Sunday, June 15, 2014

My 2007 Father's Day Post

This post was originally published in 2007.  It has been my sporadic tradition to repost it on Father's Day.
With Father's Day on the horizon my thoughts stray to the man whose gift allowed my children to come into being. This man is not the doctor or mid wife that delivered them. This man is their sperm donor. My children were conceived via Donor Insemination.

Without this man's gift, these children would never have come into being and into my and my wife's life. I am occasionally asked if I resent that this man could do what I could not. I can comfortably say I do not. On the contrary I want to thank him.

When I was diagnosed with non-obstructive azoospermia 12 years ago I was told that I should expect to never have children of my own. The fact that my children are not biologically linked to me has never lessened my love for them nor my belief that they are indeed my children. At the same time I am cognizant that there is another man whose role cannot be nor should be minimized.

To me he is and is not simply their donor. For now to my children he is in effect non-existent as they don't fully understand the concept of donor insemination. They have been told of their conception story and that a donor was used but this is still too much for them to truly comprehend as they are both less than six years old. Someday soon this will change and I wonder how that will play out. For now the knowledge of his existence rests with my wife and me and as I see it I have a responsibility to not let the truth of him fade away.

The lives of my children are as much connected to him as they are to me. I do not pretend to argue nurture is greater than nature but rather together play a role in these children's lives. I have his bios, medical, social, and educational. I have a toddler picture of him and a recording of his voice. All of this info is being saved for them as it is part of who they are.

Everyday I see articles addressing infertility and the use of donor conception from the side of the couples going through infertility, women choosing single motherhood, or lesbian or gay couples looking to start families. There are court cases around the country redefining what is family and who has the right to be legally defined as a parent or not. Under New York State law I am considered the legal father to my children. But despite that fact I know that someday my children will wonder about the man that is one half of their genetic make up.

Most heterosexual families of donor conceived children choose to never tell their children of the conception story fearing the child will turn against the social parent or for fear or shame of the perceived stigmas of using another person’s sperm or eggs to create their children. In my opinion these parents do so for their own reasons and not for the benefit of the children who have a right to the truth. I recently contributed an essay to a book series titled “Voices of Donor Conception” and have been increasingly involved in the discussions of these topics on the Internet.

The central issues surrounding donor conception, including donor anonymity, regulation and reform, have been or are being addressed in several countries around the world including Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada among others. The United States has not yet entered that discussion and currently there are no federal laws directly regulating the sale of gametes 
[i] nor are there any regulations imposed on the administration of the various cryobanks and clinics that solicit gamete donations and sell these gametes to the public. I am in favor of reforming the practices of this industry but I am not here today for that purpose.

I no longer fear the donor’s shadow but rather acknowledge his presence and if my children ask that his contribution be honored this or on a future Father’s Day I must honor their wishes if I am half the father I believe myself to be to them. So on their behalf I wish him a Happy Father’s Day and I say to him thank you for allowing me to do the same.

[i] “Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies” The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, D.C., March 2004, Chapter 6

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's a Guy Thing Infertility Telesummit

More later but am pre recording tomorrow a session addressing family creation using donor conception. Should be interesting. 

Donor Conception Postcard Project - Update

The facebook based project has been mildly successful so far. Cards and images trickle in. No major deluge. Positive feedback. 

Not sure how to effectively promote it. Twitter adds something but not a string feeder. Posting updates on other facebook groups has helped. I do like seeing varied messages be submitted and posted. Will let it grow organically. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Child's Announcement via a Lawn Sign

How Public is Public

The guest columnist writing the Motherlode column for the NY Times today writes about how open should her family be about their religion in a secular world and conversely how liberal can she be in her religious world. The two worlds colliding when her child comes homes from religious school with a lawn sign that reads Jesus Lives.

In the end she trusts in the faith that her neighbors are tolerant of all views and the knowledge who their family is that no prejudice would ensue. 

Made me think on some levels how some couples decide not to tell their children they are donor conceived. Once the child knows it might as well at times be a sign on their front lawn.  To do so might add a stigma to the couple's lives that one parent could not procreate as easily as all their neighbors or that the child may grow up with that stigma attached much as adoptees sometimes did a bit when I was a child in the 1970s. 

This post is not addressing whether DC should be used due to issues of identity, medical or abandonment that some donor conceived have experienced.  

This post is simply looking at the issue from a perspective of who
Telling or Not Telling is serving. Clearly in the world some parents might be embarrassed for their neighbors to know as opposed to the honesty of sharing the info with the child so they have that knowledge and can process it as they will as they grow up. 

The analogy to the NYT column is not perfect but with the facts of my world it is part of what I saw and how I reacted. 

(As an aside I did recently see a cartoon or something about Jesus being Donor Conceived. But that would be a whole other post to address that analogy).

Post # 572

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Donor Conception Postcard Project: Update 1

Well I have created a facebook page for the Project. The link is below. I have also created a Twitter account for the Project to announce the publishing of new cards received. Interest is definitely out there. 

I have spoken with many people offering support from Olivia Montuschi of the Donor Conception Network  to Alana Newman of the AnonymousUS project. 

