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Monday, November 9, 2009

Dr. Decker Donation and the Transfer of Loss

I spent time emailing on the Donor Sibling Registry today and I can't help but feel like this is futile. For those of us that were conceived during and prior to the early 1980's its tough to make connections. At that time sperm donation was pretty low-tech and did not involve freezing which made the process all the more sketchy. Donors were often medical students strapped for cash recruited by fertility specialists associated with their educational facilities. They would donate the sperm within hours of insemination if not sooner.

In my case it was Dr. Decker's NYC Park Avenue clinic on the Upper East Side. What is ironic is that while I am sure his name warmed the hearts of the families he helped have children, his name fills my heart with loss and anger.

In this Houston Press article entitled "Donor Babies Search for Their Anonymous Fathers" a child of artificial insemination, Nancy LaBounty speaks to exactly this loss:

"I just think it's a transferring of loss," Kathleen says today. "The parents are pursuing this, and by going through anonymous donation, they get their dream of parenthood. But then that loss is just transferred to us."

She is exactly right. Artificial Insemination, if not dealt with correctly and thoughtfully is the transference of loss. I know my parent's felt incredibly loss and unhappiness when they found out they could not have children and this loss was somehow alleviated when they participated in artificial insemination. The loss was not resolved, however, but delayed and transferred to their child.

I often read blogs and post by parents of donor offspring that claim the relation is only biological and "unimportant" compared to the bond with the parent that raised you. Yet, if it is unimportant and so inconsequential then why the need for insemination? Why not just adopt? Why do so many women with husbands unable to conceive children opt for donated sperm? The answer is that is important to those couples to have at least some kind of genetic relation to their child. Why then is this desire from the child so easily invalidated?

It's so hard to talk about this without coming across as an ungrateful child. I do love my parents immensely but I don't agree with their actions. It is not the artificial insemination I am upset with, it is the anonymity. How can you create a life with so little knowledge of person that contributes the DNA alive in every single cell in their body.

I just don't understand?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Do they really understand?

Last night I was out with some friends and they began critiquing their facial features at the dinner table. One friend does not like her nose, the other finds her forehead too big and another said she would have dimples surgically added if she could. I thought of the uneven dimples that set me apart from my family and found myself unable to participate.

My friend's see their faces as the most intimate expression of themselves, something they accept as their own and can therefore contemplate altering. My face represents something very different to me. I can't tell you the countless hours I have spent staring in the mirror wondering what part of my face is from my biological father. It's like playing one of those magazine games that ask you to compare two pictures to find the 10 differences. I scan my nose, my eyes, my chin and think of my mother's face. What is different? I imagine my face on a man. I compare my face to my brother's, who shares only my Mom's genetic lineage and try to pull out the sameness. Faces take on a different meaning when you cannot mentally separate your features into two parts. They become a map of your confusion and for some, a reminder of your search.

Coming home from dinner a family in Yankee gear got on the train after the parade and I began tracing the features from the faces of the mother and father to their children. On the subway I find myself totally engaged when families get in the same car. Its funny how certain features blend, like the shape of a jaw but others are one or the other like noses. The Dad in this family had a very prominent nose and the Mom had a small button nose. I giggled when it struck me that it was either one nose or the other. But I digress, the point I am trying to make is that the donor sibling experience really preoccupies you with concepts of inheritance.

Yesterday I wrote about collective experience and I believe it all connects. Faces are just another way of connecting to those around us and feeling that we share something. For children of sperm donors, that relation is hard to come by.

My face is one of the few things my biological father gave me, so I won't be getting a nose job anytime soon.

But liposuction, now that's not totally out of the question :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Frankenstein Finds Hope in An Envelop

Yesterday I asked my Mom to put her cells in an envelop with mine and send them to a lab in Michigan. I had the CaBRI Medical Center envelops on my desk for nearly a year and could not bring myself to ask her. As much as I want to pull the dark covers away and expose what happened in the bright light of day, its so hard to talk to her. It's nothing terrible. I mean, its the creation of a child, but somehow it makes me feel guilty to push her for information. This is not the story that gets told online and in those happy Dateline reports but I believe it is actually very common.

