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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Donor Unknown | Resources on Donor Conception | Independent Lens | PBS

Donor Unknown | Resources on Donor Conception | Independent Lens | PBS

Monday, February 20, 2012

Being Donor Conceived...A Definition of Self?

"Does this define you?" asked a colleague in a group I went out with overseas. The question elicits an internal sigh because I know the answer is so much more complex than the asker expects.

"I take it you mean the donor conception thing?" I turned and responded to him. Five of us were seated at a small table leaning forward to hear each other.  A serenade of dish-clanking, laughter and multi-lingual chatter surrounded us. It felt very intimate despite the fact we were just coworkers.

I paused to mentally rewind because our current conversation had moved to other things.  I mentioned donor conception about three topics ago and it was so lovely to gloss over the mention. 

"Yes, yes" he said calling everyone else's attention to his question. Their sudden silence seemed to say.. "Well....go on......answer him.."

Rather than try to recount word for word what I'll admit was a bit of a wine-soaked conversation, I'll summarize.  I explained that while being donor-conceived is a very large part of understanding who I am, it does not define me.

His question reminded me of the emails I sometimes receive in response to Connect It that urge I "stop focusing" on being donor conceived or "wasting time " contemplating it so much.  Such proclamations always make me laugh a bit --- it's as if they think I'm consumed day and night with writing this blog-- thinking of nothing else but my conception, sitting in a dark room feeling bad for myself and relentlessly ruminating. I don't fault that assumption because it's understandable if Connect It is the only means by which you know me. It's then reasonable to assume the focus of the blog is the focus of my life. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

If I'm guilty of letting anything consume my identity it's probably my job. I travel extensively for work doing things I love and often find myself in a hotel in South East Asia wondering where my life went. I continue to struggle to balance the excitement of travel I love and the stability I need to sustain myself....but that is another entry on another blog.

Being donor-conceived is better described as a theme in my life. It's an innate framework that effects how I perceive and react to life. You can certainly ignite my passion in a debate about anonymous donation and freedom of information, but my days do not start and end with thoughts about donor conception. 

What I find instead are sudden moments when the "theme music" of being donor conceived becomes too loud to ignore. In those moment, I'm consumed.

Hearing friends describe characteristics and traits they inherited from each of their parents, for example, frequently brings my donor-conceived "identity" bubbling to the surface.  Such descriptions occur far more often than one might think. There is something so universal about looking for the source of our traits. I come across it all over the world. From Singapore to Amsterdam, I've had people tell me they got this or that from their mother or father.

My reaction is always one first of curiosity -  meaning I wonder what it feels like to be able to disassemble your elements and neatly organize them by origin. I listen intently and ask questions about how the speaker has determined a less tangible trait or skill, like say  - rhythm, has been passed down from one of their parents. You might think - well doesn't she get that experience with her mother and....yes.... to some degree, but I'm always left with a whole pile of traits that can't be sorted. Hence the very act of determining the origin of my traits causes confusion rather than a feeling of belonging or entertainment. It's a topic that has always generated sadness or tension in my family. Discussing the origin of my traits is something I've learned to avoid and I've heard this from other donor conceived adults as well.

Another "defining moment" for donor conception is interaction with people who comment on inheritance or likeness but are unaware of the truth. I'm never more 100% conscious of being donor conceived as when I am with my father's extended family, who continue to be unaware of my true origin. Whenever they comment on something "I get from them" it's like a little me pops up on my shoulder and whispers "pssst --- remember you aren't genetic related to these people." In that sense, the donor conceived "identity" feels isolating. It's like these people don't truly know you because their is something you are holding back. When something fills in or barricades the space between you and another individual it feels so definitive and poignant - like their indeed is "a part" of you that prevents you from crossing the gap.

So - no....being donor conceived does not define me but I could go on and on about the  moments when donor conception becomes all-encompassing.  Ironically, its the moments when you can't identify with the majority of a group or relate to a somewhat universal human experience that being "donor-conceived" does seem to utterly define you.

This explanation to my colleagues aside, there was something far more interesting that came from the discussion.

As I finished explaining most were quiet but one of colleagues looked me straight in the eye and said,"I totally get it."

I thought perhaps he was donor conceived or adopted but in fact he was not. He went on to describe that he was gay- of which we all were aware - and as such he could relate. "Let me to explain" he said, English being the weakest of the 4 others he spoke fluently.

To paraphrase he shared that being gay was a small part of his identity, merely to whom he was attracted. While sex is a part of our lives it isn't everything and there are many other dimensions to life and relationships that are far more definitive. Think of, he reminded,  all the people in our lives with which we have non-sexual relationships, friends, family, colleague. In all these relationships, sexual orientation is completely irrelevant. Yet, he relayed, in certain situations being gay suddenly seemed like an identity. While he doesn't wake in the morning or go to sleep think about being gay certain situations highlight what is different about him and cause his sexual orientation to feel more relevant, more like it "defines him."

What really stuck with me was his description of feeling separated and for that very reason, defined. "I understand what it is you mean" he said and explained that in close relationships like with his mother and sister, you want to be truly known. Being gay was a dimension, albeit a small one, of who he felt he was. This wasn't about sharing his gay identity with his family...he explained  -  "I want them to know me and I am gay." This is not because his sister or mother should or even want to know about his sex life -- rolling his eyes and making a face- he said " that is ......how do you say....'ew'...I do not want to know about my mother or sister's sex life or to talk about my sex life."  He just wanted to be known, wholly for who he was. In essences, it's about being able to be authentic about your unique experience in the world -- whatever that may be.

So it's brought me to the conclusion that being donor conceived is part of my "unique experience in the world." A unique perspective in certain situations that I share with a group of donor conceived and adopted individuals that are most often not in the majority in large groups.

Being donor conceived does not define me, but it is still a vital part of who I am.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No response

I haven't received any response from the donor I contacted about a week ago. As the days pass I'm more and more certain I will never hear from him. I am disappointed but not as dejected as I thought I would be. Sending the note gave me an odd sense of closure. My guess is that if he did not donate he would have sent a quick one line note saying "Sorry, you have the wrong person." So perhaps no response is a good response.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Do I Want the Sperm Donor to Say?

The search for my biological father has entailed writing some extremely awkward notes to potential matches. Via DNA testing, I recently discovered the best potential match I’ve come across to date. Since e-mailing him yesterday I realize that while I often contemplate my initial contact, I rarely think about his response. This time around, however, I find myself asking, “What do I WANT him to say?”
I'm expecting the worse case scenario: no response. Imagining total rejection is relatively easy but envisioning a correspondence with him is more complicated. What am I expecting from this person? Will I be disappointed? What if rather than silence he returns anger or aggression?  To distract my attention from an empty inbox I decided to have a go at the "best case scenario." His note would read: 
Dear J----,
In response to your question yes, I did donate sperm in 1980 at Lenox Hill Hospital. Perhaps we should talk about what steps are involved in confirming our relation.
If we are related I am very glad to hear from you and see your picture. After donating all those years ago I’ve often wondered if you were out there and what you looked like. It’s a delight to find out you are a beautiful and successful women.
I was young and inexperienced when I donated and in retrospect I may not have made the best decision. My thinking was that I was helping some great couple have a family at a time when having my own children was far off.
I now have a family and my wife is aware I donated sperm when I was young. If we confirm our relation I’d like very much for you to meet my family down the road after I have explained this a bit to my children.
All the Best,
Your Sperm Donor
Of course, the chances of receiving such a positive response are slim. I was surprised I was comforted by the idea he had thought of me and wondered what I looked like. One of the most troubling aspects of anonymous sperm donation is that it’s possible he may not know I exist. On the bright side, even if he chooses not to respond I will know he is  at least aware that I am out there.
Also, while I don’t feel that I am personally “a mistake“ I would be moved if he admitted he had not made the best decision. This is not because I am looking for someone to blame, its because hearing him take some accountability for the effect his decision had on my life would be validating. Half of the tumult of being the product of an anonymous donor is that its somewhat socially-unacceptable to mourn or be angry. As a result, we are awash in emotions for which we feel great shame .

I think wanting an apology is not about being ungrateful for the gift of life but having your loss and pain acknowledged.   Sometimes I think my mother feels that if she admitted her choice to be inseminated by an anonymous donor wasn’t the best idea, it means she was directly responsible for her child’s pain. I can’t speak for all donor-conceived adults out there but  at least for me this isn’t how I would perceive an apology. I would feel relieved and acknowledged if she told me “while I have no regrets on having you, it might not have been the best idea to use an anonymous donor. I didn’t realize at the time you would want to know him.”
Finally knowing that his family is aware and comfortable with his donation would be heartening. Based on the donors I have come to know and have read about,  it is not likely the donor will have shared the truth with his family. I wouldn’t expect him to have told his children unless they were my age but I would hope his wife was aware. I often wonder how a donor rationalizes anonymous donation as ok if it’s not something they are comfortable sharing with their family. If an act is so troubling and or shameful, you can't share it with your spouse or parents it’s likely not the best plan of action.
My inbox is still empty, which is troubling.  I'll keep my fingers crossed for the best case scenario....or close to it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feeling Lonely With Yourself

Washing my hands in front of a three-way mirror in one of those swanky NY hotel bathrooms, I caught that weird angle of my face looking elsewhere.  I typically use three-way mirrors to make sure clothes aren't too tight on the derrière, but this was an accidental glance. I saw what I look like to other people. and for a milli-second I didn't realize it was me. My profile has always perplexed me, in pictures especially, I often see a ghost lurking in my features. I look a lot like my mom but friends always remark that from the side I look different, like someone else.

My hands still wet and full of soap, I stared at the awkward reflection and thought to myself, "I must see 'him'." Thoughts like this often drift into my mind and then quickly exit, but on this occasion I got stuck and felt a mist of sadness fall over me. I saw this tall woman in her black dress, pearls and a somewhat serious gaze. I thought how sad it was that she would never get to know who her father was.....that she would not know his identity....or ever see his picture. I snapped back to reality and asked myself, "Is that really true?" My mind was like a bicycle with a chain that wasn't gripping the gears. I went a little blank but then realized, "yes it is true, it's extremely likely you will go to your grave having never known who your father was." A surreal moment.

As usual, I was having an emotional crisis at an incredibly inopportune time. There I was, gut wrenched as toilet bowls flushed behind me and a conference full of coworkers waited for my return. I packed the feeling in a small little box and pushed it to the back of mind...all the way behind the old boyfriends and failures I hate to think about. As a practice, I try not to have pity parties for myself -- especially in bathrooms. Being analytical tends to numb bad feelings but despite my best efforts, longing still catches me in vulnerable moments.

Since the bathroom episode I've had trouble talking and writing about donor conception. It feels like I have something caught in my throat. In the past, expressing my views on anonymous donation or engaging in debate with the donor-conceived community was invigorating. Writing especially was extremely cathartic; a way to capture conflicting feelings and process them. I might have been naive, but I felt I shared something valuable. Yet, lately I even find reading news on donor conception makes me feel a bit sad. I get a paragraph or two into an article and I can't concentrate. I avoid my laptop for fear of experiencing the guilt for not writing.


Only weeks ago my emotions hit a crescendo when my Family Finder  DNA results revealed a number of third cousins as well as an Eastern European heritage. I was filled with hope. For the first time in very, very long time, I felt less lost....less unknown. I've connected with many of my "third cousins," but sharing just great-great-grandparents isn't as definitive a link as one might think. The likelihood that anyone I've connected with has met glances with the ghost in my profile is slim to none.

This truth is neither surprising nor unrealistic so I'm not sure why it's suddenly occurring to me. Nonetheless, it feels like a sudden, and somewhat heart-breaking loss.

I don't really talk much about it on this blog, but I don't have the best relationship with the father that raised me. I'm not sure why I'm mentioning this now, but somehow in my mind its all connected to the feeling of deep loss. Thirty years ago my father and mother decided to create a family bound by a painful secret. They agreed to conceal the nature of my conception as their doctor had instructed (though my mom told me at 23, but that is another story.) My dad has some great qualities and he was nice sometimes but for the most part my memories of him were of fear. I remember feeling like I couldn't breath when I heard him come home from work. He was emotionally, verbally and sometimes physically abusive to my brother and I throughout our lives. At risk of over-simplifing what is an incredibly complex story of pain and denial, I believe my brother and I were the personification of what he perceived to be his greatest failure: the inability, as a man, to produce a child. What's more, he was completely emotionally unavailable. Sometimes fearing him was an odd and dysfunctional way to feel connected to him.

