It’s Complicated And Confusing

Kimberly Mays with Robert Mays

Mention of a television program called Switched at Birth led me to today’s real life story and it fits with the Missing Mom theme of my blog and so I share. The 1991 American miniseries, directed by Waris Hussein, is based on the true story of Kimberly Mays and Arlena Twigg. The two babies were switched soon after birth in a Florida hospital in 1978. Today the relationships between Kim Mays and her two living mother figures remains strained. “I don’t really feel like I’ve had a mother growing up. That’s where the confusion comes from,” Kimberly has said.

It does appear that the switch was intentional. In November 1993, Patsy Webb, a nurse’s aide from the hospital where the babies had been switched, came forward, claiming that Dr. Ernest Palmer had told her to switch the ID bracelets. She refused to do it, she claimed, but told the doctor she would keep quiet, fearing that she would lose her job and health insurance if she spoke up. She said she saw the next day that the babies had been switched.

Webb decided to come forward because she was dying and she wanted to clear her conscience before she died. There were two or three people involved in the switch she has said. The one baby was very sick. While Webb didn’t make the decision, she went along with it and that made her feel like a guilty party to it.

Yet for Kim Mays, the shocking and incredibly emotional twists and turns of her childhood, have not served her life well. “I had a rough childhood,” Kim Mays said. “I lost a parent.” When her first mother died, her father remarried. Until she was 6 years old, she thought her stepmother was her mother. After 7 years of marriage, he divorced that woman and remarried again. Kim Mays now says the man who raised her, Bob Mays, was very controlling and she ran away from home several times.

When she was 15, she ended up at a YMCA shelter and then asked to live with the Twiggs (her actual genetic family and who she had “divorced” just a few months earlier through the courts). “I was going through a lot of emotion. So I ran away, and I went to the Twiggs’ house. I stayed there a year and a half to two years almost,” she said. Mays left the Twiggs two weeks before she turned 18. She got married to her first husband and they had a son together.

“Losing my mom at two, to (Bob Mays) getting remarried right away, to him divorcing her, then finding another relationship to jump into, then (learning about) the switch, and then, other stuff that occurred,” she said. “It’s a lot to process as a child. I just didn’t handle it very well at the time, unfortunately.” Nor did she handle it well after that. She and her first husband divorced and their son, now an adult, was raised by her ex-husband and his family. That is an aspect of her story that I can relate to as my own biological, genetic daughter ended up being raised by her dad and step-mother. She has had six children by four different fathers.

“I feel bad for both sides, (the) Twiggs and everyone involved,” Kim Mays said. “(Arlena – the baby she was switched with) passed away (at 9 years old) and then they poured everything into finding me, so they went through a lot.”

You can read the complete story here – Kim Mays, Switched at Birth. The entire original 20/20 series is also available at YouTube.

Who’s Real ?

It’s a conundrum, a confusing and difficult problem or question. I understand it personally. When I finally learned who my original grandparents were and met relatives who were genetically and biologically related to me, my adoptive family receded into the background.

As a child, I had grandparents who adopted my parents when they were young. They are the only grandparents I knew growing up and going through old family letters from the early 1980s that I need to finally let go of, I see how they were my personal cheerleaders as I left one kind of life I had been living and began the long and slow process of making a different kind of life for myself. I am grateful for their love and concern.

I have aunts who became more significant again in my own life after my parents died. I am grateful for their love and support.

Those of us impacted by adoption often struggle to describe our relationships with two sets of relatives. Sometimes the word “real” is used to describe those that family DNA type websites would consider as being accurately related to us. It gets cumbersome to try and define “real” from “acquired”.

The topic came up yet again in my all things adoption group. I thought this was a good response – “Everyone is real. It’s kind of a given.” Direct and to the point. Even so, it can be confusing to people who don’t know your personal family history.

We aren’t exactly playing along with our adoptive relatives but for an adoptee, the person is often too well aware that their name and their birth certificate have been falsified to change their identity – from the one they were born with to being in effect the possession of the people who adopted them. This was often done to prevent the original parents and the adoptees from ever finding each other, though with the tools available today (inexpensive DNA testing and matching websites) reunions are taking place constantly.

