Evolution of a Donor Parent’s Thought Process

By admin on August 19, 2013
I posted these (rambling) thoughts on the DSR’s Yahoo group this morning. A friend asked if I could make the posting more public….so here it is.

I guess that I am in a unique situation, being the moderator of this group for 13 years, speaking with many donor-conceived people, donors and parents, and conducting research and publishing many papers on these concepts and the experiences that we all have had.  I too, would not have my amazing child without donor insemination. Actually,
because it was 23 years ago, I would not have my child without anonymous sperm donation, as that’s all that was available back then. For many years, as I began to see donor offspring struggle, I thought that if I spoke out against anonymous donor insemination or the reproductive medicine/sperm donation system that is behind it, in any way, it would somehow negate my child.

Now though, while I continue to be thankful for such a system, as again, I  wouldn’t have my child without it, I am also willing to acknowledge that this very system has indeed been harmful to many people. It is broken, it is antiquated, and it needs to move forward in a much more positive, healthy,  responsible, and ethical manner. Can I go one step further and say that donor insemination should be banned altogether? No, I just can’t because, again, without it, I and so many others wouldn’t have our wonderful children.

But, I believe that we can, and must look at the issues, for example:  compensation, anonymity, proper counseling and education of parents and donors, disclosure, demanding accurate record-keeping, updating and sharing of medical information between families, tracking limiting the number of births for any one donor, follow up health studies on egg donors, comprehensive medical and genetic testing, and think about how to tackle them and make this system better.

For me, the first step in looking at what is broken, and what should be fixed,  was to look at those people that the issues most profoundly affect. First and foremost in my mind, are the donor-conceived people. So while us parents might be hesitant to criticize a system that helped us have our children, we have the opportunity to look at not only the families who came before us, but more specifically, the older donor-conceived people. The following posts are from the past few weeks on the DSR. You can see the range of curiosity and emotions:

“My parents had me when they were 46 years old, and had to use donor eggs and donor sperm. I want to try and find out who my biological parents are and where my genes are from.”

“Basically, I just want to know, who I look like, why I am the way I am, because sure I look like my mom somewhat, but there’s missing pieces that I want to be filled so I can feel at peace.”

“I have lived 19 years with questions that I was never willing to ask. 19 years of battling for an identity and feeling as I there was something missing. I had forgotten my desires and ignored the slight emptiness that lived inside of me, but that changed a few months ago. A leader in my *** group told her story on how she found her birth parents, and while it was not the same situation as my own, I once again felt the urge, stronger than ever, to fill in the hole inside of me and get some answers.”

“I have, my whole life, had the completely irrational belief that I have siblings. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out that I was a donor offspring and realized that this might actually be possible. It wasn’t until after I nearly died as a result of a medical condition that I realized that not having half of my medical history was a serious problem. I’d like to know more if I can. I’d like to know if I have sisters and brothers. I’m hoping to find anything I can. ”

It wasn’t until my son Ryan said publicly that he thought anonymous donations should be banned, that I felt the full freedom to feel and express those sentiments too. While he was always one of those children that wanted to know his donor and half-siblings (this is why we created the DSR!), he did not anguish over it. But over the years we both saw how many others did, and how so many struggled, just as in adoption, by being cut off from one half of their ancestry, medical backgrounds, and genetic family. I do appreciate the differing thoughts and ideas here on the DSR. I know that some of you will continue to defend donor conception as it is, and some of you will never stop speaking out against it. I also appreciate that most of the time we do have compassion for each other's point of view. I encourage everyone to not be afraid to always keep an open mind, and be willing to reconsider their own long-held opinions with every bit of new information that comes their way. If you had the same experience and background as the person you disagree with, you would probably feel the same as they do. These are not black and white issues, we are dealing with a great deal of grey matter, and having to maneuver through uncharted territory. (My most sincere thanks to all of you who have helped me expand my grey matter over the years!)

I have had this quote taped over my computer for many years:
 “The measure of a man’s intelligence is the number of conflicting ideas he can
 hold in his mind at the same time”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald