Monday, July 31, 2006
As I stated in my first post I am not the biological father to my kids as they were conceived with the assistance of donor sperm. In the next few weeks we will be taking a family vacation to a theme park here in the Northeast. We really have never taken a family vacation before and this one will be a little different than typical vacations. You see my kids are meeting for the first time their biological half sibling.
Each of the kids is under 5 so how much they understand is debatable. At the same other than again stating to my kids that a donor created them and that the donor also helped create the young girl we are meeting I don’t expect to get into too much detail. The idea is simply for the kids to meet and then deal with the details.
For extended families created unfortunately / fortunately due to divorce or even the death of a parent (where the surviving parent remarries and then has kids with their new spouse) the issues of half or step siblings is generally accepted. As a result siblings, step, half or full are just part of their lives and the linking parents are flesh and blood tangible persons.
In the case of donor conceived families the donor is anything but flesh and blood unless a known donor was used and part of the equation. The circumstances creating these children is currently much more titillating and seem by some as controversial. As a result the instance of meeting half siblings without a physical linking parent is that much more amazing and life affecting.
The children are not brother and sisters as they have no relationship to date but meeting creates the base for that relationship and I want to make sure we do it right and not confuse these kids.
To say I am nervous on a number of levels is an understatement. For not only are the kids meeting but my wife and I will be meeting the little girl’s mom for the first time even though we have been trading e-mails and voice mails and talking live on the phone for several months. As compared to my own sister who is stuck with me if this woman does not like me or my wife it could affect any possible relationship the kids might have growing up and knowing each other.
It should be an interesting vacation.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
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.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
How 500,000 frozen embryos are forcing us to rethink life, choice, and reproductive freedom"
Blog: Fold / Spindle / Mutilate 2.0
By Liza Mundy
July 23, 2006
An interesting but LONG article.
Similarly, the federal government, in its role as regulator, has found the embryo a slippery creature to define. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began distributing grants to groups willing to raise public awareness about what the Bush administration likes to call “embryo adoption.” Also known as “embryo donation,” this is a process whereby embryos are relinquished by whoever created them and handed over to another couple, or person. In most states, this is essentially a property transfer, not an adoption, and advocates for the infertile, as well as old-line reproductive rights groups, fear the use of the word “adoption” is one more attempt to confer humanhood on the embryo, a backdoor anti-abortion sally. They are right: To dramatize his opposition to federal funding for stem cell research, Bush in May 2005 posed with a group of “Snowflakes” babies, children who started life as leftover ivf embryos and were donated to other couples, thanks to the brokerage of an explicitly Christian, explicitly pro-life embryo adoption group called Snowflakes.
Inconveniently for the president, at that very moment the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was in the process of categorizing the human embryo as biological tissue, thereby putting into effect strict disease-testing requirements that would make embryo adoption, or donation, impossible. Clinics feared they would need to close down their donation programs. At the last moment, an exemption for embryos was carved out, and embryo donations were permitted to go forward. The infertility lobby was delighted and a little smug, not just because doctors and patients’ groups support embryo donation (which they do), but because “tissue” remains the designation conferred on embryos by the fda. Like abortion rights groups, the infertility field likes this designation, which helps preserve for it total reproductive freedom by encouraging the notion of the embryo as a multicelled clump of tissue.
Liza Mundy is a staff writer for the Washington Post.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Because the Torah commands men and women to have children, Jewish law allows for reproductive technologies
Science & Theology News
By Dr. Joseph G. Schenker (July 21, 2006)
Excerpts (I have added bolding and color to the phrases I found interesting):
The requirement for a man to procreate by having a minimum of two children — a boy and a girl — is obligatory according to Jewish law. According to both schools, Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel, in order to fulfill the obligation of procreation at least one son is required. To help satisfy this requirement, fertility treatment is allowed to help Jewish couples to conceive children.
There are three basic principles in the Jewish religion that, with certain restrictions, favor the permissibility of fertility treatment. The first is based on the verse in the Torah, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth.” In Halakhic literature the fulfi llment of this command is considered of greatest importance because the fulfi llment of all other commandments depends on it.
