The big challenge for male/female couple parents

Last week Wendy Kramer posted on her Yahoo group a powerful and insightful piece of writing by adoptee Kristi Blazi Lado. She was responding to the MTV Generation Cryo series – sadly not currently viewable in the UK – where DC young adult Breeanna Speicher tours the US talking to the fifteen half-siblings she has found via the Donor Sibling Registry.

Kristi was struck by the attitudes of the parents of the donor conceived young people, feeling that they significantly mirrored parents in closed adoption situations.   Parents, mostly in heterosexual couple families, often felt deeply threatened by the idea that their children were interested in making connections with their donor and half-siblings.  Their anxiety and ambivalence was visceral and sometimes resulted in the donor conceived young adults themselves denying interest in genetic connections because they did not want to hurt their parents.  Offspring were “saddled with managing their parents feelings of insecurity” and mothers were protective of their infertile partners, not understanding that interest in the donor or half-sibs was no threat to an existing father’s role.

Kristi declares, “This show has strengthened my conviction that the degree to which the parents have come to grips with their infertility and accepted the truth of their child’s origins will have a significant impact on the level of anxiety that a child will feel about searching for his roots.”

And that is the challenge for all of us in male/female partnerships, whether the donor is a man or a woman.  We need to have grieved the child that cannot be before moving on to having the child that it is possible to have, whilst recognising that that child will become a young person/adult who may well be curious/have a real need to know something about the people s/he shares half their genes with.  We need to be able to acknowledge that desire and support our children in whatever it is that they need from us…and the least that should be offered is our understanding and blessing in their exploration.  Mixed feelings…for we are bound to have them, should be kept for couple, friend or counsellor conversations and should not be allowed to get in the way.  Wanting to know more about those who are genetically connected is part of a very normal spectrum of feelings.  The more supportive and understanding we are, the more it is likely that relationships in the family will stay the same or even be enhanced.  Denial, resistance, reluctance to co-operate with information or threats that moving forward with making links will ‘kill your father’ are only likely to drive a wedge between us and our beloved children.

We have to deal with our own issues first.  We are no good to our kids unless we do.

http://www.thelostdaughters.com/2014/01/guest-post-adoptees-reaction-to-mtvs.html

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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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37 Responses to The big challenge for male/female couple parents

  1. marilynn says:

    I think it’s more empathetic and understanding for whoever raises the person (related or not) to refer to their donor as the person’s biological mother or father. For starters it is an accurate and factual description of how a gamete donor is related to his or her own offspring/children. A person might currently be able to intend themselves out of social parenthood but there is no way out of biological parenthood. If someone says that they are searching for their maternal or paternal family, or their biological relatives everyone, including anyone who raised them is going to empathize with their loss and understand why they’d want to find them if they are so inclined. Everyone has a biological family and having them be absent from their daily activities is a loss and while not everyone will seek to recoup their losses its perfectly understandable why someone would want something that belongs to them back from where ever it went.

    I think for someone raising a donor’s offspring whether they are related to that person or not, referring to that person’s absent biological parent as their donor shows an unwillingness to look at the world through their eyes in their shoes. I think its more respectful and shows that they accept that the person they are raising is actually also part of a whole nother family and they may never meet or even know the names of all their siblings let alone their absent bio parent and other maternal or paternal relatives. So empathy for that loss I think is respectful and helpful. The other terms that masque what’s going on is “searching for their roots” or “biological heritage” “genetic inheritance” Those are just fancy ways to not say family or relatives or anything human and specific. They are not looking for stringy things attached to a plant under the ground – they are looking for specific human biological mother, father, sibling, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and grandparents. They are not merely looking to determine their race or religion but more specifically the names addresses and telephone numbers of their own relatives. The people raising them bot bio and non – they have bio relatives so they can empathize with having half of them just be missing. It’s not that hard to empathize.

    If we learn from adoption we know it has nothing to do with there being anything wrong with who raised them. The desire to search is not a reflection of their skill at raising kids. It has nothing to do with them because it is not their family that is absent. So of course it does not bother them, they already have their bio relatives. There is plenty of room for them to find their other family, it won’t take away from their existing social relationships at all because people can’t replace people.

