Friday, November 19, 2010

The ignorant "experts" and the damage they cause

A discussion has been building this week in response to a post on Family Scholar blog last Friday.  The post was not the spark, new guest blogger Ralph was discussing him and his partner using a surrogate to have their young twins.  It was the comments below that sparked such heated debate that I had to blog about it.  Mainly because of a single person who posted.  Eleanor, a social worker and self-proclaimed "expert" in donor conception, commented on several occasions (here and here) and made some VERY lofty conclusions.

Here's some comments I found most disturbing/frustrating:
"Love and respect makes the difference in outcome more than structure does." 
"I would rather see a disucssion [sic] about how to respond to the difficulties, complexities and complications of raising children who are strong enough, relational enough, adaptible enough and loving enough to cope with life and the odd cards life gives all of us at times." 
"The children I know who were conceived using donars [sic] are all doing well. The assumption somehow that they are damaged by the process simply doesn’t match my experience."
 "Male donars [sic] have been used for decades, and many MDs have put themselves through school using the money they earned, and felt good about it." 
"The children of these kinds of arrangements often seem to be better cared for than the average child — especially those who were unplanned."
"The clients who I have worked with who have children who had both sperm and egg donars [sic] now have wonderful children. One set of twins in particular are two of the happiest kids I know." 
"I would love to see any research indicating that there is some huge discrepancy in how they turn out as adults as opposed to those who are born “the normal” way."

Now, I responded to Eleanor's two comments, here and here, so you can see what I wrote to her in response.  But I am going to reiterate what my feelings are on these comments, and add some more thoughts to this situation that need to be addressed.


(1) "Love and respect makes the difference in outcome more than structure does." 
Wow, this one is so basic I'm not even sure if I can bring myself to actually talk about it!  But, for the sake of the post, here it goes.  Love has nothing to do with donor-conceived individuals desire to know his or her biological parent.  Parents need to get over their own emotions and fears and acknowledge that this primal need to know one's roots is not an attack on their child-rearing practices or their capacity as a parent.  It's not about you.  It's about us and our need to know.

(2) "I would rather see a disucssion [sic] about how to respond to the difficulties, complexities and complications of raising children who are strong enough, relational enough, adaptible enough and loving enough to cope with life and the odd cards life gives all of us at times." 
I responded to Eleanor with the following: You say that you would rather see discussion about the complexities of raising children strong enough to cope with what life throws at them. The problem is, why does it have to be the children conceived in these manners who must adapt and cope with their situation? What about the commissioning parent(s) who chose to use a donor/surrogate because they are infertile (medically or socially)? Why should they not be strong enough and adaptable enough to cope with this loss?? Why must we perpetuate that loss onto the child? It floors me that it is the offspring who are forced to adapt to a situation that was created intentionally, to make them cope with that situation! Adopted persons, those born to unfit parents who do raise them (abusive, alcoholics, etc), those who live with parents who fight, are divorced, etc. Any of life’s curve balls that are thrown in a person’s direction that we cannot control, however donor conception IS something that can be controlled and not resorted to. Yet it is, and the offspring are the ones who are left to pick up the pieces and suffer the losses.


(3) "The children I know who were conceived using donars [sic] are all doing well. The assumption somehow that they are damaged by the process simply doesn’t match my experience."

WHOA, hold the phone!!!  Key word here: CHILDREN.  Okay, so this woman knows a few donor-conceived kids and they're all perfectly happy.  What "assumption" is she referring to here?  The one that ADULT donor-conceived persons are TELLING her directly how they feel?!?!

(4) "Male donars [sic] have been used for decades, and many MDs have put themselves through school using the money they earned, and felt good about it." 

And...might I add, many former donors are now realizing the consequences of those decisions they made so long ago and are seeking their biological children.  Also, how does she know they feel good about it? Most donors don't feel anything about it - on purpose.  Sperm donation is so medicinalized that these donors are not even really thinking about the outcomes.  Also, many medical students in particular, especially in decades past, were pressured or even coerced into donating by their professors.  It's akin to young single women coerced into relinquishing their children to adoption...put on the spot and in many cases not even given a choice.  Same went for many of these donors.  I've spent time talking with former donors who while the professors and department chairs were not holding guns to their head, in a much more subliminal way, they knew that if they wanted to do well they better be supplying.

It's also extremely offensive to donor-conceived adults to have someone with such "expertise" and someone who is supposedly a social worker, putting it so bluntly.  She might as well have said that 'many college students filled their fridges with beer from the money they earned'.  While most of us do realize the bullshit about altruism is just that - BS, having it spelled out so blatantly from someone who considers herself a professional in the mental health field, is just downright tactless.