I think my Mom sees herself as my sole creator in so many ways. She is not my only parent, she is married to my Dad and while he is my father he is not genetically related to my creation. Here's where the contemplation gets a bit sticky - while its physcologically exceptable for the human conscious to think of itself as the sole creator of another being, the mind is perplexed by the idea that we are created solely by one. The idea of "one creator" is not at all new, I mean look at literature from Frankenstein to Jesus Christ to Roman Mythology, we have all these examples of a child coming from just one parent. Laughably its typically only from men, but I won't even start on that rant.

I remember reading the story of Athena springing from the head of Zeus in college and laughing out loud that Ma must have seen it that way. She does not know who that other individual is, she does not know his name, his face or the swagger of his walk. So its easy to feel like I just grew inside her like magic, like the immaculate conception, like an ameba that just popped off her side through fission.

I remember asking her one day, "Ma, what about me is different? What do you see in me that makesyou say, 'this does not come from me'"

She just sat there for a moment and looked like she was honestly contemplating the question, scanning me for signs of "him" and she came up with nothing.

I crinkled my brow and looked at her in disbelief, "honestly Ma?"

She thought again.

"Well, I don't know where you get the big feet and small boobs from, but other than that, no, nothing." Of course only the undesirable things could be "other" and that makes things even more convenient. Anytime you stumble on some bad characteristic you just chalk it up to the sperm.

All humor aside, I don't fault her for the perspective and I know how much she loves me. It's her way of dealing with an issue that I can't personally resolve. I won't quote Frankenstein here, I did that enough in college, but the chapters on the woes of his creation definitely come to mind. It's important to note that Frankenstein is the name of the creator, not his beastly creation whom we fear so much. I read and examined the text throughout college and my heart was just ripped out for the beast. I felt his tumult, his confusion. I did not relate to anything evil he did but I could see how he felt such loss. I can understand how the idea of just one parent rather than an entire identity could frustrate you to insanity.

So in those small pieces of us, placed in an envelope and shipped to MidWest, I too began the path to pull together something of separate human pieces, an identity, a creator, a reason for my small breasts :) and big feet.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Google and Sperm Donation

NOTE from Girl Conceived: This was my very first post on the blog.

Most of us can claim a romantic night, a back seat romp or fun times at a concert as the moment we "came to be." But some of us are the product of a premeditated act by two individuals who have never seen each other. We are donor-conceived, born of assisted reproduction. On the surface technology seems to enable us to do a lot these days. We can sit at our computers and do things we would never do in public. We can chat about taboo subjects, explore secret areas of interest, look at porn, and blog about issues we don't want to claim in person. Yet most of this activity is not as anonymous as we think. Cookies, Web histories and behavioral tracking are just a few of the mechanisms out there designed to gather perhaps the most valuable information on the Internet: demographic and consumer data. It's disheartening but not very surprising. All major forms of media have a commercial element that help them to advance and thrive. The Internet is not much different than its predecessors like TV and radio. Ironically there are conception scenarios where far, far less is known.

As the child of a sperm donor and a Mom and Dad that were desperate to have a child, technology plays a somewhat unusual role in my life. As an adult, working in technology and managing it's benefits for corporate gain blurs the lines of my values and beliefs. My mind runs in circles when I put together presentations on "technical solutions" and I contemplate what that terms means to me, the girl conceived by reproductive technology. While technology is typically viewed as the "resolution" to so many problems, for me, it is the root of my most plaguing problems.

The concept I struggle with most often is the ying-to-yang quality of technology.Our smiling faces on Web-sites like FaceBook and MySpace expose our lives, connect and let us be known by the world. Simultaneously, genetic and reproductive technology still operate on foundations of anonymity. Sperm, and eggs are move from one body to another without the receipient knowing the shape of a donor's smile or sometimes even their name. The cells that grow new skin over our wounds or the DNA that architects the scale of our faces can be anonymously delivered via technology.

These are the concepts, ideas and questions that keep me from blissful sleep at night and inspire me to learn, explore and write. For 28 years this has been a personal and private journey but in this age of collaboration and advancement, I wonder if these questions can't be answered using the very source of their conception - technology. And so, I begin that effort today in hopes that our shared conversation can lead us somewhere that makes a bit more sense.

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