Tuesday, May 11, 2021

2006 Video re This DI Dad’s Fears

Fears in 2006. 

Back in 2006 when my #donorconceived children were still small, four and under, I contributed this video to a fledgling #internationalinfertilityfilmfestival  organized by Melissa Ford aka #StirrupQueens repping the #donorconception side of TTC and #RecipientParents, although that phrase was not yet in vogue.  I did not know what to submit.  I think this was my second entry.  I simply read a chapter I had written and contributed to the #VoicesofDonorCobception book edited by #MikkiMorrisette jointly with the #DonorSiblingRegistry.  I had only been publicly  in this world for a year or so.  And as my kids were young my fears still present in my day to day life raising them as 1/2 of a married couple.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Will My Kids Be OK ?

The truth is no one can give you an answer to that question or any question that definitively can predict the future. The only fact that is definite, is one parents don't want to hear and that is to not choose donor conception. It's sounds horrible to be that blunt, but it's the only option you know with 100% certainty the outcome.
Putting that aside our job as parents is to protect our children and to prepare them for what they need to face in life. If we choose donor conception as a family building method there are responsibilities we have, in my opinion, that all start with being truthful.
Part of that truth is that a choice was made that was beyond the donor conceived child's control. Again I am not saying anything new here.
As individuals we make choices and family building is one of them. We make choices based on many factors. Infertility. Economics. Faith. Family. We make these choices for ourselves everyday.
Where families are grown without the need for medical intervention those choices are generally accepted as personal and kids are stuck with the choices parents make. No one chooses who their parents are. That happens here too but in the former scenario the children are connected to their parents biologically.
Let's get back to the question. Will my kids be ok?
The answer has many layers. A lot of it comes down to actions, luck of the draw, and planning. We all want to say that love and desire alone will ensure the child will be ok. But even in families that have absolutely perfect loving parents that are open and transparent and listen fully, that an individual born via donor conception may have questions or desires for something "missing".
Some individuals never feel anything is missing from their life. They don't have any desire to find that absent biological connection. Dare I say that blood parent. They don't need to know a medical or ethnic history that comes from their donor. But some do. Even in perfect households.
My kids have rarely asked about their donor. They have had moments of curiosity and even joined 23 and Me to put their genes out there to see what may happen. It confirmed that my two are full siblings and that their half sibling sister is exactly that. My kids found two of their three known half siblings via the Donor Sibling Registry and their newest half sibling found them via an Ancestry DNA match.
I can't quote surveys but I can say most kids who grow up knowing do better by not having a secret waiting to be discovered and found out shocking their sense of identity. That is a big big deal. Will they have questions? Maybe. Will they have a desire to search? Maybe. Maybe not.
Will they have you by their side to listen and to validate their questions or concerns? That is up to you. Will they wonder what if? Maybe.
Will your kids be ok?
I can't say. There are possible challenges. There are unknowns. Each brings a risk.
I am not saying any of this to scare anyone. I am saying it because this is the reality you face when choosing donor conception. My kids are good kids. They are my kids no matter what. I am not their biological father. But I am their Dad. We have lived through too much together to question that.
Are they ok? So far. My job was / is to raise them and protect them and guide them. My responsibility is to be truthful with them, listen to them, respect their questions and decisions, and to put their needs in this area ahead of mine.
Did I mess up their lives? Only they can answer that. When we ask will they be ok, are we asking to answer our fears or are we asking to propel us to give them the tools and info to ensure they are.
Choosing donor conception is a choice that requires an acknowledgment of responsibility to not hide from the issues our children may face and the responsibility that we made that decision.
Make what you will of my words.
#recipientparent #donorconception # donorsperm #donoregg #biologicalparent
Repost via @inconceivedable with @make_repost

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Friday, April 30, 2021

Sides of the Circle. Understanding Donor Conception.

I am still here. I am just mostly over there. On Instagram.

My focus is still on my children. Working to be a good Dad. To recognize it's not about me. That realization came long ago. Trying to help others with questions they may have. I can't say I am pro DC or that I am anti DC. I understand the feelings on all sides of this circle. It is sides of a circle as for so many it still is a raw reaction that makes people want to see things as black and white. It either is a bad thing or it's a wonderful thing. In truth it's a thing that has many sides of a circle in that we need to recognize each other's feelings and you can't really expect someone to make a 90 degree turn and get it. It takes time and gradual course corrections and points of understanding. The slow curve of a circle.

I am today as I found myself in 2005 working from the middle. I got knocked here quickly at that Toronto Conference hosted by Diane Allen where I met so many wonderful people. Diane of course. Wendy and Ryan Kramer. Olivia Montuschi. And several others including Jo and Rebecca that allowed me to see differing experiences. Jarringly so for a youngish dad of 41.

