On Monday we sent out from the DC Network office invitations to our members for the national meeting on 17th March. The title of the main session is Nature/Nurture: What do we really know? This seems to have struck a chord as we have been swamped by applications for places. Distinguished geneticist Professor Marcus Pembrey will be the speaker at this session. He will have the rather daunting task of trying to put into terms those of us with inadequate scientific educations can understand, modern thinking about the complex relationship between what genes contribute to who we are and how much nurture modifies this blueprint. And this is before taking epigenetics into account. Luckily, this emerging science is a particular speciality of Professor Pembrey and I know many parents of donor conceived children will be interested to learn how the environment of the womb may be able to turn on or off functions of certain genes…both inherited from their donor and of course from the genetically connected parent as well.
Now, I am being challenged on comments following a number of my recent blog postings as to who actually is a parent. Genes will out, believe a number of people who seem to feel that ‘donors’ are parents and that they are relinquishing their children to be brought up by imposters (my word, not theirs) posing as parents. Some seem to think that the parents and brothers and sisters of the donor somehow trump the non-genetic (social) parent’s relatives in the hierarchy of who is related to who.
My position, shared with DC Network, is that donors provide a vital ingredient in the potential for life which they willingly give (or sometimes sell) to others in order that they might become parents. Donors do not intend to be parents to the children who may be created from their sperm or eggs. Recipients of sperm and eggs do intend to become parents. Because there is an undoubted genetic connection between donor and child – although I would claim, not a parental one – there are many reasons why a child might wish to know more about their donor, and possibly meet him or her, in the future. No denial of the significance of genes, but emphasis placed on the social and emotional relationships that provide the love, security and safety that are so important for a child when growing up.
What do donor conceived adults think? Well, Walter’s and my own children and many that we know within DC Network and outside support the above position. Others do not. Some are quite clear that they believe they have been deliberately separated from a ‘real’ parent. Curiosity about donors and half-siblings exist in those who are comfortable with their DC origins and those who are not. The difference is, who is defined as a parent.
What I want to know is…can Marcus Pembrey throw any light on this debate?