Monday, December 18, 2006

From The Horse's Mouth

Now THIS is what I am interested in learning about. Katrina Clark is an 18 year old student at Galludette University in Washington and a a donor-conceived child come of age. In her article "My Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor" she describes herself as being "pretty angry about it" for a while.

As you'll see by the below snippets, she still seems pretty angry about the whole "sperm-donor thing."

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

. . .

I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

. . .

Growing up, it didn't matter that I don't have a dad -- or at least that is what I told myself. Just sometimes, when I was small, I would daydream about a tall, lean man picking me up and swinging me around in the front yard, a manly man melting at a touch from his little girl. I wouldn't have minded if he weren't around all the time, as long as I could have the sweet moments of reuniting with his strong arms and hearty laugh. My daydreams always ended abruptly; I knew I would never have a dad. As a coping mechanism, I used to think that he was dead. That made it easier.

That was when the emptiness came over me. I realized that I am, in a sense, a freak. I really, truly would never have a dad. I finally understood what it meant to be donor-conceived, and I hated it.

When I read some of the mothers' thoughts about their choice for conception, it made me feel degraded to nothing more than a vial of frozen sperm. It seemed to me that most of the mothers and donors give little thought to the feelings of the children who would result from their actions. It's not so much that they're coldhearted as that they don't consider what the children might think once they grow up.

Those of us created with donated sperm won't stay bubbly babies forever. We're all going to grow into adults and form opinions about the decision to bring us into the world in a way that deprives us of the basic right to know where we came from, what our history is and who both our parents are.

Some countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, are beginning to move away from the practice of paying donors and granting them anonymity, and making it somewhat easier for offspring to find their biological fathers. I understand anonymity's appeal for so many donors: Even if their offspring were to find them one day -- which is becoming more and more probable -- they have no legal, social, financial or moral obligation to their children.

But perhaps if donors were not paid and anonymity were no longer guaranteed, those still willing to participate would seriously consider the repercussions of their actions. They would have to be prepared to someday meet the people whom they helped create, to answer questions and to deal with a range of erratic emotions from their offspring. I believe I've let go of any resentment about the way I was conceived. I'm playing the cards I've been dealt and trying to make the best of things. But not all donor-conceived people share this mindset.


Margo, darling said...

This is an incredibly depressing article and the writer strikes me as unbelievably spoiled and self-indulgent. But I can't imagine it's indicative of how children conceived via sperm donations feel.

Isn't her angst, her saying "I never asked to be born," pretty standard teenage melodrama? How many children born and raised in a "typical" heterosexual family with two biological parents say things like this as they stomp up to their rooms and slam the door?

What's really disturbing and perplexing is why the Washington Post decided to publish this ugly rant.

giddings said...

Thanks for your comment, MD!

I couldn't agree more. Even today, parts of her letter run through my brain and I can't quite figure out how (why?) she is so angry because yes, the counterfactual is that she wouldn't be born.

She participated in an online, live session for the Washington Post as well, and received many similar comments.

I (re)published this here only because it was the first comment by any DI kid of which I was aware, and something that I am fascinated by. I can't wait to have coffee with the SYO when she's, say, 32 (and beyond the drama that she is already so inclined toward): So. . . Tell me what it has been like! I'm DYING to hear!

IrreverendAmy said...

Well, she certainly hasn't "let go of any resentment about the way I was conceived." And it might be that she has this obsession with because her mother communicated guilt or regret, or because no one helped her to deal with the ignorant, tactless people who asked her where her daddy was. Or some other reason. I've certainly known people who suffered typical angst who put all their pain down to having been adopted (or whatever) when it sounded like plain old pain of life to me.

But she makes an important point, the one that's bolded in your entry: of all people, those who wanted so badly to have a biological connection to their child (when adoption was an available alternative, as it is in most cases), should understand that a child might feel bereft at not knowing one side of her biological family. And whatever decisions any of us make about becoming parents should try to imagine the perspective of the children, not just our own.

It's clear from an anecdotal survey of people who were adopted--hell, of people who were raised by their biological parents, for that matter--that some people care a lot about their biological origins and some don't. When my partner and I chose the route of anonymous sperm donation, we only looked at open-identity donors (i.e., our daughter can contact the donor when she is 18), because she might be one of the former. Like the author, we thought a child had a right to this information if it could be managed.

I take that information for granted for myself. Having been raised by both of my biological parents, I can't know what it would be like not to know a big section of my family tree, but I think it behooves those of us who are involved in adoption or donor insemination to try to walk in those shoes a while. At the very least, it will make us better parents.

giddings said...

Thanks Irreverent... For your thoughtful comments and sharing your experience.