Just waiting for cards to start arriving. Here is the contact and link info:

Donor                PO Box 6728
Conception     FDR Station
PostCard        New York, NY
Project             10150-6728

Twitter @PostcardsDC

Sample postcard submissions:  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kids Say the Darndest Things

On parenting:

As I have stated in the past my 11 and 9 year olds are very much aware they are donor conceived. This morning daughter, the 9yo, and I were looking at pics of their half sibling sister on facebook and discussing its a shame we live so far away. 

This afternoon while kidding around they were busting on me. Their comment referring to their own good looks: "It's a good thing for the (sperm) donor". 

Took me a moment to get it. I countered with starting a pillow fight. I know they were kidding. They know I know. Doesn't mean the pillow swings were any lighter for it. :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Donor Conception Post Card Project

I posted a message to the DI Dads Yahoo Discussion group tonight about soliciting anonymous post cards on the topic of donor insemination. Submissions could be anything they wanted to say about the topic. Concerns, fears, messages of support, anything. The single theme must be about DI. 

I wrote about the single Post Secret card I saw re Donor Conception on their site back in 2008. The responses to the card from donor conceived that I read were usually dismissive of the message written conveyed on the card. 

I am curious what cards I would receive if I opened up the topic to all donor conception issues. Would men and women , donors, donor conceived, parents submit post cards?

Would you?

If you would the address would be as follows.  Maybe this is a crazy idea. Maybe I have no concept what could happen but here goes:

Donor Conception Post Card Project
c/o Eric
PO Box 6728
FDR Station
New York NY 10150-6728

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A Parent's Reaction

I saw this post card on this week's display presented at Post Secret dot com. Just struck me. Having lived through years of infertility you recognize the pain and truth. 

Love my kids so much. I don't understand fathers, biological or otherwise, that are not involved in their children's lives, that don't love them fiercely. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

DI Dads Supporting Dads-to-be

Every week I approve new members to the Yahoo DI Dads support discussion group. Generally the new members are either men contemplating using DI with their partners or their spouse is already pregnant via DI and the dad-to-be is looking for support. Their first posts generally involve how will they bond or feel about the child, or perhaps will the child know that they are not its biological father. It runs a gamut of several questions. 

This morning I received an email providing in digest form the posts and responses of the last 24 hours. I am quite proud to say no sooner had one new member posted his concerns that several  current members rose to offer their support and comments how they too felt and how their fears were addressed or without out merit as the love and bonding came automatically. 

These men all want to be fathers, nature or circumstances, threw them curves that prevented it naturally so it is expected that they all have the capacity to love their DI kids and that the kids will love them back. I am proud of our little community and know that any man that steps through that virtual door will find support from guys who have been there and can voice their opinions. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dreamt of More Half Sibs

Earlier today via Twitter I re-tweeted posts including videos of sibling groupings and meetings I had not seen before. The Tulane sisters Today Show video, a vid posted to YouTube by the California Cryobank of a young teenager meeting 5 of his half sibs (Donor 5114) for the first time at a Taos reunion. The oldest sib in that group on camera was maybe 15. 

After posting these 5am tweets I went back to bed and amusingly dreamed of a gathering of my own children and their half siblings. The group in my dream grew from its current and known 4 sibs to what I think was about a dozen and was comprised of mostly teenagers.  Like many dreams the events were disjointed and not totally clear. 

I do recall a donor number check as well as a discussion with the oldest half sibling in this dream grouping about a class she attended in school that addressed the ethics of donor conception. That reference must have been as a result of watching an AnonymousUS video questioning the ethics of the fertility industry. 

Ok, I am very amused as it is rare this topic has invaded my dreams much less any that I remember. Time to make hot breakfast for my two very real and hungry children. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Family History and Genetic Kinship

I am meeting today second cousins I have never met before. Over the years I have always been involved with my family's genealogy and history. Facts that some folks here on the Internet have used to chastise me for my use of donor conception to conceive my children. The statements made have centered on the fact that by using DI we intentionally cut our children off from their genetic past and heritage. 

During the years we, my now ex-wife, and I were trying to conceive either via traditional IVF or via DC, I was always involved in various family history projects. My work has been used by numerous young relatives passing it off as their own school family history research. 

It certainly was never our emotional intent to create these genetic and heritage disconnects when using donor insemination. No parent who used DC intentionally did this with any type of malice but in plain truth it is the effect.

My kids know my family history. They know part of it is not theirs biologically. But from a heritage standpoint it is theirs. We chose a Jewish donor whose family had Eastern European roots very similar to my own. Now some religious pundits would argue we should not have used a Jewish donor due to some finer points of Jewish Halacha law but we wanted these connections. Medically the donor's family bio was about the same as mine as well so there was no genetic improvement there as well. No eugenics here. 

The point is where the kids will likely never know the donor's parents' names it is likely the experiences of my family heritage wise probably doesn't differ too much from the actual donor's family. The bio Great Grandma and Great Grandpa probably came over in steerage just as mine did, traveling from similar shtetls to America. Yes, there is still a very real and true disconnect that resulted and the kinship percentages reflected in the above chart which would drop to zero for most boxes. Perhaps my continuing research may cause some angst to my children regarding their not knowing their biological cousins and that family but perhaps the kids can look at these second cousins once removed and say they probably just like my own, guess I'll keep them. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How do you define what biological kids feel like?