    Greg often says that the kid won’t want to seek info out on the bio father and the rest of their paternal relatives if they are not rejected by their non bio father. That puts way too much pressure on the non bio father. A desire to know their bio family has nothing to do with the non bio father’s acceptance or rejection. That is what this post is about actually. Don’t think you can do such a great job that this can be avoided you’ll end up beating yourself up when it is not necessary I think is the take away.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Marilynn,

      You are misunderstanding me. I don’t think whether a child has curiousity in who their donor is has anything to do with whether they were rejected by their non biological parent. Curiousity has more to do with the personality of the individual than how they were raised.

      Where I think rejection by the non biological parent impacts a DC is creating a hurt in the DC. People like Daughter of Donor and Alana who were rejected by their non biological parent have a hurt that had lead to an anger towards 3PR that other DC people who weren’t don’t have. It’s not the DC’s fault either, they did nothing to deserve the treatment they received.

      • marilynn says:

        OK I’m glad your not heaping tons of weight onto the backs of non-bio parents because they can be really good at raising kids and be deeply bonded to the person they raised and still that person may be interested in meeting their other family. Good I’m glad you don’t blame the non bio parent for that. You do also understand that just like curiosity anger about the practice of for instance adoption or the practice they refer to as donor conception is also very common and also unrelated to how they feel about whoever raised them – whether the people that raised them are related or unrelated or rejected them or did not reject them is totally separate to how they’ll be feeling about having been separated from their other family the estranged bio parent and their relatives.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        Anger in 3PR from the stories I’ve read goes back to the hurt these people have from being rejected by their non biological parent. I don’t think a DC person saying they love their non biological parent tells us anything. A person could be rejected by that parent and still say that they love them. So yes anger towards 3PR from the DC most of the time stems from either not being told early and/or rejection from the non biological parent.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        “Anger in 3PR from the stories I’ve read goes back to the hurt these people have from being rejected by their non biological parent. ”

        Not all have hurt and anger through a rejection from their non-bio parent. Some come to it from rejection from their bio-parent (their social parent’s ‘donor’), upon learning of their identity. Some from a combination of rejection of both the intended (social) parent and from the birth/biological/genetic parent.

        • gsmwc02 says:

          What type or rejection have DC received from their donors that you have heard of? Were these cases where single mothers, heterosexual couples or same sex couples? What I am asking is whether there is a pattern in where the rejection comes from?

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Greg wrote:
        “What type or rejection have DC received from their donors that you have heard of? Were these cases where single mothers, heterosexual couples or same sex couples? What I am asking is whether there is a pattern in where the rejection comes from?”

        Seriously Greg, what more could I say that Marilynn hasn’t already said. I KNOW this from first hand lived experience. My parent’s ‘donor’ IS my FATHER. I won’t go into details. I’ve been following this issue for over 15 years. A ‘donor’ is a child’s/adult’s father/mother – add what ever adjective you want (biological/genetic)…or keep it simple. The closed support groups I follow are filled with people who are confused, upset and angry, You obviously advocate on behalf of the practice because your affiliation/advocacy is with the wanting, desiring, commissioning ‘parents’. Nothing I have to offer will persuade you otherwise. I could reference ‘studies’ but it’s a waste of time.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        I was just asking what you’ve found in your research not to argue it but to hear you out. It has nothing to do with me advocating for the practice. Not in the same way you Marilynn, Alana and others advocate against non biological parents and dismiss the outcasting of the childless. You all have been just as dismissive of my perspective as you feel I have been of yours.

        Just because I don’t oppose others utilizing 3PR doesn’t mean I don’t believe there doesn’t need to be reform and that your voices don’t need to be heard. I absolutely believe there needs to be reform and that your voices need to be heard.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Greg wrote:
        Not in the same way you Marilynn, Alana and others advocate against non biological parents and dismiss the outcasting of the childless. You all have been just as dismissive of my perspective as you feel I have been of yours.”

