I am a failure of the infertility industry. Why? Because I was told I was donor-conceived. The philosophy of ART invented by the infertility industry is one of secrecy. Intending parents go to some infertility specialist and he "cures" them of their infertility and instructs them to go home, make love, and forget their visit to his office ever happened.
The problem with this philosophy is that as human beings, we have the capacity to remember. Intending parents cannot forget this procedure, and for some it consumes them. Hiding this shameful secret destroys them from the inside out. For some the only solution was telling their child (often an adult by this point) the shameful secret. Many recipient mothers disclosed this secret discreetly, not telling their husband. Even more offspring are instructed directly or indirectly that it was not something to be shared outside of their immediate family, often keeping it from extended relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Often there is a subliminal message that this is something to be ashamed about and should not be talked about in public.
Therefore, the secrecy and shame has now been transferred from parent to child.
For children conceived in "alternative" families....same-sex couples or single parents, the conception story is often much more public, sometimes to the extent that the child is bombarded with the facts of their conception broadcast to the wider community. In this instance, the opposite is the case. The child is unable to conceal this fact to the world and are often put on a pedestal as a symbol of the rights movement and not given his or her proper space to conceptualize and comprehend their story.
Thus, the opinions and expectations have now been transfered from parent to child.
Whichever the case, donor-conceived individuals often find themselves in this twilight zone of sorts, trying to not only deal with their conception but how it is viewed by the rest of society, as well as by their own families.
For many of us, donor conception really is the elephant in the room, the truth that we know and will never forget, but that we find difficult to discuss in public and therefore attempt to ignore, despite it being impossible.
For most recipient parents, their biggest hurdle is disclosure. There are entire message boards dedicated to it, entire books and seminars discussing it. To them it's this huge dilemma. How on earth am I going to explain this to my child?!? And while it might be hard, it might be uncomfortable, it might be painful, you're talking to your child about their conception. They have a right to know the truth about their own identity.
What most parents forget is that they have it easy. We have it hard. We have to live for the rest of our lives with this knowledge that is directly tied to us. Our parents don't need to tell everyone that their child is conceived with a donor (some do, but that's a whole other story that follows along with my previous comment about turning their child into some reproductive rights symbol....). However, for us, each time we meet someone new we find ourselves in the same situation. Do we tell this person? And if so, HOW?
Most people get uncomfortable when they hear words like sperm, egg, conception, etc. So needless to say, disclosing being donor-conceived to someone is usually the most difficult and awkward conversation we will have. We all take a variety of paths to disclosure. Often it depends on the person or the circumstance.
Sometimes it's like pulling off a band-aid or jumping in freezing cold water. Quick and painful, but once it's done it's done. Other times it's like a well-rehearsed waltz. Careful planning and practice to make everything perfect so it is smooth and effortless. There's also the drunken stupor disclosure, that usually follows a night of heavy partying and that pesky sentimental euphoria that accompanies it. I don't advocate the last course of action, as there is the significant chance that neither you or the other person will remember the disclosure in the morning.
But lets go back to family. Because for many of us, due to the secrecy and shame that our parents pushed on us when they disclosed our conception, discussing donor-conception with them can be awkward at best, and terrifying at worst.
Sometimes discussing it, especially with social fathers, makes us feel as though we are being disrespectful and/or hurting our parents. Again, why must we hold our parents emotional wellbeing higher than our own?!? So many of us are silent to our families about our feelings and our journeys. Mostly because once disclosure occurred, it was assumed that everything would magically go back to the way it was. But it can't. It never can.
For me, donor conception is like this haunting feeling in the back of my mind, in the pit of my stomach. There are times when I don't think about it definitely. But I don't forget. It's always there. It's the elephant in the room, that everyone knows but no one wants to discuss. And that is a very isolating feeling.