? Most definitely.

  43. Rosie Gilman says:

    As usual, you tackled a hard topic and hit the nail on the head. I have found the comments as interesting as the post. **no offense :-)** I know you set a tone of acceptance and being nice and not slamming anyone for their choices, so I hope you will accept this comment because I don’t mean it as a diss. But I think that the parents by egg donor who are not planning on telling their kids are nuts! They are like an ostrich with their heads in the sand or like a little kids who thinks that no one can see them if they have their eyes covered. The kids will eventually know. They are right that it is not that big of a deal, but as you said, by keeping it a secret they make it a big deal. They are and will always be their kid’s parent, so why not tell.

  44. Thank you for a thought provoking post filled with wisdom. I whole heartedly agree with telling children their conception story. They and their parents should be proud of how they came about.

    Happy ICLW!

  45. Allie says:

    I think the comment to this blog more than supports your point. I am a mom through donor egg. I would love not to tell my children, but after listening to several of your shows I came to the decision that it was the only sane and fair thing to do. I would love for you to do a show on how to tell and what resources to use. Have you ever thought of writing a book? hint hint I will tell those who are reading this that are sitting on the fence that the telling is amazingly easy when your kids are little. mine just seem to accept it as part of the story and it is no big deal at all. I used to dread questions in the future, but from reading and talking with others, I no longer think it will be a big deal. I know this topic doesn’t make you popular, but I really thank you for addressing it and not pulling any punches. Information you provided over the years has made a big difference to me. I love how you don’t preach (even in this particular blog 🙂 ) and your compassion shines through. By the way, I love the videos. It’s fun to actually see you in person. You look just like you sound.

  46. WannabeMommy says:

    Interesting… I think there is no right answer. Everyone is going to feel differently about their choice to use DE’s.

  47. FET Accompli says:

    I agree that there are very few black and whites. Lots of shades of gray in the IF world!

  48. Rain says:

    What a wonderful post…and on a topic I had never thought of before. Have a great week. Happy ICLW.

  49. Marna Gatlin says:

    @Lisa – Hi there – I read your reply and I have been reflecting about your post, and the one sentence that jumped out at me and has resonated with me is the one that says:

    “You mention in your notes someone who was offended b/c equating a pregnancy from a donor egg with adoption “demeaned her family – what in the world is she saying about adoptive families with that comment?!?!”

    I don’t think anyone who has had a child via egg donation is intimating at all that there is anything wrong with adoptive families. I can tell you that for many of us who have carried babies via egg donation to tell us we have adopted our children in many ways feels dismissive to us because we know what we went through to cycle, transfer, and carry our children to term.

    The other part of this is there are different processes in both egg donation and adoption that set the other apart. However, there are many things that are similar and alike.

    I personally don’t care for the term half adoption. I also don’t care for the term “Donor egg baby” any more than I care for the term “My adopted son or my adopted daughter” They are our children, without all the labels.

    Make sense?

    @Randi – I am really sorry your sister is living in denial, her fear is really serving as a disservice to her children. I know first hand how scary, and insecure all of this can be. I became a mom via egg donation in 2000, and those fears and insecurities would bubble up to the surface from time to time the first two years. What your sister needs to realize is that her children are entitled and have a right to their origins. If they find out about this as teenagers (and they will, it always comes out because they shared this information with people other than themselves)their children are going to wonder what else they lied to them about. And it becomes a huge huge trust issue. Your sisters infertility like mine is behind us, that’s a given. But the fact remains we used third party reproduction to have our children, and it’s not something to be ashamed about. It is what it is. If we act weird or dysfunctional about it, our kids will as well. If we treat it in the manner in which we should (directly and make it not a big deal), it won’t be a big deal at all. Our organization, and forum are just for women like your sister who need that support and encouragement. You are a great sister to be looking out for your own sister:)

    @Kristin – In egg donation, the egg donor is not a “Mom” at all. She’s an egg donor. Or genetic contributor. The recipient mother who carries the baby is the mom:) We are really clear about that because egg donors don’t sign up for this process to be labeled as, or referred to as Mom’s. In fact, many egg donors when they hear that term will be very vocal and say “Wait a second, I am NOT the mom, YOU are.”

