Donor Conception for Life: the joy of half-sib relationships

Had a wonderful technology free week walking along the levadas high above the sea in the Madeiran sunshine, but lovely to return to so many (mostly) respectful and informative comments and conversations on my previous couple of blogs.  Thank you everyone.

Three items have stood out for me in my massive in-box of email catch-up and all have to do with the way in which connections made between half-siblings have enriched the lives of not only the sibs concerned but their wider family as well.  Only one, sadly, is from the UK.  Mostly lacking donor numbers and, certainly in the case of heterosexual couple families anxious about family integrity, very few links seem to be being made in this country.  There are some, mostly by informal means, although a few via the old UK Donor Link and now the Donor Conceived Register.  But UK parents have still mostly to get their heads round the idea that including half-siblings and even the donor in the extended family circle, might be a good idea.

The first item I came across was actually on a Facebook group rather than in my email.  It was a trailer for a film that parents of 16 year old donor conceived twins Stephen Lee and Susan Czark want to make about the connections that their family have made with eight or nine other families who share the same donor.  Stephen, a professional film-maker features several of the families on the short film he has placed on the Kickstarter website in order to try and raise money to make the full documentary.  I was so moved by this that I have become a backer (in a small way) for the project and urge you to do so as well.  It is interesting that Stephen and Susan are the only heterosexual couple involved in the project, accurately reflecting not only the clientele of The Sperm Bank of California but also the ratio of single moms and lesbians to heterosexual couples on the DSR and the reluctance of other sex couples to want to seek out genetic connections.

The second story is that of Kansas resident Gloria Baker Feinstein, mum (or rather mom) to 25 year old Max conceived using Sperm Donor No.11 following many years of secondary infertility, her first child having been conceived without intention or help in 1980.  Gloria was inspired to write her story after viewing the Generation Cryo series which is starting on MTV in the UK on April 9th at 9pm.

When Max (or Jeffrey as he was originally named) was born, Gloria felt that she did not recognise him.  She had a great need to find out who Sperm Donor 11 was and particularly what he looked like and went to great lengths to try and find him, scouring college year books and even taking out advertisements in college alumni newspapers.  Although she met many interesting men as a result of this and was impressed by the very caring nature of many sperm donors, she did not find Sperm Donor 11 and ended her quest exhausted and wondering just who it was she had been looking for.  Her answer came in looking right at her little son…’He’d been right under my nose all the time’.

When Max was 16 Gloria registered with the DSR and discovered that there were five sibs listed there.  Max has met three of them and formed a close relationship with one. He has no interest in trying to track down and meet Number 11. He respects completely the donor’s wishes for anonymity.  He is clear that his father is the man who raised him and he and his sister Abbie never refer to each other as half-siblings, although they share the same percentage of similar genes as do those half-sibs raised in other families.  Gloria meanwhile, developed a close relationship with some of the parents of the half-siblings and has enjoyed sharing stories of similarities and differences between their children.

Every few years Gloria contacts the sperm bank to see if the donor has updated his details.  On a recent occasion she asked if anyone remained on the staff from the year she conceived who might be able to give an impression of the donor.  No.11, as the number indicates, was one of the first donors at the bank, and it turned out that an older member of the staff did remember him and was able to give a description to Gloria.  But she has known who he was for a long time now, even if she has never been able to discover his name.

The third and only British half-sib story is that of now 16 year old ‘sisters’ who were interviewed when they were 15 by the editor of a new book to be published in the autumn called Donor Conception for Life.  Susie and Linda (not their real names) were conceived into, respectively, a single mum and lesbian couple family and brought together by chance when one of Linda’s mothers was looking on the DC Network member forum for a girl of a similar age who was also going through secondary school transfer.  Discovering that they shared a donor with the family they found was shocking at first – they had never considered looking for half-sibs – but following very tentative beginnings the two families met up and the girls have got on famously ever since.  Both Susie and Linda find it difficult to understand the interest that has been shown in their relationship.  It is just ordinary life for them but both admit that any interest they might have had in their donor prior to meeting each other has waned since making the connection.  They know from the HFEA that there are a number of other half-sibs ‘out there’ and in theory are interested in meeting them.  But they do worry that because of the close relationship they have made it might be difficult to include others and they certainly wouldn’t be able to take any more on the holidays that they share with each other.  As I can testify from meeting them both at a filming session we held at my house recently, both girls are insightful, mature and insistent that their meeting has made a huge difference to their lives…but they still can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Donor Conception for Life, edited by Katherine Fine and published by Karnac Books, will appear in the autumn.  As well as chapters by Ken Daniels and me, it contains contributions by Diane Ehrensaft and others from the world of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic literature, plus a chapter by Katherine and a DC Network colleague about the Preparation for Donor Conception Parenthood workshops run by DCN.  Something to look forward to.


