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Author Topic: Response to Donor Egg Story  (Read 10212 times)
dadams
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« on: January 16, 2007, 04:31:10 AM »

Response to Donor Egg Story
This is a letter that I wrote in response to a donor egg story and which was published in the Dec/Jan issue of Adelaide's Child. It is written to provide an alternative view to the everything is rosey and fantastic view that the story portrayed.

Jacqueline Tomlins in her story Life Cycles on egg donation fails to mention any effects that being donor conceived has on the child and how their rights are being infringed upon. Being a donor conceived person myself it is always frustrating when reading these stories, however heart felt they may be that they never take in the perspective of the person that really matters, that is the child.

Her story mentions that donors are required to remain anonymous and that the legal issues are governed by the South Australian Council for ReproductiveTechnologies. The SACRT is only an advisory council, the legal issues are actually governed by the Reproductive Technologies Act. The SACRT has however recognised the problem associated with anonymous donations and has strongly recommended that anonymous donations cease. This is also in line with theNational Health and Medical Research Council's stand on the issue. Our own legislation does allow for anonymity yet it also states the the welfare of the child is paramount. These two factors are mutually exclusive.

In addition the practice of donor conception contravenes the UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child to which Australia is a signatory. Article 7 states that a child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Given that less than 30% of children are even told about their conception (Monash report) and the fact that in SA, offspring are not entitled to identifying information about their donor, many will never know who their genetic father/mother really is. Article 8 states that the child has a right to his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations. All of these are stripped from a child as a process of donor conception.

The main premise of using donor conception over adoption is that both the infertile couple and the clinics all recognise the importance of at least one of them being genetically related to their child. This is a double standard in that the other genetic connection is now viewed as being disposable. It is both morally and ethically wrong to choose on behalf of the child which biological connection will remain and which will be thrown away as they are equally both important. Not only does it remove a biological father/mother from the child it also removes any siblings. The adverse effects of adoptionon the welfare of the child has been recognised for decades with the identity and loss of biological connection issues experienced by them being mirrored inthose of the donated generation.

Tomlins states "the biggest stumbling block for women is how they see the resulting child". This child is no different from any of their own children in that the factors that make up this child, it's DNA, is the same. The only difference is the emotional and monetary input that goes into raising the child. This DNA will govern how the child will look, many of it's interests and in many cases how it behaves. While it was previously thought that much ofa person's personallity was environamentally driven it is being discovered that more and more of it is in fact genetically derived. This is no more apparent than in those identical twins that have been separated at birth that have grown up still leading rather identical lives and interests. Many donor offspring once being reunited with their donor have finally been able to place certain looks and character traits that is not evident in their raising family directly to their donor. To be able to do so provides the offspring with a greater sense of completeness as they otherwise only have half the picture of who they are.

Tomlins states " that it is quite common for donors to meet the baby". This is clearly incorrect as the Monash study shows that only 30% of offspring are aware of their conception. The rest have been deceived about their origins, yet many once they discover later on in their lives about their conception they will often remark about how they didn't seem to fit properly. Out of this 30%,an even smaller amount will ever meet their donor. For those born in the 60s,70s and early 80s the numbers are even lower with many offspring unable to access any records (even non-identifying) as they have been either destroyed or just not kept.

In her statement that "Their children have a special story, they say, a story of which they are proud", Tomlins is only referring to point in which the child is only a child. As they grow older their views may change, some will, some won't. The point is that as a juvenile you are too busy being a child to be concerned with identity issues and family relations. These don't surface until teenage years and in some instances not until adulthood. For me personally it did not change until I was 28 and had children of my own. Until that time I was a supporter of donor anonymity and also reasonably proud of myorigins. Now it is completely the opposite. Through my own childrens eyes I have been able to recognise the unbreakable bond that flesh and blood gives us. No matter what may ever happen between my wife and myself, or whatever mayhappen to me, I will always be my children's father. Nothing can ever change that. As soon as I thought about how it would break my heart that my children might ever grow up not knowing who I am, was I able to relate that to my own situation of being donor conceived. I was able to fully understand how the severance of my biological connection with my father had deprived me of family relations, it has left me with only knowing half of who I am, and has given me a different family name than the one I otherwise should have. It has also deprived me of a family heritage and family health history. I cannot answer health surveys or questions from doctors acurrately which can adversely affect my health. I was also unable to answer all of the questions in our recent national census.

