Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Linked are Issues of Openness to Anything DI Related? And Am I Wrong to Link Them?

I posted a question this weekend on the DI Dad Yahoo Discussion Group asking what were some of the members greatest fears about using donor insemination etc. A couple of the responses involved fears of whether the child would love the dad. My responses included the thoughts that if a child is shown love and respect that the child would have no reason not to love that parent.

It was how I continued that leads to my question of how connected the issue of openness is to anything donor insemination related. Directly or tangentially.

I stated my belief that if a child is told early enough and as a normal part of their life I think the question of whether a child will love the parents is or would be a non-issue as the children would only know love from these parents. If a child is never told and always shown love they will of course, in normal situations, also love their parents. But if the secret is later found out it may cause a rift, in those relationships, it may not. My point is as always that telling early does more to take away the pain of a possible secret being learned and resentment being born.

It was my bringing up the issue of openness and telling that had one long time member of the group asking me to not always bring the conversation back to openness. I did not think I had been doing that but perhaps I do. He felt I was veering away from the group is for.

Does my thinking and response go beyond the initial answer given to my fear question. Certainly it does. Am I pushing my openness views. Can't argue I am not. But have a crossed a line? Perhaps. I do try to state that these are my views and it is also possible not telling may be right for some families. I can't believe how but I guess it could be.

So again how linked are all these issues? I think the entire picture should be known and looked at together as to do otherwise can allow us to compartmentalize and rationalize. Donor conception has causes, action / reactions, and effects. As the character Dr. Ian Malcolm in in the movie Jurassic Park stated "You've never heard of Chaos theory?" Life has a way where all information eventually gets out. To ignore all the possibilities when decision making I feel is to be acting in a vacuum and life is not that easy.

As Marilyn indicated in the first comment, my statements are not meant to state that openness will prevent a donor conceived individual from having issues with the concept of their conception story or wanting to know more about their biological father. I only meant to indicate that openness allows the truth to be known and that from there a base can be developed for a family to work from without anything hidden lurking waiting to be exposed and creating additional issues that may divide an individual and the parents that raised them. Does that make sense?


marilynn said...

I think you are both right and wrong. Openness is totally the appropriate way to go. Who wants to find out someone pretended to be related to them for 30 years?

But being open does not make the whole thing no big deal the way people seem to think it will. I mean they have a biological father who elected to abandon his child to the care of people he did not know and would never meet - banking on the idea that anyone willing to go to all that trouble (subtext pay good money) will do a great job of raising a kid. That's pretty shortsighted and irresponsible of the abandoning bio parent. I mean clearly in your case the bet paid off but when a guy is making bets on 20,30,100 kids the whole lot of them are going to feel pretty sold out. All of his kids lost a bio parent to gain a non bio parent, why did that have to happen to them? Why can't they just be their mother's husband's step kid like the rest of the kids in the world with bio parents that are not together? Why did they have to loose in order for someone else to get a crack at a relationship with them?

The relationship with the social parent can be fantastic but it does not fix the problem that they don't have a relationship with their bio father or half the people on the planet that they are related to. Its not like people can really substitute for one another. You add new people to your life but you cannot actually believe that one person fully replaces the other.

So I guess what I'm saying is that its kind of like taking something from someone without his or her permission; telling the truth about it does not undo the fact that your not suppose to take something away from someone that belongs to them, but at least they are not played for a fool to add insult to injury. In this case the child's paternal family was taken without permission. Sure tell the truth, but draw your own conclusions as to how that plays out in the mind of the child and the child's future children.

Openness wont fix the problem it will however keep it from getting any worse.

Vinnie said...

I understand what Marilynn is saying, but even while pointing out that your phrasing could be read to suggest that you have overlooked the importance of the bio connection, she assumes that HER view of the importance of the bio connection (such as the feeling that the donor "abandoned" offspring, and the feeling that half a family has been lost) will be shared by every DC child. In practice, though, DC people have a vast range of feeling about the importance of the donor. I have read comments/blogs by DC individuals who are tormented by the absence of connection to the donor, and by some who could not care less. Either way, though, I agree that openness is the best policy -- only if the truth is known can each DC person decide for herself how she feels about it.

marilynn said...

Vinny I don't mean to say tat every child will care to meet his or her paternal relatives only that as an equation, every chilld has maternal and paternal relatives and some also have adopted, step or foster relatives as well add to that good friends of the family that are treated as if they were part of the family - taken together the sum of those people equal the child's family in all its various forms. They are his family connected to him in various ways. In all other circumstances biological parent's are obligated to raise their offspring. Not doing so outside a court approved adoption is considered abandonment and its a crime because the bio parent has not followed thru providing written consent in court to relinquish the child. Thats how states limit the sale of parental rights and try to limit child trafficking. I understand there is a legal exemption for donors but the reality is they are just men who got women pregnant that now have biological offspring and they are not looking after them as we normally require men to do. So not all children are afforded the same legal protection. It does not matter that someone else is willing to replace them....other children get support from absent bio fathers and have fantastic step fathers that they live with every day, they still get to know their paternal relatives. So not making any assumptions about how the child will react, just simply stating the math of the whole thing: Something that belongs to the child is taken without permission and telling the truth about it is the only respectful thing a person can do. It dos not change the fact the child ends up with less than they deserve, which may very well be plenty enough for them.

Vinnie I don't like to use the word gift or donation really because it turns the bio child into property. Sure the guy donates sperm, but he becomes a bio father when the child is born and its his actions from there on afterward that really matter to everyones daily life. So what would be the right word for a person that does not take care of their bio child but did not give them up for adoption? I get stuck to explain it another way but I'm open. I am not trying to be emotionally loaded just dry and factual.

marilynn said...