To this day, I conceal the nature of my conception from all of my extended family members so that he doesn't suffer the pain and embarrassment of them knowing he is sterile. Sometimes I forget the truth.  Other times, in random and inopportune moments, the truth feels like a hammock full of bricks weighing down my heart. My mother says letting others know the truth would "destroy him." Throughout my twenties, despite his behavior towards myself and my brother, I felt overwhelmingly sorry for him. How could I be so ungrateful as to want to share the nature of my identity with close family members? He may have been detached and often downright mean, but he stayed, he went to work, he told people he was my "Dad." How could I be such a selfish child? Of course, my mother and father's emotional well-being should take priority over my own.

I think a lot of people with opinions on anonymous sperm donation operate under the assumption that the children are going to homes where they are wanted so very much. The typical pro-donor conception argument involves sperm being given away by one man who doesn't want to father a child, to a man that does ...a man, that will love those children like his own. Though few are willing to admit it, this isn't always the case. Some men decide on donor conception without knowing what their reaction will be and some men have reservations but feel pressured by the pleading look on the face of a wife that deeply wants to be a mother. 

Nonetheless, people will still contend that those DC children unhappy with their situation should get over their feelings of loss and be grateful for life. 

At least right now, I find it hard to be grateful for my parents decisions.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Outsourcing Surrogacy to India?

I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. I need to run over it in my mind a bit.
'm not concerned by the parents disability or sexuality. I am, however, having trouble with "outsourcing" motherhood. In the clip, they talk about cost and competition with Thailand like its the manufactured goods trade. From the shots in the video, the children are clearly related to their Indian surrogate. They will grow up so far away from one piece of their genetic heritage. On the other hand the will likely grow up in far better economic circumstances with more opportunity. I wonder how they will feel 20, 30 years from now. At least they will have each other.


http://ibnlive.in.com/news/deaf-mute-gay-couple-becomes-new-parents/160062-3.html

Technorati Tags: Anonymous, ChildrenFamilySperm DonorPregnancySocietyWomenSocialInfertility

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dirty Tweets, Sperm Donation and other forms of Detachment

In an opinion piece called  Dirty Tweets, Sperm Donation and other forms of Detachment. on Technorati, I detail how Weinergate struck a cord in the search for my sperm donor. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.




There was also an interesting piece in the NY Times on a gay couple and single mom co-parenting after sperm donation: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/nyregion/an-american-family-mom-sperm-donor-lover-child.html

Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Would I Have Wanted to Tell My Mother Before She Conceived?


A recent comment and inquiry on my blog inspired a response too long to respond in comment so I opted to make it a post. 
The Comment:

On June 16, Hang on Little Gertie wrote...
Visit "Hang On Little Gertie" the Blog
Hello, I've found your blog to be a very good and informative but difficult read for me. After 8 years of talking and research (including meeting with one of the UK's leading psychologists and a woman who has done the longest ever research project into the health and wellbeing of the children of donors and same-sex couples - click here - ie this has been a very well researched decision!) a year ago my partner and I went to a clinic in London in order to attempt to have a baby with a sperm donor. My partner then left me just before our first attempt and a year on I am ready to have another go. My partner and I were very welcoming of the change in UK law to rule out anonymous sperm donors (although obviously it has meant a vast reduction in the number of available donors). I just wondered what your thoughts were on this issue. I also wondered what your thoughts were on the amount of information that should/shouldn't be given to prospective parents. As an individual I find the range of choice overwhelming but as the hopeful parent of a future child I'm persuaded to think that the more information the better until that child is old enough to decide whether or not they want to seek contact with the donor (and then the clinic would pass on the contact information)? 
I admire and respect the way you have articulated your thoughts and feelings in this blog and would be really interested to know your thoughts.

