Friday, July 14, 2006

Who "Brought" My Kids Into Being?

The truly accurate answer to the above question would be my wife, myself and the donor. Late last night, Thursday, I was on the Yahoo SpermDonors Discussion Group and in a thread discussing an Australian newspaper story regarding one donor conceived individual's story Rel stated as part of her post that her donor " still the man that [brought] me into this world....". My answer that three folks were involved is upon a moments reflection after I posted the below reply, to that phrase, to the SpermDonors group:

I can appreciate as the social dad everything that Rel states regarding wanting to meet, find her donor etc. I even find the discussion re nature over nuture interesting and most of it is quite probably accurate from what I have read. The only comment I have, and it's not a criticism at all, is the the phrase that the donor brought Rel into the world.

Obviously without his genetic material Rel would not be here that goes without saying. And from what I recall from Rel's blogsite her parents did not specfically choose Donor T5 much in the way US consumers of donor sperm choose their donors where I would say the parents "brought" her into being by choosing to combine the donors and bio moms genetic material. T5 did not choose anything except to randonly donate his sperm to a cause without knowledge how it would be used specifically (meaning he had presumably no knowledge of what woman would be using his sperm) to engender the term brought. Yes T5s actions enabled Rel's creation but grammatically I would state that her parents by their actions to use DI are the ones who brought Rel into being by bringing her mom's ova into connection with a donor's sperm.

OK, I am splitting hairs here and I apologize to Rel for the coldness of my dissection of the terms. As I said I give her and all the DC conceived folks out here a lot of credit but for some reason the concept of "brought" struck some sort of little nerve in me as the social parent. Again I am not discounting the donor but I am diminishing his "decision making role" as to how the sperm was used and with what woman's ova.

It was interesting to me how quickly emotionally I reacted to the use of the term or phrase that the donor brought Rel into the world. Again as I prefaced this blog post, in reality three individuals brought our kids into being, in effect supporting Rel's terminology (now that I have stepped back a bit and am re-reading my reply). Human emotions and reactions are amazing. The desire to defend one's own position and stature is amazing.


Rel said...

Hey Eric,

I didn't see this reply on the forum. I try not to post much there anymore as i find it too much. However i felt the need to defend Tom.

"OK, I am splitting hairs here"

I think you hit the nail yourself with this.

We all see it from different lights and positions oviously.

From my point of view my parentage is crystal clear and i own the way in which i define it, no one else... regardless of which adult made what decision T5 is my biological father, my dad is my dad, my mum is my mum. The end.

DI_Dad said...

Never was questioning your definitions of who is what to you...just my view of the word "brought". I figured if you did not find the post on the discussion group you'd find it here.



Elle said...


I was an (altruistic) egg donor myself. Through my position I'm often asked by journalists or professionals in the field how I view the children conceived out of my donation. I have given this much thought because
1) I have a public voice on this subject and my view could influence others
2) I have two children who may ask the same question one day
3) the parents of the children out of my donation or the children themselves later on in life might want to know what I feel about my donation.

My views are fairly straightforward: I donated (in the true sense of donating as here in the UK you don't get paid) my eggs to enable someone else to create a child. My eggs were spare reproductive material and were just one part of the complex jigsaw that is creating life. Nothing more, nothing less. I did not bring anyone other than my own 2 children into this world.

I am also an identifiable donor so if the young adult (they have to be 18 to find out about their genetic donor) wants to find out about me, I am OK with that. Nevertheless I am 'just' the donor.

Rel said...

Laura, i think it's sad that you differentiate between your children based on whether they grow up with you or not.

This may be how your donor conceived children feel one day...

I think to say that you are 'just' the donor and have such a hard stance is somewhat limiting for the donor conceived child. Who are we to label their relationships, especially such personal ones. Even if i met my "donor" (biological father) and he said he was just my donor i would always see him as my biological father.

I think it's really important that you are open to these people you help to create and let them define your relationship, if you have one. To say you are just their donor could be very damaging.

I think it's sad that we have come to a point whereby relationships can be moulded to suit all of the adults, but not the donor conceived person themselves.

Elle said...

Hi Rel, I'm glad you said in an earlier post that we all see it from different lights and positions. We obviously do.

Don't get me wrong, I can understand that the child conceived out of my donation would see it differently as well. I therefore don't have an issue with them contacting me or even wanting to meet me when the time is there. But they don't only have the right to view me as their biological mother. I also have the right to feel that I am 'just' the donor.

Whilst I won't go as far as saying 'wait until you have your own', as a mother of 2 children I think I am well placed to make that judgement for something that indeed is very personal. A parent doesn't have to be genetically linked or see them regularly - neither is a qualification for a parent. My children are raised by my second husband (since the twins were a year old) who loves them like their own. They also see their own father regularly who, although they don't grow up with them, loves them as much as the children from his second marriage who he sees daily.

I was a mother already when I donated and admittedly, my first thoughts were and are with the parents. They obviously wanted that child so much and for me, that was all that mattered. They were the ones pregnant, they are the ones that gave it life, they are the ones that wipe bums, check homework and have the worries that go with parenting.

