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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 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, 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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

British Woman Going to Denmark for Sperm

Amsterdam used to be the sole destination in the Netherlands to partake in certain products outlawed elsewhere in Europe. Now, in an story by Paul Henley for the BBC:  we find Denmark has become a popular destination to procure a new highly-coveted substance: sperm.

It turns out that after the 2005 UK ruling which made anonymous sperm donation illegal in the UK, British women have been flocking to Denmark where anonymous sperm donation is still legal.

The article highlights the fact that anonymous sperm donation and insemination are truly a commodity-based industry just like any other from the diamond to oil trade. When a coveted item is prohibited or difficult to come by demands shift sending consumers to different markets and in some cases, laying the groundwork for illicit trade. If the recent Canadian ruling in British Columbia outlawing anonymous donation spreads across all the provinces, one wonders if the US will experience a similar onslaught of mother's seeking anonymously donated sperm.

Unlike diamonds and oil however, sperm is purchased with the goal of producing life. Human beings are involved in this "sperm economy."  What I don't understand, however, is why a similar article on people traveling to Africa to get a kidney would make people gasp.... aghast at the injustice of life (via organs) for money. Yet, when we are talking sperm trade, things are different. It's acceptable to travel to another country and buy genetic material in an arrangement which is detrimental to the child.

There is one major mistake in the story, it references multiple times a "shortage" of sperm in the UK and this is incorrect. There is plenty of sperm in the UK, it just isn't provided via anonymous donation. What mother's are flocking to Denmark for is the chance to create a life without the responsibility of providing access to their child's genetic heritage.

Technorati Tags: Anonymous, ChildrenFamilyParentingSperm DonorPregnancySocietyWomenSocialInfertility

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jennifer Aniston, Bill O'Reilly and the Hollywood Obsession with Artificial Insemination: Seriously?

When Jennifer Aniston and Bill O’Reilly are the voices of reason in a public debate there is cause for concern. While I don’t follow either of this unlikely pair, my “Sperm Donation” Google Alerts picked up a tiff between the two RE: Artificial Insemination and single motherhood. Preparing for the physical nausea I associated with O’Reilly commentary, I endeavored to investigate the alert. Turns out Jennifer Aniston’s movie, “The Switch” (formerly titled “The Baster” - yes, I know, we’ll discuss that ridiculousness later) is at the root of all the internet fodder. In an odd twist, this somewhat dated beef has been brought back to life in a variety of articles on the recent onslaught of movies about artificial insemination this year. Oy, you gotta love the internet.
The Switch
Apparently, O’Reilly feels the movie, in which Aniston’s single 40-something character opts for artificial insemination, idealizes single motherhood. Aniston then responded to O’Reilly in the press with a variety of comments regarding the benefits of artificial insemination, the lack of need for a man to be a mother, and the liberation of motherhood. All the things one might need to tell themselves when their ex-husband left them to have like 15 children with a woman previously known for dressing like a vampire and making out with her brother on TV. But I digress….she works for UNICEF now.
The debate and the movie are merely symptomatic of what has become a greater Hollywood and media obsession with artificial insemination. From to The Back-Up Plan with J. Lo, to the Academy Award-nominated The Kids Are Alright, to two independent films at the most recent Tribeca Film Festival; Hollywood is fully-fascinated. Unfortunately the obsession is focused almost exclusively on one of the most troubling and ethically-challenging types of artificial insemination: the anonymous kind.
Take for example the name change from the title of “The Baster” to the “The Switch” - and I must pause here for a moment to thank who ever made that decision.  Though, I’m already scarred from the horrible image of Aniston defiling a cooking utensil once warmly associated with Thanksgiving. But anyway, the name change points to a disinterest in the rather sterile and icky parts of artificial insemination. Instead, the interest and curiosity surround the anonymous donation, the unknown sperm, the “faceless” father, the football and fart-free “Invisible Man.”  This isn’t surprising because the majority of movies on artificial insemination were created or written from the perspective of donors and parents.  A group for which, the “faceless father” involved in artificial insemination is more of a practical solution than the cause of deep seeded identity crisis; as it is for so many of the children it creates.
Yet, why now? Why all these films all at once? Some contend that it’s the natural fallout from the “infertility epidemic” reaching a crescendo over the last 10 years. Others say it’s about the coercive effects of technology; anonymous sperm donation somehow entangled with growing social detachment via tools like Facebook and Foursquare. I’d argue is far less complex. It's all over because It’s not a secret anymore.

Lethal Secrets on My Reading List and the InFertility Tax Write Off

I'm doing some research for a new donor insemination series for Technorati and I came across this book on two other blogger sites. Apparently its about the secrets surrounding donor insemination and I am definitely picking it up. I will let you know what I think.

In other news a NY senator recently proposed a "Infertility" write off that would allow parents to write off infertility treatments. I am wondering if adoptees and donor offspring should get something similar for our trials and travesty....that DNA test I bought was pretty expensive.

More on this later....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Is the Drive Through Sperm Bank Around the Corner

Article first published as Is the Drive-Through Sperm Bank Around The Corner? on Technorati by ME!

The term "Sperm collector" inspires some troubling mental images most of us could do without. Yet, we know at least one Chinese inventor spent some time on the idea. A Chinese Company called the Sanwe Medical Group recently launched such a contraption to speed the, ah-hem, “production” and collection of male sperm.