I still love both of my parents as much as I ever could, and the death of my father when I was 10 was the single most devastating loss of my life. Yet this love does not fill the void both myself and many other donor offspring experience as a direct result of being donor cenceived. While I can understand how heart wrenching infertility is now that I have children of my own, what many recicpients need to also understand is that they are making very serious decisions on behalf of this child that will grow up into an adult with feelings of their own. Their emotional pain of infertility may be passed on into emotional pain for their child.

The most important thing we hold dear in our society, is that of our family.Yet due to donor conception practices and the laws of SA, I like thousands of others will never know who my own flesh and blood is.
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Quinny
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2007, 10:18:04 AM »

Wow. That's a really good and heartfelt letter, Damian.
I hope it gets published.
It seems that you have done a lot more research into this than me as I wouldn't know which Articles from the UN Conventions to quote or which research has been done into the telling of donor offspring status. Smiley

Not having read the original article I can't comment on the content of that but I think that your letter covers a lot of the area for donor offspring. In particular, one that people don't ever seem to consider; the child's point of view.

Thankyou for that.
Cheers,
Quinny
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dadams
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2007, 10:20:00 PM »

G'Day Adam

it was published in the Dec/Jan article of Adelaide's Child. The original story was some months before.
Most capital cities have an edition of this magazine (it is free - I get mine from the Childrens Hospital where I work). Sometimes they publish letters from other states (we had one in the Adelaide edition written from a Melbourne donor offspring).

Cheers
Damian.
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Hursty
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2007, 12:26:24 PM »

You are amazing Damian. So knowledgeable and can really write a good letter getting all your points across. I too as a mother of Jethro often looked at him and wanted to know which bits came from my husband  and which from the doner. I'm glad I found out. I feel I also know the COMPLETE Jethro as I'm sure he will also be glad to know as he grows and understands more as he does so. Jethro definitely has Cyntra's smile and he also has exactly the same shape fingers and toes. I love all of him including the "doner" biological bits and I am proud of who he is. The other day his little girlfriend Ashleigh was a bit sad and said to her mum "Mummy I'm a bit sad" Mum asked why and Ash said "because Jethro came from a really special egg and I just came from yours. I wanted my egg to be special too". She's only 4 as well. How cute out of the mouths of babes!!! If only we could all be so innocent. My point of telling you this is kids can accept anything as long as they are given the truth and alot of love and they can even be a bit jealous of it!!! We dont make a big deal of it but Ash was mentioned in our last newspaper article and I guess this is how she percieved it as I guess her mum showed her the story. Cyntra stayed a couple of days with us last week and you know I did notice a bit of a bond between Jethro and Cyntra. Jethro is confident with adults and frequently initiates conversation etc but he spontaniously a couple of times went and gave Cyntra a hug. Lovely to see. I am not jealous - I am confident he will never want to replace me - I will always be Mum however this shouldnt prevent him from forming relations over the years with his biological side if this is what he wants to do. Guess we are so lucky.
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dadams
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2007, 10:04:23 PM »

Hi Sue thanks for the kind words.
You mentioned the other child using the term "special egg" and that she was a bit jealous. While you also mentioned that you guys have never made a big deal of it which is great, this girl has obviously gotten the idea from somewhere that this was a special egg. This goes back to what I mentioned at the conference about how some children will grow up with this notion that they are special and will then feel obliged to be happy and gratefull about their conception rather than come to their own thoughts and emotions about it.
I'm not pointing the finger at anyone, just trying to show how children are able to pick up on thoughts, emotions and what is said (even if not directly at the child) by adults and can have conditioning on their own beliefs. This is just a part of growing up and how the adults (parents) in our lives influence us in who we become and is an extremely important part of what a family unit does. It's just in the instance of assisted reproduction it may prevent the child from ever fully exploring the issue completely.
But I'm sure from what I know of you already this will not be a problem for Jethro.

