I read about a situation today where the genetic parents of a toddler who has been adopted want the adoptive parents to have the child’s DNA tested so that family connections are available for that child. This is within a diverse adoption community and the responses were diverse as well. It is true that in getting our DNA tested we have no idea how that identifying information may be used in the future. Many of those commenting thought it should wait until the child was old enough to consent. Many suggested the genetic parents do the tests so that it is out there if or when the child wants it. Some believed it would have been helpful to them to have this information while they were yet a child.
I’ve had some experiences with adoption or donor conceived and DNA testing experiences.
Both of my parents were adoptees. I’ve done both Ancestry (my mom also did this one but it didn’t help her and yet, has been invaluable to me for learning ancestral relationships and my genetic family’s movements over time) and 23 and Me. Both have helped me be accepted by genetic relatives who might have doubted me otherwise. I’ve been able to make a few “good” connections and have a better sense of some of my family thanks to stories and photos shared. As to developing relationships with people I lost over 6 decades getting to know ? It is slow going though everyone has been nice to me.
Now on another front . . . both of my sons are donor egg conceived. We’ve never hidden this aspect of their conception from them and they have met the donor on several occasions. Fortunately she has an amazingly good perspective on it all. I waited until the oldest was 18 to gift him with 23 and Me. I knew the donor had done that one and before I gifted my son, I gifted my husband. After the older one received his results, I gifted the 15 yr old as well. He is mature and there was no reason to exclude him. It is uncomfortable but the GENETIC reality that the donor is listed as their Mother. They grew in my womb, nursed at my breast for a full year and have known no one else as “mom”. They seem to have processed it well as far as I can tell. Thankfully.
The adoptive mom of my nephew did Ancestry using only initials to identify him. It turned out (and she helped him in discovering this), my sister lied about who the father was on my nephew’s birth certificate. The Ancestry DNA test was their first suspicion. The effort though came at the nephew’s desire to know. He has since met his genetic father several times. They look remarkably alike and now my nephew has certainty.
My niece (child of a different sister) was also adopted and is going through some frustrations over her DNA results though her mother has given her the name of the genetic father. It can be a complicated and confusing experience.
There is one other nephew who was raised by his paternal grandparents. My sister lost custody in court when the paternal grandparents sued to possess him. This child is of mixed heritage – both white and Hispanic. He was raised in a very Hispanic family. His DNA shows a beautiful diversity.
No solutions, simply thoughts and examples.
4 thoughts on “When To Test”
Late to comment but I’d say it’s a good thing that the kids you gave birth to are aware they are not your offspring and are aware of who your donor, their mother is. I would hope that all their maternal relatives also know who they are. I’ve been reuniting separated families for free for 20+ years and have been especially involved with reuniting families broken apart by gamete donation. It’s incredibly foolish, but many people raising gamete donor offspring thought think that the son or daughter of a gamete donor won’t process their mother or father’s absence from their lives as parental abandonment when the medical release forms and gamete donation contracts required their parent(s) to do just that. The critical component of a gamete donation contract is not the relinquishment of their gamete but the promise not to assert maternity or paternity after their son or daughter is born. The contracts say that it is not a contract for parental title or parental rights over their offspring because that would be illegal but they say instead that the person donating the gamete has no intention of asserting maternity or paternity over their offspring when born. Nobody would want their gametes unless they promised to be absent from the lives of their son or daughter in the ‘roll’ of mother or father for at least 18 years. What is sad about that is people want to get their money’s worth – keep the parents away for at least 18 years, sequestering the child from that parent and parent’s relatives in an attempt to prevent emotional bonds that come from growing up with parents and parent’s relatives. It is a tremendous loss when one or both parents are absent from the lives of their own offspring in the roll of protector, caregiver and provider. It is expressed to me as quite difficult to process that the parent is absent for profit or charity rather than for some personal failure like addiction, youth, mental illness or criminal behavior as occurs often in adoption. Their absent parent has no excuse for being absent other than they have objectified their son or daughter to the point where they think they can either give them away to the childless and needy, occasionally tossing in the luxury of a pregnancy experience like its a ride a Disney Land, or where they think they can profit or be reimbursed for their time, not from donating the gamete but from being absent once their kid is born. The term donor conception is so misleading and not because of the word ‘donor’. The fertility industry loves for people to spin their wheels on whether the word should be seller vs donor. It’s a distraction from the word conception, because the loss that their son or daughter experiences is not from having been conceived by that person, it’s from having been abandoned by them at birth and over and over again every day they are absent from their lives behaving as a parent owes it to their offspring to behave. If you visit Anonymous Us (my friend’s site) and some other websites my friend’s have we can read the profound loss experienced by the sons and daughters of mothers who donated eggs because nobody remembers being gestated. They are still not being raised by the woman who is related to them, as you pointed out, as their mother just as a person adopted at birth would be. Their conscious memory and logical understanding is that they are being raised by a woman who is not related to them as their mother and their mother is absent from the roll of their protector and nurturer which is obviously a rejection of them personally because their own mother does not perceive them as son or daughter because she sold or gifted her parental roll. Devestating what donor offspring suffer. Its rewarding to reunite their families and it’s a good thing that the kid’s your raising won’t have to suffer the separation part even though they have to process the abandonment for the rest of their lives. Who gifts their kid to the needy like one would an old coat to the salvation army? It’s horrible.