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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50 Responses to Donor Conception for Life: the joy of half-sib relationships

  1. gsmwc02 says:


    I’m so glad to hear that Generation Cryo will be broadcast in the UK. It was a great series that I hope you all enjoy. It is really eye opening on so many levels that I hope current and future parents of DI can learn from and better support their children. I also hope it influences legislation in the US to ban anonymous donation and creates a system similar to one in the UK where DC have some type of direct access to the donors.

  2. I was touched more than I imagined by Generation Cryo and any story of DI children/adults that find siblings or donors.

  3. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Please keep the happily ever after stories in balance with some of the more painful truths and realities that *we* don’t like to speak of or admit:

    (**NOTE: This is true for ‘donors’, ‘donor families’ and offspring of ‘donors’ as well)

    This dissonance causes intense psychological distress and conflict.

    “Romanticizing Adoption and Reunion: The Modern Day Fairy Tale that Actually Isn’t”

    Lost Daughters Blog
    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2014

    “The above photo was taken during the first few days in Korea that I got to spend with my Omma, upon finally reuniting with her in 2009…34 years after she relinquished me in 1975.

    It’s the kind of picture that everyone wants to see, because it’s the type of picture that makes everyone feel so warm and happy and good about adoption. But it’s exactly this kind of photo that can be so misleading, because it tells of only a single moment. It leaves out all the heartache and pain and sorrow that preceded the reunion and all that will follow in the years to come after the reunion.

    The more I meet and interact with adult adoptees, and in particular adult adoptees in reunion, the more I have begun to recognize a common experience among us. I have started calling this experience “adoption reunion dissonance.””

    “People watch our stories and tell us, You are so lucky you’re adopted (DONATED)…You are so blessed to be reunited…You get the best of both worlds…You have a beautiful story…You must feel so loved…You can be whole now…You have found peace…

    Stop. Please. Just stop”

    “…reunion is a constant process of contradiction and agreement, adapting and standing firm, separation and mergence, pain and joy, suffering and healing. It never gets easy, but rather it just becomes a new painful “normal” that you must learn to accept lest you lose your mind completely. You adjust to living in limbo. You adjust to managing the disparities, the feelings of guilt, disloyalty, betrayal, division. You learn to survive and perhaps thrive at times, but not because you are living a dream or a fairy tale or a happy ending, but because you are learning to overcome despite being adopted (DONATED) and in reunion.”

    This dissonance causes intense psychological distress and conflict.

  4. oliviasview says:

    Agree it is importance to keep the balance. Happy for all stories to be posted here.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      In situations involving Donor Conceptions and Adoption we tend to hear the loud minority of people who either have really good experiences or really bad experiences. The majority of those people who have a middle of the road (balance of positive and negative) experience are not vocal and rarely speak out.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        There are all kinds of reasons for this. All voices matter.

      • Liz says:

        I find it hard to distinguish the specificity as to the causes of this negative experience.

        I have even seen adoption opponents suggest that biological connection will produce similarities in hobbies, personality, and empathetic connection. But this is clearly not based in factual evidence, as we all know biological children who have drastically different hobbies, personalities, intelligences, and a lack of common interests or personal connection with their biological parents.

        Some thoughts that I’ve had for several months, that quite frankly befuddle me: I do not understand why these negative stories are presented as evidence against donor-conception, when, in the negative stories, I tend to hear at least one, if not more then one, of the following:

        (1) Late reveal, which causes some degree of identity crisis and resulting trauma. The parent(s) cannot be trusted by the child as they lied for years.
        (2) Divorce/ dislocation/death in family structure at sometime between infancy and 18 yrs.
        (3) At least 1 un-empathetic or socially-inept parent. This parent has a difficult time relating or communicating with the child. The parent does not connect empathetically with the child. There is a lack of commonality of interests, a personality clash, or the parent does not have much empathetic talents or abilities.
        (4) A lack of high quality parenting (I’ve also noticed that at times this parenting ineptness is normalized — the person may not be able to recognize the lack of skills. The inept parenting skills may be explained by the donor conception.)
        (5) Mental, physical or sexual abuse. Sometimes the physical abuse is excused as “normal” for that time period.
        (6) A degree of economic insecurity in the family.
        (7) A lack of economic support for the goals and dreams of the child.
        (8) A lack of emotional support for the goals and the dreams of the child.
        (9) A lack of sufficient emotional support for donor conception (This lack of sufficient emotional support is directly connected to the inept or low- to middling-value parenting skills. In other words, the talent of the parent falls within the lower quantiles of parental ability.)
        (10) Parents who care deeply about genetic connection. (This is obvious, but these parents should not utilize donor conception, as they will communicate this belief to their children. This element falls in the inept parenting category.)

