Tuesday, July 28, 2020

You Are Not My Real Dad


You are not my real dad. I feared hearing those words.  I knew one day they would be said. It did not make the fear any easier or the pain of hearing them being said.  But I also knew because I am a good dad the hurt would pass.  

.

There are so many fears that dads like me have.  None are as cutting as this statement. Many involve rejection but this statement is one all dads, or any non genetic parent, will face someday.  Even if not said aloud it's bound to happen. Most bio parents get it in the form of a wish statement in anger. For us it can said in anger, it can be said off hand. It hurts either way. On one hand it hurts due to its plain truth.  Most kids know it's not true and that dad is dad and after whatever fight it's said within they will apologize buts it's been said.

.

Once it's said it's been said. That initial pain will pass. It's possible you will hear it again in anger at another point but hopefully it may not have the same piercing pain it held that first time. 

.

It will always be a phrase held in a donor conceived individual's back pocket.  Simply because.  But because I am a real dad, despite not being their bio father, I realize that if they need to say it they are doing so in exasperation, a need to be in control.  

.

To move past it the heat of the moment the best response is to validate the statement's blade even if you disagree with the statement's purpose.  Let your child, your teen, the adult standing before you have a moment. Let them know you are there for them.  The sting you feel may still be hurting but I can bet it's hurting more for them by saying it.  

.

There are moments in our lives as recipient parents we must prepare for. For ourselves. For them.  This statement is one of them. 

.

[Note - my daughter actually said this to me somewhere around two years ago. I am not sure if exactly when. There is a post on it in this blog when it happened.]

.


https://www.instagram.com/p/CDL387thofV/?igshid=1bm6ug86oo5xs


.

#parenting #donorconceived #donorconception #donorinsemination #malefactorinfertility #adoption #youarenotmyrealdad 

#youarenotmyrealmom


Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

My Take on Telling

When we were kids the word “telling” usually involved tattling and getting someone in trouble. Maybe that is when we all started associating telling with a secret or ratting someone out and disclosing something that should be left unsaid.
Telling in the donor conception world is no less fraught with fear, apprehension, relief and honesty depending on who is doing the telling, who is hearing the telling and of course what is being told.
My own views of telling after all these years is that it represents openness and truth and information that does not belong to me. The question that comes next for me today is that as a dad to two donor conceived children, now teenagers, who am I allowed as their guardian to tell and if so when.
But let’s take a step back. To when this journey began for my family and how my views on telling came to be.
Like many young couples experiencing infertility, especially male factor issues, there is a historical societal push to brush it under the rug for fears of emasculating the husband of his stature etc with the knowledge that no one needs to know and it’s for the benefit of the child and the family that no one know that perhaps donor sperm was used to conceive and create the family.
First off I have never liked sweeping things under rugs or hiding things. Second, I hate the concept of stigmas. When I was a kid I knew a couple of kids that were adopted and they were normal kids but somehow the issue of their adoption was a thing. Back then I did not understand why but I also knew that something was a thing.
Telling for me is the overall understanding that children created via donor conception methods have a full right to know their story and that they be given the opportunity to claim their story and narrative. That as parents we support their wishes and their questions.
Kids
We decided early on that our children would know their conception story. Pretty much from birth each child would be told that a donor helped create them. At age two, or thereabouts, we started reading donor conception themed books to my son and as his sister came along soon after she heard the same stories from day one. He had accompanied us to visits to the hospital infertility clinic and knew mommy and daddy were trying to have a brother or sister for him. We did get some evil stares from people bringing a child along sometimes but we had no one to watch him and he being the generally well behaved kid he was at that young age usually won over the room. This without wearing a t-shirt that said don’t hate me I am an IUI baby.
Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family
Parents knew early on that our plan was to try to use my stuff via a testicular biopsy in conjunction with IVF. I don’t recall now if we told them during our attempts that we had chosen a donor as a backup. When my Ex was pregnant with our son both sets of parents certainly knew that a donor had been used. My sister knew but my wife’s brother may not have, at the beginning, as he was somewhat religious in his faith and we were unsure as to his reaction. Eventually he was told.