One adoptee admits – I had a hard time with “real” as a kid growing up. When people found out that I was adopted I was always asked, “Do you know your real parents?” “Do you have any real brothers or sisters?” “Do your adoptive parents have any real kids?” People seemed to use that word in place of biological and to my kid-brain, it felt like I was somehow less of a person because I wasn’t my adopters “real” kid.

Add to this that adoptees often honestly do feel that they don’t belong in the family they are being raised within. And quite honestly, that feeling is accurate, even though it is their reality.

Genetic Mirroring

People often see what they expect to see. It is natural to expect to see some resemblance among family members. I remember comments flowing from my adoptive maternal grandmother to the staff of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society about how much alike the two children, one boy and one girl, she adopted from them looked like “real” brothers and sisters, ie had a family resemblance.

Today, someone in my all things adoption group wrote –

A frequent occurrence throughout my childhood was that someone would stop and tell my to my adoptive mother how much I look like her. Now, I’ve seen pictures of moms and daughters, who look like each other. But me?? I don’t look much like my mother, aside from dark hair and pale skin and glasses. I can’t see my features in anyone, or in my mind’s eye even. I may have connected with a biological uncle and I’m looking through his friend’s pictures and I can’t see me anywhere. I don’t know what I look like well enough to try to compare. I’m about to take a selfie to try to help myself out. I usually think about genetic mirroring more in the context of TransRacial Adoptees (which I am not), so this is really messing with me.

One response, totally mystified, writes – Why did this happen to me too??? My mom is white and I’m native with dark skin and dark hair.. she is white with light skin and blue eyes, like why did people say that….

I have seen this said of husbands and wives, who obviously are not genetically related, that they grow to be more alike in appearance the longer they are married. So one comment noted – Children will take on the facial expressions of their caretakers, which can make them appear more like adoptive parents than they would otherwise. I believe that this is possible. Genetically, often mannerisms and personality traits are more similar among biological family members.

So, I do agree with this person’s perspective and experience – People will see things, if they think they have to. I remember my adoptive father telling someone I was his son, when they asked who I was. I couldn’t be more different than him and this guy squinted his eyes and looked at me for a while before saying, yeah I see the resemblance.

I do look like my brother who is a biological child of my adoptive dad and stepmom. I’m the adoptee. We are 17 years apart. I helped raise him and he also mimics me a lot. I’ve heard everything from jokes that my adoptive dad had an affair and adopted me so my adoptive mom wouldn’t suspect, people laughing their asses off when they say we look alike and I reply I’m adopted, then finding out – it’s true – and of course, that’s awkward… or adoptive mom getting jealous and trying to find traits to pretend we look alike and “it’s just the same”. To me it is messed up because they fail to acknowledge my difference. They’re trying to fit the square peg into the round hole with all they have, instead of celebrating my differences.

Celebrating our individuality and differences. Isn’t that what we all should always be trying to do ?

DNA Matters

My apologies for not writing blogs recently. I’ve been out of it with an illness for 5 days (that’s how long since I last shared a blog).

Over the course of my becoming informed, one aspect I had not considered the importance of is genetic mirroring. Really, I should have known sooner. When my niece found us (she was given up for adoption by my sister shortly after birth), she was troubled the most by body image issues. In that situation, she and my mom discovered they had something in common. Our family’s natural genetic inheritance came from stocky, big boned women. Both my mom and my niece were adopted by thin, stylish women. It is only natural, they were never going to look like their adoptive mothers.

Today, I read this –

Something that makes me so mad as an adoptee is when people say “biology doesn’t matter” or “DNA doesn’t make a family” or any other version of that statement. Yes, to an extent we create our own family, and we can choose who to have in our life. But do you know how f***ing PRIVILEGED you (general you) sound when you say “DNA doesn’t matter?” It doesn’t matter to you because you have the choice whether or not to have your biological family in your life. But for adoptees, former foster youth, and donor conceived persons, we don’t have a choice. DNA and biology mean so much more to us BECAUSE we were robbed of it as children, when we had no say in the matter.