        But all of the distress is attributed to donor-conception. This confuses me when these other elements are so clearly articulated.

        I will hear people say they had a “happy childhood,” but then the person will describe one or more of the above elements. Sometimes people reveal almost all of the above elements, but still call some aspect of their parenting “good.” Other times they see the above inept or low-value parenting as a result of donor-conception. (ie – My parents divorced because of donor-conception, rather then “my parents divorced because they could not figure out how to emotionally relate with maturity and talent.”) I’m not sure what to make of that, but people tend to normalize their own experiences.

        For the person unconnected to donor-conception, it appears that we are expected to ignore these other elements, and blame the distress solely on the method of conception. However, research has long shown that low-value or un-empathetic parenting, divorce, familial instability, and economic insecurity all contribute to emotional dissatisfaction. Research also shows that high-value parenting, familial stability (no divorce or dislocation from infancy), and economic security (and strong support of the child’s education and dreams) contributes to emotionally balanced growth.

        That said high-value parenting cannot overcome everything. Major traumas, severe disabilities, biochemical imbalance in brain function (mental illness), severe or chronic physical illness, pain disorders, and other critical events may inhibit the happiness and emotional growth of people.

        I have also wondered if some children have a greater need for conformity, and a low tolerance for their family being marked as “different.” This would be a trauma of social stigma, which may affects some children much more then other children. For example, some children may be very upset if their brother is identified as gay, especially if they are teased at school as a result, while other children are little affected by this non-normative situation. I would imagine that some children may be quite distressed by any sort of element which places them into a non-normative category.

        Forgive the bluntness and the long post. But I cannot help but thing that others who also read the stories may be thinking along similar lines. In other words, the causality of the negativity may appear to be obvious to the story-teller, but it may not be obvious to others.

      • Liz says:

        ooh, I almost forgot: One other thing I’m fascinated with, and trying to figure out.

        Has anyone else noticed the gender imbalance in those concerned with genetic connection? Or those who post on adoption blogs or twitter posts about adoption/foster care?

        The gender imbalance is impressive. It’s not 55% -45% or 70% – 30%. It’s very heavily skewed towards women. It’s almost all women posting on blogs and twitter. Age-wise it appears to be skewed to middle aged and older women (I would guess about 35 and above).

        Of course, men could be using feminine handles. Or the anonymous posts could be men. But my guess is there is a drastic difference in the responses of the genders, for some reason.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        You nailed it Liz. A lot of times you will hear those who have a negative story say that they “love their parents” when in reality it doesn’t tell you the whole story. A person can love someone yet be hurt by them in some way. A lot of times an adoption or unconventional conception will be used as the scapegoat when in reality the hurt that person has stems from something else in their lives. It may take that person time to figure that part out.

      • I’ve noticed the same things, Liz. I have yet to read the experiences of DC individuals (who are angry at the practice) that did not express one or some of the sentiments you described. Curiosity is natural and may be present in many cases. But that’s different from anger expressed at the practice. Before I conceived, I explored most of the blogs expressing angst at donor conception. The presence of other factors you listed is the reason why I still decided that using a donor was the best route for me to take.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        “I find it hard to distinguish the specificity as to the causes of this negative experience….I do not understand why these negative stories are presented as evidence against donor-conception, when, in the negative stories, I tend to hear at least one, if not more then one, of the following:”

        Again, there are all different reasons for this – some of which you outlined. Agree, that It is impossible to pin point one reason why some DC are against the practice. Beyond individual stories, there are philosophical, spiritual, legal, cultural, social policy, ‘slippery slope’ and ‘secular sacred’ reasons among others- some DC are against the practice not only because of an element to their own experience but for one or more of these reasons as well.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        It’s not so much that there are some DC are against the practice but I think what Liz was alluding to is why some DC are hurting. As long as it is still legal addressing why some DC are hurting is the key issue. There are things that can be done to help that through education on forums like this.

      • Liz says:


        Yes, exactly — the question would be, “what is the source of the trauma/ emotional distress?”

        Some people are against any form of ART due to religious beliefs. A biologically connected (or non-biologically connected) ART child may grow up, and covert to a religion that views ART as a sin. Consequently, this child may themselves adopt that belief system.

        This religious conversion, and the adoption of these intellectual beliefs, could occur without the child experiencing any trauma or emotional distress. Or the search for a new religion could grow out of emotional distress. In any case, the future religious, political, or intellectual beliefs of individuals is the choice of every adult individual, but doesn’t answer the central question of trauma, and its source.

