Monday, August 29, 2005

Carrying on the Family Name

There is a strange but all to real pressure on men to have sons to carry on the family name. This pressure was only magnified internally by the infertility. Before we had my son I was always painfully aware that I was the last male among my father's children and among those of his siblings to have the family surname. What made it more evident in my life is that I am the family historian / genealogist. My son now bears the surname and he too may feel pressure down the road. My question as always is where a DI child accepts Mom and Dad as his parents what does the child think about the family that comes along with those parents? Do adoptive and DI children accept the adoptive parent's family tree as fact or a legal fiction?

For the record my uncle has only daughers and my father's other siblings were both women. For the record one had all daughters and the other all sons.

My response to the "carrying on the family name" comments growing up (pre knowledge of any infertility issues) was that while I am the last male bearing my grandfather's surname his brother had many male grandchildren of my generation. I would continue to state that "if it was to end with me it would continue with them and be no loss as we all issue from the same great grandfather".

These thoughts are all relevant as per the blogger Marty's comments to a few of my posts regarding the role of kinship (blood or not) in the relationship between DI children and the social father. It would be untruthful for me to say these issues have not played out in my mind. Again I turn to the fact that I love these kids and I expect I will have some interesting discussions with my son (and daughter) in the years to come.

One note that makes the issue of names interesting is that my wife kept her name after we were married. The children bear my surname. How this generation processes that difference will be interesting to see. Questions of why should Mommy's name disappear and not yours? But then again that is my brother-in-law's problem. He and his wife for the record have no children yet.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Donor Related Books - Part Two

We received in the mail last night the book "Before You Were Born ... Our Wish for a Baby: Donor Insemination" that is available via It is a very cute book. The drawings are bright and cheerful and the DI story is told in a matter of fact way by the bear father to his cub son. The pictures are of every day life playing, house stuff, and not centered on medical views and glum looking parents. At the conclusion of the story the cub asks for another retelling of the story just as many kids keep wanting the story re-read to them over and over. I'd definitely recommend adding it to any library of books that DI parents use to inform their child of their beginnings. The author also has a blog Wishing for a Baby that is linked here and to the right on my main and archive pages.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Trading Pictures with Half Sibling

We saw a picture of our children's half sibling. Very cute little girl. I saw a resemblance with my son especialy around the eyes. But then again I was looking for a resemblance. I sent a picture of our kids last night.

Seeing a picture of this little girl makes the concept of a half-sibling all the more real. It's one thing to trade e-mails but seeing a picture makes her so much more real. I wonder how my son will react when he meets her. We have not shown him her picture as we have not jointly decided with the half sibling's family what to call the kids when we would first meet.

To be honest I am not sure when I should show him her picture. Obviously before we meet so he has some familiarity when they meet. But now? Only I guess if we were all to decide at this age to fully explain that they (the kids) share a common donor. But then again sharing a picture of a new friend is normal as well. It's wild what thoughts / questions are raised bya simple little act of showing a picture.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Thoughts: A True Cure; Known Donors; Kinships

Within the comments to the August 12th post titled “How Did We Decide to Use a Donor” a discussion evolved between myself and a blogger going by the user name Marty. The issues have focused on several terms, their meanings, and how I have defined them as far as my actions or feelings.

The initial exchange dealt with whether my wife and I or just I have looked upon DI as a cure for infertility. The current inquiry defines what would be a true cure and whether I consider my infertility to be incurable. This new round of questions also asks whether we considered using a known donor, one related to me, that would enable the kids to be related to my family in some form perhaps via a brother’s sperm donation. The third prong of the current inquiry focused on responses I gave previously that addressed the result that by using a donor my wife was able to experience a pregnancy and be the biological mother and that I had accepted the DI process as sort of a half adoption and that the desire was at a least for one of us to be blood connected to the children and why that mattered. Hopefully I restated these questions correctly with the original intent which they were posed (the reader can view the originally worded queries below in the comments to the Aug 12th post.

The following answers were written off the top of my head as it is nearing 1am in the morning and I need to get to sleep in order to get up in 4.5 hours for work.

(1) Do I consider my infertility incurable?

