Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Infertile Parents & Donor Conceived Offspring: A Shared Legacy of Pain

I attended the Donor Conception Symposium in Toronto this past weekend and I learned a great deal. The biggest eye opener for me as a father via DI was the pain and grief that a number of adult donor offspring are bearing. I was aware prior to this Symposium of the anger and pain that most adult offspring (of a generation older) felt but in those cases the individuals were adults when they learned of their true origins and the truth was kept secret from them. The offspring I was not aware of are those that were of the group that were told of their origins since they were very young. I can’t say this pain is shared by all adult offspring of the approximate age range 21 to 35 but it was apparent and raw in those attending in numbers at this Symposium.

The title of his post may be a bit misleading as truthfully the pain of the offspring is as they informed me a direct result of the removal of the pain felt by the infertile parents upon the birth of the children.

I met a lot of good people at this Symposium and while I cannot say I support their position that Donor Conception should be abolished I promised that I would make their position known and that I can empathize with the arguments behind their position. I should also point out that not all the donor offspring are in the camp of total abolishment of DC. Bill Cordray of Utah, an adult conceived by DI, stated he was not in favor of abolishment but was and had been working for years to reform the system in the USA and was a proponent of telling children the truth as early as possible. I expect to be writing more about this topic and its consequences shortly and more frequently.

The facts I do want to be brought out at this point are that the donor offspring are fighting not just for the right to know who their donors are but more succinctly for the right to know who they are by reclaiming their lost genetic, social, ethnic, and medical histories that are theirs via the donors who helped create them. Yes, I better understand the pain and loss due to the fracturing of the genetic father from that of the social father.

The main distinction I see and hope that would ease the pain or lessen the severity of it regarding my own children is that for most of these angry, despondent, grief stricken adult offspring (who knew early of the circumstances of their conceptions) they have little or no information regarding their donors. The concept of anonymous donors, in countries such as the Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, was just that totally anonymous (the laws in most of these countries are changing or have recently changed - again to be left for another future post on this topic). The medical establishment chose the donors used and the keeping of what little records existed if at all.

For my own children (due to the consumerism of the USA) we were able to secure bios that include detailed descriptions of physical characteristics, personal likes / dislikes , medical histories of the donor, and his complete family (parents, siblings, grandparents) as well as educational and professional histories (again of the donor and his family). In addition we have a toddler photo as well as a CD Rom of the donor’s voice answering many of the questions detailed within the personal bios. When I informed the donor offspring I met of the level of this detail they were amazed. To be honest I felt guilty for having so much when they had nothing. Again as I state above I hope this level of detail will alleviate some of the pain that they might experience when thinking of their lost connections through the donor.

As I stated I met many wonderful individuals at this Symposium not only from the adult offspring community but others that I will speak about in subsequent posts.


Janice said...

I'm so glad you were able to attend the conference. Is it right to deduce that children (or adults) who had known all their life about their conception had as much pain as people who found out later in life? Is the pain about being donor conceived? Or is the pain about not having any information about their donor?
(I sure wish I could have attended!)

DI_Dad said...

I cannot say that the level of pain between the individuals who knew of their conception early vs those who learned as adults is comparable in level but only that it is apparently real on both sides.

While the post paints a dark picture I cannot say this is the average or normal experience of all DI offspring / individuals. Until I learn more I expect that there are folks on both sides of the coin. The point of the post was just to alert folks of the issue.

As to the cause of the pain, I would expect the pain is more from the lack of knowledge. I don't think the issue is about being alive althought it certainly appeared that for some the pain could be all enveloping.

Choice Mom said...

It was nice to have met you at the Toronto symposium. My own interest and work in this issue is taking some interesting turns because of the meeting. Feel free to check out my blog post about the symposium at:

Choice Mom said...

It was nice to have met you at the Toronto symposium. My own interest and work in this issue is taking some interesting turns because of the meeting. Feel free to check out my blog post about the symposium at:

jonahilit's dad said...

I just read the article in USA Today and thought it was great. I have been meaning to write for some time but never got around to it. The article brought back many of the feelings both bad and good that I have experienced over the year. The resentment that I did not have sperm and would not be able to my own children. The anger that this happened to me. The fear that I would have children who would tell me that I was not their real father.

Eleven years later I have experienced many of the opposite feelings - those of joy, excitement and love. Our twins (boy and girl) are the most amazing children on earth and been everything that any parent could ever ask for and more. I adore them and I think they adore me. They have told me a million times (my insecurity complex) that I am and always will be their daddy and the only one they will ever consider their daddy! I look forward to a lifetime of happiness and joy - although teen age life is closing in on us!

Over the last few years, we have identified three other children conceived with the same donor sperm. Again, at first I was nervous about interacting - does this somehow give a level of credibility to the donor. My kids saved me again - reassuring me that I was their dad and their half siblings were important for them to have. We now have an extended family from Atlanta to Hawaii.

Thanks again for the article and blog. Please let me know what I can do to help get the word out.