I received several comments last week from Katy, a married woman in her 30s whose husband is infertile and who is thinking of using DI to conceive. She asked me such pertinent questions regarding DC that I thought it would be a great post to answer her questions with my own opinion. I also want to thank her for being so open-minded to investigate what I can only imagine to be difficult points of view in her decision to conceive this way.
Q1: It does not seem that you are a fan of the DI process for having children. I wonder if you could give me an impression of what you think would have been more appropriate for your mother. Do you believe that she should have not chosen to have a child at that time?
A1: As you’ve guessed, I am opposed to donor conception (at least as the system is currently set up). I full well understand that for most people who resort to using DI/DE or any form of ART it is a last resort as their best option (having a biological child with their partner/spouse/boyfriend or being a relationship to be able to have a child without assistance) is not feasible in some way shape or form. My being opposed to DC does not mean that I don’t comprehend what it must be like to be in this situation. However, I still disagree that it is an ethical and moral way to bring a child into this world.
Let me explain something about my mother here, she taught elementary school (retired last year after 30 years) and in the inner city she saw in what obscene conditions these children who she taught lived in and knew that despite her being single that she even by herself could do a better job than these parents of raising a child and wanted to do so desperately.
Her intentions to have a baby seem genuine, however, it is unfair regardless to bring a child into the world that before he or she is conceived will be denied indefinitely the right to know his or her biological father. If she was so concerned about the welfare of these children in the inner city she would have chose adoption or fostering to truly help these children rather than DI and bring another child into this world. She chose DI because she was selfish and felt that if all these inner city families with dad in jail and mom having 6 kids to different dads and selling drugs to make money – if this trailer trash could have a baby why couldn’t she? She wanted a biological child. That’s the bottom line. She wanted a baby that was ‘hers’ and she wanted to experience pregnancy. I don’t think the thought that a child created this way might not be happy about it ever crossed her mind. I sit here as a 23-year-old who has known all my life and my mother still refuses to acknowledge that there was something denied to me that can never be fixed. It’s only been in the past two months that she has actually shown any sort of support to my searching.
Q2: Do you resent her for doing that?
A2: Hmm…that’s a tough question. I suppose it depends on your definition of resent. I don’t hate my mother by any means. I don’t even hate her for using DI to conceive me. I am angry that once she married (“financial union”) when I was four the subject became taboo and I was left alone in a family that I didn’t belong. I am upset that she can’t open her eyes and realize that there are so many complex issues concerning DC and that my feelings and views deserve to be heard just as much as her wants and needs.
Q3: Do you think that you would feel the same way if you yourself were longing for a child?
A3: Yes, but no. First of all, I love kids and I want to have kids badly when I am older. I’m what people call a ‘kid magnet’ and everywhere I go kids seem to always come up to me. I’ll be at a party with a bunch of families and I’m the one who sits on the floor and within 30 seconds I have 4 or 5 kids crawling on top of me sitting in my lap, wanting me to play or read to them, etc. So yes, I truly can understand that desperate want for a child that many people feel. If I am unable to find a husband or find out he or myself is infertile though, I would never think to use DC to have a child. I would probably chose an open adoption or simply live without children. This is probably a question that would be better suited for an older DC-adult though, as I’m still young and starting a family is not currently on my mind!
Q4: And do you think that other people who you have come into contact with who are also donor conceived feel similarly?
A4: Yes, I am by far not the only one who feels this way. I have links on my blog to other DC-adults who oppose use of donated gametes; there are organizations of DC-adults (such as PCVAI – people conceived via artificial insemination) who for the most part share at least some of the beliefs, especially in regards to disclosing to kids and anonymity. I can honestly say I have no met a single DC-adult who agrees with donor anonymity (and I know probably over 100 either personally or via the internet). There are also advocacy groups such as TangledWebs, which is opposed to all forms of ART. As far as whether or not DC-adults agree with donor conception is variable. There are many that are 100% completely opposed to all forms of DC/ART, while there are some that agree that it’s okay as long as the child knows that they are donor conceived, and then there are some who say it would be okay to use DC if anonymous donors were banned (such as in the UK, Victoria Australia, New South Wales Australia, The Netherlands, and many other European countries).
Q5: Is there a feeling that DI shouldn't be happening? Is this universal among children conceived through DI? Are there people who have considered it in more positive lights or would I be a fool to hope for that?