So today I am here in the middle or rather continuing around the sides of this circle. Still learning. Still listening. Trying to help or explain nuances where I can.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Follow me on Instagram

I have not abandoned this blog. Really.  But it does seem that Instagram has become the faster avenue for me to post images, links, comments etc. 

Long form commentary I will still post here. These are my roots. Since 2005. 

Below are images of the posts I have uploaded / published to Instagram since Mid June alone.

Please join me on Instagram at Instagram.com/life_di_dad/

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

You Are Not My Real Dad

You are not my real dad. I feared hearing those words.  I knew one day they would be said. It did not make the fear any easier or the pain of hearing them being said.  But I also knew because I am a good dad the hurt would pass.  


There are so many fears that dads like me have.  None are as cutting as this statement. Many involve rejection but this statement is one all dads, or any non genetic parent, will face someday.  Even if not said aloud it's bound to happen. Most bio parents get it in the form of a wish statement in anger. For us it can said in anger, it can be said off hand. It hurts either way. On one hand it hurts due to its plain truth.  Most kids know it's not true and that dad is dad and after whatever fight it's said within they will apologize buts it's been said.


Once it's said it's been said. That initial pain will pass. It's possible you will hear it again in anger at another point but hopefully it may not have the same piercing pain it held that first time. 


It will always be a phrase held in a donor conceived individual's back pocket.  Simply because.  But because I am a real dad, despite not being their bio father, I realize that if they need to say it they are doing so in exasperation, a need to be in control.  


To move past it the heat of the moment the best response is to validate the statement's blade even if you disagree with the statement's purpose.  Let your child, your teen, the adult standing before you have a moment. Let them know you are there for them.  The sting you feel may still be hurting but I can bet it's hurting more for them by saying it.  


There are moments in our lives as recipient parents we must prepare for. For ourselves. For them.  This statement is one of them. 


[Note - my daughter actually said this to me somewhere around two years ago. I am not sure if exactly when. There is a post on it in this blog when it happened.]




#parenting #donorconceived #donorconception #donorinsemination #malefactorinfertility #adoption #youarenotmyrealdad 


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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

My Take on Telling

When we were kids the word “telling” usually involved tattling and getting someone in trouble. Maybe that is when we all started associating telling with a secret or ratting someone out and disclosing something that should be left unsaid.
Telling in the donor conception world is no less fraught with fear, apprehension, relief and honesty depending on who is doing the telling, who is hearing the telling and of course what is being told.
My own views of telling after all these years is that it represents openness and truth and information that does not belong to me. The question that comes next for me today is that as a dad to two donor conceived children, now teenagers, who am I allowed as their guardian to tell and if so when.
But let’s take a step back. To when this journey began for my family and how my views on telling came to be.
Like many young couples experiencing infertility, especially male factor issues, there is a historical societal push to brush it under the rug for fears of emasculating the husband of his stature etc with the knowledge that no one needs to know and it’s for the benefit of the child and the family that no one know that perhaps donor sperm was used to conceive and create the family.
First off I have never liked sweeping things under rugs or hiding things. Second, I hate the concept of stigmas. When I was a kid I knew a couple of kids that were adopted and they were normal kids but somehow the issue of their adoption was a thing. Back then I did not understand why but I also knew that something was a thing.
Telling for me is the overall understanding that children created via donor conception methods have a full right to know their story and that they be given the opportunity to claim their story and narrative. That as parents we support their wishes and their questions.
We decided early on that our children would know their conception story. Pretty much from birth each child would be told that a donor helped create them. At age two, or thereabouts, we started reading donor conception themed books to my son and as his sister came along soon after she heard the same stories from day one. He had accompanied us to visits to the hospital infertility clinic and knew mommy and daddy were trying to have a brother or sister for him. We did get some evil stares from people bringing a child along sometimes but we had no one to watch him and he being the generally well behaved kid he was at that young age usually won over the room. This without wearing a t-shirt that said don’t hate me I am an IUI baby.
Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family
Parents knew early on that our plan was to try to use my stuff via a testicular biopsy in conjunction with IVF. I don’t recall now if we told them during our attempts that we had chosen a donor as a backup. When my Ex was pregnant with our son both sets of parents certainly knew that a donor had been used. My sister knew but my wife’s brother may not have, at the beginning, as he was somewhat religious in his faith and we were unsure as to his reaction. Eventually he was told.