        Okay Greg, what have I ever said that is in your mind “advocating against non biological parents and dismiss the ‘outcasting’ of the childress'”. This is a silly go around. I don’t even know why I’m opening myself up to this but attack and misrepresent away Greg!

      • gsmwc02 says:

        And whatever I’ve said to “advocate on behalf of the practice” is in your mind. All I did was ask you some questions for your insight because I know you’ve done research on it. I didn’t attack you not was a nasty with you. I had every intention of hearing you out. You were the one who started with the attacks. I had no intention to have a nasty dialogue.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Greg wrote:
        “You were the one who started with the attacks. ”

        How exactly am I attacking YOU???

      • gsmwc02 says:

        “You obviously advocate on behalf of the practice because your affiliation/advocacy is with the wanting, desiring, commissioning ‘parents’. Nothing I have to offer will persuade you otherwise. I could reference ‘studies’ but it’s a waste of time.”

        This is where the attack started. It was a direct response to my questions. I didn’t think my response to your initial response was one that provoked the type of response you gave me above.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        And I replied back to your attack:
        “Not in the same way you Marilynn, Alana and others advocate against non biological parents and dismiss the outcasting of the childless”

        Which is non-sense. And around and around we go.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        Can we just put it behind us and discuss what I asked as to whether there are patterns we can learn from or whether it’s just random from your studies?

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        What kind of study would convince you? What kind of questions would it entail? There are all kinds of ‘studies’ out there already. Many that are self selected. Many that ask leading questions. Many that only ‘study’ through adult responses (on behalf of *their* children). The study I’m most familiar with is the My Daddy’s Name is Donor study. Regardless of the intro/summary…the results are interesting but not at all definitive: http://www.familyscholars.org/assets/Donor_FINAL.pdf

        Have you taken a look at the results of this study? Starting on page 82.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        I briefly scanned the results and they appear to be a general study that doesn’t break down of the types of families the respondents came from and whether there were patterns in their responses based on the types of families they come from and how they were raised. For instance do DC that are raised by same sex couples have more curiousity than those raised by single mothers? It’s that type of research I’m curious about.

        What I’m trying to figure out is whether there is a pattern of certain feelings or whether it’s random and it’s a matter of each person processing things differently. From your research and experience have you been able to conclude either way?

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Yes, this study does break down the differences between children of ss couples and single by choice mothers and hetro couples (comparison group with adoptees) But the children of ss couples are a very small representation so it’s difficult to draw conclusions. Essentially it says that children of ss couples have less *issues* than children of single by choice mothers AND children of heteorsexuals but it’s very nuanced. They still have *issues* – wanting to know the identity of their fathers – family confusion etc We are running out of space here on this comment thread to dig into the details but you can read more about it here:
        http://www.familyscholars.org/assets/Donor_summ_findings.pdf

        This study has been debated Ad-nauseum on the internet through different opposing advocacy groups. Gooogle it. I’m out. I’m done.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        Thank you for sharing. This is all I was asking for.

  2. gsmwc02 says:

    Olivia,

    It stinks that you are unable to see Generation Cryo. It was such a well done series from so many aspects. I thought it showed the emotions that are involved in anonymous donation on the child side, the emotions on the parents side and a little bit on the donor’s end. It will be very beneficial for current DC families as well as future ones.

    The two important lessons I learned are that DC children shouldn’t have to go on an extensive search to connect with their donor and second parents need to have their emotions more under control if they are going to make the decision to build their families through DC. Parents need to be up to the task of raising kids that are DC.

    • marilynn says:

      Nice thoughts Greg. My whole agenda is also that nobody should have to search for their own family they’re related to. It’s absurdly unfair especially when the names are available. They were not really the one night stands they emulate these men and women can be found in the file drawers of the clinics who contracted with them. How frustrating is that? They are not even really missing and unknown…such a rip off and all for what? So people raising the kids feel less threatened? They should just get over it for the good of mankind.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        The anonymity was also put in place for the donors who did not want to be known. It wasn’t just for the non biological parents that you hate. As Olivia pointed out in a piece recently studies are showing a better quality of open donors. As is the case with open adoption, I think 3PR is heading in that direction and that’s a good thing though it doesn’t eliminate 3PR as you wish.