I do belong to more than one donor conceived and/or search/reunion groups. I do have some slightly different perspectives from my place in all this than you do. If not for the donor egg, my sons would simply not exist. It is that simple and they understand it that way. I once read an essay by a young woman who was donor conceived who viewed it similarly.
The donor does live too far away for any kind of frequent contact but my sons have met her in person more than once and she has welcomed their contact privately, without my own knowledge or interference, through their 23 & Me relationship. I have kept her informed about them. Only my youngest has expressed regret that he doesn’t have my genes.
I come from a complicated background – both parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies for adoption. I have become VERY informed about all of the issues related to adoption, abandonment and rejection but only recently (beginning in 2017) and by then, my sons were already 16 and 13 years old. However, given how ignorant we were at the time we embarked on this journey due to awareness raised by my own OB-GYN when we were trying to conceive, we have done everything as best as we could ever have, within these circumstances. My sons grew in my womb and nursed at my breast for a full year and because they are educated at home, I’ve been in their lives 24/7 – always. I do know donor egg mothers who have not been truthful or have had anonymous donors. I am glad, given the development of inexpensive DNA testing, we never even considered going that route.
The people my sons are would have never been conceived by the egg donor nor born in any other manner. To think otherwise is an unrealistic perspective to entertain. The role of of protector, caregiver and provider is NOT absent from my son’s lives. Their genetic biological father is also raising them and no one could be more their mom than I am. My sons do not appear to feel abandoned by the egg donor. While we did have a contract of sorts, it was actually an informal acknowledgement agreed to by the 3 of us, no external authorities involved. And it was the same donor, a few years apart, for both boys making them 100% genetically and biologically the same as any two siblings ever are. When our sons were younger, she was listed on our estate documents having agreed to being a potential guardian, if something happened to both of us.
You do raise any interesting point – “nobody remembers being gestated.” I do agree with the “remembered” part – maybe. Some people do seem to have pre-birth memories with stories to prove that. There is abundant evidence of a connection from being in the mother’s womb that is preverbal but physically present in every baby. At one time, the two were one in effect. I was conceived out of wedlock but my parents married before I was born. I used to joke with my parents about the huge risk I took in allowing my soul to be born to two teenagers (though my dad had just graduated from high school and had started his university studies).
Spiritually this gestation issue is very interesting to me. However, I do believe, as eternal souls, we make that choice of parentage before we are conceived and so, from my own spiritual perspective, my sons agreed to this method of entering into this thing called Life.
I welcome any further conversation you wish to have with me. I will look for the Anonymous Us site and see if it is accessible to me. One can never learn too much when pioneering the new frontiers of family creation. Thank you for your sincere perspectives and for reading and commenting.
Your hands down the most emotionally evolved egg donation recipient I have ever encountered. You were really nice in your response to me and considering what I wrote – well you are very gracious to invite me back. For what its worth i had a bunch of miscarriages (13) and a son die at birth due to a clotting disorder and was told I’d either need to adopt or get an egg donor and I went off on the doctor because of the reuniting I’d done to that point I said I would not request a child to be made and abandoned for me to experience the pains of pregnancy and the joys of child rearing. I’d just been exposed to so many teens and adults who were struggling to understand why their mother, father or both in the case of double donation/embryo donation would make them on purpose if she had no desire to raise them. You mentioned that the kids you are raising would not exist without egg donation. Many donor offspring activists are asked how they can complain about gamete donation when if it were not for gamete donation they would not even exist to complain! Truth is, it is a great thing for them to be alive and the crux of their complaints has less to do with how or who conceived them than it does they were treated by law and by the parents the day they were born and every day thereafter. Donor offspring are no different than any other human being; only two people reproduced to create them and the technical term for those two people is ‘parents’. Comparing the legal rights of donor offspring to the legal rights of legally adopted individuals is a distraction since adopted people don’t have the same rights as the rest of the population either! Law obligates people to be named as parents on the birth certificates of their own offspring as a matter of public health and record keeping and makes those birth certificates available to relatives of the parents and person born because that record contains health information that is vital to every member of the family. Law obligates people to financially support their own offspring and in turn gives their offspring a right to be supported by the very parents who caused their existence. If those two people never existed their offspring would not exist to require care and support for 18 years. So why is it that some people have one or two parents exempted from that responsibility when it is clearly in the best interests of public health and in the best interest of their offspring to compel every person with offspring to be named on the birth certificate as parents and held accountable for their offspring’s well being? It really does not matter how or why two individuals come to reproduce together, the bottom line is that once their offspring are born they are human beings deserving of equal treatment under the law. Why are they exempted from being protected by the laws that protect public health and protect vulnerable minors from neglect and trafficking? The