Nearly every mainstream religious group that has officially taken a position on reproductive cloning has condemned it. Some cite safety as the primary basis for their objections. Some religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, object to both reproductive and therapeutic cloning on religious or moral grounds.
Others, including several Jewish groups, advocate so-called therapeutic cloning on the grounds that such medical research could uncover cures for debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases. The Jewish religion takes the position that reproductive cloning could conceivably be justified in some circumstances. This view is largely based on historical tradition and sacred writings, which focus on human destiny.
The Jewish tradition emphasizes that man is in a partnership with God. Some Jewish thinkers find justification for this view in the story of Genesis, which says that Adam and Eve were “to work [the garden] and to preserve it.” Man is obligated to care for what God has created and to improve upon creation to meet human needs.
Jewish scholars do not believe that potential violations of human dignity are reason enough to prohibit human cloning. They believe that the likely benefits of developing cloning technology outweigh the potential costs, provided man fulfills his obligation to minimize violations of human dignity. Some Jewish thinkers fear that cloning humans might harm the family by changing the relationships among family members that define their responsibilities to one another as well as patterns of inheritance.
Furthermore, in Judaism, religious status is passed down through the mother, and tribal designation is passed down through the father. Thus, a child needs both a mother and a father. However, many regard cloning of a family member as more acceptable than donor insemination or egg donation. If cloning technology research advances our ability to heal humans, it ought to be pursued because it does not require or encourage the destruction of life in the process. Jewish law does not grant full moral status to human embryos — the Talmud deems the embryo during the first 40 days following conception as “mere water.”
The overriding duty derived from the Torah and rabbinic commentary is the preservation of human life. Given this presumptive duty, it is possible to support cloning when it is presented as a therapeutic remedy for diseases. Jewish law is squarely on the side of medical research that has potential to save and preserve life.
The author provides no scriptual citations suporting his statements so I am unclear how stongly we can accept his conclusions. I am unfamiliar with the publication but the mix of the two topics in its title promise some interesting viewpoints.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
I just found tonight a new website resource for families addressing the issues surrounding disclosure and openness. In my personal view this site is a great addition to this issue. The website was created by the folks over at the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media (a division of the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital) with the input of many individuals linked to on the site.
Talking to Children about Assisted Reproductive Technology
The site is a mix of audio and printable transcripts of discussions held with families of different age children and young adults discussing their feelings about disclosure / openess.
Except for limited web pages on the various National infertility support groups there has been scant attention paid, here in the United States, to the issues confronting parents of donor conceived children especially that of disclosure. Homegrown organizatons like the Donor Sibling Registry have done wonders to fill that void but lack the resources to address this issue as this site does.
I learned of this new site via a post on the DSR Yahoo Group discussion board. I have been quite impressed with the British based Donor Conception Network's "Telling and Talking" series of pamphlets and I expect this site to add another great resource to this area of discussion that will address it perhaps with the issues affecting parents in the United States a bit more directly.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Stem Cell Bill Gets Bush's First Veto
By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006; Page A04
"Officials say that about 400,000 frozen embryos are stored at U.S. fertility clinics. The vast majority await disposal because the couples that produced them have completed their pursuit of children and do not want another person to raise their biological child. Bush praised those who "adopt" such embryos, implant them in a woman's womb and bring them to term.
But others said there will be few such adoptions because most couples seeking a child through in vitro fertilization want a genetic connection to that child. "Even with federal funding available to encourage adoption, the number is 128, which makes it conclusive that these 400,000 embryos will either be used for scientific research or thrown away," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a proponent of the bill, said this week.
Bush and his allies say that frozen embryos are tantamount to humans, and therefore are no more appropriate for medical research than are death row inmates. "If this bill were to become law," Bush said yesterday, "American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos."
Others reject that analysis, saying it would make killers of every couple that produces an unused embryo, and every employee and official who allows fertility clinics to produce and store such embryos.