  3. marilynn says:

    Greg – whose the 3rd party in 3rd party reproduction? Each person is the product of human reproduction. How many humans need to reproduce themselves in order for any of them to have offspring?

    • gsmwc02 says:

      The third party is the donor. I know you disagree, so no use in debating it because we won’t convince each other to come to an agreement.

      • marilynn says:

        OK so the third party reproduces himself/herself with one of the two remaining people. So lets say party number 3 and party number 1 reproduce and have offspring together and their offspring is number 4. What does party number 2 do reproduction wise?

      • Vincent says:

        I agree with Greg. Donor conception is not black and white, it is not all good or all bad, it is not the same for any two situations. Like everything else in this complicated life, it is complicated, it presents some issues and not others, and people view and handle those issues differently. My wife and I chose to use a donor because we wanted a child but could not conceive by having sex — just like people stop using contraception when they want a child and CAN conceive by having sex. In either case, the wanting of the child is what makes the parents start the family, and in no case does the child get the right to approve of the situation into which he or she is born. I don’t really understand why anyone would think my wife and I are more selfish for having done this using DC than any couple is for choosing to have a child under less than perfect circumstances. And every person or couple who undertakes to start a family makes that choice with a collection of positive and negative factors in mind: how much money is available, how to provide emotionally for the child (child care vs. stay-at-home, etc.), how to educate the child (public-private-home), what health issues are involved. No one — NO ONE — can say that they know in advance of having a child that it will be born into the ideal situation with no negative circumstances, unlimited money, perfect present and future health, and everything always going its way. My son knows his story and he is happy; we offer him more information about his donor and have connected with a bio sibling, and he really just does not care. We are a happy family, and my son is a happy boy; brilliant and creative, popular with his friends at a great private school, with a great relationship with mom and dad. For us, donor conception was a great success and created immense happiness where there might have been none. It is as if the naysayers wish to prevent everyone from doing what they themselves wish not to do, and perhaps are upset that my son does NOT feel as significant a loss as they wish him to feel for not knowing his donor (I know the identity in case he ever cares, but he just doesn’t). They say that we have deprived him of half of his family. What does that mean? The family he has is the family he has, which includes people who are important to him, whether or not they are biologically related to him. And some of those on his mom’s side, who ARE biologically related, we don’t see because we don’t like them. I have a modest proposal: if you think donor conception is not a good idea, don’t use it but don’t tell others they can’t. And if you think becoming a single parent is a bad idea, whether by donor or by having sex, don’t become one but don’t tell others it is wrong. And if you think having a kid when you don’t have enough money to send the kid to a good school is a bad idea, don’t have a kid, but don’t tell others they are too poor to reproduce. And if you don’t want to marry someone of the same sex, or someone outside your race or religion, then don’t, but don’t make a law against it. See where I am going? Of course there can be concerns that merit consideration before using DC — I very much condone the educating of prospective parents about disclosure, honesty, and sensitivity to the possibility of a sense of loss regarding the biological “family.” People should know about that in weighing whether to use DC, and I am always willing to hear about issues like this because I think it will make me a better father to be prepared to speak to my son about them (if he ever cares). But people who summarily condemn others for using DC, no matter the circumstances and with a blind eye to the success stories, are really just trying to impose their own personal moral code on everyone else. In this free society, that sort of reasoning comes off as self-righteous, pompous, offensive, and just plain wrong.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        If you’re the Vincent from Eric’s board, I think highly of you on so many levels. From the advice you gave me last year when my wife and I were considering DI to you sharing your story of parenting you are an amazing person who if one day we became parents I would hope to become half as good a dad as you are.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Vincent, you write:

        “Like everything else in this complicated life, it is complicated, it presents some issues and not others, and people view and handle those issues differently.”