Cheers
Damian.
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Hursty
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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2007, 10:34:54 PM »

Hey there Damian
You know I thought of you and your comments at the forum in Sydney as soon as the conversation on the "special egg" were relayed to me. I do get what your saying - on the other hand I think Ash's mum had to explain why Jethro was in the paper to her 4yr old daughter and this was how she did it as "special" otherwise why would he be in the paper? It gets a bit tricky explaining to one's so young. However having said that I also dont want Jethro to feel "different" (re:special) as I know when you are a child fitting into "mainstream" is more important than anything - school age kids especially want to be just like everyone else. I can understand this as I will always remember my older son Adam (now almost 22) on the first day of his school life I sent him to school in uniform - grey shorts and blue shirt. He came home horrified as his grey shorts were light grey and the other boys had dark grey. He wasnt going back to school until he had dark grey shorts!!!! So imagine feeling different or "special" because you were concieved in a different way. This is one of the reasons I have always had a niggling worry of putting Jethro "out there" and have weighed up the fors and againsts many times. I am lucky in that this is a small town we live in and most people knew of Jethro's conception before we were ever in the media. People in small towns just seem to find out these things - dont know how - havent worked it out yet! So we felt it was better to face things head on to start with as a "normal" part of life for many people to be concieved in this way. We are also lucky in that there is already a boy at the local school who is the son of a lesbian couple and of course he was concieved with doner sperm. I dont know if he knows his doner or not as they havent ever brought the subject up and I dont feel it my place to ask - but it is well known in the town and the children here seem very accepting which is a releif to me as one of my biggest fears is that someone will say to Jethro "your mum isnt your real mum". I want to educate Jethro for this so have given him all the knowledge I can as "knowledge is power!" Its hard to separate "special" from "special because you were so hard to get" and "special" because "you are my child and I love you to bits". I do agree with you on the text in which you are meaning though.
 :)Sue
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2007, 01:23:59 AM »

This was my letter published in Melbourne's Child in response to that same story.

Regarding the recent letters to “Your Views” on the topic of egg donation. The decision to donate eggs, sperm and embryos is surely made with the best of intentions but perhaps not with the knowledge of how it might feel to be conceived in this way. Donor Conception is not IVF (although it may involve the procedure) and is problematic ethically because the person conceived will not be raised by parents who are both genetically related to him/her. Whilst the use of donated gametes and embryos may seem superficially to be a valid response to the loss of not being able to conceive a child, the practice itself inherently creates another loss, the person conceived is not raised by, does not and may not ever have a relationship with their genetic parent(s), siblings and extended family. The lifelong ramifications of kinship separation are thoroughly documented in decades of research and studies on Adoption and yet we continue to allow the perpetuation of this painful loss in an attempt to circumvent infertility and involuntary childlessness. I am Donor Conceived, I was raised by two very loving parents, yet the natural need to know and have a relationship with my genetic father ran deep. I did not know him for the first twenty years of my life and yet his impact on it was immense. His genes shape my physical features, my interests and personality and it is only after meeting him and having an ongoing relationship with him and his family am I able to understand aspects of myself which were previously a mystery. I feel a loss of not having known him for my first twenty years along with my six half siblings, three of whom also conceived via the donor program I am prohibited by legislation to know anything about. Most of society can take for granted the ability to have children and most can also take for granted the meaningful relationships they have with their families. We may not always like our family members but we do benefit from knowing who and where we come from, it is only from these relationships and knowledge that we can truly know ourselves. Donating gametes and embryos is much more than simply providing genetic material (and perhaps some medical “information”), it is the pre-emptive relinquishment of a child, who then matures to an adult with very real needs of their own. The historical practice of non-disclosure means proponents of Donor Conception really know very little about how Donor Conceived adults regard the manner of their conception, so it is irresponsible to promote its continuation when the impact of complexities on the lives of those it creates is not fully known. I hope that the authors of the letters on egg donation and the readers of Melbourne’s Child will take this opportunity to think more deeply about the often forgotten perspective within the debate on this issue of the person with no voice and no choice.
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Hursty
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2007, 09:10:36 PM »

Myf, Damian and Quinny,
When I read your letters and posts on this site I am so in awe of your intelligence, thoughts and your abilities to get it all down on paper in a meaniful and logical way. I am totally out of my depth here!!!!!!! I learn alot through reading what you have to say and am so glad to have this site to converse with you all and get experience with your thoughts and feelings and knowledge.
Sue
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dadams
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2007, 09:58:24 PM »

That's why this forum is such a great thing. It allows people to interact and learn from others that they would not have otherwise been exposed to. Hell, I'm learning all the time too. Smiley
And like I've always said, there will be a whole range of feelings and thoughts on this issue from all different parties and it is important to look at and understand them ALL even if we don't all agree.
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Hursty
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« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2007, 10:39:28 AM »