    @Finally a Mom – I smiled when I read your post because like you in the beginning I too wasn’t going to tell my son. I agree, it’s our job to protect our children, but it’s also our job to tell our children the truth. Studies have shown over and over that children are naturally curious about their origins. We also know that it’s wrong to hide something that is a part of them. Regardless of how much we want to sweep it all under the carpet and not recognize the egg donor part we have to. That “small body part” helped create that blue print that you received, and assisted you in growing this marvelous child that you are now the mother of. Without that small body part you wouldn’t have this amazing child now would you? When you speak of undercutting your child’s security you clearly will be doing so by not having an honest dialogue with your child about his or her origins that they have a basic right to. We don’t keep the truth from children we adopt, why should we with children we have via egg donation. We need to be honest, it’s OUR own insecurities that keep up from having truthful conversations with our children about this, nothing else. Somewhere down deep we worry our child might reject us or love us less because they don’t carry our genes, which is absolute poppycock.

    In closing there are similarities to egg donation and adoption, and there are vast differences. You can’t lump both together in one pot. It doesn’t work that way.

    What we can do however, is love our children, be honest with our children, and respect their origins.

  50. Finally a Mom says:

    I was one of the ones who sent you an irate email. I love your shows and videos and I follow your blog every week because you usually give me a lot to think about, but blogs like this make me see red. Donor egg is nothing like adoption. If it was so much alike, we would have adopted. I was pregnant, I nursed for 2 years, I am the mother in every way. I am not putting adoption down, but it is not the same as donor egg and it is really not even a little similar. We will not tell out children the boring story of someone giving us a small body part to help conceive them. It is not relevant to who they are or who their parents are. It is in no way helpful information and as parents it is our job to sort through all the information and decides what is helpful for them to hear and what is not. We are suppose to protect them and not tell them information that will only confuse them and undercut their security. I wish I had never told anyone about it, but I am sure that anyone I told when we were going through it will realize that it is of absolutely no importance now.

  51. Kristin says:

    I would consider donor eggs different than “half-adoption”. With donor eggs, you have the genetic mom (she donated the eggs), the biological mom (her uterus housed the fertilized egg and conditions in her body affected which genes “turned on”), and dad. I believe this is vastly different than “half-adoption”.

    It is a fascinating thing to think about though.

    ~ICLW

  52. Low Fat Lady says:

    That is an interesting question. I had never thought of it since I am not at that point in my process. I would think that it would not be adoption, because the couple is still part of the process.

    ICLW

  53. Maria says:

    After a long painful infertility process, I am now 7 weeks pregnant thanks to a wonderful egg donor. Your articles and podcasts kept me afloat and helped me navigate these very confusing decisions. My husband and I plant to be open and honest with our child about how they came to be. I wanted to thank you, not only for your influence but also for providing us the tools to be able to follow through on the initial decision.

  54. randi says:

    My nephew and niece were conceived with donor egg. My sister and BIL have decided not to tell them because they think it will be too confusing. She says it is not like adoption and the story is much more complicated and too much for a child. They are 5 now. I have emailed her the link to this blog. She doesn’t like reading about this decision or even about infertility or anything. She says infertility is behind her and she has moved on with her life. I hope she reads what you wrote. I think you bring up some very interesting points. I doubt she will change her mind, but at least it will give her something to think about.

  55. Lisa says:

    Thanks for all of your articles and especially for tackling the subjects that are difficult and emotionally charged. I had to laugh out loud at your comment of talking to an infant or toddler about how they were conceived or adopted – that is exactly what I’ve been doing with my son, and it is amazing how much easier the conversation gets – and while he doesn’t understand the words yet, but he is beginning to grasp more and more, so it won’t be long before the vocabulary of adoption becomes a part of his vocabulary.

    You mention in your notes someone who was offended b/c equating a pregnancy from a donor egg with adoption “demeaned her family – what in the world is she saying about adoptive families with that comment?!?!

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