Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The four stages of the donor conceived person

I often get comments from parents that my views are "extreme" and that most donor conceived individuals do not feel the way I do about our conception.  While I agree that there is a huge spectrum of attitudes, ranging from very good to very bad, I would not call my opinion extreme, but rather enlightened and free of guilt and manipulation.

One thing I have not talked a lot about is how these attitudes change over the course of ones life.  Most young DC children will tell you they are happily content with who they are, and show little regard for their donor.  For some individuals this continues on for decades - for others it changes early on - and for yet another group (presumably) it never changes.  

As I have mentioned many times, I have known all my life that I was donor conceived, and early on it didn't phase me much...not really understanding the concept, or realizing what a father really was (my mom was single), I lived in happy ignorant bliss.  After my mother married and I suddenly had  a "dad", I began questioning the fact that I was denied the ability to know my real father.

My "dad" legally adopting me was the spark that ignited the confusion, anger, and loss associated with being donor conceived.  It took several more years, and finally interactions with other donor conceived adults to understand that I was not alone in my feelings.

For others it's being in a committed relationship or getting married, for some it's after the birth of their first child, for others its the death of a parent, often its after their parents divorce...in each of these cases there is a turning point.

The idea of existential debt is often the primary reason that offspring are hesitant or even aggressive towards the position that myself and many others take to our conception.  This need to be grateful for our lives is in direct conflict with the losses involved in donor conception, and they cannot be felt simultaneously.  These offspring, while they may seem "well-adjusted" to most parents (who believe that their lack of interest is good), simply have not been able to distinguish this vital aspect of their livelihood and separate their loss and their identity from their parents infertility and pain and need for a child.

During recent discussion with Damian Adams, he brought up a four stage process of donor conception comprehension.  He permitted me to post his comments here.  

To understand the following we probably have to see that there were many stages that I have been through (probably about 4).  Those being:

1. A naive child

2. Mild curiosity - wanting some non-identifying information, but happy with DC

3. Increased curiosity - wanting identifying information, the first stages of mild loss (repressed), but still grateful to be alive

4. Acknowledgment of loss and the profound effects that it has

1. I used to be proud about being DC.  I was grateful, because otherwise I wouldn't have existed.  Even though I would have liked to have had some non-identifying information, it did not affect me greatly.  Perhaps I was preventing myself from feeling loss about that - I don't know (a self-defence mechanism perhaps).  I had my dad who to me at the time was my "father".

2. There was no sense of loss otherwise there would have been no way I would have even contemplated donating myself which I was pretty close to doing.  By being happy with my mode of conception (proud and grateful), there is no way that that position could coexist with a sense of loss.  

3. For a period of time when I wanted to find out non-identifying info and also identifying info (prior to the birth of -------), I had to accept that I would not even find out that info as a consequence of being alive.  So while there may have been some mild loss at that stage it was repressed because I still had to feel gratitude to the procedure that created me.  

4. It was only when I realized the true nature of my loss could I see that I did not have to be grateful and happy about being DC, and that in-fact that the losses forcibly imposed on me should be treated with contempt and anger.  

I think some people may have another stages between 3 and 4 above, but for me it was a monumental leap from mild loss that was repressed to full blow loss and anguish.

Cliches follow:
But for me and I think that it would have to apply to most others is that if you feel grateful and therefore happy that you parents who wanted you so much were given this wonderful gift by a truly altruistic man, then how can you feel loss.  

To feel any kind of loss is an acknowledgement that something is wrong with the process and that the process has caused some form of harm which does not coincide with the cliche above.  Any form of loss is a form of suffering, suffering is not the goal of altruism.


Anonymous said...

Please see the link >


Anonymous said...

Am amazed at how careless these recipient adults are - why even risk having an unhappy child?

There are enough donor-conceived speaking out to make any concientious adult think twice, but instead you see their responses - taking control and/or chastising the dnor-conceived.

These recipients' responses are metaphors for what their parenting will be like, nad make for an unattractive metaophor.

Unknown said...

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have me. Of all the myriad things that have injured me in life, being conceived via donor sperm is by far the least worrisome or damaging. My father is great, selfless and has done the best he could to raise three kids all while having a wife point out constantly that "they aren't his".

I feel the methods of my conception are not something to worry over. I've been through most of the life-changing events you've mentioned, and I'm pushing thirty so I don't feel I'm naive or inexperienced, and I've spent my nearly-thirty years watching my family tree trimmed down to a sapling so I'm well acquainted with loss. I just don't feel it toward this donor-fella.