I felt it was important that the immediate family that the kids would interact with the most know the truth so any side comments etc would not be treated as secrets etc to be hidden and whispered about. As half siblings were found and we started spending family vacation visiting these siblings it made it easier for family to know who we were off seeing and who these folks were coming to NYC especially as my kids refer to their half siblings as their sister and now brothers.
Extended family including aunts, uncles, and cousins we never directly told. I can’t account for whether my parents or her parents told anyone, or whether our siblings told anyone else in the family. They may have but we never specifically told anyone not to tell. We do believe it is our children’s story and if they want to tell people it is their decision to do so.
Doctors, Teachers, and Indian Chiefs
Pediatricians were told and highlights from the donor’s medical profile shared as we filled out the normal paperwork all doctors generate as we have taken the kids from doctor to doctor. Teachers found out on their own as they assigned family based projects and our kids explained that they have half-siblings that live in different homes or when they used medically accurate terms to describe generally what gametes are needed to create a baby. Those were some amusing phone calls after other parents learned from their kids how babies were made. Oops sorry.
You must also understand that we live in NYC; the family configurations you run into on the playgrounds and classrooms vary in every shape, color, and size. My kids from K to 5 had friends who were from mommy and daddy homes, single mommy homes, and two mommy homes. These kids all learned to accept it as normal the different types of families that exist.
Friends and Colleagues
The decision who to tell here was always on a case by case basis. Those they needed to know why we were late to work needed to know. When I had my biopsies I told a few close colleagues that knew what we were dealing with emotionally and so the questions why I was walking with a cane each time would not be a distraction. And as anyone knows, infertility and IVF are tough emotionally. A number of close friends knew. Others learned from press that I did as I became the poster boy for men dealing with MFI who then chose DI / IUI to create our family. One childhood friend’s mom learned by reading of it in the USA Today article she found outside her hotel room. My blog extended the circle as to who knew. The USA Today article lead to members of our Temple to know that had not known.
Clergy
Our local Rabbi was told as my Ex was going through a conversion to Judaism and we wanted to ensure the children would be considered Jewish or what steps would be needed to consecrate each child as Jewish. In the end my son is currently irreligious and did not become a bar mitzvah, his choice, so that reasoning went out the window. He did have a brith milah and she a baby naming. My daughter also dropped out of Hebrew school before becoming a Bat Mitzvah. I regret these decisions but they were theirs and at the times we were dealing with other issues that took center stage.
I grew up in a mostly secular home but the Shul / Temple was the center of social and cultural life in the town we initially grew up in so it was important for me that the donor be Jewish and that we started the kids out with a Jewish upbringing, My daughter does say Shabbat prayers with me each week on candle sticks that have been in my family and generally continuously lit each week for close to 125 plus years.
Summary
Telling involves several factors. Being honest with your child. Being honest with yourself. Deciding who should be told and who does not need to know. When do you bring it up and when do you stop telling reserving those decisions for your child to make giving them the power to decide who knows their story.
The physical act of telling may stop but the knowledge becomes inherent in the base of everything life touches. Not generally present but a pillar in the life that builds upon it. The donor conceived’s life as well as the parents. It’s either a joint foundation when the child is told or separate pillars each not as strong individually when secrets are kept.
I have counseled families and individuals to at a minimum tell their child as early as possible. Beyond that no one else truly needs to know. But in creating an atmosphere where it is not a secret, the child and individual they grow into, in theory, will process at least who they are with a stronger sense of self. Telling allows a freedom for everyone to be honest. There will certainly be more questions, and identity junctures along their path, but telling starts their story with all that is known on the table.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

You Were So Wanted

This morning I reposted on Instagram a children's book recommendation regarding a book that addresses how babies are made for preschoolers but which specifically avoids the typical "you were so wanted" language that exists in many books geared forwards donor conceived children.

I wanted to discuss and ask why this language is triggering for many when it is employed in this manner.

I get the concept as we have discussed often that telling a donor conceived person that they should be happy to just be alive is not a valid or helpful argument to ever make because it is not the issue. The issue is the manner of their creation and how that this constructed creation cuts off a donor conceived person from their biological parent, heritage, and needed medical family history.

I expect it's much the same concept here that the "wanted" construct is being used to circumvent any negative reaction to the knowledge that their donor conception did cause those connections to be broken. The feeling being that the "wanted" construct is just the first act to push children, some might argue brainwash them, into being good little commodities and accept their creation story when in fact they were created for the benefit of their recipient parents.

I am writing this with language I have heard and read for years that I personally have felt a bit terse but I fully understand the intense feelings and arguments behind. Remember I am one of those recipient parents but one who has been trying to further the discussion so please forgive me this moment of reaction as I put forth my inquiry.

So I guess my question is have I accurately stated the objections to the "you were so wanted" construct used in kids books? Am I missing something else that recipient parents should understand and be able to address with their kids to fairly balance out the construct. I am sure a few psychologists out here can help with the theory in lay terms we can use to help our kids.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, July 17, 2020

I Wish Statement # 1 re Donor Conception

I Wish Statement # 2

So I was asked by Miss.Conception Coach to submit another whiteboard "I Wish" statement. This was my first thought. It was not directly infertility related, despite my still being infertile, but it's what came to mind. My kids are teens so far past the TTC stage. Thought this was the more appropriate audience for it.

I try to tell families TTC that the experiences and mindsets of each DCP I meet or speak to vary with each person's life story and life path. For some, as we all know by following various posts here, learning your conception story later in life is sometimes a challenge and leads to more emotional questions. For others it's more theoretical. It runs the gamut of reactions. Even when kids know their story from birth it does not mean as young adults or later in life they won't question the use of DC family building methods, or will or will not want or need to learn more about their donors.

I counsel TTC families that they need to look at the use of donor conception methods from all perspectives and that they need to address the tougher questions and possibilities in order to make informed decisions and to be supportive of their child's rights and feelings.

But again this "I Wish" statement was the whiteboard statement that I posted and submitted upon request. What would be your "I Wish" statement?