It’s also really easy for you to say “biology/DNA doesn’t matter” when you have never had to worry that the pain in your breast could be breast cancer in your early 30s, because you know nothing about your family medical history; or when you have never had to worry about what hereditary diseases you may be passing on to your own children; or when you’ve never had to put “adopted, history unknown” on an intake form for a doctor’s appointment. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you’ve never had your children ask why none of their cousins look anything like them. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you aren’t having to explain for the thousandth time how your siblings could be so much older than you. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you don’t have people asking if you’re actually your mother’s grandchild when you’re standing up at her funeral, because you’re so much younger than all her other children. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you’ve never felt like a stranger in your own family.

So please, next time you find yourself about to say “DNA doesn’t matter,” think about how that sounds to people like us, who didn’t get to choose whether we grew up with biological connections. It f***ing hurts when people are telling us that the one thing we can’t have, and the one thing we want more than anything else, “doesn’t matter.” Trust me: DNA MATTERS. And if you didn’t have access to your own genetic mirrors, you would realize that.

It helped my niece when she understood that her body was exactly as her genes intended it to be. Among the many ways adoptees are expected to be something they are not, it is to fulfill some idea the adoptive mother has that she can remake the child’s physical presentation into what she wants it to be. Clearly not a realistic expectation but you would be surprised at how common it is.

When I saw the photo of my maternal grandmother holding my mom for the last time at surrender, I understood that her Scottish farm girl body was the whole reason we were built like we were. Learning who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) has brought me so much peace with my appearance. Too bad my parents never had that opportunity. Seeing people who look like you, because they share many of the same genes makes such a difference in a person’s life. Seeing how much my paternal aunt looks like my dad or how much my dad not only looks remarkably like his father but they even shared the same interests in life, somehow – these all make everything make so much natural sense.

My sons are donor conceived. At the time we chose that path to parenthood, inexpensive DNA testing was not a reality. Fortunately, being as ignorant as we were about issues I’m so much more informed about now, somehow we still made all the best choices given our circumstances. Our egg donor is known to us – not intimately but well enough. Of course, the boys have had their father as an important male genetic mirror. However, from the beginning, I could see the donor in my sons faces and especially similarities with her biological children. It always made me smile as a reminder of the gift she gave us. Fortunately for the boys, they are 100% genetically related.

Recently, the oldest half-sibling got married and the youngest was the best man. Though my sons are fully informed about their origins and the reason they were conceived in the manner they were, I literally forced them to look at photos of these half-brothers and current photos of the egg donor. One seems more interested than the other but I made them look anyway. True we have been in the donor’s presence more than once but not of her children. But time passes. I want them to know what these people look like – at least. They have direct access to her and the one that recently married through 23 and Me without my involvement – if they want to communicate privately. So far, they don’t seem to need or want that but its there if they did.

I know families in my personal donor conceived circle (we’ve been collected together as a mutual support group of 20 families for 18 years now) who made other choices not to be honest with their conceived children. I won’t judge their own choices but I have been forever grateful we have handled our own choices the way that we have – with total transparency and honesty. It was so much more important than we ever imagined at the time we were doing what felt ethical and correct to us at the time.

It’s A Fundamental Human Right

I certainly understand the need to know. I believe one of the purposes that I came into this lifetime was to heal some missing family history. I believe because I was aligned with my dharma, doors opened and answers revealed themselves. That black hole void beyond my parents became whole with ancestors stretching way back and into Denmark and Scotland as well as the English and Irish.

I believe in the principle that it’s a fundamental human right to know one’s genetic identity. I remember once talking to a woman who was trying to understand why it mattered that both of my parents were adopted if they had a good life. As I tried to explain it to her, she suddenly understood. She took her own genetic ancestry for granted because she knew that if she had any reason to want to know, she could discover all the details.

Not so for many adoptees with sealed and closed records (which was the case with my parents adoptions) and not so for donor conceived people whose egg or sperm donors chose to remain anonymous – many doing it for the money – and walking away from the fact that a real living and breathing human being exists because of a choice they made. Today, inexpensive DNA testing has unlocked the truth behind many family secrets. Some learn one (or both) of the parents who raised them are not their genetic parent from a DNA test. A family friend might tell a person mourning the death of their dad at his funeral, that their father suffered from infertility and their parents used a sperm donor to conceive them.