My other thoughts are with my own children. They know I donated but they are too young to grasp the concept. I decided against knowing the outcome so I don't know how many eggs have been used succesfully. I don't know gender, birth dates, part of the country, names. How could I say or feel that they are 'my other children'? How is that going to work in the minds of the children that I do call my own?

I don't think I have a hard stance at all. I have a realistic one, shaped by experiencing life, relationships, parenting, step-parenting (both with and as a step-parent) and indeed donating.

Everyone has a right to disagree with me and they will always be right too. We may not be able to influence how we came to life or what is happening in our lives in general. We can however choose how to deal with it.

whosedaughter said...

"We can however chose how to deal with it."

I couldn't agree with you more. That is exactly why Rel, myself and other "donor" conceived people are chosing to share our feelings and experiences which are NO less important and significant than an infertile's or choice parent.

We are "dealing" with it in a proactive manner. A person who is conceived by a genetic mother/father who INTENTIONALLY agreed to disconnect, disassociate and disenfranchise their genetic child's feelings and need for for acknowledgement, relationship and family history is nothing less than socially acceptable abandonment. It is our reality and we all have our own way of dealing with it. Most are never told, the ones who are, either chose the most socially acceptable path and embrace the insignificance of their disconnected genetic parent(s) (although feelings change over time) or they internalize the pain and try to make the best of it.

Our parents and "donors" intentions don't necessily reflect our reality. Acknowlegement, love and understanding without with disfranchisement and exclusivity should be a prerequisite to conception.

Rel said...

Sure you have the right to feel you are "just" the donor, but in reality you are their biological mother. It's as though by using other labels people are denying the true nature of the relationship. That's how i see it. It makes it easier to distance yourself from the truth if you use other names for it.

I don't have children, however I have been a child, raised in a family and by a "step parent" not that i have ever called him that!! So i know what it's like in that respect. I love my dad and my childhood was alright. I am not doubting that children can't grow up without their biological parents, but i don't think it's right to intentionally create a situation in which this will happen.

To me it's just like giving a child up for adoption. I think it's telling that most birthmothers (in Australia anyway!) are encouraged to keep their child and explore avenues so that they can stay with their genetic family, whereas with donor conception we are encouraging the exact opposite. And for whom?

damianhadams said...

Dear Laura

I am donor conceived and a father myself. My views changed dramatically after having my own children, so much so that there is no way that I would ever consider donating myself now. I am also a medical research scientist.
You ARE the biological mother, no if's no but's. You provided just as much genetic material to your donated children as you did your own, the only difference is the monetary and emotional content in their raising. These donated children are your flesh and blood, not another woman's. Ever wonder where we get the phrase "blood is thicker than water" and really think about what that actually means. I'm not trying to downplay the social mothers efforts and love in raising your donated children, but she has in effect adopted them.
Also, by donating your eggs, you have denied your own children the right to know their siblings. They have been separated from their brothers and sisters. I am searching for my siblings just as much as I am searching for my biological father. My identity, family history and genetic connections have been stripped from me due donor conception.

Elle said...

I am fine with anyone calling me the biological mother. What is important for me and my children is that I don't feel it that way. Genetically linked, yes of course. Mother? Not in any way, shape or form.

As Damian pointed out 'the only difference' is the (monetary and) emotional content. In my perception of motherhood that is the most important element and as that is lacking I don't feel the biological mother. For me these children are not my flesh and blood. It was another woman's blood that nurtured them. I would therefore never be able to do surrogacy, even if they were not with my own eggs. I would have created a bond with that child, felt the kicks, loved it, gave birth to it.

Although I don't feel the biological mother it doesn't mean that I am denying anyone the right to know me or my children. We are all genetically linked and I can absolutely understand the need for the donor conceived child/person to find out about the missing pieces. It may be that the parents decide not to tell the child of the means of conception. It may be that the child knows but doesn't want to find out. I know of a family with 2 young adults of donated sperm. One of them wants to find out, the other one not at all. But if I am contacted many years from now I will open my door, embrace them and will do everything possible to help them create the full picture. We may even like each other and build a relationship. Who knows, I may even love it. But I will not be the mother.

I disagree with the connection between adoption and donation. I can understand that in the views of the child involved it may feel that way and I can't and won't pass judgement on that. However, a major 'conceptual' difference is that a donation is started by something positive. All parties involved wanted that child. Whether you agree or disagree with the thoughts behind it, it is the result of a 'want'. Adoption, more often than not, is the result of the opposite. This may sound harsh and I certainly don't want to cause upset but we are talking two completely different things.

Rel said...

I still feel as though T5 gave me away. I felt that almost instantaneously when i found out at 15 and i still feel it today.

Regardless of the adults wanting a child so badly, there are still feelings of abondonment present. In fact the only people who seem to really understand myself and other DC people are adoptees.

In my point of view the two are very similar.