This past Monday the NYT column Motherlode ran a column titled “Would a Pregnancy Through a Donor Egg Feel Like ‘Mine’? written by Amy Klein.  It’s an interesting question and I can see where a woman would ask the question.  What is amazing to me is that we have the technology to allow a woman to become a birth mother and to bond with the child in this manner.

 It is certainly a bond no dad, biological or social, can ever experience. [I am discounting the transgender dad who never switched out his female parts.]

 Now granted a woman carrying donor eggs is a far cry from being a father to children created via donor insemination.  But it begs the question what do biological children feel like that are different than my own DI children?

 Many men before their DI kids are born worry about binding with the children and that somehow the children will know the dad is not biologically related and reject the dad.  I have seen from my own experience and been told by most dads, that upon seeing their DI children and interacting with them in every normal way dads do, that the bonds form quickly and naturally. 

 So the answer to the above question, for most dads, is that these kids are our kids.  There is no different feeling.  These kids not only feel like mine. They are.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

When Divorce Magnifies Donor Conception's Losses

Today's NY Times includes an excellent column under the Motherlode column titled "When Divorce Magnifies Adoption's Losses".  It is worth reading for any parent and especially divorced parents of donor conceived children as many of the issues mirror our own.  The author Deesha Philyaw along with her ex husband apparently write a blog titled CoParenting101 discussing issues of divorce that I will be following going forward.

Mandatory Donor Conception Workshops ? Voluntary?

Over the years I have often referred to my children's DI conception as analogous to a half adoption. The term allows people to see the similarities between the two communities with respect to various issues. One of the issues I have discussed before is how couples / individuals looking to adopt have usually been required to go through an interview process and very often some sort of educational seminar or workshop prior to an adoption being granted. I have often wondered why the use of donor conception methods does not require a similar process. 

The answer lies I suspect in the fact that in the adoption process the child already exists, has rights, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child is placed with an individual or family best suited for that adoption. In cases where donor conception is chosen, it is being used very often to overcome infertility issues or the fact the couple (gay/lesbian) cannot obviously procreate without the use if third party gametes and here there is no child who rights and safety must be currently safeguarded by the State. 

Should cryobanks / clinics require some sort of counseling or information sessions prior to starting DC procedures? Perhaps. Some offer information or counseling in some form but I am unaware if it is mandatorily required by any such institution currently. Certainly no US state health law requires it that I know of. Let me know if your state does. 

My own view is I wish there was some requirement. How it would be administered, signed off on, I cannot say but I would expect the experience would shift the paradigm from donor conception from being used as an infertility mask to a opportunity for the potential parents to understand the issues and possible ramifications / questions / issues that the donor conceived individuals may face in their lives. 

The UK Donor Conception Network offers such a seminar that I did not realize existed.  I would love to see such seminars adapted here by local chapters of the American Fertility Association or Resolve.  

Do I expect legislation or regulations here in the US to require such seminars to be in parity with local adoption laws? Unlikely. Medical establishments and cryobanks want no roadblocks to easy use of DC as simply a treatment option and want little or no contact with any additional red tape. 

Should such seminars be encouraged? Yes. To require them to be mandatory? Unlikely it will ever happen but I would vote Yay. There are simply to many benefits to the adults and to the children of knowledgeable and loving parents. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Building Half Sibling Relationships

My kids make up two of four total half siblings from our donor. How they relate to each other is a confluence of several factors. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. How these relationships will develop over time we can only guess. Every group is different these kids are not the exception. 

I suggested to my kids that they call each of their half sibs for the holidays. I admit watching the siblings on Generation Cryo has me hoping the kids will all be close as they grow older. They seemed interested but like real tweens and pre-tweens (is there a term?) are more interested in their electronic devices then true human contact. 

Apparently my son J spoke to his male half sib N (new reference letter) for all of maybe five to ten minutes, seemed tired, not into it, and hung up even before giving his sister Z a chance to speak to N.  What was strange is that J and N have always had a very rambunctious silly rapport over the phone. N lives West and its been about a year and half before these kids saw each other. 

This past Summer we took a road trip South and visited the kids other half sibling M, a girl, which made Z happy as she wanted some half sibling girl time. The one night stay was a lot of fun for all. But since the trip maybe the kids have spoken once. Different lives. Out of sight and not day to day is not exactly brothers and sisters. 

The boy out West has always wanted siblings. And misses my two exasperated the distance is so far.  The girl down South is a very vivacious independent kid. Each of the four is different and yet share much.  

Who knows whether they will grow closer. My own two last weekend visited their cousins via their mom's brother. Much younger and closer distance wise but seeing them is also rare. 

Family is how you define it and what you make of it. Despite my trying to keep the connections it will be up to them and I have to take my cues from them while occassionally providing opportunities to develop those relationships. Only time will tell.