My Response:
Hi there “Hang on Little Gertie”  - Thanks so much for your candor and sharing. Already that tells me you are approaching the situation in an open and healthy manner. I'm very touched that you have asked my opinion. It is a caring and truly maternal gesture that speaks volumes about how much you already care about your future child.
As I have said before, my gut wants to say “don’t do it,” but I’ve come to the realization those worlds are rarely heeded. I more effective in helping future DC children by advising on what I would deem best-case scenarios. While I don’t think any AI scenario is ideal, if chosen parents should know as much as possible about donors. When possible they should seek donors willing to have some limited contact with the child. I know it is harder to find non-anonymous donors and even more difficult to find donors willing to keep in touch, but this isn't your child's challenge or problem. Since you want a child, you should take on the responsibility of seeking the very best conception scenario. 
I know this is a long shot, but perhaps there is a gay male couple that needs an egg donor and would be willing to provide their sperm to a lesbian couple as well as be accessible to the child down the road. I actually know of two couples that did this and it has worked out rather well, creating a somewhat unique extended family. Some people gasp when I say this....'how can I give my eggs/sperm away?" but that's completely hypocritical to me. How is it not okay to donate your eggs to another family but it is ok to use another anonymous man's sperm?
More generally, I've often thought about what I would ask of or share with my mother If I could rewind and travel back in time 30 years before she conceived.  Here are two things that come to mind immediately.
1- Acceptance and Validation of Loss - My mother's father died when she was 14 and it was a pivotal moment in her life. Regardless of how much a child knows about their parent or the means by which they loose a parent, the child feels a loss. I would have asked to her to think of her own experience of loss and come to terms with some of her feelings in preparation for my arrival.
If she were more accepting and aware of the loss that I would suffer when I realized I did not have access to my genetic father she could have better related to my pain. She would also have been more prepared to support me when I felt as if someone had died in the early years after I first learned the truth. Even in "right to know" situations where the donor's identity in not concealed, the child can feel they have missed out on having that individual in their life, or still be unable to locate the parent.  AI parents react negatively when I explain that all of the DC peers I have encountered universally experience some sense of loss at some point after learning the truth. It's as if the parents don't want to believe any decision they made could create pain for their children, which I can understand. Some of my DC peers have mother's who still disagree with their children to this day about how they "should feel."  However, I believe if you do not deny your child’s loss, opting instead to accept and support, you validate your child's feelings making them feel less alone. 
Imagine I were to go up to a very small child who just lost a parent they only had 2 or 3 years of their life to know and told them shouldn't feel upset because I had remarried. Imagine if I told them they were being ungrateful in their tears because they had a father and the father that died wasn't their real father. I bring forth this troubling imagery not to manipulate but to depict a realistic scenario of loss. AI can enable an unhealthy level of detachment from kinship and emotion. Just because you will not know the face of your child's biological father and just because a child is fathered by an individual who chose not to be in their lives does NOT invalidate their need to grieve or your responsibility to support them. 
If we can work together as a community of DC kids and parents to acknowledge this loss and avoid the denial that runs rampant in the media and online, we’ll all move forward in a more positive direction.
2 - Avoid Secrecy and Shame - A number of studies, including this one, have pointed out it is best to tell children early about the nature of their conception. This is where being a single mother or gay or lesbian couple is more positive because the lack of a biological parent is evident and must be explained. My mother and father like many other heterosexual couples were told to conceal the truth. This set the stage for secrecy, shame and eventual betrayal. Secrets are insidious forces that fester in the creases and corners of family relationships and burden your child. Be as honest as possible to your child, sharing age appropriate information as soon as you can. They should bare as little burden of shame and secrecy as possible.
I could definitely write more but as I have a day job to keep, I will need to wrap it up here :)  Please feel free to comment in response or email me at girlconceived@gmail.com with any other questions you may have. In addition, I recently added a few of my responses to commonly asked questions on my Parent’s Dealing with Infertility page.
Again I can’t express enough how much I value the opinions and insights of parents considering AI. In many ways it allows me to engage in discourse I feel I was in some ways denied and offers great satisfaction and peace. 
So, thank you. I wish you the best in your endeavors.
Sincerely,
Girl Conceived


UPDATE - A response from LittleGertie can be found on her blog at http://hangonlittlegertie.blogspot.com/2011/06/unexpected-connections-in-daily-life.html




Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The "Jewish Thing"

Since sharing the discovery of half of my ancestry via DNA testing, I'm surprised at the overwhelming interest in the "Jewish thing."  A number of friends, some Jewish, want to know how I feel about the "Jewish thing." Other's ask, "does your Mom know about the "Jewish thing?" Which yes, she does and oh boy that's a fun story for a later post. Still others shake their heads in understanding as if something has been explained or finally makes sense ....saying, "you know the 'Jewish thing' explains a lot."