Yes and No. Let’s start with the No and my response will bring us to the Yes. Medical science advances at paces faster than one can believe. But along with it rising costs follow and insurance coverage that do not follow. With enough time and money I am sure we could have harvested sperm that would have resulted in chemical and actual pregnancies. Physically I was told my testes could only handle one more testicular biopsy to even look for more sperm. I believe during each of the two prior biopsies they found maybe 2 dozen usable sperm. Of those I cannot recall how many were used to create fertilized eggs. I believe between the two full IVF cycles only about 7 embryos were transferred back into my wife and none took hold. I already discussed that various meds were used to try to build my sperm counts to no avail. Could have that third biopsy been the one to lead to success? Who knows. Is my infertility incurable? If one sperm was found that lead to a fertilized egg which resulted in a child then obvious is it incurable? Obviously not as a child was created so I would be fertile. None of that happened though and the odds were / are so far against success that my diagnosis of azoospermia (meaning virtually none) means the answer in my case is Yes it is incurable.

(2) Did we consider using a known donor to enable the child / children to be related to my family?

Yes we thought about it. But I have no brothers and the concept of my father or uncle was not something that either of them would have gone for and to be honest was not something we felt comfortable asking much less desired. Did we consider male friends of mine? Yes but that also was quickly put aside as too complicated socially. Marty, lets let it drop here as this is self explanatory.

(3) Blood kinship, my half adoption rationale and expediency.

Biologically a heterosexual couple is built to produce children. There is no question to that. Without getting into sociologically questions as to what marriage is that fact is incontrovertible. To create a child you need sperm and eggs. In our case we had the eggs…as far as we knew the only issue was on my side and my wife’s systems were fine. As far as I know and saw the desire of my wife was to bear her own children. The pain I saw during each failed IVF cycle and failed DI cycle was pure. She wanted that biological desire to be pregnant and give birth to a child. She of course wanted any child she bore to my mine as well. That obviously was not happening easily or at all.

To say that DI just allowed that for expediency purposes is not fully accurate. It is in that it cut down the years before we stopped trying to find sperm in me that would result in live births since that was not happening. Studies have shown from what I was told that women over 35 have a harder time becoming pregnant. My wife was approaching that age and she / we wanted more than one child. So a decision was made to come to terms that trying to work with my body was not the best or wisest course of action to again attain the true goal of having children. DI allowed us to have better odds at achieving that goal.

Why did it matter that she be related at this point? Your question of kinship. Do adoptive mothers love their children any less? I am guessing not and maybe more as they chose to love the adopted child when they did not have too. Could we jointly have adopted? Yes. That’s a whole different story which we’ll skip as not applicable to our facts here. Why was it important for my wife to be related herself? Because she could and needed to be. After several failed cycles and starting from the first any woman feels a sense of failure as if they did something wrong that their bodies were causing failed pregnancies. I would have to guess that that sense of failure goes both ways. Just as I felt failure when my counts were low and non-existent. Males were built with the ability to impregnate and females to be able to be pregnant. When either does not work of course there is a sense of failure of why did I not work right. So am I saying my wife at that point wanted to be pregnant to just prove something to herself. No. She wanted to be pregnant because that biological need or desire was overriding and that she / we wanted to raise a family together as one more facet of the life we wanted to gether.

Now onto my rationale of half adoption and reconciling that need to the child’s need (and ours) for kinship. I don’t wholly believe kinship need be via blood. I believe kinship can be gained via loving relationships and shared experiences. Where blood kinship can be found it should be celebrated (via my wife’s family, via developing bonds to half siblings perhaps). Where there are no blood kinships social bonds are just as important. As humans we realize what others do for us and one another. My son knows I love him and he returns that love based on our mutual actions. He accepts my role as father as he knows little beyond basic biology and only can truly appreciate that I am there for him when he needs me to be and that I am an integral part of his life as he knows it. Years from now when he is leading his own life I still hope to be part of his life wherever he lives and in whatever he does. Is it possible I will not be? Of course. Will he still know that I raised him as my son and I was his father. I expect he will. Did he and I need the blood kinship to be father and son? No. Did I adopt him as my son or his sister as my daughter. NYS law says I did not. Did I need the law to confirm that? No. Do I look upon them as adopted no. I look upon them as mine. Yes. Do I know that biologicaly I am not their father. Yes. Do I think about this fact all the time? No. Lately the topic is on my head as this blog was begun, we registered on the DSR and as we made contact with a half-sibling.