law does not care if someone did not intend to become a parent when it comes to determining paternity and ordering a father to pay child support. Too bad, should have worn a condom, your kids exist now and they deserve your support and to be full fledged legal kin in their own maternal and paternal family, like it or not, intentions be damned. Gamete donation, surrogacy and adoption all have laws that exempt parents from their obligations at the expense of their offspring’s equal rights and at the expense of public health and record keeping intended to educate the public about who they are and are not related to, so they can exclude their relatives from the dating pool and reduce the likelihood that unintentional inbreeding will produce mentally stunted and disfigured young. It is not enough that good people like yourself are willing to be open with the kids they are raising if the law itself makes such noble behavior optional. It is not enough to simply end anonymity because that does not address the fact that the law still does not require people to be named as the parents of their offspring if they were conceived under the direction of a physician and one or both parents were therapeutic gamete donors. It is totally illogical that the law would let some people off the hook from having to comply with laws that are intended to protect minors from abandonment and the public from the results of unintentional incestuous inbreeding! People are abandoning their offspring to the care of individuals they’ve never even met in many instances and the only qualification is the ability to pay for treatment by a physician. The donors probably give more thought to who they’d let house sit for them while on vacation than they are making babies with or who will be gestating and rearing their sons and daughters. Now I know your situation is slightly different and from the sounds of it you have much more information about your gamete donor than many and the kids have actually gotten to meet her which is all great but that is no consolation for her actually having cared enough about them to raise them and does not answer the burning question of how or why sho would just walk away from some of her kids or how she could convince herself that they are not her kids when they are just as related to her as they would be had she given birth to them herself. The answer really lies in how polite society teaches that it’s OK to give away for people to give away their bastard children to couples who want but can’t have kids. Society teaches that your kids are only worth keeping if you love their other parent enough to want to raise kids with them and if you don’t then those kids don’t actually count and can be given away and then you can go on to have ‘your own’ kids some day with someone you love. It’s been a pervasive theme in adoption since the dawn of time to convince young parents to give up the ones conceived out of marriage to the needy because they will go on to have kids of their own one day with a spouse they love. The tradition continues with gamete donation and surrogacy, it’s ok to give your kids away so long as you were not in love when you conceived them. Well its an ego damaging thing for a person to think they are unworthy of their parent’s love and attention because they were not in love with eachother when they conceived them. It just is and its obviously something donor offspring have to acknowledge as being a pervasive coercion tactic in the fertility industry that is tasked with convincing young healthy people to make and give away a bunch of their kids to people who can’t make their own children, ‘these one’s won’t count’ and ‘your not their mother if you don’t raise them/give birth to them’ which is malarkey because she would blanch at the thought of the kids she’s not raising inadvertently dating one another or another one of her relatives, why? Because she’s their mother and related to all her relatives. If she did not exist, they would not exist. It’s not any deeper than that. How she decided to reproduce and with whom and under what circumstances does not change who she is in relation to them. Were it not for my friend throwing me a surprise birthday party on my 22nd birthday I never would have met my daughter’s father does my daughter have my best friend to thank for my existence? My OBGyn discovered a blood disorder was causing my miscarriages, she would not exist without the blood thinner Heperin, should she credit Heperin for her being born or the doctor or the drug company? Egg donation really is neither here nor there and is no more responsible for their existence than any other random circumstance that influenced what ultimately culminated in two people having offspring together. I appreciate your reading all this. Again you are way more open than most in your situation I hope you continue teaching and influencing others because someday some kid somewhere will have you to thank for them being told they have donor siblings or something!
“It is clearly in the best interests of public health and in the best interest of their offspring to compel every person with offspring to be named on the birth certificate as parents and held accountable for their offspring’s well being?”
I find this a valid perspective, however official documents have not yet evolved to list more than two people as being involved in a person’s birth. Maybe someday.
I do agree, at this time in public policy – “Gamete donation, surrogacy and adoption all have laws that exempt parents from their obligations at the expense of their offspring’s equal rights and at the expense of public health and record keeping intended to educate the public about who they are and are not related to, so they can exclude their relatives from the dating pool and reduce the likelihood that unintentional inbreeding will produce mentally stunted and disfigured young.”
Thankfully, inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites are becoming a hot thing and reunions among all of the individuals involved are becoming much more common.
Your concerns echo many of my own and I was totally ignorant at the time I entered into my own situation. That could be said also for my original grandparents or even for both of my own sisters who surrendered children to adoption. None of us really knew the ramifications of what we were doing. Ignorance may be no excuse but it is not malicious intent.
Now it is left to people like you and I to educate others. It is all I have to offer the future.