Monday, April 20, 2009

To the person from Amherst, MA who found my blog yesterday

Yesterday someone in Amherst, Massachusetts found my blog by searching Google for "how to ask your mother about your sperm donor father".  Whoever you are, PLEASE email me, I know how you are feeling and I would like to try to help you.  

Discussing donor conception is not just difficult for parents wishing to disclose or even discuss it after disclosure.  For us offspring it is actually even more difficult, as there is a sense of respect and need to not hurt our parents feelings.  It can be very hard to bring up the topic for a variety of reasons.  Almost all offspring have at one time or another felt that we cannot talk to our parents about our biological father.  Joanna Rose discusses the idea of "existential debt", where as donor conceived offspring we feel that we are indebted to our parents for having us in this manner and therefore must be more concerned about their feelings than our own.  They do not want to hurt their parents, because they have been taught that their parents infertility is more important than their right to know both biological parents.  

I began searching for my biological father almost a year before my mother ever learned of what I was doing.  It was the spring of 2003, and I was a senior in high school.  I accidentally chanced upon an episode of Oprah that was talking about donor conception.  That evening I went on the computer and began investigating.  I found the group PCVAI, and there I was able to talk to others like me, and finally overcome some of my fears.  I would strongly advise you to join PCVAI.  It may help you to learn how to talk to your mom.    

Over time I gained more and more confidence and eventually was able to talk to her more, but it was all because I met others who gave advice and knew where I was coming from.  While I must admit, it's not something that we are even comfortable now talking about, at least I can talk to her when it is necessary - such as to get her DNA for a siblingship test.  And I've come to terms with the fact that she may never be happy with my views on a decision that she made 25 years ago.  

If you see this, please send me an email, because I would really like to help you as best I can.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Why do you want to know the identity of your donor?"

When asked the question "Why do you want to know the identity of your donor?", twenty-five year old Lauren Burns from Melbourne, Australia responded with this:


"Donating sperm is not equivalent to donating blood. It is used to create a person who inherits half of their genetic identity from the donor. In a sense the identity of the donor is information that also rightly belongs to the child because it is a part of them. Legal parentage is a fairly flimsy premise that can be easily extinguished with the enactment of law. However genetic links are not so easily severed. The children of donors are as closely linked to them, genetically, as their own beloved children. If you could imagine your own feelings at the birth of your children, you can probably understand the significance of the genetic link. 

I think most people understand this signifance. It is why we trace our family histories. It is why audiences instinctively understand the magnitude of the revelation in Star Wars when Darth Vader tells Luke he is his father.

Personally, I have had an interest in flying since i was a small child, and subsequently got my pilots licence and studied Aeronautical engineering. Both my parents are teachers of economics and accounting. I wonder if the donor shares my fascination with flying and spaceflight. When i lived in Germany for 6 months people constantly assumed i was of German or Dutch extraction. I would like to be able to answer their enquiries with a definite yes or no. I would like to know my siblings. I have never had a brother, now I find out I have two. I would like to know what a boy version of me might look like.

Some donor offspring claim a "curiosity" about their donor. However, i believe this word is carefully chosen to protect their social families, because curiosities can be trivialised. Many donor children self-censor the importance of knowing the identity of their genetic parents because their natural instinct is the protect their social parents, especially the non-biological one.

Formally it could be summed up that the absence of half of my genetic identity leads to a sense of loss and psychological distress based on;

a) lack of medical history, genetic precursors to certain illnesses, potential matches for tissue donation;

b) denial of knowledge about cultural heritage, nationality, religion;

c) denial of knowledge about half siblings, unwitting contact with biological relatives;

d) distress to me arising from the knowledge that information about my natural father and siblings exists, but is being denied to me by the state;

However it is more than that. It is interesting that in almost every other situation society strongly encourages fathers to be part of their children's lives, and those who refuse to have anything to do with their children are labelled deadbeat dads, yet in this exception it is the exact opposite. Sometimes i feel labelled a "deadbeat child" for wanting to know the identity of my biological father, because I might upset or inconvenience him. However i believe this fear of upsetting past donors is largely an assumption and counsellors i have spoken to who worked to track down past donors and link them with their children have told me the vast majority had a positive outlook on their donor children. 