It's all made me wonder A- what is the "Jewish thing" and B- how does it explain anything at all? It's as if the religious heritage of my distant cousins is a tangible carnival item sitting in the room when we speak. Typically I'm excited and share the vast information about ancestors from Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. When I offhandedly mention that these ancestors were Jewish there is a pause for a moment like I've taken out the "Jewish thing" and put it on the table.  I imagine it to be some kind of intricately decorated blue vase or something like that.....they are suddenly interested.....their eyes widen...wow the "Jewish thing."

I'm not disappointed about this new religious heritage, I just don't get the fascination with this very small piece of my very complex identity. Maybe it's just that I'm less surprised than my friends. Let's be honest here. My mother was inseminated in NYC by an intern at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. She requested a Polish donor with brown hair and eyes.  Ahem.......um yeah......there was a very high likelihood the gentleman was Jewish. Let's get real, I would be surprised if he was not Jewish.

Having grown up in NYC, I have many, many Jewish friends from childhood up through college to present and I've never heard of the the "Jewish thing." The closest thing I came across to the "Jewish thing" was when a good girlfriend of mine started dating a Protestant guy and other mutual friends would say, "well it won't last long, there is the Jewish thing." Suddenly, Judaism was a focus, an elephant in the room.

As a kid I can remember countless times I wished to be Jewish.  Most of the Jewish kids I knew were incredibly gifted with highly educated, very successful families. I assumed that was part of being Jewish. I fully acknowledge I was stereotyping but children are simplistic and this was a positive stereotype (so cut me a little slack before sending me hate mail.) I found Judaism far more mystical and exciting than the Catholicism in which I was raised (again here.... a child's viewpoint.... not an incentive to send me an email asking "why I hate Catholicism") I'll never forget the time when at about six, I nearly gave my VERY Catholic Grandmother a heart attack, reciting a Jewish prayer in Hebrew a friend had taught me at the park.

But back to the greater issue here. It's not that I'm not excited about this new world to explore. I just don't get the intense fascination with it or the assumption that I'm now magically Jewish.
Being Jewish, at least to me, is not about DNA. Being Jewish is about beautiful religious traditions, culture and a vast, trying history you learn and discover as you are raised.  You can't get the "Jewish thing" just by being born, it has to be given to you. When my biological father released sperm from his body into a cup and detached from it (and me) he took away the Jewish thing. That is unfortunate.

This leads me to believe that the fascination with the "Jewish thing" has more to do with the "sperm donor thing." What I'm trying, successfully or unsuccessfully, to get at here is that the parcels of  inheritance are very blurry when it comes to anonymous sperm donation. What the sperm donor does and does not bestow upon you is highly debatable. The letters and patterns of my DNA genome spread across the table cannot describe the shape of my ancestors faces, they cannot tell me the stories of the women before me that made their way across an ocean and they definitely cannot communicate the essence of what it means to be Jewish.

So that leads me to ask you, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, what do you think about the Jewish thing?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Am I Absorbed or Obsessed?

There is such a fine line between being passionately absorbed and dysfunctionally obsessed. Since I received my Family Finder DNA results I've found myself fixated on downloading and analyzing the lists of  genetic relatives. Even though its been a few days since I have received the results, every time I log in, I get a little high. I feel my mouth curl into a smile and my heart races a little. I look at the 100s of names....Adler....Goldstein....Mitchell and I am in awe. I cannot believe after 30 years of excepting that half of my identity would remain unknown forever, I received this tiny glimpse into the unknown.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Complicated Web of Family....Found?

I almost broke my neck sliding on a rug in a frantic dash to the laptop in my bedroom. Minutes earlier I'd received a note on my BlackBerry while watching some mindless reality TV. A donor-concevied friend had gotten her Family Finder results early and they were online. She suspected mine were too. The DNA sample she provided had uncovered tons of 2nd and 3rd cousins all likely related to her unknown sperm donor.