Totally agree with you Damian. This is a fantastic site where we can all have our own opinions but discuss them openly and truthfully and also gain support and make new friends. Even if opinions differ on different things I think we are all basically here for the same reasons in some way or another. It's great to see so many new members here and growing all the time.
Its also good to try and see another's point of view. Since learning alot I have changed a few of my feelings on some things and its only through discussions with others this has come about.
One thing that still bothers me is how you and a couple of others are against doner conception. I understand why as you are from a generation where secrets were kept and records were not. But you and the others I am speaking of are such well adjusted human beings, intelligent normal people and obviously must have had in the very least loving family homes in which you grew up. You yourself have children of your own who you love dearly and want terribly to give them biological info etc.. However if it were'nt for doner conception you would'nt be here to enjoy the life you have or the people you have in it. To tell you the truth I am just "scared stiff" that Jethro may one day say to me that he wishes that doner conception didnt exist as it would feel to me that I had done wrong by him and had no right to bring him into this world. Or do you think it will be different for him in being that he has the oportunity you didnt have in knowing his doner and her family? Would having this information have made you feel different on doner conception issues? I know you cant predict how Jethro will see things but I would like to think that he is going to enjoy the fact that he is here and hopefully appeciate his life. Its very complex isnt it. I dont think doner conception should be allowed until laws have been changed so that doner concieved children have biological info from birth and parents agree to inform their children. Some would say "oh she has her child now and now she is going to ruin it for the rest of us" but through learning and listening I now feel they should have these rights. Then again I would have agreed to this from the very beginning if this was the law. But to not ever have been able to have him or imagining life without him is like imagining the earth without air to breathe. I hope you dont mind my "forwardness" (is that a word?). I'm speaking from my heart and my fears which no-one can predict - the brain doesnt work as well!
(and I think I'm menopausal!)
Sue Smiley
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Quinny
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« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2007, 02:42:45 PM »

Thankyou for your post Hursty.

Just want to comment about my thoughts on your thoughts. Smiley
I am still unsure how I feel about donor conception in general. I think I just tolerate it and this is because privately I am so very much against anonymous donor conception, but I usually don't mention this because I don't want to alienate people and would like to help anyone looking for biological relations if possible. I think because of my view on this particular practice it taints my view of other donor conception methods when really I don't have a problem with them. Then there is the case that of course my mum went through donor conception to have me so I have mixed feelings about it too.

True enough for me that I did grow up in a loving family but in my case to not know about being donor conceived while growing up and then finding out later makes me question a lot of it. I'm not going to get into the issues of anonymous donors as I know this is not your situation. Jethro's take on his conception will be different to ours because he knows his donor. I think having the information about my donor and his family growing up would have made a lot of difference to way I feel about it now.

My biggest issue is the lack of availability to know who I am related to.
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Hursty
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« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2007, 08:58:04 PM »

Thanks Quinny. I can understand where you are comming from as if I were myself doner concieved and couldnt get any biological info then I think I would be very against doner conception as I would definitly be one who would need to know who I really were.(would be nothing against my birth parents). I think that because I have "listened" to yours and others "why's they are against it" - I sometimes have doubts about what we have done and basically want to justify the way we concieved Jethro and I "want" to "hear" that it wont sadden him to have been concieved in this way - then again Jethro probably will have a totally different way of looking at things and like Damian had mentioned to me before will probably change his views numerous times throughout his life. One of the probs with my "personality" is that I do worry alot about "what ifs". Though being on the other side of the fence ie. the mother of a doner concieved child how can I be against this form of conception? He is my son - I have older children - a daughter 25 this year and a son 22 this year concieved naturally from a previous marrage and I feel EXACTLY the same bond and love with them as I do Jethro - although through having Jethro we also now have what I am calling "extended family" - ie Cyntras family as we have also met with Cyntra's Mum and Dad and met a couple of his biological cousins.(believe me there is more than a couple of them - plenty we havent yet met) I also believe that he (Jethro) was meant to be here, meant to have a life and meant to be our son. Yes I think I am definitly against annonymous doner conception but do feel differently about known doner conception and have to have confidence that this will only be a positive.
Anyway Quinny how far away is your little bundle of joy? Must be getting pretty close to the date now? You will let us all know when he/she arrives wont you!!! There is no love comparable to how you love your children and very sad not to be in a position to experience this for some. Wish you lots of luck and a "bit" of sleep when he/she arrives!  Smiley
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dadams
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2007, 11:17:13 PM »

