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.


Marty said...

Thank you for such a candid reply -- i was starting to worry that i had offended you or scared you away. I'd like to continue our little conversation -- a few more questions quickly arise -- but i want to re-read and sleep on your response before saying anything else.

DI_Dad said...

Marty, can you again explain to me from what angle you are asking these questions? I know you told me where you found a listing of this blog and that you were researching I believe issues of family and marriage. But again are you interested for personal reasons or for professional research? I am not scared away easily but want to understand the reasons why I am being asked.

Marty said...

Personal reasons or professional research? Well, anecdotal blogging should never be confused with professional research, and i'm not a professional researcher by any means, so i guess i have to plead personal reasons -- even though i participate on a few "professional" blogs dealing with such questions.

The thing is (and i'm not yet ready to respond to what you wrote above), well, take for example the three cases decided by the CA supreme court yesterday. It's certainly an inflammatory topic these days, but when a court says "We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women" people are rightly concerned about the very sort of questions i asked of you. And while it's easy to become emotionally inflamed over such an issue (i plead guilty), it's really (maybe?) not a great deal different than your own experience. I guess i'm hoping to learn something from your own banal and relatively uncontroversial family that may shed some light and perspective on these very controversial donor-based families that do not appear to be founded on infertilty at all, but some new form of sexism... or maybe something else entirely...

I don't know if you can help at all, but never having had a discussion with someone in your shoes, i thought it might. I appreciate your willingness to share.

DI_Dad said...

Marty -
I read the NYTimes article you referred to about the three CA cases. Personally I have no issue regarding two mothers constituting a family. My own personal beliefs are that if there is love between the partners / parents any child born will recognize love and have that as part of their life. I don't plan to discuss further the effects or believed effects of same sex relationships here as I don't feel it is pertinen to my blog.

What I will comment on is the fact that in the KM / EG case that the court granted parental rights on the egg donor "mother" where CA law states that the sperm donors give up their rights. In NYS I am the legal father to my kids. If all of sudden NYS gave rights to the sperm donor would he have grounds to have visitation rights or more to my kids? Probably not as opposed to the KM case, the donor used to create my kids had no relationship to me or my wife. His was an anonymouse donation to a clinic. In KM she gave the eggs to her partner. But the implications as discussed in the article regarding a possible Equal Protection challenge are interesting. [I happen to have some interest in the field of law].

As far as my non controversial family goes we are happy to be that way. I am not sure I am thriled regarding the use of the word "banal". As far as families created by DI where no infertility was at hand but were created as you say as a new form of sexism I have no issue. Perhaps on that issue I could post my thoughts in a stand alone blog in the future. Maybe not as that again would be off topic for what this overall blog is supposed to be. Although it is related.

Marty said...

Although it is related.

Precisely why i stopped by to chat about your experience, not that one.

Back to your post for a moment:

I don’t wholly believe kinship need be via blood. I believe kinship can be gained via loving relationships and shared experiences.

Emphasis mine - and we agree. Your choice to have your wife become pregnant rather than adopting an unrelated infant is clear enough that while blood kinship is very important, that's not all there is to it.

...Where there are no blood kinships social bonds are just as important.

Almost right. But not quite. Where there are no blood kinships there are ONLY social bonds. They are not "just as important" so much as they are all that's left. Nevertheless a blood kinship remains: DNA dad is still out there, as is DNA grandfather, DNA cousin, and DNA ancestor. But in this particular case, and it's the only example i can think of beyond cases of abuse or gross irresponsibility where a claim to paternity can be legally severed.

Thankfully, one of us has an interest in the field of law. ;)

Marty said...

R U ND @ FSD ?

DI_Dad said...


Marty said...

ok np ;)