These types of revelations can be earth shattering for some people. I’ve know of someone recently who was thrown that kind of loop. The process of coping with such a revelation is daunting and life-changing regardless. Even for my own self, learning my grandparents stories has changed my perspectives in ways I didn’t expect, when I first began the search into my own cultural and genetic origins.

There is a term for this – misattributed parentage experience (MPE). It has to do with the fact that you did not grow up knowing your genetic parent.  That word – experience – best describes the long-term effects. It is not an “event,” a one-time occurrence. The ramifications of MPE last a lifetime to some degree.  I know how it feels, trying to get to know people, who have decades of life experience that I was not present for or even aware of. It is not possible to recover that loss. One can only go forward with trying to develop a forward relationship and whatever gems of the past make themselves known are a gift.

There are 3 primary communities with MPE in their personal histories.

[1] Non-paternity event (NPE): those conceived from an extramarital affair, tryst, rape or assault, or other circumstance

[2] Assisted conception: those conceived from donor conception (DC), sperm donation, egg donation, embryo donation, or surrogacy

[3] Adoption: those whose adoption was hidden, orphans, individuals who’ve been in foster care or are late discovery adoptees (LDA), etc.

There are also 3 primary topics for raising awareness and developing reform efforts – education, mental health and legislation. Right To Know is an organization active on all of these fronts and issues. They are advocates for people whose genetic parent(s) is not their supportive or legal parent(s). They work to promote a better understanding of the complex intersection of genetic information, identity, and family dynamics in society at large.

Epigenetics At Work

Adoption does not just negatively affect the adoptee emotionally. Adoption affects their children … for life! You know, the hopeful adoptive parent’s and adoptive parent’s future grandchildren! It has nothing to do with how great an adoptive parent you are to that child. Separation trauma is imprinted in our brains and that experience changes our DNA.

So if that trauma from being separated from your mother, then later in life resulted in you having anxiety, bouts of depression, anger issues or any other mental health challenge, rest assured you likely passed these traits onto your kids.

Adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents: This is NOT ok. It is NOT ok to screw up future generations, just because you want to build your family but can’t you can’t conceive naturally, are infertile. That is some serious selfish crap.

Your choices affect not only your adopted kids, but their children – your grandchildren, even your great grandchildren. These issues are not coming from their biological genetic family – as so many adoptive parents prefer to project the causes onto other people. They are coming directly from the act of adoption. You, the adoptive parents, contributed to this in a very big way. You bear responsibility.

Sit with that.

Rant aside – here’s an example –

My grandfather was “adopted” but I put it in quotation marks because he didn’t know that he was adopted until after his adoptive parents passed and my father was a young adult. Our family does *not* talk about it. But my brother and cousin and I all have a difficult time with believing in relationship permanence. We constantly expect relationships to just pull a 180 on us, despite not being able to point to any particular extreme example of this in our own lives. Alternatively, my grandmother and uncles grew up in a group home. She later went on to teach there. When I think of my “heritage” that’s usually the first place that comes to mind. Those were the people at my family reunions who could tell me what my grandmother and great uncles were like and if I was like them. There’s no one to do that for my grandad because his entire community and a family betrayed him. When people ask me about the origins of my last name, I don’t know what to say because “I don’t know, they were some random awful people that found my grandfather and then lied to him for his whole life” is not the answer people are wanting to hear.

Another person had this comment –

Adoption trauma snakes its way through both the biological families and the adoptive families! ADDRESSING this truth is minimized and rarely talked about – except in adoption loss circles! I’ve been in reunion for 18 years – lived adoption loss for 50 years! I know what I am describing!!!!!The loss of a newborn baby to an agency, which then hands the baby to complete strangers is heinous! Heinous! The families affected by the loss of myself as a newborn babe are broken. Words to process the loss are hard to find. Generational affects are serious – tragic.

