Your job as a parent starts now

I make no apology for stealing the heading of this piece from the final line of a blog by the National Gamete Donation Trust’s CEO Laura Witjens.  Titled ‘Dear future mother using internet sperm‘ the text takes the form of an open letter to any woman considering using a sperm donor she has met on the internet to help create her family.  Acknowledging the financial cost and annoying medicalisation of the clinic route, Witjens makes a cogent case for putting the interests of their longed-for future child first by NOT choosing a guy that they have encountered on the internet and particularly not one of the several prolific donors offering their services. http://www.laurawitjens.com/3431-2/

But women contemplating an internet donor are not the only ones whose parenting job needs to start before conception takes place.  It is true for anyone using donor conception.  It may not seem fair that those of us put in this position by infertility, sexuality or single status should have to think about the consequences of our conception choices before we have a baby in our arms, but it is true that we are the only people who must do this because what we choose to do will have an impact on our children for the rest of their lives.  Choose to go to Europe and you choose to close a door to your child having much information about and being able to contact their donor.  Choose to import sperm from the US and you could make contact with loads of half-sibs and possibly the donor through the Donor Sibling Registry.  Choose a prolific internet donor and you risk your child being sexually attracted to a half sibling as well as having to explain the potentially disturbing fact that they have hundreds of half-sibs ‘out there’; let alone the potential for legal claims and consequences depending on your partnership status.

This week I spoke to a woman who regretted rushing into egg donation in Spain.  She knows now that she really didn’t understand the differences between treatment in the UK and abroad.  She and her husband are being open with their child and their close family but it is becoming difficult for the girl, now age 9, because school friends are commenting on how different she looks to the rest of her family, including her sister who was conceived without donor help.  This physical difference was a shock to her parents who had requested a blue eyed, fair skinned donor.  This loving and supportive family will always be there for their daughter, listening to her feelings and helping her integrate the fact of her ‘difference’ into her life, but her mother is aware that if she had made a different choice her daughter, (who would not be the same person as the one she loves so much), would probably not have to manage these difficult feelings.

Parenting by donor conception demands that we begin our job before we have our baby.

 

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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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20 Responses to Your job as a parent starts now

  1. Preaching to the choir 😉

    They may well have got a blue-eyed blonde egg donor – but that’s how genetics works; it’s complicated!

  2. sazzle2610 says:

    I agree completely that we should think harder than most about our choice.

    When faced with wanting and not being able to have a family it is very easy to become desperate in our bid to have a baby. It is easy to loose sight of the fact that the baby grows up. The idea of the perfect little bundle, smelling so good, looking so cute is a huge distraction from the reality of having a child. The fact that they are not babies for long, they grown up, and before you know it they are talking and asking questions, along with having attitude. Its hard to imagine the grown up when you are so desperate for the baby.

    But imagining the grown up is so very important before deciding on using a donor in any circumstances. Some people will disagree, but I believe that having a child is a selfish thing. No child ever has asked to be born, we are all here because of the decisions our parents made.

    When considering using a donor, we must consider how our children might feel and how we might feel, what are we going to tell them, can we support them as they get older. We may well not have the answers, but to have thought and considered is so important.

    Working with children has opened my eyes to the influence (both good and bad) that parents can have on their children. A negative environment can have long lasting impacts on a child’s future, their self worth, their attainment, how they react to the word around them. A positive environment can give the child the best foundation to succeed in life, and to be able to deal with difficult things in a positive way.

    Our children are a product of our parenting, so we should be thinking about how we are going to raise confident and secure children, a job that is made a little more difficult if you are not prepared for parenting donor conceived children.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Well said. It’s really hard to think long term in that spot when you are in a situation where you are hurting. It’s easy to go for the short term goal without recognizing the challenges you maybe facing long term by your actions.

  3. my parents donor is my father says:

    Being a good “parent” starts preconception by taking responsibility for our own sperm/egg/uterus when combined to create a new life…and parenting with the other genetic/biological whole (holistic) parent in a fully balanced loving and meaningful way. If you can never create “that child”, because you cannot provide that for any possible children, you are much more than a “good parent” you are setting an example of good stewardship and taking the higher road.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Karen,

      By taking the high road that person will never be a parent so I have no idea how they could be a good parent. To be a good parent one has to be a parent to start with.

  4. pol says:

    Regardless of how you recruit a woman/man (aka ‘donor’) to participate in the creation of a human life; whether it be with a stranger or friend/acquaintance…..you are compromising the best interests of a child who is born in these circumstances. Every human child/adult needs to know and have a lifelong connection/relationship with its two genealogical parents and to be able to openly acknowledge them as their mother/father. It’s about ‘wholeness’ rather than the intentional fracturing of one’s identity and sense of self which is the life experience of the great majority of DC persons.