My rationale of half adoption looks at one point in time. The point of delivery of the donor’s vials. I don’t treat it as a purchase. I look at it as a gift where I was given a blessing and an obligation to raise these kids. The words half adoption are an analogy to the fact that we could have jointly adopted a non-blood related child to both of us. In our case we together did not have to but I did individually in order for this to work.

Will these kids need more. Perhaps. Many DI kids do at one point want to learn more about the donors and the families behind them. Will I encourage that or try to stop that? I would never discourage anything other than trying to make sure it is at a time when the child is emotionally ready. What that means I don’t know yet. I can say only this. One of my overriding hobbies during my life has been genealogy. Some say it grew out of my inability to bear children so I gave birth to the past bringing family members back to life recanting their lives and their connections to us. Would I use those investigative tools here. Probably. But my first goal is to raise them and get them potty trained.

Good Night. Marty, hopefully that answers some of your questions.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Contact made with half sibling

Last night we received an email from the mother of the child who apparently is the half sibling of our two kids. Like us she did not expect to find via the DSR half siblings so soon. My response was after we tried to initiate contact we ourselves thought we were perhaps moving too fast as the concept of a sibling actually existing had not yet fully sunken in.

Continued contact will be at a pace set by both families and privacy maintained regarding personal info. I plan to still record my own thoughts here in this blog as this is an exciting development BUT with the goal of not violating my promise to maintain privacy for the sake all of the kids.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Donor match on DSR...but no contact info found.

Last night I was able to post the births of my two kids to the DSR. I was quite excited to do so as I had seen the night before another child listed for the same donor number. When I finally got back on the site and clicked into the profile for the parent listing this child I was disappointed to see no contact e-mail address. So now it is up to this parent to contact me regarding my posting if they are looking for that contact between their daughter and my kids. No rush. Just surprised that's all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Half sibling found via Donor Sibling Registry?

Last night I registered myself onto the Donor Sibling Registry. Upon searching the donor database I immediately found a listing for the same donor that we successfully used to conceive our kids. It appears that a little girl was born in 2003 and that she would be a half sister to our kids.

My registration to the site had some glitches so I was not yet able to register my kids or to make initial contact with the site user that registered the matching donor listing so confirmation yet.

To say we are very excited about this is an understatement. About a year ago or so after learning about this site from the Oprah show we checked it out but found no matches. I am unsure why we did not register at that time. I thought we did. Apparently this listing was only posted about two months ago so that explains why in 2004 I saw no listing.

I wonder how this girl's family will react when they check the registry and see that there is a match. I only found this listing around 11pm last night and I needed sleep. Today I will figure out the next steps.

We're still working on slowly telling our son about his own path into the world. I will want to speak to a professional before ever telling him he has a half sister out there. My wife is already wondering if there are more kids out there.

Books about explaining DI to a child.....

This evening I found a link on the Donor Sibling Registry site to another site where they are selling a line of books geared to explaining conception and birth to kids born via various ART techniques, being donor spem, egg, IVF etc. The site is XY and Me and the blog is Wishing for a Baby. Apparently the author is a nurse who works in an infertility clinic. I plan on buying the book for DI tomorrow.

The only book we have is Let Me Explain: A Story About Donor Insemination which we found engaging but for an age range of about 6-10 which is much older than my 3 year old. Sadly I just learned via this link that the publisher stopped printing it based on low demand and specifically per their site because "so few families seem to be intending to disclose to their children their donor conception (despite strong recommendations from professionals) we are unable to justify reprinting this book."

The only other book I have seen regarding explaining DI in a real simple fashion was published as a softcover book and was titled "My Story" and was illustrated as a storybook written from the child's perspective and was published in 1991 by the Infertility Research Trust together with the University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Jessop Hospital for Women in Sheffield England. It was wonderfully illustrated by Julie Heath. I only saw this as the therapist I was working with before our kids were born let me borrow her copy for a time in order to copy it. If I find a link to any further about this book I will post it later.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Am I thinking too much? Why so many blogs?