(5) "The children of these kinds of arrangements often seem to be better cared for than the average child — especially those who were unplanned."

Says who??  Is she claiming that the majority of parents are unfit?  I know of plenty of donor conceived adults who were not well cared for.  If not not well cared for, many social fathers are distant with their donor-conceived children, and just based on discussion on PCVAI, it seems that there is a much higher probability of divorce in donor-conceived families and mental illness among recipient mothers.

Just as there are many terrible adoptive parents, there are many terrible donor conception recipient parents.  Lets be honest, there are just terrible parents out there in general, regardless of whether they are biological or not.  However, studies have shown that, in particular, children raised by non-biological father-figures are more often physically and/or sexually abused than children reared by their biological fathers.

For example, this 2005 study found that:
"The findings also make it clear that male perpetrators who are not biological fathers were more commonly associated with physical abuse and sexual abuse, older children, and female children. Similarly, when acting alone, biological fathers and father surrogates were more often perpetrators of physical and sexual abuse, but when acting with the mother were more often associated with neglect. The relatively large proportion of stepfathers and adoptive fathers associated with sexual abuse, as well as with older, female children, suggests the need for prevention efforts in blended and adoptive families."


(6) "The clients who I have worked with who have children who had both sperm and egg donars [sic] now have wonderful children. One set of twins in particular are two of the happiest kids I know." 
That's great, I'm glad to know there's one set of young donor conceived kids out there who are happy! .  Sorry, I hate to break it to you Eleanor, but your logic is severely flawed.  Most of us offspring had very happy childhoods.  Children are not able to comprehend higher level thinking and emotions.  Even though I've known all my life I was donor-conceived it was not until I was a late teen that I really fully understood what it meant and how unethical it is.  I was curious about my biological father before that, but it was not the burning desire that I experienced later.  Childhood happiness is not an accurate predictor of adult compliance with donor conception issues.  Many offspring are well into their 20s or 30s before it dawns on them.  Often it's a life-changing event that triggers it....marriage, birth of their own children, death of a parent, etc.


(7) "I would love to see any research indicating that there is some huge discrepancy in how they turn out as adults as opposed to those who are born “the normal” way."
Karen quickly referred Eleanor to the "My Daddy's Name Is Donor" report.  Obviously this woman couldn't be that much of a donor-conception expert if she didn't even KNOW about this report!!  Whether or not she agrees, the fact that she has no idea that this study has been completed and actually FOUND that yes there was a discrepancy between donor-conceived adults and adults who were raised in traditional nuclear families.

**********************************
So now, why did I spend so much time attacking this woman, and what was my point?  Well, it's the fact that this woman claims she is an expert and for recipient parents, those trying to conceive, and anyone else who is interested in the psychological implications of donor conception might seek this woman out and actually listen to her!!  These types of people are poisoning minds with their false claims and uneducated conclusions.  They undermine the voices of adult offspring who are speaking out, because as a society we believe that we should be able to trust an expert.  We trust our doctors to accurately diagnose us and prescribe the best medicine - not the medicine that they were most wined-and-dined for by the drug reps.  We trust therapists and social workers to provide us with accurate information regarding such important  decisions as using a donor to conceive a child, and we trust that what they say is true, because of course they are a professional.

These so-called "experts" will tell their clients what they WANT to hear, but not necessarily the truth.  Why?  Because people do not want to be told bad news.  These "experts" are more concerned about their paychecks than they are about the people they are supposedly trying to assist.  A couple looking to use a donor, if you tell them that they need to really think about this decision because many adults conceived via donors have been damaged...that therapist knows that that couple is just going to go find a second opinion and tell all their friends that they are a bad therapist.

But isn't it unethical, as a medical professional, to lie to your clients/patients?  YES.  But in the mental health field, it's very easy.  Especially when these professionals are intertwined with the infertility industry.  I doubt there is any counselor employed by an infertility clinic that would actually tell their clients about the POVs of adult offspring.  Nope, they filter what is provided and only the "good" results are given.  Counselors are not advising their clients to read the MDND report, or my blog, or any of the other opinions out there.  Most counselors are still advising their clients to LIE to their children!!!!  If that doesn't tell you something....I don't know what would.

To recipient parents, individuals trying to conceive, and those who are looking to use a donor - please educate yourself beyond what you are told by your doctor or any infertility counselor.  Do your homework.  Listen to what adult offspring have to say.  Write to us with questions.  Learn as much as you can now to prepare yourself.

