The prevalence of ambivalence

Another Wednesday, another episode of Generation Cryo.  This week Bree (see previous two blogs for backstory) met up with Bostonian half-sister twins Molly and Paige age 20 and their brother Will age 16, all four conceived with the help of donor 1096 from California Cryobank.  Molly, Paige and Will’s mom Laura also played a prominent part but their dad, importantly mentioned from time to time, did not appear.  This non-appearance, however, was not referred to and we were left to speculate the reasons why. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that apparently not everyone in the family knows about the use of a donor and that both children and adults seem to have been on the receiving end of some pretty unenlightened responses.  Generously, one of the twins supposed that for some people the use of donor conception changes their idea of what a family is, but to my mind nothing excuses using a term like ‘freak’ to describe anyone.

All three offspring in this Boston based family declare themselves uninterested in meeting the donor:  “I have my own dad, why would I want to think about this guy”, but when they share the donor profile they have with Bree and find that it is different to the one she has, all four are engrossed in the details revealed in the differences…particularly for Bree the revelation of his birth date.  At last, something solid to search on.

Bree’s sweet, outgoing nature and perhaps slightly naive approach seems to free-up and infect the twins, who, according to their mother, have been reluctant to talk about their conception in the past.  Both seem torn between wanting to help Bree in her quest to find the donor and the fear of pushing open a door that cannot be easily closed again…thus exposing their family to the unknown.

Whilst the girls are thinking about whether or not to accompany Bree to California in pursuit of the donor, Bree tries to drum up support from Hilit and Jonah whom she talks to on Skype.  Jonah feels he would like to come to the west coast to try and help but wants to run this plan past his dad first.  As we have learned in a previous episode Eric J, Jonah’s dad, is a man with a big heart but a lot of fear too.  He also knows his children well, particularly the fact that Hilit tends to see a bigger picture and consider the consequences of actions, whilst Jonah has a tendency to act first and think later.  He worries that finding the donor would not just be ‘helping Bree’ but would bring big changes into the life of his family: ” It would break my heart if the donor turned up at family reunions….”   Jonah nevertheless decides to go (presumably financial considerations are not relevant for all this travel as MTV are paying).

When Bree, Molly and Paige feed the information they have gained from both donor profiles into the internet, they come up with the college the donor almost certainly attended and a list of 23 names, the assumption being that the donor must be one of them.  At this point Laura’s ambivalence is almost palpable.  She wants to support Bree and her daughters (Will seems to have dropped out of the picture) but the nearer they get to his identity the more frightened she becomes: “The closer you get to the donor the weirder I feel”.   “I was a married woman and I had this other man’s sperm put inside of me…I just don’t know how I feel about this…but in the end it’s not about me, it’s about you and the other kids.”

I have probably got my recollections of the programme in the wrong order but at some point the reticent Molly and Paige question the bright, smiling and completely unquestioning Bree about her interest in the donor and whether or not she thinks of him as a father.  Bree seems very clear that he is not a father, simply a donor, but she does get very upset when recollecting childhood times when her mothers split up and Debra, the one who decided she wasn’t lesbian any more and married a man, tried to stop Sherry from seeing Bree.  There seems to be a connection between this trauma (when undoubtedly Bree felt very out of control) and her need to find the donor now, although she is never completely clear about this (possibly doesn’t recognise it herself?).  She simply seems to find it very difficult to understand the fears and mixed feelings of her half-siblings who do not share her curiosity…or at least cannot enjoy her unalloyed enthusiasm because of the guilt they feel about potentially hurting their father

