Thursday, July 27, 2006

Surnames and the Donor Conceived

I was reading a post titled "What's in a Name" over on Damian's blog "Donated Generation" regarding his feelings that he falsely carries the surname of his social father. I have wondered in the past what my own kids would think ofthis same issue when they grow older and as I have written here before will those feelings be heightened by my genealogy hobby / work.

The following is the comment I left on in response to Damian's post:

Names are a funny thing. As you both state your feelings I can understand your dissatisfaction at carrying a name that has no blood connection to you.

As an amateur genealogist I have come to think of surnames as merely a larger identifier as to what clan raised you or the society you hale from than a true sign of blood connection. Surnames for the most part were imposed on most peoples when they began and many were that of the lord owning the feudal manner folks lived on or the town they physically came from.

Yes in many cultures, including my own the surname was an extension of the concept "son of" which was for the most part a blood connection but it also used to tie the child directly to that parent alone and not that parents forebears. My son is the son of me by my raising him etc. I am not disregarding his genetic past nor do I mean to discount it.

In my wife's ancestry the Norwegian culture the surname changed from generation to generation and was based on the first name of the father. For example Neils Knudson has a son named Knud whose own surname was then Neilson. Knud Neilson has a son named Lars Knudson whose own son was named Neils Larson.

My only point here is names are artificial to begin with but our society has placed great importance to them so we all do and hence the truth that you both, and many others, feel (understandably so) falsely labeled. It all comes down to emotions.

The only added comments I want to add are:

(1) Until surnames were imposed in Judaism all you had were that you were Abel son of Adam. Jewish headstones simply read that. Even today the Hebrew name listed on a headstone starts off as Abel son of Adam and only later notes the surname.

(2) My daughter, if she marries will have the opportunity to shed "her maiden name" and become whoever she wants to be if she so desires. My sister could not wait to get rid of her surname. To be honest my wife did not take my surname and if my son changed his surname to hers to have a valid blood surname that is his choice. It will also be his problem as the spelling of her Polish descended surname is a real bltch to spell. And if he changes the name to his Hebrew name I will be honored as it would be effectively Jason son of Eric and that is all a DI dad could ever hope for. And if he changes it to Smith I will still be honored to be his dad.


beagle said...

Delurking to say hello. I have a million questions about DI and it's good to read a male point of view for a change. My husband and I are considering this as our next option.

And on the topic of today's post, I think it is interesting that some people get so passionate about genes and names. I believe that a family is built on love, not DNA or a surname, and so long as we are honest with our child, all this should not matter.

Then again, I may find out that I am very naive. Hoping to learn enough to make an enlightened choice.

DI_Dad said...

Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. I would suggest that you and your husband possibly join one of the many online support boards that deal with DI if you want to learn more in that type of a forum.

I saw your blog and i also extend my thoughts to you guys as we also went through a number of IVF cycles alhough we pretty much knew it was going to come back to DI. But we tried.

The DSR_Discussion group on Yahoo groups will give you a pretty good feel for issues surrounding DI once kids are born etc. DI attempts are like regular IUIs just not DH's stuff. Emotionally it takes a steady decision to know that's what you want to have a child together if that is your path.

There are added issues when you have children via DI and those issues are not tiny ones. I can help and feel free to poke around my blog. Like I said the DSR_Discussion group is pretty good. If you encounter a few donor conceived adults along the way listen to what they say but don't become discouraged. This is a personal choice but one that must be made with forethought.

Good luck, Eric

p.s. Have your husband join the men only DI Dads group for him to learn the male perspective. The link is on my side bar. Unfortunately to ensure men open up that group is a men only group where the DSR groups are wide open.

damianhadams said...


in response to your added comments:
1) in Judaism the Abel son of Adam still means the son of Adam which infers genetic son.
2) I believe that perhaps the importance I put on the family name is probably heightened by the fact that I am male and that we carry this name for life unlike the traditional situation in western culture where the woman adopts the husbands name.

Your comments about being honoured no matter what your son chooses as for names is a fantastic disposition to have. Bravo.

To Beagle,

Hi, a family is built on love as was mine. However, it starts with DNA and even though I have had as much love as any other family I am seeking out my genetic relations (as are many others). So what does that tell us about the practice of donor conception and the notion that all you need is love?
Will all offspring feel the same way? No - it varies greatly.


beagle said...

Thank you for your response. I have been doing a lot of reading. INcluding the book Helping the Stork. We are also workign with and IF counselor to help in the decision making.

Is there much difference in the DS companies? Is there one you would highly recommend over the others? One(s) to avoid? It is all a little overwhelmign, so narrowing down the choices might be helpful.

I will also look into the discussion groups.