A more graphic description – I feel the darkness of adoption loss, coercion and money exchange for a newborn babe creates a ”creepy crawly rash of the mind” inside any person involved in the failure to protect the sanctity of the mother/child primal bond. To deal with that ugly rash – to hide it – to pretend it’s not there – to fully look at and accept what the loss of a child’s mother means to satisfy the need to feel normal (gotta have a babeeeee) would take more courage than most people can muster. Falling on the floor courage – the darkness is heavy. The rash can not be seen. The truth cannot surface. To witness the fall to the floor? Can’t unsee it – ever! Life changing. Instead….pretending adoption is just grand – best – needed – soothes that itchy rash but cannot heal the source of it.

Another story – my parent was adopted in a step-parent adoption (yet raised by biological mom), and their adoptive parent did absolutely everything to keep the other biological parent and half-siblings connected… and before this was a societal discussion. It could certainly be described as the closest to “ideal” an adoption can get. Although, there was literal abandonment on several occasions by my biological grandfather — who was adopted in a closed infant adoption. (My parent was their first child, and first biological connection.) By the time I was born, I grew up with biological and adoptive grandparents in equal measure. I just had two sets of grandparents. But I always felt something was off. I always felt “different” from my cousins (from my parent’s half-siblings), like something was wrong, but everything was fine….? It’s hard to describe even now. Learning about the effects has allowed me to understand my parent’s experience so much better and see parts of them more clearly than I did before. I showed me the ways that adoption trauma had snaked through my family and impacted my life and nervous system even though I had no first hand experience with it. And I can see the impacts even down to my daughter (who is 3 generations removed from the original trauma).The impact of generational trauma should not be underestimated!

Not Your Usual Adoption Story

Possible Triggers. Warning. Difficult Content.

An adopted woman, Christine Marie Salley’s search for her biological parents in 2018, utilizing DNA and a private investigator, has led to the identification of two bodies found buried in a remote part of the Mojave Desert in 1980.

The body of a woman, previously known as “Jane Doe 10,” has now been identified as Pamela Dianne Duffey. She was born on April 6, 1959 and estimated to be 20 years old at the time of her death. The body of a man, previously known as “John Doe 29,” has now been identified as being William Everette Lane, who was born on May 23, 1960. The victims have now been linked to an incarcerated Mississippi man, Howard Neal, age 68. The case is among the oldest cold cases the Sheriff’s Department has dealt with.

Both of the victims were estimated to have been dead for six to eight months when they were discovered. The bodies in San Bernardino County were initially discovered in November 1980 about five miles east of the town of Ludlow and a little more than a quarter-mile south of U.S. Highway 66. Ludlow is off Interstate 40 in a remote area between Barstow and Needles. Neither victim was wearing any clothing nor had any identifying information on them. An autopsy was performed and it was determined that both died of a combination of a gunshot wound and blunt force trauma. Attempts to identify the two with available resources at the time of the autopsy were unsuccessful.

In December 2018, the private investigator submitted Salley’s DNA to GEDmatch DNA and a child/parent match was indicated between Salley and Duffey’s body. Salley then learned that before her mother was considered missing, she reportedly knew and traveled with a man known as “Digger Lane,” a former Virginia prison inmate who was released in either late 1979 or early 1980. A DNA sample from Lane’s mother in Jacksonville, Florida, positively identified the male victim as Lane. Christine Marie Salley provided sheriff’s investigators with adoption paperwork and additional DNA samples.

Prior to the positive identification of the bodies, sheriff’s investigators were aware that Howard Neal, age 68, and his family previously lived in Ludlow, California and had moved to Mississippi shortly after the killings. Investigators made several attempts to interview him, however, they were not successful in securing a meeting with him until August 2017. Both of the now identified victims are believed to have been murdered by Neal. He is currently incarcerated in Mississippi for the 1981 rape and murder of his 13-year-old niece and her 12-year-old friend, as well as the murder of his brother.

In an interview, Neal provided “very little” information but gave accounts of picking up a woman hitchhiker, who left her daughter behind (one wonders what happened next in this situation, news accounts don’t answer that obvious question), and a man he described as being a “hippie.” When he tried to make advances on the woman, an argument ensued that resulted in the fatal shooting of the man. Neal then sexually assaulted the woman and also killed her. Afterwards he took the bodies to an isolated part of the desert, dug a shallow grave and buried the two.