        I think people are interested in the source of emotional distress.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        I personally only know of maybe 2 ‘donor’ offspring who hold religious views against the practice but neither of them base their opinions solely on this. I agree with Greg to a degree that focusing on making things better for those who already exist and the future of the practice (because it won’t stop) is an extremely important need. Which is another reason why I support Olivia’s mission among others.

        • gsmwc02 says:

          Again for me it has nothing to do with whether a DC person is for or against the practice. IMO the focus should be on preventing and helping them from hurting or helping them cope with their hurt. Hearing stories of DC people and how they were raised in both positive and repressed environments can help current parents who are raising DC children and future parents.

          You wish to ban the practice all together if I am not mistaken (apologize if I am incorrect in this assumption), I wish to ban anonymous donation and have a system exactly like the one in the UK. Unfortunately neither one of us can alone make the changes to the system that we would like. That’s not the way our governmental system works.

          But the least we can do is work to is educate current and future DC parents to help their children.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        I also know of atheist ‘donor’ conceived who do not support the practice as well as agnostic and those holding no particular religious reasoning’s against the practice for purely humanist, human dignity, morals, values and secular reasoning’s. This is not simply a religious war challenging this practice.

      • Liz says:

        I’m not stating my point very well.

        My point wasn’t simply about one’s religious views, it was also about one’s intellectual viewpoints.

        I don’t think the the intellectual/ philosophical/religious viewpoints of people who are DC are necessarily relevant to other people. Personal trauma is relevant. Their intellectual belief system is not.

        One’s philosophical beliefs are not relevant to other people unless one wants to have an ethical/religious/philosophical discussion with that person debating that viewpoint. In this case, the facts of their conception aren’t relevant to the discussion.

        The only reason it would be relevant would be if the DC person says they changed their intellectual viewpoints as a result of their personal trauma or emotional distress. Personal testimony and “witnessing” may be relevant to the discussion. But this personal testimony is relevant only if the emotional distress/trauma is not born of anther source, such as bad parenting or divorce or other nonsense that has occurred in the family home. If that makes sense? (Research consistently shows that people are good at identifying pain, but horrible as self-diagnosis.)

        My comments are coming out of this perspective: I am not aware of any DC person who wants to prohibit the practice, who, at a minimum, has not experienced the trauma of late reveal, or the dislocation of the nuclear family through death or divorce by age 18.

        And many of the other childhoods sound very problematic, with multiple issues that have the potential to cause significant distress to a child. In other words, I’m not seeing well-adjusted, intact from birth, families w/ high value parenting. There is, at a minimum, the presence of potentially traumatic events, such as divorce, late reveal, or death. The emotional distress, in such circumstances, is predictable.

      • Liz says:

        Or, if the above comment is tl;dr:

        Intact families from birth to adulthood, with high value parenting, and without trauma (late-reveal trauma/significant economic stress) is the gold-standard for a healthy, happy childhood.

        I’m not seeing people raised in gold-standard circumstances.

      • Liz says:

        I ended my last comment rather abruptly. In other words, the people conceived by DC in gold-standard situations do not feel on-going emotional distress due to their conception.

        Occam’s Razer suggests that gold-standard circumstances produces the most well-adjusted children.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        Liz, you might be surprised to hear me say this but I also think ANY ONE personal perspective is irrelevant to any debate about prohibition, because, as Greg also has noted, the laws of our land (the anything goes wild west USA) will never ‘prohibit/outlaw’ this. The best we can do is have honest debate/discussion on the problems and approach this with compassion and empathy towards those DC who feel a loss of meaningful relations or complete dismissal of their biological father/mother/siblings/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins/ancestry/heritage etc. etc. and share advice with those who chose to reproduce this way regardless. When DC stories are shared in a way that is not supportive of the practice, this is not necessarily a bad thing and in fact I believe it’s really necessary to help educate ppl on the issues involved so that they can make more informed choices.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        For the laws to change in the US there needs to be a lobby to advocate for that cause. That’s the way it works.

      • Liz says:

        In order to develop good practices, we need to correctly identify the harm.

        If a harm is being able to correctly ID the donor, then ID donor release will help. If a harm is inept parenting, then teaching parenting skills will help.

        However, alliances need to be made with parents to institute any reforms. The rhetoric that labels parents “slave owners” isn’t likely to cement alliances. Likewise, those who threaten to take children away from gay parents are unlikely to be able to form alliances with gay parents. More then 60% of sperm is used by lesbian and single women. Bridges are being burned by those who would potentially ally, in alterna-universe, where the rhetoric is moderate, calm and productive.

