Search This Blog

Custom Search

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Isn't Just How "I" Feel

I have a knack for meeting parents with children conceived via artificial insemination in random moments. Not surprisingly, a few days ago I spent 12 hours on a transatlantic flight with the mother of a child born through artificial insemination.

Her eyes accidentally caught the title of an article on donor offspring I was reading and you could immediately feel the energy shift. We went from two people preoccupied with those first minutes before a flight, putting things away, settling in, to her barely moving and clearly focused on me.
I kept reading, but through the corner of my eye I could see her eyes quickly darting around to my other items, my clothing, my books....trying to investigate quickly..."who is she?" We sat quietly until about 30 minutes after takeoff, when she exploded with a question.

"Are you interested in artificial insemination?" she asked.

It was as if she had been holding it in for as long as she could and all that suppression had given her words the propulsion of a rock from a slingshot.

Literally, seconds earlier, the flight attendant stopped to ask, "would you like some water?" I had to laugh because this follow up question just sounded so random....
"Are you interested in artificial insemination?"
....ah yeah........"yes actually, would you happen to have an sperm on you that I could have? I'd like to go into the bathroom and inseminate myself once the seat belt sign goes off. you know, join the mile high AI club...."  - Just kidding

Anyway I explained that yes I was and asked why she was so interested. Now as an aside here (and I promise I will be back to the story in just a second) what strikes me as an notable contrast between the parents of donor offspring and the offspring themselves is how eager the majority of parents involved in AI are to chat and connect in public. On the flip side, while I "hear" the voices of many donors online I don't normally meet them in public and have the "hey your dad is a donor too? whaddya know?" kind of moments.

As donor offspring, we are typically far more anonymous, cautious and afraid of how our "secret" will effect others.  We have typically been brought up in families where the nature of our conception is the source of great pain and sometimes intense secrecy. It's not something your parents reveal to you and say, "go on now honey.....go play and tell your friends....then we'll have a my daddy is a donor party!...." But I digress.

I think she assumed that I was a mother that wanted to conceive. When I explained I was instead the conceived, I thought her eyes might just pop out of her head and roll back through the isle. We sat for a moment looking at each other.

"Really," she said

"Yes, Really," I said

"Really" she said again...this was getting ridiculous.

"How do you know? " she asked.

"I found a stamp on the bottom of my foot that said "donor-conceived" -- no I didn't say that, but I wanted to because jesus christ what an awkward question.

So I explained how I'd found out all that jazz. What is hilarious is that I could tell that there were like four people sitting in seat around us glancing over. This is such a curious topic for so many. I thought for a moment, "perhaps I should get on the PA and do a public service know, educate people," but I controlled myself.

Then came the inevitable so "how do you feel about it?"

And....I shared what I thought, what those of you who read this blog know, that I'm not to thrilled with the fact that I am disconnected from half my genetic lineage. I shared that the nature of my birth, which is  typically such a wondrous thing, is steeped in secrets and shame and that I have carried this loss, this heavy heavy burden for many years and it makes me at first very angry but then eventually depressed.

Boom!! - you would have thought I slapped her across the face...and I did not I promise :).  In fact, I am being a little more frank and grating with how I spoke here because in person, I'm actually quite diplomatic and agreeable; my delivery much less harsh.

And then she said what most of the parents I have spoken to say:

"I'm sorry you feel that way" - with and emphasis on the "you."

I have to take a moment here, because writing this down, recollecting the moment, actually makes me so darn upset.  I get many, many comments on my blog from the parents of donor offspring. One comment on one of my most read posts: "A Mother Considering Artificial Insemination" from a father echos the same sentiment as my flight partner. He wrote:

"I am truly sorry for how tormented you are by your origin, and I hope my son never feels that pain; if he does, I want to be there with him to confront it. "

It's as if the subtext of both of the above commentaries is that the way I feel is unique.  They are sorry that I'm not satisfied with the status quo but that is me and "if" their child feels that way it will be unfortunate.

Now I'm a very logical and analytical person and I truly try to be objective in my analysis of topics in general. In reading so many donor conceived and adoptees blogs, talking to them via email, reading the scientific literature and engaging the community in general, I have to say if there is one thing of which I can be absolutely certain it's:


There is such a common sense of loss and seeking among every single child conceived through anonymous artificial insemination that it's almost a badge of identity. It's not to say that there aren't varying levels of these negative feelings and that some parents have better equip their children to deal with these feelings, but they are still there. They are, in every way, unavoidable.

It frightens me that so many parents of donor-conceived children seem to be in denial of the potentially negative and hurtful consequences of their decisions. This is not to generalize and say that all parents are unaware but there is definitely an overarching trend of detachment from what's going on here.

I'd also say their is a direct correlation between the level of anonymity in the donation and sense of loss of the child. So the less anonymity (as in, say, a situation where a donor is a known to the family and has actually engaged the child once or twice) the less the loss. But the loss is still there in this case - and more importantly this is not the case in most AI scenarios. They are mostly anonymous.

It's as if the very same detachment that occurs when a man masturbates in a cup and sends genetic material along to a destination unknown or a young woman undergoes an egg extraction with little knowledge of their recipient, seeps into the entire process. A "contagious detachment" pervades the entire process as parents and doctors alike detach from the very real consequences of this decision to focus solely on the delivery of a child.

If there are any children conceived through AI reading this that disagree with me, that feel total peace and happiness and at absolutely no loss for their circumstance I wholeheartedly and openly request your commentary.

But alas, I have serious doubts that will occur as I know in my heart, this isn't just the way I feel.

Technorati Tags: Anonymous, ChildrenFamilyParentingInternetPregnancySocietyWomenSocialInfertility

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...