    • oliviasview says:

      This is one point of view. Another is that being a parent is about loving relationships and not genetics. I don’t think you have the evidence to state that ‘intentional fracturing of identity and sense of self is the life experience of the great majority of DC persons”. I know lots and very, very few feel this way. There is a very wide spectrum of feeling amongst donor conceived people and those who feel the way you claim are at one of the far ends.

      • marilynn says:

        Olivia being a parent is about relationships yes. According to every standard English language dictionary a parent is defined first and foremost as the relationship between a person and his or her offspring. Raising children is the secondary definition since its something parents are supposed to do, but is not required in order to qualify them as a parent. It is not an opinion or point of view that a person with offspring is a parent, its a fact according to the language we speak. There is no way around the fact that when a person goes to school they learn that organisms with offspring are parent organisms. They learn that parents don’t always raise their children. A donor’s offspring does come to understand that they are genetically related to their parents, they just have an absent parent or possibly two absent parents. That is not opinion it’s fact. It’s not one way to look at it, its fact and other ways of looking at it are fine but they are based on principals of function. Functioning as something is not the same as being something. Functioning as a married couple is supposed to does not make a couple legally married just as functioning as a divorced couple is supposed to does not make a married couple be legally divorced. Not functioning as a father does not erase a mans fatherhood. It is amazing that people think their children will buy into stories about “what we believe a father is” when they are going to go out into the world and learn the concrete definition according to their native language. If you use the word and mean something different from the common definition that’s just lying. I don’t understand why people think that their kids won’t know they are lying when they say “you don’t share genetics with your mother”. Of course they share genetics with their mother, they are not freaks of nature; what they don’t share with their mother is a house.

        • oliviasview says:

          Sheer blinkered pedantry.

          • oliviasview says:

            Marilynn: Without feeling the need to publish your many long ramblings over the last couple of days I will make the following two points –
            1. Words do not have fixed meanings. They change over time. The word ‘gay’ for instance is now associated entirely with being homosexual, when it used to mean brightly coloured or of a happy disposition. Looking at several dictionaries I found that the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’ were rarely associated with a provider of sperm or eggs. “Mother’ is ‘a woman in relation to a child or children to who she has given birth’. Father is ‘a man in relation to his child or children.’
            2. Our daughter and I were informed that the DNA samples given by us to the predecessor of the Donor Conceived Register in the UK had became contaminated and we were asked if we would like to provide some more. I was happy to do this but our daughter said she did not feel the need to do so.

            • marilynn says:

              I never said that the terms mother or father or parent would be defined as providers of sperm or eggs. I said a person with offspring. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parent
              Full Definition of parent
              1
              a : one that begets or brings forth offspring
              b : a person who brings up and cares for another
              2
              a : an animal or plant that is regarded in relation to its offspring
              b : the material or source from which something is derived
              c : a group from which another arises and to which it usually remains subsidiary

              • oliviasview says:

                Choose your dictionary, choose your definition. Here’s another –
                Parent – ‘a person’s mother or father’ “be or act as a mother or father (to someone). ‘a mother or father of a person or animal’

            • marilynn says:

              DNA samples? They are not keeping track of each donor’s offspring in any other way? They don’t have a list that could match her with potential siblings that she could later test against?

        • gsmwc02 says:

          While genetic connections are important between biological parent and child. It’s more of a relationship of obligation and can be forced and fake. Whereas a true relationship and connection between parent and child regardless of genetic connection is something special because it’s out of love and not obligation.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      What about acknowledgement and relationships with parents that are not genetically related to them or do you not view these people as parents and having any importance in a person’s life?

    • marilynn says:

      Pol you are right but it impacts all donor offspring that way as well as their relatives. How each donor’s offspring happens to feel about being separated from his or her family by not being raised by his or her parents is a matter of personal interpretation for them. Some may not be bothered by it however there is absolutely a fracture, separation and loss of legal kinship whenever someone’s parent is absent due to promises they made when they were a donor prior to becoming a parent. You are absolutely correct but it impacts all, not some donor offspring.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        Same thing happens to kids of divorce who are forced go live with one parent while the other gets visitation rights. There are many outspoken adults who grew up with divorced parents as they were separated from a stable childhood. I don’t think we should make laws that prohibit adults from divorcing.

  5. pol says:

    I too know many adult DC persons and this is how they describe their loss and disconnection from kin.

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