        The American system is unlikely to institute any productive ID reforms due to the inability to form alliances. Do people want to argue, or do they want to get things done?

      • Liz says:

        “When DC stories are shared in a way that is not supportive of the practice, this is not necessarily a bad thing and in fact I believe it’s really necessary to help educate ppl on the issues involved so that they can make more informed choices.”

        Here’s the situation: Most people don’t identify as bad potential parents. People who are organizing themselves to do donor cycles are not likely to be “compete messes.” It takes organization and forethought to visit doctors and undergo medical treatment.

        I suppose what I’m trying to say, is that these negative stories elicit empathy. But it sounds like you’re not clear on why an observer might feel sympathy. It’s not that the person is DC, it’s that people can see that the trauma seems to be correlated to people who lived through distressing situations. (divorce, death, inept parenting, ect.)

        (In terms of alliances: When the rhetoric gets extreme, it’s increasingly likely to not simply alienate, but for people to all together ignore the speaker.)

      • Liz says:

        “The best we can do is have honest debate/discussion on the problems and approach this with compassion and empathy towards those DC who feel a loss of meaningful relations or complete dismissal of their biological father/mother/siblings/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins/ancestry/heritage etc. etc.”

        I apologize — I still don’t think I am being very clear in my posts.

        What I’m trying to say is this: who is dismissing the feelings of the individual?

        It appears that the most critical people — the parents — are engaged in inept parenting and ignored their child’s feelings. This is what I meant by sub-par, unempathetic parenting.

        When we are in pain, the sympathy of strangers is not terribly important to us. Strangers have their own lives, their own children, and their own families with which to concern themselves. They are busy, and really don’t have that much time for sympathy. The sympathy strangers do give to others is not particularly significant or meaningful — a quick word, or a passing thought of empathy.

        It’s the empathy of our loved ones that matters to us.

        • oliviasview says:

          I mostly agree with you Liz, it is the empathy of those close to us – or who might be expected to be close to us – that matters the most. BUT, failing that, true empathy… non-judgemental listening, acknowledgment of feelings and just ‘being there’, provided by a good friend (or even a counsellor) can be a very good substitute and help the person in pain to feel they are not going mad. It can also help them process the feelings for themselves and eventually move on to managing those feelings better. Sympathy is much more superficial and can be felt as patronising and dismissive.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        This issue is very polarized and politicalised, I agree. I do not think that any lobbying group can wield enough power to actually make anonymous ‘donation’ illegal in the USA. I also don’t think this is a simple fix such as regulating and ending anonymity (some of these things you just can’t ‘good parent’ away). I think various groups and story tellers can help to educate the public however and push the industry *elites* to give better informed consent (dna testing, social networking making anonymity more difficult for example). I also think there are ways our culture can do this without passing outright prohibition laws, such as more education and open discussion about ALL the MANY many many etc. problems involved and not attempting to squash the dialogue with PC politics…among other things.

        I also think it would help if there was a Holistic parenting movement that could go hand and hand with the Green Movement. It’s actually both a socially conservative and liberal cause, (bipartisan?) it’s just being twisted as primarily a religious and/or conservative (insert the insulting here) movement. I think It can actually bring people together – if allowed.

        This is all so complex and we obviously can’t unbundle it all here in the comments section of Olivia’s blog.

        • gsmwc02 says:

          Agreed, I think the best thing that you and other DC can do is count your blessings and seek any therapy help that you require. 🙂

      • Liz says:


        I very much agree regarding empathy versus sympathy. And, there is great value in a good friend or counselor conveying empathy to a person in pain.

        My parent,

        I could see a cross-alliance of social conservative women and the green movement on environmental issues that hurt the health of children (plastic bottles w/ BPA). I’m not sure I see the link to donor conception that would change present patterns in a material way.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        As a ‘donor’ conceived person, I find that there rarely is much empathy for our intentional losses by those close to us because that would entail acknowledging that their choices that directly resulted in our life were under question. Often times there is a lack of empathy by those close to us – replaced by patronizing ‘sympathy’ – I’m sorry you feel that way – I hope you find peace – is the best we get.

        • gsmwc02 says:

          There is lots of empathy for the DC people who are hurting. Just because those who are empathetic don’t supporting banning DC doesn’t mean they aren’t empathetic p,

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        And THE MOST PATRONIZING thing to say to a ‘donor’ conceived person expressing a loss is…Would you rather not exist? Don’t ever say that.

        Liz, I do see a considerable connection between respect for holistic in our environment and our natural procreative, parenting natures. The political correctness nature of our current politics hinders us from acknowledging this. Very much connected.