In any case, the discrimination and distress suffered by the child is commensurately far greater than any inconvenience a past donor may feel if he does not wish to be contacted. I find it humiliating that in denying me this information, people allude to the fact that the discovery of my existence might be upsetting, beyond that of the discrimination which i experience. I find the donor interesting, and i hope, if they got to know me, they may also find me an interesting person. Perhaps they may even feel some pride in the achievements i have managed during my life. Also, it must be recognised that the child is the innocent victim, who did not choose, or agree to be in this situation, whereas the donor always knew he was creating a child and a reasonable person would realise the significance of helping create a child.

Some people, and i believe you also asked me this question in our interview, ask whether offspring may want money, or an inheritance from the donor. I find this argument ridiculous, because the donor is explictly not the legal parent and thus protected from these claims. It is actually the donor who has financially benefitted from the child, because donors were paid quite a significant amount of money by the clinics (roughly equivalent to a weeks rent for a student). Some people refer to their donors as "vendors" because donation implies giving something away for nothing, when in fact they were paid. Some people even interpret this to mean they were sold. 

I am not seeking a parental figure. Rather, I want information that will remove discrimination (such as unknown medical history) and atone for the blankness in my identity by seeing my physical and personality traits reflected in someone with whom I share close genetic links. 

I hope this helps, or perhaps it will just leave you feeling more confused. I have no idea how you are going to sum this up in a short article. Good luck!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

RIP Oreo

My rattie Oreo passed away this evening at the ripe old age of nearly 3-1/2 (approximately 100 years old in human years!).  She lived such a good life, and while I'm sad to see her go, it was her time.  Despite chronic mammary tumors later in life and several abdominal infections (from ripping out the stitches), she was a trooper.  She outlived both her sister Skittles (about the same age), and her baby sister Nala.  

I got Oreo soon after I got Skittles in January 2005.  As a college student living alone in an apartment, I wanted a dog, but my dad wouldn't let me so a friend of mine had rat babies she was giving away.  I picked up a little albino rattie who I named Skittles.  

Oreo came about a month later from a local pet store that specialized in rodents.  She was a black and white hooded rat, so Oreo was quite fitting.  Oreo had many nicknames over her lifetime, most notably - Houdini, Trouble, Cookie, and Ornery Oreo.  

She's most "famous" for her ability to run around in her rat ball like she was driving a car - maneuvering around furniture, pets, people, and stairs.  If she wanted past you she would wait patiently, and then gently ram the ball into your legs so you'd lift them up and let her pass.  Her other character traits were her love of human attention, and her inability to stay in one place for longer than 1.2 seconds!  She also loved to jump, usually up onto high shelves - especially bookcases - and hide.

Ornery Oreo was her name and it fit her to a tee.  She has gotten into more trouble than one would think possible, including chewing her way through her cage, escaping from the vet and taking off through her office being chased, and eating a multitude of stuffed animals, pillows, and anything else that has come within 6 inches of her cage.  She was even known to go into the bathroom while running in her rat ball and pull the trash bag out of the bin and drag it across the floor!!  And then there was her breaking into her own food bag and trying to eat it all.  Nothing was safe when Oreo was around because she was the most curious of all.

Even in just yesterday she was adamantly trying to bend the bars of her cage and stick her head through!

Her favorite foods was chocolate, hands down!  She would dig through my candy jar and ignore everything else until she found the very last Hershey Kiss hidden at the bottom and proceed to unwrap it and eat it with so much pleasure that I couldn't dare take it away from her.  Later in life she got to begging for chocolate chips, but was hardly picky when it came to people food.  Rat food on the other hand, was a different story.  She became queen picky, and would dig through the food dish only eating certain types of the dry mix.

Oreo was a great rattie girl.  She loved everybody, and relished in attention - for the second she would stay still to get it.  She was best known as a busy-body and was always on the go....even as she was losing her ability to move freely.  In the last few weeks and months she still was spunky as ever, going and getting her own food and water, and coming to the cage door to be petted or held.  She would be heard in the middle of the night crunching on food, gnawing on her cage wires, or chattering away to herself.

Oreo will be missed by all but she lived a long and happy (and of course ornery!) life.  In some way she touched everyone she met, whether it was getting over a fear of rats, or the amazement that she smelled like grape soda, or her feisty demeanor, or just because she was as sweet as sweet could be.

*~*~Rest In Peace Oreo~*~*

December 28, 2005 ~ April 10, 2009