If you are open to it I'd like to publish a few on my IG account either anonymously or with simply a first name so others can see the wishes you put forth.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

My Recent Instagram Life_DI_Dad Page




Thirty Instagram posts since I posted my last Blog entry.  Interesting.  I admit it's fast and easy mostly.  Check out all of these posts live on my Instagram feed at @Life_DI_Dad

I am enjoying the medium and the connection to the donor conception and male factor infertility communities.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

An Updated Fathers Day Letter to Our Donor


In 2007, I wrote a letter to my children's sperm donor on Father's Day which I periodically have reposted on subsequent Father's Days.  This year my letter concludes with an update to that letter while keeping its original text. 


2007:


With Father's Day on the horizon my thoughts stray to the man whose gift allowed my children to come into being. This man is not the doctor or mid wife that delivered them. This man is their sperm donor. My children were conceived via Donor Insemination.


Without this man's gift, these children would never have come into being and into my and my wife's life. I am occasionally asked if I resent that this man could do what I could not. I can comfortably say I do not. On the contrary I want to thank him.


When I was diagnosed with non-obstructive azoospermia 12 years ago I was told that I should expect to never have children of my own. The fact that my children are not biologically linked to me has never lessened my love for them nor my belief that they are indeed my children. At the same time I am cognizant that there is another man whose role cannot be nor should be minimized.


To me he is and is not simply their donor. For now to my children he is in effect non-existent as they don't fully understand the concept of donor insemination. They have been told of their conception story and that a donor was used but this is still too much for them to truly comprehend as they are both less than six years old. Someday soon this will change and I wonder how that will play out. For now the knowledge of his existence rests with my wife and me and as I see it I have a responsibility to not let the truth of him fade away.


The lives of my children are as much connected to him as they are to me. I do not pretend to argue nurture is greater than nature but rather together play a role in these children's lives. I have his bios, medical, social, and educational. I have a toddler picture of him and a recording of his voice. All of this info is being saved for them as it is part of who they are.


Every day I see articles addressing infertility and the use of donor conception from the side of the couples going through infertility, women choosing single motherhood, or lesbian or gay couples looking to start families. There are court cases around the country redefining what is family and who has the right to be legally defined as a parent or not. Under New York State law I am considered the legal father to my children. But despite that fact I know that someday my children will wonder about the man that is one half of their genetic make up.


Most heterosexual families of donor conceived children choose to never tell their children of the conception story fearing the child will turn against the social parent or for fear or shame of the perceived stigmas of using another person's sperm or eggs to create their children. In my opinion these parents do so for their own reasons and not for the benefit of the children who have a right to the truth. I recently contributed an essay to a book series titled "Voices of Donor Conception" and have been increasingly involved in the discussions of these topics on the Internet.


The central issues surrounding donor conception, including donor anonymity, regulation and reform, have been or are being addressed in several countries around the world including Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada among others. The United States has not yet entered that discussion and currently there are no federal laws directly regulating the sale of gametes [i] nor are there any regulations imposed on the administration of the various cryobanks and clinics that solicit gamete donations and sell these gametes to the public. I am in favor of reforming the practices of this industry but I am not here today for that purpose.


I no longer fear the donor's shadow but rather acknowledge his presence and if my children ask that his contribution be honored this or on a future Father's Day I must honor their wishes if I am half the father I believe myself to be to them. So on their behalf I wish him a Happy Father's Day and I say to him thank you for allowing me to do the same.

[i] "Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies" The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, D.C., March 2004, Chapter 


2020:


My children are now 18 and almost 16 years old.  In these intervening years they have come to fully understand the role their donor plays in their creation. One has intermittently sought to take steps to find their donor, with both registered on Ancestry and 23 and Me.  The Ancestry listing has resulted in finding a new half sibling bringing their known sibling group up to a total of five.   I expect it is only a matter of time that technology and such services will result in their finding the donor intentionally or just passively in this manner. 


The children's mother and I divorced several years ago with us each involved now in long term relationships and my soon to be young adults interacting with these new adults in their lives. The donor if found would only add to this list of parental figures. I am confident they would at a minimum show the donor the respect he deserves if he came into their lives. 


I can't say they will buy him a Father's Day card as my two are typical teens in that they don't send me a card without nudging them. I admit I would be jealous if they organically sent him a card.  


The United States is no further along then it was in 2007 with regards to regulation of the donor conception industry. The Internet has brought since a host of groups and individuals that will allow my children to explore their conception story and their feelings about their story in ways I could not imagine when they were born.  


I am forever their dad. The donor will forever be their biological father.  The fears I once had of him faded years ago. I wonder this Father's Day what his thoughts are each year on this day. Does he wonder about the children that he helped bring into this world. Is he fearful of their shadow as I once was of his. Would he welcome them into his life if that is their desire or at least would he answer any questions they may have. 


I continue to endeavor to raise them to be good humans.  They each have their own foibles. They each struggle with normal rites of passage as we all did and do. As they step closer to the edges of adulthood I hope I have helped them understand a bit more of their story. I hope he would be proud of who they are as I am. 


If by some chance you are reading this, I again wish you on their behalf a happy Father's Day and thank you for bringing them into my life. 


Sent from my iPhone