I would almost rather be adopted, because then there would be a reason that i was intentionally seperated from my family. Donor conception frustrates me in that adults are seperating children/people from their families to suit themselves. It is then dressed up as this glorious act, and this lovely story of wanting and effort and love is passed onto the child.... who is made to feel grateful for all of this, when in actual fact they may not be at all (hello!). This is why so many donor concieved people (and adoptees) don't speak out. It's called a coping mechanism. In Nnt wanting to open Pandora's box, not wanting to upset their parents or family many remain silenced in their grief and loss.

For the first few years after i found out i was silently grieving on my own, feeling as though i had no choice but to express that i was happy when in fact i was not. Staying quiet is far easier in the fact that you do not have to face such harsh criticism for feeling badly. Your family remains the same, unhinged, yet in the DC person's eyes it will never be the same. Even for those who find out in their early years and are "happy with their DC status" may only realise the weight of such an issue later in life. Then what? The same issues arise. Not wanting to upset the family, pushing feelings of loss inward.

Donor conception is done in the best interest of the adult parents (all 3 or 4) and not in the best interests of the child at all as far as i am concerned. If you look to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child it states that it is in the best interests of all children around the world to be raised by it's mother and father, unless they are proven unfit. Was T5 a bad man? I don't think they would have let him donate sperm if he was that bad..... so where is he? Why has the government and society taken me from him?

Why does it continue to happen today? I just can't see how it is right.

Inglenook said...

Darn. Just lost my entire answer. Trying to re-cap.

I am struggling to understand this. My sister is trying to have a baby and it is not going well. I have instantly offered her my eggs if she ever 'needs' them. I won't be using them as I don't want any children.

Is my desire NOT to have children also cruel and selfish? Is that also abandoning children who will now never be born?

Donoting an egg or sperm is not giving away a child. It is donating something that can ONLY become a person through the involvement of someone else (usually one of the parents who will raise the child)

Is Rel saying that she would have preferred not to have been born? Would she have preferred it if the sperm that now went on to create her, had been washed away through the toilet or thrown in the bin in a condom?

Is it selfish that I do not want to use my eggs every month, that I flush them through the toilet? Because that is effectively the same: I flush them away because I don't want to use them, or I give them to somebody who does want to use them.

What about the sperm that is 'thrown away' through masturbation? Is that selfish too?

I am not trying to be sarcastic or insulting but I fail to see the difference.

I give away my eggs, not my child. My eggs are the same as a kidney, or my blood, or my bone marrow: A part of me that can create life for someone else.

I can, at a stretch, see that the child may feel the need to know who is the donor, where they come from. And at a bigger stretch, i can perhaps understand the sense of 'not being wanted'. But it wasn't YOU who wasn't wanted. YOU did not even exist.

How can you feel abandonend when there are at least 3 people who were actively trying for you to be created/born (Your father, your mother and the donor). And how in the world can it be selfish that I decide NOT to throw my eggs away but to try and make other people happy?

Are Rel et al. saying they are against donation completely?

Rel said...

To 'me',

I suggest you read my blog if you want answers to most of these questions, especially the one asking whether i would prefer to be alive or not... really over having to address that one. To me it's an irrelevant question, and a rather silly one.

i don't want kids either. And in fact my sister is trying to have children, so we are in the same boat. Only difference is that i would never donate my eggs (as i see it, my children) to anyone else, not even my sister and i love her very much!!! She would not use donor gametes either, and not from me especially. You see we have lived on the other side of this coin and we both agree that it would not be a good idea to do such a thing.

I really don't see how you can compare donating blood or anything else to donating sperm or eggs. Donating blood obviously does not result in the birth of a human.

I don't think donor conception is an ethically justifiable practice. For many reasons, again i blog about this point a lot. If you're interested in understanding my point of view it's all there.

Inglenook said...

Rel, my apologies, but as far as I am concerned, you have not answered my question. If you don't want to, that's OK. I am just interested in trying to understand.

Again, eggs & sperm are not kids in my book. Only when the two meet do they become a child. So, from your point of view, I just wonder how you think an egg equals child. Or sperm equals child.

I still do not understand how giving your eggs or sperm away is WORSE throwing it away. (I mean from the donor's point of view as you seem to consider it abandonment when a donor decides not to use the egg or sperm to conceive themselves). Is the egg/sperm that gets donated even more abandoned than the egg/sperm that gets thrown away?

Mind you, it is of course perfectly fine for people to decide that they are against donation, I am not arguing that. But your viewpoint is so far removed from what I can understand that I am just asking you to explain. After all, enhanced understanding between people can only be good. ANdif I am going to donate my eggs to my sister, and you say this might well create an unhappy child, seeing things from that perspective can only be helpful.

And finally, just because you are over that question about rather not being born does not mean it is a silly question. That question is the logical outcome of your position on donation and the feelings you have towards the donor.

MAX said...

If gametes equal children then wouldn't someone who does not wish to have children and uses some sort of birth control be INTENTIONALY comitting a crime against humanity ?

Taking the pill would then logically be premedited murder.