Monday, October 18, 2010

Misconceived Conceptions

Lately a hot topic among many of us adult offspring has been the "misconceptions" of donor conception.  Much of this discussion is stemming from the fact that donor conception has recently made it's debut into mainstream society.  In the 20th century donor conception was taboo.  It was not discussed, it was considered "bedroom talk", and the private business of the parents who sought these procedures.  They were told by their doctors never to tell their family, their friends, and most importantly, their child.

Today, there is still some sense that it is a taboo subject, but more and more it is becoming a topic of sitcoms, drama, movies, talk shows, and discussion.  The sheer fact that in 2010 there were three blockbuster films released that all had a central focus on donor conception speaks volumes to how it has entered into the collective mainstream.

However, in all of these instances they are portraying donor conception and donor offspring in a way that is not accurate and feeds into the stereotypes that we are constantly battling from the DC community, the infertility industry, and society.

Stephanie Blessing wrote a fantastic post on the FamilyScholars blog last month, "Misconceived: Misconceptions About Donor Conception".  She lays out 11 misconceptions that people assume about donor conception and/or donor offspring, most of which stem from the views and opinions of what recipient parents assume that we should feel.

And while I think we need to address and attempt to reform the opinions of those recipient parents and individuals trying to conceive or thinking of using a donor, ultimately it is not these persons who are our biggest hurdle.  I've come to the conclusion over the many years that I have been involved in the donor conception community and been a forerunner in advocacy for donor conception issues in the US, that we may be able to enlighten a small handful of recipient parents and those thinking of using a donor, but the majority will only try to hurt us, to silence us, to disarm us from our mission by any means necessary.  All it takes is a few minutes of reading some of the Yahoo Groups where DI mommies congregate.  Look where an adult offspring has made a comment or stated their personal opinion, and watch the nasty claws come out from the mommies.  It's like being surrounded by a herd of werewolves and a full-moon comes out......

I DO get emails from women in the process of trying to get pregnant or weighing their options, seeking my advice for their situation.  Most of these women have some sort of "sob-story" they tell me, often TMI, that they believe gives them a valid reason to use a donor.  Some have done their research and are attempting to see past the initial "baby" phase and try to acknowledge what their child may or may not feel in the future, and most of these women are the ones looking towards ID-release or some form of open donation.  Others are unsure what they want and are coming to me for advice, but in most cases I think these women want some reason to discredit me and my views so they can continue on their journey, use an anonymous donor, and not feel any guilt later on.

Yet, the main thing is, these women are all so deeply entrenched in their own emotions, fears, and loss to do anything for the greater good of the offspring.  Even if they do chose to use an ID-release donor, that will be the end of it for 99% of them.  These will not be women who will be stepping out of their comfort zones and publicly decrying anonymity, nor will they be the women who stand along side us fighting for our rights.  To them, simply creating their own child with in their eyes a "more humane" method (because apparently that's what were advocating???) of donor conception is enough.

But it's not.  And it won't be until we can successfully gain enough support among ourselves to fight on our own.

What we really need is to gain the support of society...something we fail to do in most cases.  Yes, we do get occasional media airtime.  Yes, sometimes our opinions on such deep issues are confronted.  But in most cases they are lost in a sea of sob stories and happy endings.  There are two types of donor conception articles published/broadcast.

1) the sob story: the story of the offspring who has spent a decade searching for their biological father to no avail, the story of the offspring seeking a change in legislation because they feel it is unethical for records to be destroyed, the story of the offspring who just wants more answers about who they are.  These are the stories that people disregard, call us ungrateful, and make fun of our situation with derogatory and demeaning humor because they are idiots who do not know any better and cannot grasp a deep issue within their shallow ignorant minds.
2) the happy ending: the stories that end up on the TODAY show or GMA about two (or more) siblings finding one another or finding their donor, and often the reunion is broadcast right then and there so all that is seen is the initial happiness, nobody focuses on the difficulties associated with finding your kin in adulthood (b/c honestly, most of the reunions in donor conception occur with small children through mid-teens).  These are the stories that give the general public the allusion that any donor-conceived child who wants to find a sibling or their donor can and will and all it costs is $50/year to join the DSR and VOILA a sibling will appear!!!

Okay, so maybe I'm a bit bitter, but this is the reality of it all.  These are the two types of stories, and both of these stories portray a very harmful and wrong depiction of what donor conception is and how it affects the offspring.

Therefore, it is not the DI mommies or the infertility industry we need to focus on to make change.  These two groups of people will fight against us until the very end, viciously.  We already know they are the inherent enemy of human rights and dignities of donor conceived offspring.  They do not want to hear what we say, they do not want us to air our "dirty laundry" because it makes them look bad.  They want to continue to live in their deluded worlds where everybody is happy and vocal adult offspring do not exist.

We need to focus on society at large.  Which means, in order to convert the minds of the ignorant masses, we must change the way we are portrayed to them.  Alana Stewart's AnonymousUs Project might accomplish just that.  When a single offspring speaks out to the public it is easy to disregard and discredit us, insulting us and chiding us for our views.  When a hundred offspring speak out it is much harder to ignore.

If we can begin to change the way society views us and our plight, we may begin to be a force to be reckoned with.  Just as adoptees have changed their image and society is beginning to understand and accept their need to know their birth parents, I hope that society will begin to learn to see the parallels between adoption and donor conception and see that our need to know our biological kin is just as great and just as necessary.