My wife commented when she read this blog for the first time that I must really be bothered by the whole DI thing. I am not sure I am or not. I am not even sure why I am blogging on this topic. I guess since I started the blog I am interested in documenting what is like from my perspective. If not just for myself perhaps for others who want to know or are curious. Nothing has happened to cause these thoughts to surface other than everyday occurences.

My children are healthy, normal kids and I love them more than anything. I could not imagine loving them any more if they were biologically my own.

I have found myself looking online for other sites dealing with this issue. I guess where I equate DI with a adopting half of my kid I am concerned whether there really is a stigma attached to DI as the topic even comes up rarely in discussions dealing with infertility. That is what I am concerned with. I don't want that stigma being attached to my children and I want to explore my reactions to ensure it doesn't attach from any actions I take or from anything external to our household.

Performances and family connections...

Yesterday my son was alternatively bored and elated at his grandfather's 70th birthday party. He wanted to go home and not stay in the restaurant but he also loved singing "For he's a jolly good fellow" with grandpa. His emotions are so great to watch as he got so excited. He spent the last half hour of the party taking the menus out of their wall box and handing them to all the guests at their seats even though the dining segment of the party was clearly over. He even gave menus to restaurant guests who were not part of our party.

My sister put together a scrap book of photos of my dad from birth through to today. A great shot of him holding all four of his grand-kids. I wonder if my son will see them differently than he will photos of my wife's family.

At one point my son tried climbing up an empty wooden high chair. The kind that every restaurant has. He fell off hitting his head on the base of the wall and needed to be held to be comforted. It was at this moment that I was called upon to say something in front of the assembled celebrants. I mentioned that how even though only his siblings were here and not all the nieces and nephews I knew they all cared for him very much. As the youngest of his siblings my dad became the special uncle in his family and that the love they had for him was well deserved and they all wished him congrats even though they were at the table with us today. Again my thoughts momentarily wondererd what my son's connections will be to this extended family of mine that is spread out across the country. And for that matter their thoughts of him once they learn of his origins. Most of us lose connections over time to our parent's cousins distant and near ...does it make it easier or harder for a DI child to do so?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The donor and how we chose him...

Over time we actually chose three donors. The first was to be used only as a backup for the two full ivf / icsi cycles in case the urologist could not retrieve usable sperm from me.

The second who I do not recall too many facts about was used for the bulk of the DI cycles which obviously all failed. Funny that I don't recall his facts now. I do recall authorizing the destruction of the remaining vials when we were sure we wanted the third.

Picking a donor is like a combo of looking through the personals (or now like on line dating) mixed with the knowledge that you can now improve the gene pool. Meaning picking attributes better than what I have.

The main items on our checklist for the donor were that the donor have the same religious background as me, same race, same blood type and perhaps have a ancestral background similiar to mine. The donor we chose had all of these but unfortunately had as many health issues in his family as my own. So there went the idea of improving the gene pool. My wife liked that he was / is well accomplished education wise. The donor bank we purchased this donor's vials from actually classified him as a premium donor resulting in added cost of $30 per vial.

The bank we used was Fairfax in Virginia and now they even offer non scientific analysis of the donors facial composition. Meaning did the folks on staff think the guy was cute or hot. When we dealt with them in addition to on line downloadable bios (the basic stats, health, family, generalk thoughts etc) we bought a CD of his voice. Only recently did we request a copy of a picture of the donor as a baby. They actually sent a pic of him as a toddler which explained the color tint of my son's hair which did not jive exactly with the donor's bio.

We actually dealt with both major outfits California Cryo and Fairfax. Both very professionakl and both very thorough in their approaches at least in our experience.

My Dad's 70th bday....

Today we celebrate his 70th with a surprise party at a restaurant with family and friends. Not sure what I am thinking. Will my kids do this for me? Technically I am doing nothing as Mom is throwing this shin dig but you get the idea. If I am alive at 70 I'm sure there will be a party. Silly thought but you always wonder will there be a point where they will reject you. You know the kids will think of you always as dad but that thought is always there especially when a toddler is a toddler and is just talking back as they always do.

I told my wife about this Blog...

I was not sure whether I would tell my wife about this blog or not. I at first figured it would be my thoughts alone without her comments. Sort of like the thoughts I shared with the psychoanalyst when my wife decided she had enough (she was also finally pregnant) but I continued on to deal with my thoughts re DI and a few other of my own foibles.

