Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Third Party, Anonymous Reproduction

Third Party, Anonymous Reproduction

I've been having a lot of thoughts about this lately. It's not something I ever thought about much at all until I was deep into my own search for my roots and complete identity and the mystery of me pre-adoption. I think I was perusing the message boards over at 23andMe when I came across a group for donor conceived individuals who were searching for genetic medical information, genealogical information, and connections to DNA cousins and hopefully siblings/parents/close family. The world of genetic genealogy is vast and complicated and overwhelming. It's easy to feel like you are sinking in all of that information, just grasping for a life-preserver so that you can keep afloat and make sense of the ocean filled with family forest filled islands that dot the horizon in all directions. Me. I'm just looking for me. What forest holds my tree, and how many leagues must I swim to find it? It's daunting. It's not for the faint of heart. Anyway, back to this weird title. Folks who are conceived via donation of genetic material very often face the same challenges that adoptees face, but what they have been severed from is often so much more out of reach. They are cut off from their family of origin by the practice of anonymity and secrecy. There are no laws to protect and preserve their original identity, and only some states allow adopted adults to equally access their original birth certificates, that is, the birth certificate that belongs to you before it is amended by an adoption and NO longer indicates the facts of your birth.  I don't believe there is much access at all afforded to the donor conceived. 

Here are some variations of this other realm beyond adoption. Sperm donation, egg donation and surrogacy. Sperm donation has been a well-recognized part of our culture for quite a while. Egg donation too. You know, there was a time in college when I actually researched the process of egg donation, because I heard you got a lot of money. And I was adopted and totally fine and thankful to be alive and all of that jazz... nothing wrong with more babies in the world. I didn't actually pursue egg donation. I think my crazy irregular periods would have eliminated me, but I do remember this really empty melancholy feeling at the thought of having a child out there in the world that I would never know. Not exactly the kind of thing that makes you want to run out and sign up. And then there is surrogacy, which also has a couple of different forms. You can be JUST a gestational carrier who receives an embryo made from someone else's egg and sperm. Could be donated..could be from the intended parents. And then there is traditional, in which the carrier uses her own egg and someone's sperm, which could be donated or from the intended father. It's like a 2 for $20 at TGI Fridays. You've got options. But just how many of those options are.. ethical..? Here is where the hard questions and sometimes callous answers join in the discussion. 

So, what had happened was..  I was minding my own business on Facebook... when I came across a bubbly post from a sweet new friend. (new friend+minding my own biz=recipe for a disaster!..or at least a reallllly awkward interaction the next time I see her) It was a gofundme for a couple of lovey teachers who just want a "baby of their own".. and maybe it was the choice of words that set me off into share-my-whole-opinion-don't-hold-back mode.  

"help this couple get a sweet babe!!"
"we attempt to finally have our dream baby"
"It's been a long road and let's help them get a sweet baby"
"2 Teachers want a baby of Their Own"

me want baby me want baby me want baby, nom nom nom-- well that's what I heard anyway

You see, I am a baby someone dreamed of, a gift for parents who could not otherwise have children. For most of my life, I liked that description of myself. I felt very wanted and loved. (I still do, even with my *radical* opinion I'm about to share) I'm an adult adoptee. I have a kindred perspective and can relate to those who are donor conceived.  We were plucked from our genetic family and placed with parents who wanted us more, who could pay for us, who applied for us, who invested in the idea of us, who got communities to rally around them as they engineered our place in their home. But at what cost the ones displaced from what nature would have intended? {gosh, I hope that isn't a selfish question. There's no room for that in my ever grateful heart. Asking such questions reflects a lack of loyalty to my true parents who raised me} Just kidding, I don't compartmentalize like that... I permit a bit of cognitive dissonance. I can be grateful for my adoptive family AND question the ethics of the way I was gotten. Huh.. funny brain. 

At what cost..  That's what is *triggering* for me, thinking about what is lost. Potentially so very much. When that loss is glossed over or not taken seriously, it dehumanizes and shames the person that is in the balance or being "designed" in adoption and surrogacy. Simply put, you lose part of your identity. And the worst part is that your government and family sometimes prohibits you from ever knowing it, even as an adult. Anonymous sperm and egg donors, with no possibility of the offspring learning the identities. Donor kids or adoptees who are never told they are those things. States that have cut off original birth certificate access. Donor kids and adoptees who feel pressure to be grateful to be alive/chosen and are expected, either directly or subconsciously, to be well-meshed with their environmental family. These are real and important concerns. So when people take adoption or donor conception SO lightly that they won't entertain these ideas, ideas which lead you to question the ethics of such reproductive practices.... yeah.. that makes me have opinion diarrhea.  

I'll post my exact comment in a moment. I must preface it by admitting that I probably had sort of terrible timing. The two teachers have had a really rough time getting the surrogate thing to work over the last year or so. She had a hysterectomy years ago, but she does have kids from a previous marriage. Finally they found their dream surrogate, who seems to be lovely. {They all seem to be lovely! So I really hope that they can re-read my thoughts at a less sensitive time and really take them to heart} Their surrogate was pregnant with a donated egg and the intended father's sperm. Sadly, she had a miscarriage recently. They are all understandably reeling from that. And I'm sorry if my honesty came at a bad time. But what if they listened and decided to go a different, more ethical direction? A bad time for a change of heart is after their surrogate is pregnant again. THIS. This is a crossroads. This is when they can ask the hard questions and find the ugly answers..and perhaps come away with a different perspective. But that's a lot to ask when something is engrained in your society as completely socially acceptable and then some wackadoo with too many opinions and bad timing inserts exactly what you do not wanna hear. So I guess it is what it is. But here are my thoughts. For the record, I only posted it as a comment on my friend's bubbly post, viewable to only friends. And then I requested to add it as a comment on a long ago blog post, knowing they would read it but probably not approve it. That's ok. I wasn't looking to publicly call anyone out. I just need to get it out of my brain and into theirs. They did respond on their facebook page about someone with 