"If that's murder, how come the president allows that to continue?" asked Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). "Where is his outrage?" Harkin called the veto "a shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy and ignorance.""
Four Options (1) Embryo Adoption, (2) Research, (3) Cryogenic Eternity, (4) Disposal
As discussed in the WP article there are four options available for IVF created embryos left unused.
George Bush’s veto of the bill passed yesterday by the United States Senate effectively removed Option #2, where Federal funding was involved, for the approximately 400,000 frozen embryos referred to above in the article cited. As described above, Option #1, the adoption of Snowflakes, the political term used for the embryos "rescued" via adoption, is not very popolar among those considering ART / DC in their family building.
That leaves Options # 3 and 4. The conservative right would have these embryos be left in stasis based on their belief that #1 is murder. It just seems to me that the best alternative is research if there are no families looking to adopt these embryos. Certainly the anti-DC community would rather have these embryos not be born into life disconnecting the resulting child on both sides. Then again this community is probably not looking to expand research on this area either and would want Option # 4.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
"PASADENA -- A man is suing a Pasadena fertility center, claiming they secretly videotaped him masturbating in a sperm donation room and engaged in a cover-up when he complained, his attorney announced Wednesday.
The 28-year-old man filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Pacific Reproductive Services. He said after he discovered the small camera hidden above the ceiling and informed the center's staff, they refused to file a police report. "
At first you want to believe that this is some small fly by night sperm bank but according to the Donor Sibling Registry there are 221 offspring registered as being created from sperm from this bank. Note that is the DSR registered count not the count of all kids created through the services provided by this site. When individuals like me cry for reform the benefits would not only run to the families contracting for services but presumably to the donors as well if the standarads of model behavior for the clinics include such provisions.
The sad thing for all parties is that if such tapes were made public it would reinforce the negative stigma of DI and traumatize any individuals whopse donors were captured on film. Certainly for opponents of DI it would be a bounty to demoralize potential donors of fears of this could happen to you.
"Thoughts of donor conception practices from a donor offspring whose views changed dramatically once he had children of his own. This event has lead me on a quest to find my true identity, heritage, family health history and genetic relations (both donor and siblings), for myself and for my children."
This blog is brand spanking new with only one post under it's belt. Like the other donor conceived blogs I have highlighted this one is also from Australia, in this case South Australia, Adelaide per the profile.
Other than a rare exception (Lindsay from here in the States) I have found that the majority of the vocal DC individuals out there blogging to be from Australia. I can surmise that is due to the long history of donor anonymity and doctor / clinic controlled DI procedures which was prevalent in the UK, New Zealand and Canada. All in contrast to the consumerist USA where many have complete medical and social bios of the donor's.
So far Damianhadams has confirmed the comments of most of his donor conceived generation. What will differentiate this blog will be his comments as a father and tat he is man bloging on this topic.
My purpose in focusing on his blog is again not to put it forward as gospel that all donor conceived share these feelings but to make known they exist and to further my own education as a social parent of DI kids we brought into this world.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
When my wife became pregnant with our first child I had promised I would go to morning prayers everyday and I did just that for the course of the pregnancy and into my son's first year of life. I loved going everyday and starting my day through prayer. Whether you agree with Israel's politics or not Israel is tied to every Jew's consciousness (at least it is for mine).
Going through infertility is stressful enough. For many American Jews the concept of what it means to truly live in Israel through the Intifadah, the Scud Attacks of the first Desert Storm, or now this new "war" is unfathomable. To complicate those emotions with the personal side of trying to build a family seems crazy but its also part of a couple's desire to not let events take away their lives metaphorically. But now they must also make sure their lives are truly safe and to them and all the innocents caught in the middle of these events I wish safety and Shalom (which above all else means Peace). My prayers are also with the three soldiers whose kidnappings started this mad escalation.
[Graphic - NY Times Online 07-17-2006]
Friday, July 14, 2006
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.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; Page A06
"In a step that could help lead to new treatments for infertility, scientists produced live mice by using sperm-like cells derived from embryonic stem cells.