13 comments:

Amanda said...

The "just get over it, everyone's life is hard" attitude never ceases to amaze me....especially in situations where ADULTS made the decision to create a child or not create a child. Not's not the same as being "dealt a card." But of course, it's the child's responsibilty to adapt and have no qualms about it....that makes sense.

*sigh*

Alana S. said...

Great post Lauren.

People like Eleanor have to dismiss our undermine our credibility because it directly threatens their paychecks.

Lindsay said...

Thanks Amanda and Alana. I agree Amanda, it is the "just get over it, everyone's life is hard" attitude....it comes rearing its ugly head in some many facets in both donor conception and adoption! I'm sure you get comments like that all the time.

BTW Alana, it's Lindsay not Lauren (Lauren's a DC from Oz, I'm from Ohio!)

Anonymous said...

I hate that this woman is a social worker. As a final year social work graduate student and donor conceived adult, I can assure you that there are PLENTY of social workers who are excellent at counseling people in general and also in terms of infertility, being conceived by third party gametes, etc.

I just wanted to say that because I hate to see all social workers get a bad rap because of this dreadful and seemingly very unintelligent woman (just look at her spelling!)

Great blog post Lindsay.

Cait

Choirchick22 said...

I found your blogg through the random blogg thing and I gotta say it instantly interested me. I always thought that sperm donation was fine. This totally changed my view on it. I don't think many people think of it from the child's perspective. Thanks for opening my eyes. I hope you find what you're looking for someday!

Lindsay said...

Choirchick, thanks for the comment! It's great to hear from people like yourself who gain a greater understanding of sperm donation from my blog. I appreciate your reading and your comment!

Lindsay

Lindsay said...

Caity,

I know what you mean, and trust me it was not an attack on the profession of social work by any means (though I know you know that!). My point is, it actually takes away from the profession when I see individuals who call themselves professionals that make comments like Eleanor did. I know that, at least in general, people like her are not the status quo.

I always worry about those in the mental health field who focus on infertility though....whether or not they work for the industry, I feel as if many of those individuals are there to support those trying to conceive, but at the expense of the children being created. You notice many of the biggest "experts" out there who support donor conception and assisted reproduction and those in the mental health field as it pertains to infertility, adoption, family planning, etc.

Then again, and maybe this is a very cynical thought, but it keeps them in business if you create donor-conceived kids who are psychologically damaged, then they must seek out mental health guidance. It is a vicious circle, and I'm not saying anyone thinks of that, but it is ironic.......


Lindsay

Kevin said...

I'm with you all the way on this Lindsay. Great post. What bothers me the most about these so-called "experts" is that they have enormous power in shaping public opinion. When they don't understand the issues and just act as puppets for the infertility industry they are hurting the people that they are supposedly trying to advocate for the most.

And it just continues this pattern of public hostility towards offspring with often repeated perception that we are selfish individuals. I think that these "experts" are a major factor in that and a reason why the general public has yet to embrace our concerns.

Lindsay said...

You're spot on Kevin.

These "experts" are so powerful and so vocal, and because of their profession they are given an authority they do not deserve. Parents, doctors, and governments listen to these people and hear them say that "we" are the minority and have issues and are ungrateful and selfish, because they want to distract the focus away from the damage that these practices can instill on the people created from them.

The same goes for the adoption industry, and why public opinion about adoptees has been hostile for many decades and is only now STARTING to change.

Thanks for pointing that out, because you are 100% correct.

BD said...

This sounds so familiar. They "experts" say the same exact thing about adoptees It's a fill-in-the-blank response by people who have concept of being without context. They have their degrees and they know best.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late to the game here, but nice takedown of a very presumptuous social worker.

You did a great job picking apart her arguments, but I wanted to give you some ammo. Most of her arguements were based on anecdotal evidence (i.e. "The people I know..."). Anecdotes are a sign of a weak arguyment (as are insults). Call this out next time because anecdotes only reflect one person's experiences, which don't usually jibe with actual statistics.

For example, based on the people I associate with daily, I could argue: "Most everyone I know is a Democrat, therefore the country is leaning left!" But that's just my reality, not everyone's.

-- Days of Broken Arrows

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos! I was writing in a mad, angry rush, never a good thing.

-- Days

Lindsay said...

Days, I agree, her anecdotal evidence and assumptions really shocked me....being that she is a "professional". I can hardly believe that anyone who considers herself a practicing social worker or anyone in the mental health field would ever subscribe to such opinions.

I do sort of hope she posts again on FS....or maybe even braves to show her face here :o) I'd love to tear her apart again!!