But here it is I told her. Not sure why. Probably because it was midnight and I was surfing the net to see if I could find other sites dealing with DI. I started by going back to the Oprah Winfrey site (more later re this link in a future blog) as they had an episode dealing with DI but more from the child's point of view (i.e. grown up kid learns origin now looking for bio dad). Anyhow I was tired and I thought she'd be amused and I was curious as to her comments.

She at first read the mini bio and said this sounds like us and I replied it is us and this is me. She was amused and commented that someday the kids may read this. I guess that someday has always been in the back of my head. Anyhow now she knows. Hopefully that won't alter my future entries to this blog.

Friday, August 12, 2005

How we decided to use a donor...

We were convinced I guess by friends that we made who were also going through IVF and I guess the doctors. The idea being that the donor semen would only be used if my own could not be retrieved in a sufficient quantity for the combined IVF / ICSI procedures.

During each of the two IVF retrieval procedures that my wife underwent to retrieve her eggs I also underwent that day or within a day a testicular biopsey to retrieve live sperm. None of the samples I tried to provide had enough to use via an ICSI procedure.

ICSI is when they actually insert the sperm into a viable egg. Think of it as fertilization with an assist.

Anyhow during the first two IVF cycles we did not need the donor samples as they found enough each time when they operated on me. Unfortunately neither of those cycles resulted in even chemical pregnancies when the embryos were transferred into my wife. Costly disppointments to say the least. Not even addressing the emotional side of it. That was far worse.

At this point we did not know what to do as I could not undergo another surgery for another 6 months at least and only one more at that.

We decided we could not go this route again so we decided DI alone was we had to do if we were to have a shot of at least having a child that was at least biologically connected to my wife. We came to terms with DI based on that idea and that the half that was not biologically from me would be as if half the child was adopted.

This was a major step for us as when we began the IVF my wife was dead set against DI as she could not handle the thought of another man's sperm being in her. But with this new rationale and it really being our only chance to have a natural childbirth if it took we came to accept our decision.

Kissing cousins.....

This weekend we are visiting my family including my sister's daughters. Their younger daughter is basically the same age as my son. Both a little more than 3 years old. The way the two of them play and tumble around you wonder what would happen years from now if they knew they were not blood related.

I know for sure the idea of my sister as my in-law would drive us both crazy. My sister knows about the DI stuff as does my family. My wife's parents know as well. Sometimes I forget if my wife's brother knows or not. He is quite religious and I am not sure what his (and his wife's) views are on this topic. They don't have kids yet and hopefully they never have to go through all the IVF / AI stuff we dealt with.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Who knows about the DI....

Only our families and a few friends know about the DI. Most on purpose. Some not.

What's was at first real annoying but now is more amusing is how many people you meet who will comment that either of my children look so much like me. It must be that they are looking to say that and find a reason to be able to in their minds. Maybe I do share some characteristics with each of my kids but everybody does after all we are all humans.

How I learned of my infertility problem.....

About 6 months before we were to be married I went to a urologist as I thought I had discovered a lump in my scrotum and I was concerned that it might be cancerous. Turns out it was nothing. After examining me the doctor indicated that I should have a sperm count test as one of my testes was smaller than the other and he wanted to see if that had an effect on my production of sperm.

The results of the test was that my sperm count was so low that there were virtually none. Diagnosis: Azoospermia.

What hurt more was that this urologist who I picked merely because he was covered by medical insurance plan had no compassion and basically said I should forget about ever having kids naturally. My heart immediately sunk. My fiance almost jumped across the desk to kill this guy but restrained herself.

After we went back to my apartment and after she left for her own apartment I wept uncontrollably for what seemed like an hour or more. Later that day I offered my fiance the chance to back out before we were married as I knew kids were something she wanted too. Lucklily for me she did not.

Monday, August 08, 2005

How to Begin.......

I am unsure how to begin. Unsure re this Blog and unsure if how we tell our kids that they were conceived via Donor Insemination will be the right way to tell them. How to tell them that while their Mother is biologically their mother that I am not biologically their father. I know in my heart that I am their Dad but you wonder if they will always feel that way themselves.

We have two kids, a boy now more than 3 years old and a girl only just over a 1 year old.

I love them both dearly.