        Very true!

        “in no case does the child get the right to approve of the situation into which he or she is born”

        Well, yes and no. Many adults can and do ‘look back’ on their ‘parent’s’ choices with a critical eye. Sometimes it helps them make better choices, sometimes they end up repeating those choices their ‘parents’ made even though they disapprove/were hurt because this is what they see and know as normal…and of course sometimes they end up repeating those choices their ‘parents’ made because they approved/felt special because this is what they see and know as normal or even better than ordinary.

        ” don’t really understand why anyone would think my wife and I are more selfish for having done this using DC than any couple is for choosing to have a child under less than perfect circumstances.”

        We can justify anything by comparing it to a worse case scenario. Yes, bringing any child into the world under any circumstances is selfish in a sense but it’s not a matter of comparison if one does not compare apples to apples (selfish to selfish).

        “No one — NO ONE — can say that they know in advance of having a child that it will be born into the ideal situation with no negative circumstances, unlimited money, perfect present and future health, and everything always going its way”

        Of course! True!

        “My son knows his story and he is happy; we offer him more information about his donor and have connected with a bio sibling, and he really just does not care.”

        I assume your son is still young. I admire that you are open and honest and are taking proactive measures to affiliate him with his half sibling. But although he might not care now, he might care when he’s older and it’s even more likely that he will care when/if he starts a family of his own.

        “upset that my son does NOT feel as significant a loss as they wish him to feel for not knowing his donor ”

        No one is upset that he doesn’t feel a loss. But stating that he doesn’t on his behalf isn’t really any ‘parents’ place to say. Many ‘donor offspring’ don’t share their true feeling with their ‘parents’ because they don’t want to rock the boat or hurt the people who love him and support him and give him security. As you mentioned, it’s complicated and feelings often time change over time with life experience.

        “(I know the identity in case he ever cares, but he just doesn’t). They say that we have deprived him of half of his family. What does that mean?”

        Good that you can give him that info if he asks someday. Again, it’s too early to know if he will be in a place in his life when he feels interested, or comfortable or secure enough to open this Pandora’s Box. My parent’s ‘donor’ is my father…yes, I was deprived of half of my family.

        “he family he has is the family he has, which includes people who are important to him, whether or not they are biologically related to him. And some of those on his mom’s side, who ARE biologically related, we don’t see because we don’t like them.”

        That doesn’t mean that a social family is less meaningful. On the contrary, finding family a person has been deprived of can make people more appreciative of the social family and all the meaningful relationships that they have. Like those family members on your son’s mother’s side, who ARE biologically related, but you don’t see because you don’t like them. But then again, new found bio family could be like hitting the jackpot and could make up for other family that are unliked. Again, you, as a ‘parent’ at this point in your son’s life, really can’t speak for him.

        “I very much condone the educating of prospective parents about disclosure, honesty, and sensitivity to the possibility of a sense of loss regarding the biological “family.” People should know about that in weighing whether to use DC, and I am always willing to hear about issues like this because I think it will make me a better father to be prepared to speak to my son about them (if he ever cares).”

        AMEN! Well said. Completely agree! All I can say is just love the potatoes out of him and your wife. Be confident in your unconditional love. Support him and make him feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly about his feelings. And wouldn’t it be really awesome if he does contact his bio-father, develops a meaningful relationship with him, with your consent and full support. And wouldn’t it be even more awesome if you (his dad) and your donor (his bio-father) became close…even family?

        Well, that would be my dream as a ‘donor’ kid.

        “In this free society, that sort of reasoning comes off as self-righteous, pompous, offensive, and just plain wrong.”

        No, it is debatable. It needs to be debated and questioned. Bio-parents/family matter. Social-parents/family matter. Until there is balance, the questioning is necessary and healthy, not self-righteous, pompous, offensive or wrong.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        PS – wanted to add:
        I wrote – “And wouldn’t it be even more awesome if you (his dad) and your donor (his bio-father) became close…even family?”