Hi Sue,
to answer those questions in depth it would probably take me a couple of essays so I'll just be brief as possible.
I try not to jump up and down and openly tell people that I believe that DC should not exist. I'll tell people only if they ask but it is something each person needs to work out for themselves once they have analysed all of issues fully.
Just because I was DC does not necessarily mean that I have to agree with it because otherwise I would be denying the method of my own existence. The end should never justify the means. The concept of having to agree with it and be gratefull about it goes a long way in imposing an existential debt on the offspring. A debt which no other person in society is forced to carry. My opposition to it is more borne out of my analysis of the outcomes rather than my own personal experience. When someone asked me whether or not I would have used DC if we were unable to conceive I replied I wouldn't simply based on the fact that even if the donor was known I feel that it would still be a severance of kinship of the child from their biological father and family (siblings etc). For the same reason I could never donate myself because I would view any resultant child as "MY" child and I beleive that I would be depriving my own two children by removing their siblings from their lives. Even if they knew who they were they would miss out on the shared lives that siblings should experience.
So here is the conundrum: If I wasn't born this way then I would never have known the man who raised me. I loved this man just as much as I could have loved any biological father and his passing is still the single greatest loss I have experienced in my life. Yet, I cannot use this arguement to justify the losses both myself and others have experienced.
The only way we can determine what difference the knowledge of ones donor has is to observe the outcomes and experiences of the next generation (Jethro etc). If they are still experiencing problems then only then we will know for certain. Personally I believe that there will be some still experiencing grief of kinship separation but that is just my 2 cents.
Cheers
Damian
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Hursty
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2007, 10:53:10 PM »

Thanks for your reply Damian. I think there is still going to be human beings with big issues in the next generation because alot of people are still not "telling". Of course there are also alot more who are but are also going to have difficulties in finding the doners etc.. when they do. I can hear what you are saying and I feel like I am sitting on a fence balancing between the two sides. I for one feel it is the birth parents who are the "grateful" ones and not the children but in having said that it wouldnt be too hard to transfer those "grateful" feelings onto your child/ren would it. I am happy though that along with the losses you have had with not knowing your biological side there are also positive sides with the love you shared with your birth father etc.. It still doesnt replace what you know you have missed though does it. Now this is going to sound very hypocritical but I also would find it difficult to be a doner and separating myself from the child/ren born from this. This is me. I also contemplated being a foster Mum before I had Jethro and what stopped me was caring for and attaching myself to a child and having to let go - I couldnt do it. Adoption was also looked into but it is a long process and at my age time was in issue and although my husband is nine yrs younger than me they take the age of the parents from the oldest one. But although I am a "cling-on" I still want Jethro to have what he deserves ie. not to feel grateful , a happy life with loving parents, and to know he can have contact with his biological side whenever he wants. He does and will miss out on things like spending lots of time with them when growing up ie xmas , birthdays etc.. but he always hears from them on his birthday - well Cyntra and her Mum anyway and speaks to them on the phone. They visit a couple of times a year and stay a night or two with us. I have no objection to this. In fact I am (here is that word again) "grateful" that he has the security of knowing that they "want" to be a part of his life and here I think "want" is the big word that means so much as they are not responsible for him in any way. I am very much looking forward to Jethro's thoughts and feelings on all this when he is older - just hope he is happy with what we have done.
Thanks for getting back to me on a very personal note. Much appreciated
Sue
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2007, 10:20:13 AM »

Hi

I have just discovered this forum and must say I don't know a lot about its origins.  I have a donor conceived child to a non identity release donor.  I don't say it was necessarily an easy decision as it took several years to make however at the time I did attempt to research as much as possible about what the consequences may be for the child.  I was aware of yahoo groups for donor conceived children but they weren't acessible to those that did not fall in that category.  Perhaps there were others that I was not aware of.  The closest I could find at the time was a thread on another forum for adopted children.  The question was raised as to whether they wanted to find their biological parents.  There were essentially three responses - yes, yes but only for health reasons and no.  Perhaps I was clinging to the "no" response to help justify to myself the fact that I went ahead and had a child using a donor.  However it is something that is constantly in my thoughts as to how my child will feel when he grows older.  So I don't agree that the parents never consider the child.   I know there are many people who cannot make that choice and stay childless. 

The ability to engage in a forum like this is of benefit to any prospective parents and I hope it becomes more widely known. 
« Last Edit: April 06, 2007, 10:05:31 PM by kimh297 » Logged
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