I felt it was important that the immediate family that the kids would interact with the most know the truth so any side comments etc would not be treated as secrets etc to be hidden and whispered about. As half siblings were found and we started spending family vacation visiting these siblings it made it easier for family to know who we were off seeing and who these folks were coming to NYC especially as my kids refer to their half siblings as their sister and now brothers.
Extended family including aunts, uncles, and cousins we never directly told. I can’t account for whether my parents or her parents told anyone, or whether our siblings told anyone else in the family. They may have but we never specifically told anyone not to tell. We do believe it is our children’s story and if they want to tell people it is their decision to do so.
Doctors, Teachers, and Indian Chiefs
Pediatricians were told and highlights from the donor’s medical profile shared as we filled out the normal paperwork all doctors generate as we have taken the kids from doctor to doctor. Teachers found out on their own as they assigned family based projects and our kids explained that they have half-siblings that live in different homes or when they used medically accurate terms to describe generally what gametes are needed to create a baby. Those were some amusing phone calls after other parents learned from their kids how babies were made. Oops sorry.
You must also understand that we live in NYC; the family configurations you run into on the playgrounds and classrooms vary in every shape, color, and size. My kids from K to 5 had friends who were from mommy and daddy homes, single mommy homes, and two mommy homes. These kids all learned to accept it as normal the different types of families that exist.
Friends and Colleagues
The decision who to tell here was always on a case by case basis. Those they needed to know why we were late to work needed to know. When I had my biopsies I told a few close colleagues that knew what we were dealing with emotionally and so the questions why I was walking with a cane each time would not be a distraction. And as anyone knows, infertility and IVF are tough emotionally. A number of close friends knew. Others learned from press that I did as I became the poster boy for men dealing with MFI who then chose DI / IUI to create our family. One childhood friend’s mom learned by reading of it in the USA Today article she found outside her hotel room. My blog extended the circle as to who knew. The USA Today article lead to members of our Temple to know that had not known.
Our local Rabbi was told as my Ex was going through a conversion to Judaism and we wanted to ensure the children would be considered Jewish or what steps would be needed to consecrate each child as Jewish. In the end my son is currently irreligious and did not become a bar mitzvah, his choice, so that reasoning went out the window. He did have a brith milah and she a baby naming. My daughter also dropped out of Hebrew school before becoming a Bat Mitzvah. I regret these decisions but they were theirs and at the times we were dealing with other issues that took center stage.
I grew up in a mostly secular home but the Shul / Temple was the center of social and cultural life in the town we initially grew up in so it was important for me that the donor be Jewish and that we started the kids out with a Jewish upbringing, My daughter does say Shabbat prayers with me each week on candle sticks that have been in my family and generally continuously lit each week for close to 125 plus years.
Telling involves several factors. Being honest with your child. Being honest with yourself. Deciding who should be told and who does not need to know. When do you bring it up and when do you stop telling reserving those decisions for your child to make giving them the power to decide who knows their story.
The physical act of telling may stop but the knowledge becomes inherent in the base of everything life touches. Not generally present but a pillar in the life that builds upon it. The donor conceived’s life as well as the parents. It’s either a joint foundation when the child is told or separate pillars each not as strong individually when secrets are kept.
I have counseled families and individuals to at a minimum tell their child as early as possible. Beyond that no one else truly needs to know. But in creating an atmosphere where it is not a secret, the child and individual they grow into, in theory, will process at least who they are with a stronger sense of self. Telling allows a freedom for everyone to be honest. There will certainly be more questions, and identity junctures along their path, but telling starts their story with all that is known on the table.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

You Were So Wanted

This morning I reposted on Instagram a children's book recommendation regarding a book that addresses how babies are made for preschoolers but which specifically avoids the typical "you were so wanted" language that exists in many books geared forwards donor conceived children.

I wanted to discuss and ask why this language is triggering for many when it is employed in this manner.

I get the concept as we have discussed often that telling a donor conceived person that they should be happy to just be alive is not a valid or helpful argument to ever make because it is not the issue. The issue is the manner of their creation and how that this constructed creation cuts off a donor conceived person from their biological parent, heritage, and needed medical family history.

I expect it's much the same concept here that the "wanted" construct is being used to circumvent any negative reaction to the knowledge that their donor conception did cause those connections to be broken. The feeling being that the "wanted" construct is just the first act to push children, some might argue brainwash them, into being good little commodities and accept their creation story when in fact they were created for the benefit of their recipient parents.

I am writing this with language I have heard and read for years that I personally have felt a bit terse but I fully understand the intense feelings and arguments behind. Remember I am one of those recipient parents but one who has been trying to further the discussion so please forgive me this moment of reaction as I put forth my inquiry.

So I guess my question is have I accurately stated the objections to the "you were so wanted" construct used in kids books? Am I missing something else that recipient parents should understand and be able to address with their kids to fairly balance out the construct. I am sure a few psychologists out here can help with the theory in lay terms we can use to help our kids.

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