Monday, May 18, 2015

How Do You Feel About Donor Conception?

When I've written about my experiences being donor conceived -- always anonymously, as I do here -- one of the things people ask is how I feel about donor conception.  Would I donate my gametes?  Would I use donated gametes? 

I am not vocal about my opinions on donor conception.  I am not even vocal about the fact that I am donor conceived.  While I've been happy to shrug off the secrecy imposed on me in my youth and tell anyone who asks about my origins, I don't want just anyone knowing.  My close friends and "family of choice" know.  My donor conceived acquaintances know.  My half-siblings obviously know.  When you look up my name online though, I want you to see the delicately crafted persona that I wear for strangers.  Only flattering photos and self-deprecating humor and benign facts I'd want my boss or my biological father to see.  I admire many people who are outspoken about their beliefs, but I can't do it.  If you want to know my feelings or intimate details of my life, I want you to have to ask me.

When I first tested my DNA with 23andMe, I realized I only knew two surnames in my family tree -- my mother's maiden name and her mother's maiden name -- and I wasn't even sure how the latter one was spelled.  I confided in a maternal cousin about the DNA test and being donor conceived in the hope that she could provide me with more family names.  She was very supportive and very helpful.  She also confided that she was currently in the process of trying to conceive using anonymous donor eggs.  I'm not going to tell her how I feel about donor conception.  I'm not going to warn her that her child -- should she successfully have one -- might have some strong feelings about donor conception too.  She had already spent tens of thousands of dollars on failed fertility treatments.  I do not believe my opinion would change her mind.  Instead, I think it would make it even harder for her to talk to me, and I think it would drive a wedge between me and one of the few "original family" members I have left.  Most importantly, her choice to use anonymous donor eggs does not affect me.  I wished her luck and all good things, and I meant it. 

Personally, I would not donate my eggs, and I would not use donated gametes of any kind.  I told my husband before we tried to conceive that, if we couldn't conceive naturally, I knew I could not use donated gametes.  I don't expect someone who isn't donor conceived to understand or to anticipate the pain, but as someone who is and who has gone through it, I couldn't in good conscience do that to another person.  He understood.  He had thought it went without saying. 

I believe anonymous sperm and egg donation should be banned in the US, as they have been in the UK and several other first world countries.  I believe third party reproduction should be heavily regulated, donor medical information tracked, and number of offspring per donor severely limited, the way many people think it already is.  If we continue to let the free market decide the ethics of third party reproduction, money will continue to do all the talking.  Gamete "donors" will continue selling their sperm and eggs, people who desperately want children will continue buying them, and cryo banks and fertility clinics will continue making enormous sums of money as the wish granters and middle men.  People who haven't been conceived yet don't have money.  They are the goods.  Their rights will continue to be leveraged by their parents and doctors, all decisions on the matter made for them before they are even conceived, let alone born.  This is distasteful to me.

Of course, whether anything or everything is outlawed, people can still go onto Craig's List or have one night stands or recruit family friends and refuse to tell their children who their genetic fathers are (traditional "artificial insemination" can easily be done outside a medical setting), but I think fewer people will be willing to do that who weren't already planning to do that.  I'm aiming for improving the current situation.  I don't believe there is a way to fix it completely.  There will always be children born who don't know who their genetic parents are, for whatever reason.  I just want to limit those numbers as much as possible.

I used to feel much more upset about being donor conceived than I do now.  I used to feel much angrier and sadder and more misunderstood when people challenged me or disagreed with me.  I feel a lot better now that I know who my father is.  Knowing his identity doesn't solve all my problems, but it's all I really wanted, and I got it.  No one can take that knowledge away from me, regardless of how strongly they feel that I should shut up and be grateful to be alive.  I wish for everyone who is donor conceived (or adopted, or unsure of their parentage for whatever reason) to be able to know who their biological parents are.  I think it makes things easier.  On that note, please take an autosomal DNA test.  23andMe and AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA each do them for about $99 or less, and even if you know who your parents are, you might help someone else find theirs.


  1. You said that if you and your husband has not been able to conceive naturally they you wouldn't have used third party reproduction. I am curious what you would have done instead.

  2. I haven't written it off for the distant future, but I find one child is as much as I can handle at a time and still feel competent.

    1. There's a difference between saying what you would have done or what you could do than actually being in that situation with those options. But I wouldn't expect someone who never ended up in that situation to understand.

    2. I agree. When I say fostering was our Plan B, I mean it was something we talked about looking into if pregnancy didn't ultimately happen. It was something I believed in (knowing very little about it) and thought I might want to do. I don't know that we would have been comfortable with it or ended up doing it in the long run. All I knew for certain was that I would not do third party reproduction under any circumstances. That I feel quite certain about.

      I can only imagine how difficult it must be to actually be in the position to make those kinds of choices of what to do in the case of infertility. I'm sorry you're having to go through that. It's unfair.