By admin on October 21, 2021

We can all educate ourselves about the importance of terminology when dealing with sensitive family groups and communities, including in the world where sperm and eggs are sold and bought.  But it's tricky.

For starters....the person who sold their sperm or eggs never actually “donated” anything. A donor-conceived child didn't have anything “donated” to them, so really, they do not have a donor.

Terminology can be a real hot button as it indicates the way that we define our relationships.  

It's an important factor in communication as it gives context to the content of our conversations. That's why we always recommend using accurate terminology for donor families. Usually, we call the person who sold their sperm or eggs the donor.  This person is actually the biological mother, biological father, or biological parent, as they contributed around 50% of the DNA to create the child. The word parent can be used as both a noun and a verb, and while donors are the biological parents (noun) of a donor-conceived child, they are not parents (verb), as they do not actually raise or actively parent the child.

Many parents view the gamete sellers as merely contributing a "piece of genetic material" or "a donated cell", but to the donor-conceived person, it's oftentimes so much more than that. It's one-half of their identity: their ancestry, their family medical history, and their very close genetic relatives.  Donor/biological parent is a good way to clarify which type of biological parent you're referencing, not the one who raised you, but the one who gave you half of their DNA via the sperm or egg donation process. They are the people that sold their gametes to a facility, who in turn sold them to the parents.

Here is how 1,683 surveyed sperm donor-conceived people refer to/describe the "donor".  42.58% of the DCP who had LGBTQ parents included the words father or dad while 66.83% of DCP with heterosexual parents used those words to describe the person from whom they received 50% of their DNA.

                                 Donor-conceived people with LGBTQ parents:                                                                                       Donor-conceived people with heterosexual parents:

Only 22% of 1700 surveyed sperm donor recipients (the mothers) used the words father or dad when describing the person who contributed 50% of their child's DNA.

Other terminology hot spots are the words we use for donor-conceived people: like offspring, or donor babies for very young children.
Others created with the same donor are called half-siblings, donor siblings, siblings, or even diblings (although that term is not favored by many adult donor-conceived people).
For the person that sold their gametes, they might have children that they are raising, but also children created from their gametes who might be their donor children or offspring.

Some donor-conceived people feel very strongly about not using some of these terms, while others are fine with it. It all comes down to how you personally define family.
I find that no matter which term you use, you're probably offending someone.  

I guess we're all still working it out.

By admin on October 21, 2021

Cortney at the Idaho Center for Reproductive Medicine has helped to facilitate the posting of 155 offspring, 111 half-sibling connections, and 181 egg donor-offspring connections from her clinic on the Donor Sibling Registry. These are donors and parents that are connecting right from pregnancy/birth. This is a win-win-win-win for the donors, parents, donor-conceived kids, and the clinic.

I recently explained to her the resistance I heard from egg clinics and sperm banks at the ASRM meeting this week when introducing the idea of connecting parents and donors right from pregnancy or birth, in spite of the fact that we have been successfully doing this with dozens of egg clinics and agencies for many years.

The insistence by so many in the reproductive medicine industry, including many egg clinics/agencies and all the sperm banks that this type of early contact between donors and parents just can’t work only indicates their resistance to acknowledging that most parents and donors would be on board with openness if properly counseled and educated about it.

Cortney very candidly explains her thinking and experience with facilitating these connections:

I’m really proud of how many we’ve facilitated with regard to contact in such a short amount of time – 181 in contact within 4 years is pretty remarkable considering we’d been 100% anonymous before.

I really don’t understand why contact is THE WORST THING THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN IN THE HISTORY OF EVER. I could literally think of a hundred things that would be worse.
It’s like a freight train – it’s coming, either way, so you either get on and ride, or you get run over. I’d rather know a knock is coming (and I’d be curious about it as a donor, and I’d want to knock as a parent) than be blindsided by it.

Our donors really were the driving force on this – it had always been explained to me that they were ADAMANTLY AGAINST IT…. So I started asking if they wanted to know – and it was they who told me TELL ME EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING! Photos and meetings and friendships … seriously – why is this the worst thing that could happen!?

I do think that people are overcomplicating it – they trump it up into something in their heads that’s uncomfortable.  In the beginning it can be as you learn each other, but I try to stick close to my donors and parents as they navigate it – they’re comfortable with me, so I try to make sure I’m doing what I can to make them comfortable together (if they want me there in the beginning).  My LITERAL WORDS to my donors and intended parents are this: “Typically most intended parents first fear is that the donor will want to take the child from them if they have contact."  I explain to them that your biggest fear as a donor of the intended parents or children is that they’ll either MAKE you take that child, or that they’ll want to move in next door and sing kumbaya and act like you’re this big happy family…..  and then I say this, "you can see that both of these fears are because this is unknown and it’s a relationship you’ve never navigated.  They don’t want you to take that child any more than you want to take that child, and they no more want to move in next door than you want to move in next door to them."
Once that shroud is ripped into shreds on the fear of, “What is it they want from me?” it becomes something entirely different.  It takes that complication away – the expectation they put in their own head, I guess.
I’ve had at least 1 donor be found by 2 families through Ancestry testing – she was from the era when anonymity was promised (the children are both about 16 – long before I was a coordinator here).  She sat with me and cried because she was scared and overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do – here was her family (who knew she donated) with open arms saying let’s welcome these guys in as family, and here she was saying I don’t know how I feel about this, and this is mine, not theirs.
Fast forward a few months and it's as though they were always in each other's lives.  They spend Halloween together (this family has a very time-honored tradition of a Halloween party that to be invited to is A VERY BIG DEAL), SING TOGETHER (donor and offspring), talk, etc.
I just wish I could show so many who worry what that fast forward looks like.