The machine, which looks like a cross between a podium and atm, runs for $2800 dollars and comes equip with everything you’d probably rather not imagine. From the etch-a-sketch like screen to play your favorite pornographic material to a rather ominous looking pink hole where all the action occurs, the tool makes the very private, very automatic. What’s more, it jettisons the already sterile and anonymous process of artificial insemination to new levels of Huxley-like detachment.

Called the “vagina machine” and “sperm donation taker” on various blogs across the Web, the product seems to be more interesting to teens and weird news purveyors then serious reproductive technology experts. Most of the humor-laced discussion is provoked by a 10 second you-tube video with close to 20,000 views since its release about a week ago. A man, or teen-ager (I couldn't really tell) watches the machine pump action and then sticks a finger in the hole....and that’s when I closed my browser.

The truth is while the you-tube video is certainly a new idea, the sperm collector isn’t. There are other’s on the market.

Still, the Sperm Collector made me curious about the state of infertility and artificial insemination in Asia. I mean, its hard to find any discussion of world news that doesn’t give some airplay to the “Chinese Takeover” the media is so fond of foreshadowing. Typically these cold-war like news stories have some compilation of statistics predicting “4 out of 5 people will be from Asia in the next 20 years” or “China will create 80 percent of the worlds goods.” Could China be poised for sperm donation domination?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who Am I Today?

There is a bright side to only seeing half the picture of who you are. You can always imagine and define the other half.  Whenever I’m challenged with something I imagine that my biological father had some great gift with which I too have been endowed. I think of this very industrious and anonymous sperm making a very long journey with an amazing gift just for me.

I can “fill in the blanks” with whatever gift would be most useful at the moment. If I’m nervous about a big presentation or speech at work, I fantasize a little to myself that aside from being a cardiac surgeon my sperm donor was a talented speaker..... and he gives amazing medical presentations all the time...the talent is in my blood! Or sometimes when I get writer’s block I tell myself the donor was a great writer and I too must have those skills deep inside.
To be honest, I do a lot of fantasizing about the identity of the donor. Not all of it is a self-serving motivational tool. A greater part of it is a futile attempt to quench an insatiable thirst for knowledge that I do not have.  I say “thirst” because the urge to know feels that instinctual, carnal, like an itch that my mind relentlessly and unsuccessfully tries to scratch. it's this sense that I need to lay my eyes on him, see him, so I can be whole. Imagining him is the only way to put my mind at peace.
I suspect my mother does a lot of fantasizing as well, though I’ve never really discussed it with her.  I mean, if you haven’t seen the face of the man that is fathering your child, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t naturally fill it in. 
I sense she is quite proud that the donor was a medical intern. It also leads her to believe I’ve been endowed with some type of heightened intelligence or knack for the scientific. While there is an element of this that really, really bothers me there is another piece of it that can pump up my self esteem when I need it. 
As with any psychological construct, the donor doesn’t have to be realistic or multi-dimensional, his total identity can exist only to serve whatever emotion needs to be fed. 
It makes me wonder if there isn’t an element of this at play for mother’s who undergo artificial insemination. The anonymity provides a “blank slate” or a “tabla rasa” of sorts on which you can project all kinds of thoughts and desires. Mates in reality are so much more disappointing. All men have flaws, many go bald, some drink...all seem to have a greater aptitude for flatulence than females :) 
Blogs of single women attempting to conceive via AI or raising children already conceived via AI are full of stories about men from prior relationships that just “weren’t right“ or “didn’t make the cut.”  Yet, many (dare I say most) deny that fantasy plays a role in the choice for AI.
Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good EnoughLori Gottlieb, a single mother via AI and author of the controversial essay, “Marry Him”  got lambasted by women across the internet for making the argument single woman who want a family should settle for “Mr. Good Enough.”  She wasn’t commenting on AI, but on the link between some struggles of single motherhood and her previous unwillingness “to settle” for a less than perfect mate earlier in her life (she later expanded this argument in her book "Marry Him".) I bring it up because she highlights the “fantasy” so many women have a the perfect mate. Gottlieb writes:
“A female friend who broke up with a guy because he “didn’t like to read” and who is now, too, a single mom (with, ironically, no time to read herself) similarly felt no regrets—at first. At the time, she couldn’t imagine settling, but here’s the Catch-22: “If I’d settled at 39,” she said, “I always would have had the fantasy that something better exists out there. Now I know better. Either way, I was screwed.”
When AI is the chosen course of action for single mothers, anonymous donation leaves room to make the donor the “something better” that “exists out there.” While I’m not contending this element of "sperm fantasy" is always’s pretty hard to argue that it plays no part in the the AI experience.
All this fantasy however is a slippery slope. For me, it’s a constant struggle to figure out exactly which part is “the other.” I compare myself, my mother and my brother all the time to sort out what is the same and what is different.  Beyond basic physical traits it’s the difference in personality and intellect that are most interesting but so much harder to figure it out. Personality and intellect are so complex they don’t easily offer themselves to deconstruction - letting you put your sense of humor in the “mom” basket and knack for math in the “dad” basket.
Geez, the “dad” basket. God.....if it were only that simple.

Technorati Tags: Anonymous, ChildrenFamilyParentingSperm DonorPregnancySocietyWomenSocialInfertility

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