There is undoubtedly a freedom that the young people without a resident father in this film have, that is not shared by those whose dad is an important presence in their lives and a relationship that they want to protect. And it seems that having a dad who expresses his comfort with using a donor and encourages the search for him, does not mean that offspring feel any less ambivalent (Jesse in the second episode).  For all donor conception families there is the push and pull of managing this new family form on a daily basis.  For lesbian and single mom families there is the constant challenge of living in a hetero-normative couple based world and having to ‘come out’ time and again in terms of sexuality or relationship status.  For heterosexual couple families, openness about donor conception is a choice that is made positively and in the interests of the children, but brings with it not only the management of ‘difference’ but challenges to a model of family which in Western tradition and culture is seen as an ideal and inviolable.  The inclusion of half-siblings appears not to threaten the stability of ‘the family’ but the possibility of the donor making a physical appearance feels frightening on a level which is too painful for most family members to actually talk about.  Eric J gets the closest.  Ambivalence is writ large all over this series.

Next week we will be in New York visiting Zannah so I will miss Episode Four.  Please someone, let me know what happens.  They seem to be very close to finding donor 1096 now.

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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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14 Responses to The prevalence of ambivalence

  1. All of the episodes are on the MTV site

  2. oliviasview says:

    Lorraine: I can’t find the episodes on the UK MTV site and the ones on the US site are not viewable outside N.America. I’d be really happy to be proved wrong about either of these things but just at the moment that’s what it looks like to me.

  3. Liz says:

    If you have time when you’re in New York, you can stream episode 4 on MTV USA. My laptop allows me to stream it once I’ve crossed the international border, and can connect to the internet. http://www.mtv.com/shows/generation_cryo/series.jhtml

    But if you don’t have time to watch TV while in NYC, we’d be happy to fill you in on the episode! Have fun in NY!

  4. oliviasview says:

    Thanks Liz. I might well do that. We certainly intend to have fun.

  5. marilynn says:

    That’s a real shame its not available outside the U.S. as it is in. It makes no sense given that our world is so small now. I’m talking to Olivia here on her blog same as if she was in the room adjacent.

  6. Eliza says:

    it’s currently playing on MTV Australia and you can watch all the eps on the local MTV website http://www.mtv.com.au but probably location locked. The eps are together but in approximately 3 to 6 minute grabs, so it does take a bit if time to watch each ep.

  7. gsmwc02 says:

    Enjoy your trip to the states Olivia. The weather is starting to turn in the NYC area so you should have a wonderful time.

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

    I’ve watched all the episodes and I have a lot to say about it but I don’t see any point in sharing. I think the full series just really speaks for itself about the ethics/morals of the practice.

    • marilynn says:

      My parent’s donor is my father – I feel like there is a point to you sharing. I wish you’d articulate your feelings more often as you have a ton of personal insight and some very powerful statements to make. Too often you’ll provide a link with no commentary in the misguided belief that others will take away the same thing from the article and I fear that’s not necessarily the case and then an opportunity is lost to share what you think and hopefully make people think about the experience of donor offspring under current conditions. Please don’t get so fed up you stop talking. If your going to type anything make it worth your effort – You changed my mind forever don’t you realize that? You did that your friends did that. I did not start out with the opinions I have now they developed by having my eyes opened by people that are trying to find or have found their families Its much worse than I ever thought. I just thought ending anonymity and telling the truth was enough 4 years ago. Now I can’t believe I was so stupid not to realize its not enough because its not the same as everyone else. Big thing to miss but I could not see it then

      • My parent's donor is my father says:

        I have been doing this for y-e-a-r-s now Marilynn. However, I am one who tries to say as much as possible with as few words as possible. I do this for several reasons but in particular because I think there is a self evident truth to this and respect that others are more than able and capable to think for themselves and put the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves. As you did. It’s my style. Respect.

        • My parent's donor is my father says:

          There are alternative voices out there (beyond the rainbows and unicorns happy faced voices) who are trying to help educate and add balance on these topics:
          DonorOffspringVideos
          New Youtube channel by Greg (a ‘donor’ conceived man – and author of “Demon’s at My Doorstep”)

        • marilynn says:

          Well fair enough. I talk enough for 10 people so what do i know

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