        Your son is learning from you, just think of the kind of lesson this would teach him. Not only that biology do NOT matter, that love and family is unconditional, but also that his biology, his complete being, as a son and as a future someday father, both spiritually and physically, fully matters. Some day he might find a woman to marry, he will learn from you how to love completely and unselfishly, how to be a good husband. He will also learn that not only is he important as a social father but he is equally important as a biological father. And maybe he will feel even more special and loved because is full being/personhood was respected and loved unconditionally – even better than ordinary. I wish this for him, for you for all of you and for the future of ‘donor’ conception.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        “And wouldn’t it be really awesome if he does contact his bio-father, develops a meaningful relationship with him, with your consent and full support. And wouldn’t it be even more awesome if you (his dad) and your donor (his bio-father) became close…even family?”

        Of course that would be awesome for you as you would want Vincent to have less of a role in his sons life and biology would trump biography. But maybe just maybe the fact that Vincent and his wife were always open with THEIR son that won’t happen. Maybe he’ll have curiousity and want to know who the donor was maybe meet him but never want to have a relationship with him. While that maybe a loss for you and your community it will be a win for Vincent’s son who had all of his questions answered and grew up in a supportive family because not every DC was lied to or rejected by their dad’s.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        “Of course that would be awesome for you as you would want Vincent to have less of a role in his sons life and biology would trump biography….Of course that would be awesome for you as you would want Vincent to have less of a role in his sons life and biology would trump biography……”
        Greg you are very wrong in your assumptions about me. This is a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of my intentions. Please, I do not want to engage on that level.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        No, I think your intentions are to break apart the non biological family and have another DC person who is hurt becoming angry to join your cause. When the intentions should be for Vincent’s son to grow up the person he wants to be rather than the person you want him to be.

        Behind that “I think we just need more love” I think you are someone who is hurting and that hurt turns to anger and resentment. I feel bad but that doesn’t mean future DC people should suffer the same fate you have or the life you wish you had.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Greg,
        No. I won’t respond further with you.

    • Vincent says:

      Hi Greg — there are two Vincents on Eric’s board – Vince L and Vinnie R. I’m Vinnie R. I think very highly of Vince L, so you must mean him (LOL). But I tend to agree with him a lot, so maybe you would say the same about me anyway. I like to read the blogs and boards of all angles of this, so as to understand as much as I can. I wish you luck building your family. I was lucky enough only to get the one (we tried for a couple years for a second the same way with no luck), and it is my intention to be the best dad I can be for him. Coming up on 8 years, so far so good!

      • gsmwc02 says:

        I think highly of you both. It’s a great group over there. When I was searching last year of other male options it was the only one I was able to find and connect with. I am forever thankful for Eric and the group over there.

      • oliviasview says:

        Eric is a great guy. We have met up with him several times. His board is really the only place guys can go to for man-to-man support around fertility and conception issues.

  4. Sazzle says:

    Olivia,

    I’ve read this post with interest. Our children who are 7 years old, have known about their conception since being about 3. Each year their questions get bigger and they want to know more information about our donor.

    Our most recent conversation was around the issue of half-siblings. A topic we weren’t sure if to raise yet or not, but following your Nottingham conference we decided we had to, so thank you.

    We have very little information about our donor, he never left a pen letter or goodwill message, something I am disappointed about for our children. We only know very basic information, but also the number of half siblings that our children have.

    Our children refer to our donor as their ‘tummy daddy’, and to their daddy as their ‘forever daddy’, terms which have come from friends who have adopted.

    Even at the age of 7,our daughter has proclaimed she wants to meet her real daddy, something which caught me off guard a little, not language we have encountered before. My son however corrected her by saying that daddy was their real daddy. Only time will tell if they wish to know more about their ‘tummy daddy’, but one thing I am sure about is that whatever they decide they will always have our support, they deserve that.

    • oliviasview says:

      Hi Sazzle
      Sounds like your family is doing brilliantly. Children’s language can take us by surprise sometimes but staying calm and interested is always the right response. I am sure your two will do well.
      Olivia

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