Vinnie how about this if you take something that belongs to a guy like all his paternal relatives or like a Joe DiMaggio signed baseball, and replaced it with something else like a your own relatives or a Jeff Kent signed baseball, you've done something the guy is likely to get pissed about no matter how cool your relatives are or your Jeff Kent baseball may be, there is a fairly good chance hes's gonna want his own peeps and ball back. He'll be real mad if you lie about it and less mad if you own up to it.

If you light a match next to a fuse, blowing a little hot air around is probably not going to keep things from blowing up in your face. Just sayin.

marilynn said...

Thanks for the update. That new bit of info grounds you in reality. Thank goodness for you and your blog and your willingness to be frank with the kids and with the community because I'm sure you have made it easier for many men to feel secure in that their relationship with their legal kids has to stand on its own merit and is entirely separate from the kids lack of a personal relationship with their paternal relatives. While bio mom and husband sought out a man that was willing not to raise the kids he makes, ultimately it was the bio father's decision to make a baby he did not want to raise, so he is responsible for taking that action or inaction and is responsible for whatever effect his absense and the absense of his family have on each of his offspring. He's also responsible for whatever effect the absense of his offspring has on his family; say for instance his niece or nephew ends up taking one of his kids (a first cousin) to prom. Its his fault for not including his children in the family so they'd know not to french kiss each other. Bio dad has to take responsibility for the results of his reproductive choices, not DI Dad. The idea that DI Dad and Mom paid him to do it may or not be disturbing to a child, but again the buck stops with bio Dad.

Honesty and clarity make everything easier always, nobody likes to be played for a fool. You are so respectful and thoughtful of how your actions now impact their development. I'm trying to be clear and matter of fact without being an armchair psychologist. I come off harsh sorry I'm working on my delivery.

Richard said...

I really don't think that you crossed a line Eric. Openness is a key issue for most couples considering use of a donor. To not discuss the pros and cons of disclosure would not be providing the benefit of your experience to the group. The fact that some people don't agree that disclosure is the right route for them or others is simply another point of view and one that is equally valid for them to share.

How men feel about the use of donor sperm to create their family is, today, inextricably linked to the question of openness and to suggest that it isn't is just, in my opinion, someone feeling guilty that they may not have done the best thing for their children.

Bea said...

I am with you, in that I think it would be very difficult to compartmentalise specific parts of the experience to that extent.


Vinnie said...

Sorry, Marilynn, but what you don't understand is that I AM the Joe Dimaggio baseball. I took nothing "away" from my son -- he would not even exist if it were not for my choice to have him; and like any other child born to any other parent, he is not entitled to select the circumstances into which he is born. My wife and I made what we believed to be the responsible choice for our family, and if other people don't like it, they can make a different choice for their own. I don't expect to persuade you to embrace my belief about this, just as you have not persuaded me to accept yours, and that is why I chose to use a sperm donor while you obviously are not inclined to so choose. I am glad that we live in a free country where we could both make our personal choices without foisting our own moralities on each other! If you blow hot air in someone's face, they might just think you have bad breath. Just sayin.

Ryan said...


Personally, I don't think being open and honest about the situation is going to hurt anyone. Are you "pushing openness?" I don't think so. As the father of DI kids, you're one of the parties most likely to be hurt by the situation in the future. I "knew" early on, and I think that early internalization led me to be better capable of dealing with it later. The way I was told, though, was what was damaging. Your example father needs to accept that the story is going to come out, and he wants to be there when it does.

Otherwise, you wind up with a frightening, scared child in the back seat of a car while the manipulative, shrill harpy of a mother is screaming "the secret" at him from the front seat while driving to the courthouse for divorce proceedings. Yeah. Your friend wants to watch out for that.

marilynn said...

I'm sorry that I chose a bad analogy. It offended you and also did not make my point at all or you would have given a different response:

Let me try again without the analogies - you said in your response

"...he would not even exist if it were not for my choice to have him"

I kind of see where your going with that except that your decision to have him was dependent upon your wife and the donor reproducing to make him exist and also dependent upon their consent to allow your involvement. Your wife could have chosen the same donor and had the very same baby if she was single or someone elses wife. When you say he exists because of you decision, I have to take it to mean that you were supportive of your wife's choice and secondarily the donors choice - you seem like a nice guy I know you did not force them to reproduce and even if you had your decision alone would not have caused his existence. You have the harder job of shaping his existence and his character and values will reflect the fact that you raised him.

You said "I took nothing "away" from my son" I know you didn't. You did not make the decision to reproduce to create children that you would not know or be there for, the donor did. You did not choose to exclude him from being part of your family, the donor did. You added something to his life (you and your relatives) while the donor subtracted something (himself and his relatives). So you have to aknowledge that half of everyone he is related to -all his paternal relatives are missing from his life, he has lost all those people.

-- like any other child born to any other parent, he is not entitled to select the circumstances into which he is born.

Vinnie said...

Marilynn -- hard as this may be to hear, I DO understand what you are saying and I STILL disagree. I enjoy the debate, but I fear we are cluttering Eric's blog with our personal differences. I told him to feel free to give you my aol email address if you want to continue this by email. If not, then we can let it go, and you can have the last word on the blog comments if you like, so long as you do so with full knowledge that you have not persuaded me of anything (not that our conversing by email is going to result in any changing of our opinions, but it would be a fun debate at least, and perhaps a bit educational). Cheers!