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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 :)

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