      • Liz says:

        “And THE MOST PATRONIZING thing to say to a ‘donor’ conceived person expressing a loss is…Would you rather not exist? Don’t ever say that.”

        I left a longer comment on the latest post left by Olivia. But, quickly, yes — exactly. Parents with adequate skills listen to children. They do not treat them with un-empathetic cold behaviour.

        Generation Cryo gives a great example of high-value parenting with Bree and Sheri (I think that’s her name? Her non-biological parent that she lives with.). Bree told Sheri she wished they were biologically related, and she is quite distressed about the journey to find her donor. Sheri tells Bree that they have bond, and she describes holding her as a child. You can see the love, and Bree lights up. Sheri also tells Bree that her donor has a special place in Bree’s heart, and speaks with such empathy and love.

        That is an example of high-value parenting behaviour.

        “Liz, I do see a considerable connection between respect for holistic in our environment and our natural procreative, parenting natures. The political correctness nature of our current politics hinders us from acknowledging this. Very much connected.”

        I’m not following you here. I think I do not understand what you mean by political correctness. In the 1980s that term was used in the debate about reading African American literature, but I don’t know what you’re applying it to. Green politics and the environment and and good parenting beahviour — maybe you’re alluding to breast feeding but I’m not following your train of thought.

  5. oliviasview says:

    Very true Greg. They feel no need to tell their story which is why I try to encourage them to do so.

    • Liz says:

      Zach Wahls didn’t feel a need to tell his story until the judges were recalled in Iowa, and he heard about a suicide of a gay teenager. At that point he felt that he had to give his testimony at the State Legislature. (Ironically, he didn’t know he was being filmed by a political aid’s phone & his testimony was uploaded to the internet without his knowledge.)

      His shy sister’s response after the testimony and the publicity was, “I hope I don’t have to do that!” It’s a lot to expect of introverts.

      (One final word — I would be wary of conflating adoption with donor conception. My friend is a therapist, and she’s mentioned that she sees different emotional processes and responses.)

      However, I would guess that late reveal, involving lying/ not-telling, could generate quite similar traumas in adopted and donor-conceived people. How does a person resolve and process the fact that their parents lied, either explicitly or by omission, for years?

  6. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Actually, there are many similarities between the adoptee and ‘donor’ conceived experience regardless of openness and honesty. The ‘donor’ conceived and adoption community work together.

    Two ‘donor’ conceived activists, Alana Newman and Bill Cordray, will be presenting at the American Adoption Congress’s annual conference in San Francisco, CA on April 10, Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 at the PARC 55 Wyndham Hotel on Union Square.

    Note from Bill Cordray to any and all fellow ‘donor’ conceived:

    “If you can afford the cost of a one day conference, which is $165, unfortunately, please come and give us your support. However, we will also be having a DI Adult Support Group at the Hotel from 4.:45 to 6:15. That will cost nothing to attend since I will cover the $10 fee for anyone who wants to come. We will have a chance to meet each other and have a good discussion about our feelings and our experiences.”

  7. Liz says:

    That’s not what I’m hearing from people engaged in clinical work. Of course, these are simply personal reflections from practitioners. Studies on this would be welcome.

    In terms of an analysis of the political and rhetorical ties — I’m not sure that a majority of those involved with adoption in their daily lives would recognize the term “donor conception,” much less be familiar with the issues.

  8. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Yes, the clinical rhetoric and those who work in that field are not in touch with much that is happening outside of their agendas. The adoption community and the AAC has advocated on behalf of the ‘donor’ conceived for over a decade now. The adoption community as a whole is becoming more and more aware of the issues and similarities. No doubt, they are paying even more attention to it with the increased use (awareness) of ‘egg donors’ and ‘surrogates’. It’s growing.

    • My parent's donor is my father says:

      Here are just a couple of examples:

      (Birth Mother) First Mother Forum
      “Even in ‘modern families’ the need to know biological heritage”
      Thursday, March 6, 2014

      Lost Daughters Blog
      “Guest Post: An Adoptee’s Reaction to MTV’s Generation Cryo”
      By Kristi Blazi Lado

      “I’ll admit that that my ignorance on donor conception was somewhat willful. The human rights abuses in adoption has occupied so much of my psychological space that I just haven’t been open to learning about something that had so much potential to be worse.

      When I first saw the promos for MTV’s Generation Cryo, my first thought was for the love of all-that-is-holy, no doorstep ambushes, Jersey Shore behavior, or anything that would make people who are searching for biological relatives look like lunatics. I’m glad I gave it a chance because not only was the subject was treated respectfully but I was able to fully appreciate the parallels between adoptees and the donor-conceived.”