Seven mice resulted from the work, with six reaching adulthood. However, the animals were unusually small or large and died within five months of birth, apparently because they lacked normal controls over gene activity.
Still, the work establishes a method for learning more about how sperm is formed and perhaps for finding new treatments for male infertility, researchers said.
Scientists must learn more about the sperm production processto get to the basis of infertility, said the study's lead author, Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England.
The work is reported in this month's issue of the journal Developmental Cell."
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Hope for millions of men as scientists succeed in creating sperm from stem cells
By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent
Published: 11 July 2006
"Scientists have taken a major step forward in the understanding and treatment of male infertility after impregnating mice with sperm grown from embryonic stem cells.
In a world first, researchers have shown that sperm generated from stem cells and developed in a laboratory can result in a live birth.
The breakthrough could lead to infertile men undergoing "sperm transplants" resulting in the birth of their own biological child rather than having to use donated samples, which are in short supply.
Experts described the work as an exciting advance and "hugely significant" for the treatment of male infertility. But some pro-life campaigners expressed concern about the use of "artificial sperm" grown from a discarded embryo rather than a man to create a life."
Monday, July 10, 2006
This is not a new question and I have addressed before the concept of grafting the donor's tree onto our own. The twist here was that I was discussing with my wife my hope to have engraved on the back of my own headstone in broad terms my actual family tree noting in what other cemeteries the ancestors are buried. Sort of a directional map to where those who came before me are buried. As a genealogist I figured I wanted to leave more than a clue to my own past pretty much out in the open.
My wife thought the idea was crazy and then stated this might make the kids feel less connected to their adopted past. My response was three fold (1) yes it's a bit crazy, (2) hopefuly they will be adults when I pass, and (3) I would discuss it with them and see their reactions at a point in the future when they are old enough to fully understand.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
After I wrote the piece and my wife commented on it I decided to delete it for fear of creating the impression that any conversations we (the mom and I) may have prospectively are liable to be published in the form of a blog post. And I don't want her to feel threatened in any way. I actually like this woman very much as already know she has a great sense of humor and outlook on life from the little I / we really know about her.
How people meet and become friends is always a miracle to me. My wife and I come from different worlds and I wonder how, but for the grace of g-d, we were lucky enough to meet. I feel this woman also could become a real friend down the road as her family and ours get to know one another as the kids meet. So blogging posts on each and every meeting / discussion would not be appropriate no matter how tempting it is to document this process. Last thing I want to do is upset anybody endangering the kids from meeting their only known half sibling.
I am getting tired of writing "the mom of my kids' half sibling". Is there an anacronym (misp?) out there that has ben created for this purpose already? I don't want to use her real name and making up a pseudonym seems funny as readers will say "who is that?". Amazing how science also affects the creation of new words for purposes such as this.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Now my first reaction sarcasticaly (to myself) is great someone I am just meeting and she now knows about my infertility and that we used DI to create our kids. Not that I am ashamed of these facts but my first thoughts (due to the off color humor of my high school friends) is that this woman read about the state of my private parts when I was born as mentioned in the USA today article. I nodded and continued into her apartment and had a lovely time socializing before I had to leave.
I brought up this exchange and my thoughts to my wife and stated that I was unsure whether this neighbor was referring to the USA today story or perhaps a letter to the editor of our local paper in regards to expanding the hours of our library branch. It turns out this neighbor was referring to the latter letter and not USA Today but it was an amusing reaction on my part. Vanity meets embarrassment. I am just glad I did not say anything at that time.
Monday, July 03, 2006
There was an article published two days ago in the Sunday NY Times City Section titled "World Court: Basketball in Queens" which discusses how outside Russell Sage Junior High School in Forest Hills, Queens you will find kids and adults of all nationalities and backgrounds playing basketball together in informal pick up games. The author discusses how over the decades the nationalities of those playing has changed along with the influx of new immigrants to Queens and to NYC.