Lindsay said...

Ryan, while you have come across polite on my blog here, I know of your antics on other blogs and how you attack offspring who feel differently than yourself. My last paragraph about existential debt causing many offspring to be hesitant or aggressive towards are views - you seem to show a perfect example of this hostility, especially in many of your comments on Eric's blog.

While I have many donor conceived friends who are not as passionate about the issues in donor conception as I am, they also do not feel that they should contradict me (or others) because every donor offspring's views should be accepted for what they are and not condemned, because we are all entitled to our opinion.

I think that you must have some emotional feeling towards being donor conceived, because you frequent the DC blogs often. If you really and truly were content with your conception I don't see why arguing with those of us who aren't is of any worthwhile interest. UNLESS......you have what we call repressed loss, which Damian discussed in this conversation.

Anonymous said...

the "extremism" lies not in your views themselves but in your inability at this stage to accept points of view other than your own, attributing them to repression, manipulation and the like. You give lip service to those other views but immediately contradict it, as in this post right here.

perhaps when you reach stage V, acceptance (also the final stage of the grief process) you will be able to do so.

Lindsay said...


I do accept points of view other than my own, I just have a problem with individuals who spent their waking hours degrading those of us who feel this way in order to invalidate our views so they can feel better about their own existence.

If you went to Eric's blog (http://di-dad.blogspot.com), you would see many of the comments Ryan has said in the past - and it is in that spirit that I draw the line.

I have never denied that offspring have varying views, and two of my good DC friends are perfectly content with being DC (both are from alternative families, but both are still curious and would like to find their biological fathers if they could). We don't even really talk about DC issues because we know how each other feels and we're okay with that. I would never chastise them, nor would they degrade me for having these opposing views.

But Ryan continues to, so that is why I said what I said.

As for a "stage V" of acceptance, I will direct you to the adoption community, because they are a prime example that there really is no acceptance stage. If there was such a thing as this final stage of grief, then there would be no adoption rights movement. There's a point where you realize that you will never get the answers you wish to find, but I would not call that acceptance.

For many older DC adults, even if they know they will never find answers, they want to change things for future generations of children so they do not grow up to be denied these primal rights.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if couples who need sperm or eggs could use known or knowable donors without fear... That would have been our first choice. When gay couples have the legal protections we need to keep our kids safe you will see more of us use knowable or known donors... It is really unfortunate that some young adults conceived this way, and self-righteous people who think they should be able to decide whether or not others have a family focus on trashing parents who made the best choice available to keep their kids safe...What if you instead concentrate on making positive changes to gay rights and family law? ... It is glaringly obvious that the vast majority of the people complaining do not have children of their own... I look forward to seeing the gigantic change that takes place in your thinking when you have spent a decade or two raising children...Even better: get some therapy instead of working out your family issues in a way that gives ammunition to "religious" haters who want to destroy our families.

Lindsay said...


If you are so aggressive against adult donor conceived persons who feel the way myself and many others feel, then maybe you should not be conceiving children with this method. We are entitled to our beliefs and our opinions as much as you are entitled to yours.

As for gay rights - I have never made any assumption that I am opposed to gay rights, homophobic, or bigoted in any way shape or form, so please don't imply such libelous things. I am opposed to people using donated gametes in general, not only gays and lesbians. It has nothing to do with your sexual orientation. I just strongly believe that children should be raised by both their biological parents.

I also am not religious and despise being caroled into the religious right, because I disagree with their reasons behind being anti-ART.

I think people in general need to be responsible for their actions and understand that having children is a privilege not a right. With that in mind, you're entire argument is null.

Yes, you're correct, I don't have children of my own --- but there are PLENTY of donor conceived adults WITH children who feel EXACTLY as I feel, if not more so. Often many DC adults, after the birth of their first child suddenly realize what is lost and become staunchly anti-DC/anonymity.

For example:
Damian Adams (http://donatedgeneration.blogspot.com/)
Karen (http://www.intent.com/donorconceived/profile).
Vicky Reilly (http://donorconceived.blogspot.com/2009/01/my-story-how-i-learned-i-was-conceived.html)

There are also COUNTLESS adult offspring who have yet to share their story publicly who disagree with donor conception after having children of their own.