I sent my DNA kit around the same time so the note made my heart skip a beat. "Laptop" was the first thing I thought. "Need to get to laptop." I vibrated with an energy I can only remember from childhood in the early-morning hours before Christmas, when I'd float down the stairs with anticipation.

I jumped up from the couch, into the hallway and caught the rug on my turn into the bedroom. After I hit the floor, I scrambled back up and calm myself enough to locate the laptop. I grabbed it and plopped on the bed. Passwords and kit numbers.....dammit....why does everything have to be locked down these days? It's life's cruel joke that as my short term memory wains with age I must simultaneously amass more and more random usernames and passwords. 

Making matters worse, my brain lacked its normal processing capacity already wrapped up in fantasies about what was to come. Suddenly I understood why some men say their brains stop working when they are anticipating ...ahem....exciting events.

Finally I cracked the code and opened the site.  There they were.

"MATCHES" 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Should Moms Be Able to Trade Sperm Online?

During preliminary interviews for an article on the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) I was knocked over by how many were fearful to question the site or its policies. I appreciate what the DSR has done but It has always bothered me that parents can advertise and seek anonymous sperm on the same site I'm using to find my biological kin. Quite a few other donor conceived adults shared these concerns so I realize we need to encourage some public discussion of the issue. At least that is what I hope I can do rather than encourage a bunch of angry comments. I refocused the piece to start the discussion. The title was changed by Technorati and edited slightly, but for the most part the article is similar.
It was published as Sperm Trade Promoted by Donor Sibling Registry Website on Technorati just a few minutes ago. Here is the original version:
If you are looking for sperm but don’t want to go to a sperm bank, you may want to check out the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). Created as a registry to reunite donor-conceived individuals with their donors and siblings, the DSR Web site has some other less-publicized benefits. Parents of donor-conceived children, also encouraged to post on the site, can search for, advertise and obtain sperm from specific donors. These posts appear on the same message boards where others seek to identify and connect with genetic relatives torn apart by anonymous sperm donation.
For those unfamiliar with the DSR it could be thought of as a restricted version of Craigslist focused on family reunion. The site consists of hundreds of pages each dedicated to a specific sperm bank, clinic or doctor’s office around the world. On these pages, special icons identify post from parents, donor-conceived individuals, and donors. Via nifty little “test tube” icons a parent can also indicate possession of “extra” sperm to share (a slightly full test tube) or the need for additional sperm from a specific donor (an empty test tube). Theoretically, this enables parents of existing donor-conceived children to create more children with the same donor. It’s especially beneficial with retired donors no longer available through a sperm bank.listed on the site.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Interesting Article About a Sperm Donor that Actually WANTS to be on a Birth Certificate

Interesting article out of Australia and I absolutely loved this quote:

''The paramount consideration when providing parentage/parenting orders is to protect the best interests of the child, not the expectations or interests of parents,'' a senior policy adviser at the group, Senthorun Raj, said.



Technorati Tags: Anonymous, ChildrenFamilyParentingInternetPregnancySocietyWomenSocialInfertility

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Unfriendly Call with Lenox Hill Hospital

I am a pretty tough person but today I called Lenox Hill Hospital and for some reason I'm crying right now. I have been trying to get a list of medical interns at the hospital from 1980 to 1981 for a while and none of my emails have been answered. Earlier today I left a message for the Medical Affairs office in which I explained what I was looking for. I wanted to be honest, so I explained why. A few hours later I received a call back

"Hello" I said

A middle-aged female voice rich with irritation said, "Hello I am returning your call but you have the wrong number. We have nothing to do with sperm here and well, I am just calling to let you know that."

She did not even ask my name or provide her own, so it took me a minute to realize what the call was about.

I said "Oh, yes I wasn't calling about sperm donation, I was calling about a list of interns at the hospital from 1980-1981, which is public information according...."

She cut me off before I could speak "Well then you can get it somewhere else...I can't provide that information. I am just calling to tell you that you can't get that here, ok?!?!"

I started to think in my head "stupid, stupid, stupid........WHY did you let them know it was to find a sperm donor?"