On this birthday we celebrate the opportunities made possible by the creation of this nation. Whatever your political views are the concept of this country is an amazing one. In the movie "An American President" the actor Michael Douglass as the US President makes a statement that to live here you must pass Advanced Citizenship.
Now what does this all have to do with DI? To be a DI parent requires an additional specialty degree in parenting. The DI parent needs to process their own feelings and thoughts regarding
DI and to demonstrate through their love for the chid that even if the child indicates they want contact with their biological donor that they, the parents, are there and suport them.
One of the funnier stories about the birth of the colonies into a nation that always makes me laugh is the one that Benjamin Frankling wanted the national bird to be a turkey and he envisioned the birth to be that of a turkey chick natching from the mother egg of England. Now thank heavens John Adams prevailed and we got the eagle. But can you imagine how these men felt wondering if the revolution would success to deliver a baby eagle or that of a turkey. The story is played out beautifully in the play 1776 and the movie version is hysterical.
Where I am going with this is that our children must be made aware that despite what half the world thinks of the United States that this country and the ideals and possibilities created by it's birth are ideals worth celebrating even if we could have ended up with Turkey as our national bird.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Published: 02 July 2006
Excerpted from The Independent:
"Fertility clinics are to be told to provide IVF treatment to all women, even when they do not have a male partner, under radical reforms backed by MPs.
A powerful coalition of MPs from all parties will call tomorrow for the scrapping of a legal requirement that clinics consider "the need for a father" when assessing whether to offer IVF.
MPs will publicly demand a change to the law which they say discriminates against single women and lesbians. Government sources indicated yesterday they will look again at the legal requirement, introduced under the last Tory government, which says a child's "need for a father" must be considered when women apply for IVF.
The change in the law, to be discussed on the floor of the House of Commons, is backed by expert bodies including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Association of Social Workers, which want the child's need for a father to be replaced by "the need for a family"."
My first reaction was that of surprise that single women and lesbian couples could not until this point access IVF in what I guess are public / govt clinics, as I know of women in the UK already trying. I guess they have been using private clinics. My second reaction is that I am guessing this will put added strain on the already diminished access to donor sperm in the UK. And that I find disheartening.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
published 01Jul2006 in the Herald Sun
"From today, laws allow all donor-conceived children born in Victoria on or after July 1, 1988 to initiate contact with their biological parent once they turn 18 years.
Likewise, the donor father can apply for information on any or all adult children conceived from his sperm.
They first apply to the Melbourne-based Infertility Treatment Authority, created as a regulatory body and storage house, which has kept records on the 3315 assisted births from 1057 donors in Victoria since 1988.
Under the Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984, which took effect from 1988, both parties in an assisted conception have the right to refuse approaches for information about themselves.
But donor-assisted children born after 1995 will not need consent from their biological father to find out his name, address and other identifying information once they reach adulthood. "
Rel of T5s Daughter is quoted in the article as a DI Conceived individual who has wanted to know more about her donor from the time she 15 and learned of her conception story. It was not stated but I am assuming Rel will be applying for info on T5 as a result of the law now allowing it unless I misunderstood her being covered by this change.
There will come a time that donor anonymity will end here in the USA and tow events will happen: (1) individuals will have a mechanism I expect such as that in Victoria to apply for info about their donors and (2) we will see a change in the quantity and availabilty of sperm donors as is being felt in the United Kingdom.
For the donor conceived it will be another milestone. For the families trying to have children it will drastically reduce the number of conceptions via DI and add to the pain of infertility. I hear that pain in the words of my friend Richard in the UK and it hurts as I can't imagine being in that position. My children are precious to me and knowing who they are now I would fight to create them but I am torn by the obvious pain that Rel and others feel.
If the laws changed here in the USA (overriding the contractual arrangement I signed with the cryobank) and a program allowed my children to initiate contact with the donor how would I feel? I have stated that such contact is their right and I hold to that belief. I will not lie that watching the subsequent events unfold could be hard for me but I expect that the kids will go out of their way to make me comfortable and to reassure me that I am their only dad despite the truth of biology.