So do not discount my experiences to in some way validate your own belief system. You can have your opinions, but don't underpin mine to feel better about yourself.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lindsay said...


I am removing your last comment because it is nasty and completely untrue. I am not trying to endanger your children, nor am I saying that gays should not have children. I'm saying that NO ONE should have a child by DI. I would love for gays to be able to adopt children, and it frustrates me that America is so opposed to such moves for children who desperately need homes.

If you don't like what I say, then don't read my blog. It's as easy as that.

Unknown said...

And here I was going to congratulate them for saying exactly what I've been trying to say, even though I'd vowed to be good and stay away.

It's true, though. You guys are only interested in your side of the issue.

Ryan- Father of three natural babies, yet himself conceived through donor sperm.

Lindsay said...

You know what Ryan, my blog is about my side of the issue because that's what advocacy is. My blog is not about how to have a baby with donor insemination, and it will NEVER be such a blog. I don't feel that way, so why should I sit on the fence and make everyone happy? My blog is about how I FEEL about being donor conceived.

Many potential and current DC parents want to KNOW what adult offspring feel. If you want to blog about how you love being donor conceived, go ahead. We all have the freedom of speech to say what we want. There are hundreds of blogs and websites dedicated to the pros of donor conception. I am here to bring a different point of view...a point of view that right now has very few voices.

The adoption community has hundreds of voices speaking out against unethical adoption practices - I only highlight very few of those. The number of DC adults blogging about their experiences is slim.

I advertise the views and blogs of others who feel as I do (since I don't know of any blogs for DC adults who like being DC......), but I also have invited any donor conceived adult to become an author on my blog Donor Conceived Perspectives. So far I have one offspring who supports DI in its current form. You're welcome to join that as well and toot your personal beliefs. I created that blog b/c I wanted parents to be able to see that there IS a WIDE variety of opinions.

This blog however, is about ME and MY VIEWS. If you don't like what I say, don't read my blog. It's as simply as that. But don't come here simply to attack me and my views. I don't put up with pointless trolls, such as anonymous above.

There are parents who disagree with what I say, but they understand that their children MAY feel as I do in the future so they want to prepare themselves for that possibility. There is a difference between agreeing to disagree civilly and taking each others views as opinions that are personal, and verbally attacking - which is what anonymous has done here.

Your comments, while not necessarily attacking, are simply agitating. You want to stir the pot. And with that, I gladly invite you to create your own blog and spout your beliefs there. But please do not discount my beliefs simply because they're not how you feel.

Unknown said...

Ah, but Lindsay, from my perspective you have done nothing but discount my thoughts and beliefs. Whenever I talk to you or Damian, you both basically tell me that I'm deluding myself and that I'll "come around" to being as bitter as you eventually.

I have considered blogging as a content donor-conceived adult... BUT, there's nothing I'm advocating there. One can't really "speak out for contentment". It would be a one-post-blog that basically said "Hey, being me is great."

I just hate how eager the rest of you are to dismiss the views of we donor-conceived that are absolutely fine with how we were made. I've seen it here, I've seen it elsewhere like the DSR. Yeah, I'm generalizing, that's what humans do, but it's how I perceive the issue.

Lindsay said...

I don't discount your views. Good on your for being so positive!! One of my best guy friends who is also donor conceived from a SMC, he feels the exact way you do. He wishes he could find his bio father and/or siblings because he thinks it'd be cool, but in his day-to-day life is doesn't really bother him. He loves his mom (who's super cool to begin with), and he's happy with the way things are.

I keep telling him he should write a blog b/c he's a writer, but like you he feels like there's nothing really to blog about. I understand that.

What I don't like about you is not your views, or even you as a person, but that you come to our blogs to raise hell and push our buttons. If you don't like what we say, then ignore it, or go post on the DSR to all the mommies and tell them you love your life. Balance it out. We have our blogs and you can comment there so they know that we're only some of the voices.

I would never try to stop or dismiss your feelings, I just find your insinuating comments unnecessary here. It's as if you're trying to completely derail everything I say....wait, isn't that what you're doing?? You're trying to dismiss what we say. Write a blog and I'll post a link to it. Join DCP and post there and I'll even add your picture. But please don't come here simply to slap those of us who disagree in the face.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jakiam83 said...

I so agree with the process that a DC person goes through with the information same stages that I went through to a child of surrogacy. Love not feeling alone in this anymore!