I tried to explain calmly I only wanted a list and was by no means argumentative, but she got more aggravated and said "Listen I don't have the time to argue with you about this, ok, I can't violate peoples privacy like that. If you have a name I could tell you if he was here but a list, no, no, no...can't do that"

Why is it just assumed the donor's privacy far outweighs any right I have?

She raised her voice louder and louder and talked me down every moment I even made a sound. Then she hung up. The dial tone was like the sting after being slapped in the face.

I put the phone down on the counter and the kitchen was silent. I work from home and I could hear my blackberry vibrating with new emails across the room. I knew I had to compartmentalize. I had to put this away and get to work but I felt paralyzed. Literally..... frozen.

Sitting on the tile it was silent except for the hum of the refrigerator. Then, like the first sudden thunderclap in a storm, I burst out crying in the kitchen. Perhaps its that time of the month or something else, but I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I had to sit down and lean my head against the dishwasher. The crappy dishwasher.

It might be all the writing and research I am doing, all the stories I am hearing, all the frustration. I take it in and try to be a writer and journalist but it gathers inside and I feel the pain of the people I speak to. I get angry for them, I get disappointed for them, I get overwhelmed with emotion, and then I pull it together and go to work. This unexpected exchange just tipped the scale.

I pulled myself together a little and decided to come and write.

I don't know if I am angry or sad. The two feelings seem to mix together in this feeling of total frustration. There was something about her yelling at me, her nastiness that just makes me feel so deflated, so dumb. It isn't like I've never had someone be nasty to me, I live in NYC and work in technology sales, so trust me, I have a hard shell....but this was different.

It felt like a punch to the stomach. I think it was because I was vulnerable. I think she was striking at a piece of my life I keep close and hidden and I wasn't prepared to defend myself. What is more, I could not understand where the anger on her side came from. I was very polite and she could have acted like all the other people I called at Lenox Hill Hospital and just ignored me. Instead, something had fired her up. She had felt it necessary to call me up and tell me just how wrong my request was and how much it annoyed her. It felt personal. So goddamn personal.

Why is there so much animosity directed at those seeking this information? I've tapped into it before and I really don't understand.

Do you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Canadian Ruling on Sperm Donation and DNA Kits Before Breakfast

Published by me a few minutes earlier, first, on Technorati:


Most people start the morning with coffee and eggs or cereal...I on the other hand started with a DNA kit.

"Welcome to the exciting world of genealogy by genetics!" proclaimed the Family Finder DNA kit.
I found it hard to get into the spirit of things in my washed-out pink robe and minor hangover from wine the night before. Was the exclamation point really necessary? I pictured some super dorky genetic scientist all excited typing the note in.....where do I have to mail this stupid thing again.....oh yeah, Texas. 
Well yippee-kay-yi-FREAKIN-yay....I get to search for my family via 3 huge Qtips and an envelope.  Joyful. 

My annoyance hadn't been instant because in my early morning stupor, it took a few minutes to read the line correctly...my eyes still trying to adjust to the light. Prior to pulling out the note I had stumbled a bit trying to pull that half-paper half......like, mega industrial-plastic envelop open. It suddenly ripped open, causing the three swabs to fly into the air and the three collection tubes to hit the ground with a 'tink' 'tink'..................'tink' The delay of the third tink was the result of one of the tubes with a bit more trajectory flying across the kitchen. God, my head hurt, what a stupid idea that third glass of merlot was...but I was celebrating.

The day prior I had gone out with friends after receiving news that a landmark Canadian Supreme Court ruling had overturned the laws that denied the children of anonymous sperm donors the same rights as adoptees. The ruling, in British Columbia, meant that "donor offspring" like me would not be denied the legal right to know the identity of their genetic parents - effectively banning anonymous sperm donation in the province.  We toasted to the progress but while change was approaching, it wasn't in the US yet.

I was left to try to use a genealogy site, designed as more of a high-cost novelty for those with spare time to chart their family trees, as means to locate my sperm donor. According to a post by a peer on her blog, in addition to learning whether I was really half Polish or not, I would receive a list of cousins and relatives already on the site. Relatives who could perhaps help me identify a medical intern that had donated his sperm in NYC about 30 years ago.

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