A5: As I stated above, my views are by far not the only views of DC-adults, however I feel that the next generation of children to reach adulthood knowing their origins, this perspective may very well change. Yes, there are some children and adults who have not been “damaged” by being donor conceived, but as I have pointed out in other posts, many of these children are simply parroting the views of their parents and in many cases have been brainwashed into believing that their parents infertility trumps their own biological losses (see my post - All the world's a stage...as long as the offspring follow the script).
As far as more positive lights, I suppose anyone can view their predicament in more positive light if they try hard, but what’s positive about having your kinship severed deliberately and indefinitely, not being able to be raised by both your biological parents, not being biologically related to you social parent, being systematically discriminated upon by the government, being hushed by a self-regulated industry, and being overlooked by many in the general public??
Q6: Is it any better if it is an open donor, if you are raised by two parents (straight/gay) or single parent?
A6: I guess I can only speak from experience here, and being from an anonymous donor and a single mom – those two things are definitely not better. So I think moving to banning anonymity is the first step in America for fixing this antiquated system, so choosing an open donor I see as a must for anyone considering to use donated gametes to have a child. Preferably one who makes him or herself known as the child is growing up, because what we’ve learned from offspring and donors who have met later in life there is a significant amount of loss even upon eventual contact. If your only option is an open-ID donor who can be contacted at the child’s 18th birthday, then my advice is that is the only remotely ethical and humane option.
I think a two-parent heterosexual home is better than a single parent or same-sex parents. I am not opposed to women’s rights and gay rights by any means, but it’s a proven fact that children faire better in a home with a mother and father. It’s not to say that children born of single parents or same-sex parents aren’t also succeeding, it’s just not having a father or mother (social or biological) in their life is still a loss worth mentioning.
Q7: And I guess my original post to you was asking very many questions but they really boiled down to this very one. Is this it? From your experience do most donor-conceived adults wish that they had never been a part of this process? Or are there people that aren't as critical of it?
A7: Again, I only speak for myself in what I say on this blog. I would love to tell you that all DC-adults felt the same way I do, but that’d be a lie. However, you have to understand that many DC-adults also conform to the norm for fear of hurting their families, and thus without their true feelings expressed we may never know how all donor conceived offspring really feel.
Q8: Is being donor conceived so much a part of each dc persons identity that it could possibly ruin their lives?
A8: Ruin their life...that’s a bit harsh I think to assume. My being donor conceived I think of as quite an important part of who I am. I don’t think I would have taken the career path I chose if I was not DC, I don’t think I would have had such dysfunctional family dynamics growing up if I was not DC, I don’t think I would have been as emotionally disturbed growing up if I was not DC, I don’t think I would have as low of a self-esteem and rejection/relationship issues if I was not DC.
Now, that sounds quite bad I know, but many of these issues are also felt in same way or another in both DC-adults and adoptees. I must admit, it is something that is always there…it’s not something you can just shove to the back of your mind and forget about. Sometimes I wish I could – but I can’t. It’s who I am, but to say it’s ruined my life is extreme and highly unlikely, but I do think that it has given my grief and hurt that cannot be appeased.
Q9: This is probably a crazy sounding question in the context of all of these blogs but is there anything positive about it?
A9: Not to sound cliché or completely sarcastic, but without it I wouldn’t be here to speak of for those not yet conceived. I could stand on the soapbox and recite my script and say it helps people have kids who normally can’t. But of course you realize I am only mocking. I wish I could say one thing really positive about donor conception, but the truth really is I can’t think of anything.
Q10: Does it make a difference if an open donor is used?
A10: I don’t think there’s enough evidence of children born of open/ID-release donors to make a general assessment. I would think that at least it would answer these burning questions that those of us older offspring have, but at the same time, there’s also the paradox that the child grows up to know their donor or biological father or mother (or however they are instructed to refer to him or her as), how will they feel when he or she has a child of their own. There are cases in open adoptions where the child knows their birth mother, and years down the line she has another baby and she keeps it, and the adopted child is devastated and wonders why she didn’t keep him or her. This has been noted in several open adoption cases, and could potentially be an obstacle in regards to open-ID donors.