      Read full post here:

      • Liz says:

        I suppose it depends on how you are defining “adoption community.” If you are defining community as a panel at a conference and a couple of blogs, then ok.

        If you are defining community as a majority of those people who have actually been adopted, then I disagree. I stand by my statement: a large majority of adopted people are not familiar with the term “donor-conceived.”

        The adoption reforms that have occurred, and the UK’s donor release, took place through an alliance with parents. Parents, in fact, played a central role.

        In my analysis of American rhetoric, I’ve noticed that some small groups frame parents as political opponents, and these parents are described in extreme rhetorical terms. They are framed as “adoptor-raptors” who want to kidnap “womb-wet babies.” (I’m not kidding — they actually use those terms.) The rhetoric makes all sorts of extreme connections, such as adoption = slavery and genocide.

        I see a strong similarity of rhetoric in the elements that advocate criminal prohibition and abolition of adoption and donor conception. (Robert Oscar Lopez, Alana Newman)

        But this rhetoric and these elements are a very small slice of the adoption community, as stats on adoption reveal.

      • Liz says:

        On the connections between Newman and RO Lopez and their opposition to same-sex adoption. They submitted an amici brief to the Utah court. Their legal brief states that same-sex couples who adopt or bear children will have detrimental affects on the child.

        • Doug Mainwaring, who self-identifies as gay but is in a heterosexual marriage; Alana Newman, conceived via sperm donation; and Robert Oscar Lopez, who self-identifies as bisexual and was raised by two lesbians: “Redefining marriage in Utah would deprive many children — specifically those obtained by same-gender couples from either a mother or a father and would not be in their best interest, but would be to their detriment. Amici have also shown that it is rewarding for those with same-gender attraction who want to parent children to choose traditional marriages in behalf of providing a mother and a father to their children, per their children’s best interests, and live happy, fulfilling, satisfying lives.”

      • Liz says:

        “Each of the amici desires to protect children from the pain and suffering which would be promoted by upholding the ruling of the district court.”

        Link to the brief. United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Kitchen v. Herbert (Gov. of Utah) 2013. This was a case challenging Utah’s same sex ban on marriages. Newman and Lopez wrote in support of Utah upholding the ban.

    • Liz says:

      OK, we’re having a miscommunication with terminology. Medical doctors call their work with patients clinical work, as opposed to their research. Likewise, psychologists and therapists do the same — their work with patients is “clinical.” It’s the clinical side, versus those who do research.

      (A cardiologist might have a job that is 30% clinical and 70% research. That means 30% of the job is working with patients with heart problems, and the rest is research.)

      The people I interviewed are not politically motivated, nor are they associated with adoption agencies, or whatnot.

      They are psychologists and therapists who see general groups of clients. Some of them specialize in children and adolescents.

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        No one is saying that adoption and ‘donor’ conception/’surrogacy’ are the same. Maybe this might help to clarify?

        “Old Lessons for a New World: Applying Adoption Research and Experience to ART
        Naomi Cahn and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

        Abstract: This article suggests that knowledge derived from adoption-related research and experience can be used to improve law, policy
        and practice in the world of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), particularly with respect to sperm, egg and embryo “donations.”
        While there are numerous and significant differences between adoption and ART, the article identifies several areas in which adoption’s
        lessons could be useful. These include secrecy and the withholding of information; a focus on the best interests of children; the creation of
        “nontraditional” families, particularly as more single, gay and lesbian adults use ART; the impact of market forces; and legal and regulatory
        frameworks to inform standards and procedures.”

      • gsmwc02 says:

        People who disagree with study findings tend to claim the studies had a “political” or “social” agenda when the reality is they don’t. These are the same people who conduct studies of their own that have the same “political” or “social” agenda influence in the results that they accuse others of.

        Sometimes the truth hurts and people feel that their have to be studies that justify their feelings when they really shouldn’t. Just because one study concludes something on donor offspring doesn’t mean that another donor offspring ‘s experience is invalid.

      • Liz says:


        Agreed. It occurs to me that family relationships produce some of the most complicated relationships. Parents need to set boundaries with children, and children need to set their own boundaries as they age. But the boundaries set by parents with a 5, 16, and 25-year-old are drastically different. It takes a lot of talent to parent. Likewise, it takes talent to maintain healthy relationships with parents, siblings, ect. as adults. It’s hard work! And this is in the best of circumstances.

        There are many people who aren’t stable, economically, mentally, or emotionally. There are many people who aren’t particularly good at “empathy,” or talking, or relating to children, or setting appropriate boundaries with adult children. Parents can disappoint children in so many ways. Adult children can disappoint parents in so many ways. (And siblings can disappoint each other.)