"less-than-supportive messages" "questioning if my desire for a child is selfish and the ethics of reproductive technology" {not's not about the technology} "that person had some of her own very deep issues." {yeah, issues with the ethics of 3rd party or anonymous reproduction}  And in the comments, my sweet, new bubbly pal said, "I just wish certain opinions would just stay quiet." {Well, now you know me better, friend.} 

And without further ado, my off-script opinion (this is the one I posted to their blog, the one I assumed they wouldn't approve): 
  • I'm going to chime in here with what MIGHT be an unwelcome opinion. And I'm sorry but also not sorry to be that voice, and I hope those reading can understand that it isn't personal and that it is sincere. 
  • I'm an adoptee, and with that comes a lifetime of not knowing your complete identity, being legally barred from it in most states. A lifetime of looking at strangers' faces to see something of yourself. As an adoptee, same with most donor-conceived people, there is a lack of access to your original identity, your heritage, and your family of origin. And that crevasse, that void, that imposed brick wall can be more or less obvious depending on the person.... also more or less obvious to the actual donor-conceived person or adoptee, depending on their season in life. 

  • As I have searched and found my biological family despite being legally prohibited from knowing that information, my thoughts and feelings about adoption and donor conception have changed and also manifested where I previously had no opinion. And here it is. Remember I don't mean any of this as judgement, just sharing my perspective as a person who has been directly, permanently and MOST impacted. 

  • Adoption and donor conception erases identities. Adoption and donor conception strips the child of rights that any other person has as a norm. Adoption and donor conception commodifies children. Adoption and donor conception is many times  born out of the wants of the prospective parents rather than the needs of children. In donor conception, the children are designed, in a sense, for the benefit of the prospective parents. My opinion is that adoption should always be a last resort for the child. Identities  never erased, profits never made off of the transfer of custody. I believe in family preservation as a priority and supporting parents who feel they have no choice but relinquishment. "Adopt" the family unit instead of just the child. In a perfect world, adoption would simply be a permanent custody arrangement that affords the child all legal benefits of being a natural child while protecting the child's identity, heritage, and familial connections. 

  • You and your husband sound like terrific people. And if they are desiring to share their love with a child, I encourage them to be foster parents. No, there isn't always the permanent "reward" of a child that belongs to you. But adopted or donor children won't be the exact same as a natural child. All the love and support in a happy adoptive home doesn't negate the fact that the child is just different, genetically and in other ways.  And to insist to the child or yourself that they are indistinguishable is unhealthy in the long run. That child's complete identity should be known, embraced, and celebrated, but it's difficult to do that with all the secrecy and anonymity that comes with how they were acquired. 

  • Personally, I had a wonderful and loving upbringing. My parents supported my search these last few years, but it sometimes made me uneasy and wary of hurting them. Still does. BOTH my moms are facebook friends, lol, which I hope won't get awkward  ;) but it shouldn't be taboo to know, want to know or want to seek out who you are. 

  • I can't imagine what it feels like to want kids and it not be physically possible. We did struggle with some infertility for a time, but it wasn't unattainable like it is following a hysterectomy. I'm sure it is heart wrenching and beyond difficult to come to terms with that. Having a child to love and care for is a sweet, wonderful thing. But it doesn't erase the pain of what is lost. And children shouldn't have that pressure on them, to fix what hurts us as adults. They shouldn't exist as gifts to our loved ones. They can sense that. As adults, they will know that. If we are bringing in a child into our homes, a child that is a genetic stranger in whole or part, it is essential that we do it out of care and concern for the child, not to fulfill our desire. It's too much to expect a child to do that FOR us. And along with that, some parents would then expect the child to seamlessly blend. I think that would be especially true with donor conceived children. I think it is not fair to the child. 

  • With all of that said, I don't know your heart. I can't know it. And my comments are not really about you or your husband. My opinion is about the practice of blank slating children and many times permanently keeping them from their complete and original identity. 

  • I hope I was able to express all of that gently enough. It's a hard subject to tackle without hurting people's feelings. But I think all of it needs to be discussed. Question the ethics. 

  • And I leave you with this link. It is the voices of third party reproduction. Valid and valuable. 

I don't apologize for my thoughts or feelings. I don't apologize for having the gall to verbalize any of this. I don't apologize for writing this blog, which I'm sure no one reads. 

{But I will share with my cousin who told me not too long ago that I should blog ..since I can't keep my mouth shut anyway? That's what she said. Is that joke old yet?} 

I AM sorry for the pain of barrenness. I'm sorry that people aren't honest and that life isn't easier. What I am most sorry for, and deeply so, is that a life was lost in the quest for that fresh new baby. I'm sorry for the intended parents' pain and the surrogate's pain and the mother's pain {that's the egg donor, don't forget the genetic mother's the tale of THREE moms, not two}  I'm sorry for the child. Child-getting should be child-centered. And I'm not sorry for having that opinion. They are not gifts or consolation prizes, and there are plenty of pre-existing ones to go around. {But don't even get me started about adoption ethics.} Inconveniently, many of them have individual identities that they are already cognizant of. 

I'm not kidding, the ethics need to be scrutinized. The end.