As for the parents worrying that the child might “love” the donor more, or see the donor as the father and not the social dad, this tends to be a self-conscious fear of recipient parents and used as ammunition as to why they’re not telling their child. The truth is, children will love their social parents unconditionally, as all children love their parents. There is no reason to fear a child and his or her donor’s relationship, because even though it is important, that child can love three parents just as easily as he or she can love two.
Q11: Is it a lot better if the child knows her whole time growing up or would it still really suck?
A11: I think it’s much less of a shock and less chance that the child is going to be angry with their parents, just so long as that openness continues. Explain to the child even before they are able to comprehend what it means, as they grow tell them in age-appropriate terminology about their conception and allow communication and questions to be asked as often as needed. The child may go through a stage where he or she asks every day about their donor, and then go months without mentioning it. Allow the child to pick what he or she wants to call his or her biological father – don’t insist they call him donor because he wasn’t our donor; he was our parents’ donor. He is with all due respect our biological father. Allow the child to search if he or she wishes, or even begin searching for siblings or the donor before they ask. Keep any means of concern, as it is first and foremost, a decision you made that impacted the child the most. If they disagree with DC, it’s not a personal attack against you, and should not be taken that way.
Even knowing all my life I was DC, I sometimes feel I have had a longer time to see what impact that has made on my life, but that’s not necessarily a negative. I like to think of it as I have become more enlightened.
Q12: I guess lastly what kind of advice would you give to infertile couples about options, etc? Or do you think it is better at that point just not to have children.
A12: I think that is a personal decision to be made by the infertile couples. There are alternative options outside of ART – adoption and fostering children who need families is by far the best option in my eyes. These kids are already here and for some reason or another they cannot be properly cared for by their biological parents. These kids deserve every chance to have families to love them and care for them.
So they’re not going to be biologically related to either of you, I understand that. But if you realize what sort of pressure using ART (and even more importantly using a donor) puts on a marriage I think that most couples would not proceed into donor conception. There are oftentimes many issues that evolve or erupt in a marriage after the use of a donor to create children, such as arguments on disclosing to the children (even couples that were decisive before conceiving often change their minds later), the social non-biological parent feels ousted from the parent-child relationship and sees the child as a constant reminder of his or her infertility, complete lack of affection or care of the child from the non-biological parent, and while there’s no statistical evidence other than common discussion amongst offspring – we’ve found that divorce rates are astronomically high and many DC issues are underlying problems in the disbanding of the marriage.
Q13: Even if someone does DI do you have advice that would make it better for the child?
A13: I think I have answered this in other questions, but first of all do as much research as possible on the issues and familiarize yourself with some of the “less-appealing” views, talk to donor offspring, etc, and make an informed decision knowing what the consequences are and accepting that your child might not be happy about being donor conceived even if you do all the best things for him or her – it’s very much based on the offspring’s personality how they react to their conception.
Use an open-identity donor. Anonymity is the biggest obstacle for nearly all donor conceived adults, and while ID-release is not ideal it is far better than 100% confidentiality indefinitely.
Talk. Don’t tell your child once and then expect them to grow and mature and continue to understand what it means. Tell them before they have any concept and it will be easier for you when he or she is at the age that they can comprehend what it means. Age-appropriateness is key, and there are many books to help parents explain it for toddlers to school age kids, without getting too…graphic.
Keep the door open. Don’t hound you child (especially once they hit that pre-teen age where for most kids they refuse to talk to their parents anyways), but subtly let them know that if they want/need to talk that you’re there. Offer going to talk to a therapist or counselor if they are uncomfortable talking to you about it. Family therapy is also a very positive option as it keeps the entire family on the same page and talking.
Search. The DonorSiblingRegistry has parents who are still pregnant looking for siblings and their child’s donor. While this may be slightly extreme, a child who has a half-sibling out there shows them from a young age that they’re not the only one out there and they have an instant friend to confide in about being donor conceived as they grow up. Plus, there are advantages such as genealogical DNA tests if a female child finds a male half-sibling. I’ve never heard of a child who has been angry that his parents found him a sibling, and it gives the parents a family who maybe lives on the other side of the country or the world that you have such a special connection to.
Love. No matter how cliché it sounds, raising your child in a loving and accepting environment is going to help him or her grow to be happy and healthy. But remember, love is not all you need…always realize that even though you have this beautiful child, he or she does have a biological parent out there and he is half of that child’s identity as well.