The biggest hurdle is the fact that we are the underdog.  Lets face it, it's been estimated that 20% of Americans today experience some form of infertility ( I do not know if this number includes those who are socially infertile or not).  This means that most adults today know someone who is or has struggled with infertility.  Whether it is a sibling, a child, a best friend, a colleague, or simply a "friend of a friend".  These connections to those on the other side of the scale hurt us.  Most adults have never met an adult donor-conceived person before.  Many donor-conceived adults have never met another donor-conceived person before!!

The odds are against us, because it's obvious that if someone has a friend or relative who struggled with infertility, that is going to be their first impression.  And, the fact that most people "see" donor-conceived offspring as small children and not adults, it's much easier to feel empathy for adults struggling with infertility.  It is something that most adults can comprehend.  The losses associated with donor conception are not.

The biggest misconception of donor conception, therefore, is that we are not simply a cure for infertility. We are human beings with our own minds, our own opinions, our own feelings, and our own losses.  And this is the misconception that needs to be overcome before anything else is going to change.


Jennifer said...

Thank you for your post, Lindsay. I really appreciate it. I get so sick of all this political correctness. I admire you for having the guts to stand up to the tremendous social pressure to be quiet and grateful for the circumstances of your conception.

Creating a child deliberately without a mother or father is so wrong. But it happens all the time and these DI moms or surrogate-using dads only want praise about how what they have done is sooo wonderful. No, what they have done is evil.

Thanks again!


Lindsay said...

Thanks Jen, I agree everyone is so concerned with being politically correct and not wanting to offend "adults", that they end up offending us offspring.

I think there are many DI moms who do only want to see one side - hence why I avoid reading the DI message boards.

But I have had the opportunity to get to know several DI moms over my years as an advocate, and these women truly get it and I consider them some of my greatest supporters. In general these are women of adult or teen offspring, who used an anonymous donor, and now regret it because they understand the implications of what they decision has on their child.

Just please remember this and don't throw all recipient parents into the same mold. There are some who will likely be (and have been) instrumental in fighting the injustices and speaking on behalf of offspring's rights.


Stacy said...

I found my way to your blog tonight and am very interested to learn more about your experience. I think this particular post is very informative and I look forward to reading more. I am an adult adopted person, i.e. bastard, and I agree with your position that there are similarities. I wish you good luck in your endeavors, all people have an inherent right to their full identities. Stacy

Vinnie said...

I agree with your position that someone telling you that you should be grateful for living is no answer to your complaints. The more practical answer is that no one gets to choose the circumstances of his or her birth, and some people will grow up unhappy about some of their circumstances, whether they be unusual or mundane, while others won't (just like one kid born to middle class parents might feel poor and another might feel rich, another DC kid might be just fine with it). The reality is that all parents are being selfish when they decide to have a child because they have to take action to make it happen and they will do so when they feel the time is right. Using a donor certainly introduces a set of problems (probably moreso when anonymous), but I think you go too far in believing that your objections to DC warrant prohibiting it altogether (although I grant that you are more tempered in your condemnation of it than Jennifer, whose comment finds all parents involved in DC guilty of committing "evil"). Instead, prosepctive parents should be educated about DC issues in order to consider whether to take this course that presents potential problems, and to prepare for confronting those problems. I'd also like to let you know that parents become a lot less selfish after babies are born -- out of necessity, and as a result of the endless duties like changing diapers and feedings -- and that I think parents should endeavor to devote some of their newfound selfless efforts to understanding DC issues in order to be available to support their DC children in developing their identities. My son is DC (anonymous), and, at 4, he has always known. We will encourage him to think about it as little or as much as he wants. I will support him in whatever way I can if and when he needs it (and I have already done a lot, which I will be happy to discuss by email), but I sincerely do not believe that he is doomed to existential angst.

Lindsay said...

Stacy, Thanks for your message! It's always great to hear from adoptees because we all share so much in common.

Vinnie, I agree with you that no one gets to choose the circumstances of their conception/birth, however, the idea is that the majority of people do not have to (or even want to) think about such things. It's taken for granted that they are the children created by their parents, and anything more is simply not something we really want to ponder. However, for donor conceived people, our conception is a very different situation, something that we are forced to think about. Therefore, from the get-go there is a significant difference between the majority of people and those of us conceived through a third party.

I agree that prospective parents need to be counseled in their decisions before they take the leap. I think for many if they were to truly understand the ramifications of this decision they would not take it so lightly, or even do it at all for some.

I think that my personal belief that DC is wrong is something that no one can contest. It's my own belief/opinion, and not something I ever shove down someone's throat. You've read my blog long enough to know that I realize that regardless of what my personal beliefs are, reality is there is always going to be donor conception, so my focus is on changing the practice to something that is 100% transparent....a practice where children are told of their conception, where the infertility industry advocates for parents to tell their children, prospective donors and recipients are counseled, donors are not paid, and are not anonymous, and records are never destroyed.

I think by assuming that I argue that all DC kids grow up with existential angst, is completely off. I always say there are many different POVs from offspring, I have some friends, and my half-sister for example, who are perfectly content. However, the point is, it's not the parental love, it's not how you raise your child that dictates if s/he is going to want/need to know who their biological parent is, and so parents need to get over their own guilt and understand that our responses have nothing to do with them and our love for them.

Okay, I wrote way too much. You know you can email me if you want to talk more about this.


Panic Away said...

This is an excellent statement, "If we can begin to change the way society views us and our plight, we may begin to be a force to be reckoned with." Your blog has the insights needed to spur on this concern. Thank you for sharing.