I saw both of these pieces today in the New York Times and found them really moving and thought-provoking, each in their own way.
The first, A Father's Day Plea to Sperm Donors, is an essay written by an 18-year-old young man conceived by his single mom and an anonymous sperm donor on what it's been like for him identity-wise and how he's handled the big question mark that is one side of his genetics. His essay calls for donor gamete children to be able to contact their donors and know about their origins. And his yearning is palpable: "I am sometimes at such a petrifying loss for words or emotions that make sense that I can only feel astonished by the fact that [my father] could be anyone."
The second, Baby Makes Four, and Complications, is a long piece about an unconventional family made up of a single mom and her very young son, and on a part-time basis by the boy's biological father, who is a gay male friend in a relationship, and who views the child not particularly as his son but sort of as a nephew. It's a somewhat self-indulgent psychological portrait of what it means to be a family - and how the concept of family is evolving and changing beyond traditional definitions. The plan is for this child to know at some point that his "uncle" is actually his father. Who knows what his reaction will be to this head scratcher. ("...Wait you're my biological father but you decided to take a role more like my uncle?!")
I liked both articles because they caused me to reflect on the choices Will and I are considering that might lead us to have a child who is not genetically linked to one or both of us. A child who might or might not know of their origins. It strengthens my already fairly firmly held belief that it would be psychologically easier for our child(ren) - if they come to us through third-party reproduction - to know as much about their donor origins as possible, including, potentially, the chance to meet their donors. It makes me think of the potential ramifications of using the donor embryos we have been offered. In that scenario, our child would be related genetically to neither Will or me, but would on the plus side be able to meet their genetic father and sibling (but on the downside never meet or know much about their genetic mother, since she would be an anonymous egg donor). And it drives home that if we go the donor egg route in the future that we would probably want to use an agency and specify an open donation arrangement so that our child could answer any identity-related questions they had when they get to an age (adolescence?) that those might come up.
I had a long and fascinating conversation last week with a bioethicist on my medical school faculty whose area of specialization is reprogenetics. Among many other things, we spoke about why people feel such a strong pull to have a genetic connection to their children - and where such a drive comes from. And she gave me a reading list (which I will share in a future post) of books discussing the ethics of reproduction and human genetics (PGD, microarray, etc).
Reading these articles today also reminded me of something. I tend to view my difficulty with giving up on a genetic child as a personal shortcoming. A limitation that is some sort of character flaw. (We've recently realized it is also the very real existence of our five chromosomally normal embryos. If they weren't out there, I think we'd be ready to leap off of the genetic track pretty rapidly. But they ARE there.) But it is not just my own comfort level with giving up on a genetic link that needs to be considered. It is also about our future offspring's potential feelings about that loss of genetic connection and what that might mean to him or her as they grow up. I don't want our children to ever suffer any pain or difficulty. And I hope that if we use third-party reproduction down the line that we won't be inadvertently causing our child some future strife or additional difficulties. I hope instead that they would take away the main message: that they were so, so wanted that we were willing to go to great lengths to bring them into our lives. That they are cherished and that we are just over the moon thrilled to be able to parent them.
Tell me what you think. How did these articles strike you? For those who have used third-party reproduction, how do you imagine any donor issues might affect your children down the line? Or am I the only one who thinks about these things?
Finally, Happy Father's Day - to now and future fathers.
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