        Some of the most difficult and traumatic relationships are produced by familial relationships that lack appropriate boundaries, and are marked by a deficit of empathy. These relationships can range from completely catastrophic parents to those parents who work hard at parenting, but are inept in some areas, and not able to communicate adequate levels of empathy to children.

        Again, high-quality parenting is key, and this high-quality parenting models behaviour for the child, which is key to encouraging healthy relationships between the adult child and the parents.

        My Parent,

        We agree that helpful ideas are useful, especially in terms of “best practices” of how to support adoptees and parents in terms of institutional and community resources

        (Off-hand, I can think of several things that would be particularly useful: Parenting groups/ support groups for adoptees/ clubs for children/ teaching how to talk about the issues, resources that encourage and teach high value parenting techniques/I’m sure there are other institutional supports, both private and public, that would be helpful.)

        I used the word conflate, because the assumption of identical experiences may confuse rather then clarify. (I also think it is problematic for a birthmother, or an adoptee, to assume that they have a special understanding of the emotional experience of all donor-conceived people.)

  9. oliviasview says:

    Thank you Liz for all your posts but specifically for the one of 28th March that begins,
    “I find it hard to distinguish the specificity as to the causes of this negative experience.”
    I have long had thoughts along these lines but have not managed to bring them all together and articulate them as clearly as you have. I think you are right about some children/people having a greater need for conformity and low tolerance for being marked out as ‘different’. This is not a judgement of any sort, it is simply part of some personalities, possibly exaggerated and/or supported by family experience. DC Network focuses quite a lot on the management of ‘difference’ and we will be asking our panel of 9 – 16 year olds at the national conference on 27th April for their feelings about this. Our 27 year old daughter Zannah enjoys and occasionally revels in her difference, being happy to talk about it with anyone, should a relevant conversation topic arise. This is the same for the 19 year old DC young man who came to have lunch with me yesterday. But I know others who are much quieter about it. Not, as far as it is possible to tell, from shame or sadness but simply because that is the way they are.
    You are right about the gender imbalance too. FAR more women posting than men. I suspect this is not because men don’t have strong feelings – I think many do – but because women are generally more comfortable translating feelings into written or spoken language. For an exception, look out for Sam Gregory’s thoughts on his own donor conception story and DC issues in general, later on this year.

    • Liz says:

      Thank you — I realized after I posted that I was taking up quite a lot of space on the blog. I also don’t want to invalidate people’s experience, and particularly their pain, and I think they should be encouraged to talk about their emotional response.

      I’ve been thinking about the aspect of difference, and how many teenagers dislike to be classified as non-normative. It will be very interesting to hear their feelings from the national conference.

      I agree that the comfort with emotions and verbalization must play a critical role in this difference. In terms of the gender imbalance, I also have wondered if women tend to see part of their “job” as the collection of genealogy and maintenance of lineage connections. (Much in the same way that women often feel it’s their job to write thank-you notes, maintain the baby scrap-book, and send presents to relatives.) This may make women more inclined to be interested in genetic heritage and establishing relationships. This is obviously a generalization, as many men are also interested. But, proportionally, women are more likely to engage in these tasks. My Uncle was given a book by my great-aunt that documented family genealogy and stories back to the early 18th-century. He threw it away, and now we have to make another copy to send to his children. “Why did you throw it away?” “I didn’t think about it, and I didn’t have the room — clutter!” (sigh)

      Side note: The UK is very lucky to have groups such as the DC Network. The discursive space that could have been useful, and brought about institutional support for donor-conceived people and their parents, has been consumed by religious and political debates about certain topics: contraception/ abortion/ gay parenting/ gay marriage/ single parenthood. The prohibition of these sexual practices have been explicitly employed as a “wedge issue” tactic in several national elections (ie: Karl Rove, birth control, gay marriage, Murphy Brown).

      This political debate consumes much of the rhetorical space for the development of institutional supports, public or private, for donor-conceived children and parents. It has also discouraged potential alliances that could effect change.

      For example: Are gay parents who use 3PR going to ally with National Organization for Marraige (NOM), the Witherspoon Institute, and Jennifer Lahl? Not in this lifetime. And how will the children of gay parents view groups who label their families damaging to “family values” and the wider culture? Zach Wahls had a commentary about his moment of realization, watching a Republican National Convention as a pre-teen, that his family was being called dangerous, and a threat to the moral fabric of America. Needless to say, he was offended. Alliances that can produce institutional supports are unlikely unless the political environment changes, and people like Zach cease to feel that their families are under threat.

  10. oliviasview says:

    Your posts always leave me thoughtful Liz. Thank you for that.

  11. Pingback: Conception or upbringing: where does the distress of some DC adults come from? | oliviasview

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