Neal was initially sentenced to death in 1982 for the previously mentioned familial murders. His lawyer filed an appeal based on Neal’s mental status in 1990. His death sentence was commuted after he was found to be “borderline mentally challenged” following an IQ test. Neal is currently serving three life sentences.

Denial of Paternity

Today’s sticky situation . . .

We have four children, they are all siblings via mom. They are four of her six children.

Child 1&2 are adopted via foster care. Child 3 & 4 we have full custody/guardianship. Mom stated father for child 4 was transient. She didn’t want child with him or his family and wished for this child to be with siblings and have access to her (mom). Her fiancée has claimed this child and child has his last name. He is not the biological father, nor is he listed on the bc due to hospital staff interference. But mom calls him dad to the child.

We had a visit with mom & fiancée over the weekend. She disclosed that her and fiancée broke up recently and during this break she reached out to child 4’s dad and informed him of this child. He denied the child and said he is infertile and a baby is not possible.

We feel very perplexed – do we personally reach out to dad? We had decided before that this was mom’s call – her child, her choice. She values the sibling relationship a lot – and we do have contact with her oldest two children. And contact with the mom regularly. She had feared that if the dad knew, he would take the baby and never let the child see mom or the child’s siblings.

Now that dad has been informed, what is best for this child? Is it best for us to reach out to him? Is it best to leave it and allow the child to decide when she is older (and when is that age?) if she wants to pursue contact and a relationship? We never want to withhold a child from a parent or keep a parent from parenting. We also don’t want to go against mom’s wishes or break apart siblings.

Now some advice . . .

The suspected dad isn’t about to pop up and make trouble. Just leave it for now. Let mom manage this how she sees fit unless it becomes necessary to intervene. If he’s denying the child to her, and isn’t interested in the child, then it should be the mom that communicates the reality to the child in question. It isn’t your place to take matters into your own hands. You can let the mom know that he can reach out to you, if he desires to. Is this man afraid he will be saddled with child support ? That is often a big disincentive to involvement.

That said, any child deserves to know who their biological father is, especially if there aren’t any safety issues as to why they shouldn’t. Maybe after he has some time to cool off and calm down, he would be willing to do a paternity test. It is easy to understand that he is right to be angry and irritated. A child that is potentially of him was purposely kept from him. Ask mom for basic information, so you have it for the child.

Finally this, Are you willing to pay for a DNA test ? If so, I’d reach out and offer to pay for that, so he can have peace of mind (and your child can know). You can do cheek swabs by mail without meeting up. If you’re not willing/ able to pay, I would leave it alone for now but save any information you can acquire for your child as they grow up.

August Rush

Did I ever write about this movie here ? It is one of my favorites.

While not the story of an adoption, it is the story of mother child separations. It is about a baby taken by deception shortly after birth and placed in an orphanage. It is about genetics. About deep bonds. Both of his parents are musicians – one classical and one modern. It is Robin Williams as a villain.

The music is wondrous and the music brings his natural parents together at a moment of improbable but tear jerking reunion.

I highly recommend it.

Against The Odds

A little over 20 years ago, after 10 years of marriage, my husband decided he wanted to become a father after all. True, he had been glad I had already given birth to a daughter, so there was no pressure on him because I had already been there, done that. Imagine my surprise when over a couple of Margaritas at a Mexican restaurant, he told me “I’ve been thinking” and my mouth actually dropped open in utter amazement. When I recovered from my own shock, I said OK.

We had seen a news clip that women who conceive at an older age live longer. I was 44 years old at the time. My GPs nurse practitioner during a counseling session over my cholesterol levels learned I was trying to conceive (we’d been doing all the usual things – timing intercourse, ovulation predictors and pregnancy tests – to no avail). She said to me, “I’m not saying you are infertile but at your age, you have no time to waste” and referred me to her own fertility specialist who was also an OB.

The night before our appointment, we saw another news clip that indicated my chances of conceiving were technically zero due to my age. I remember going to the place alongside the perennial stream that flows past our house to the gravel bar where I married my husband. Hugging our witness tree, I cried because my husband married a woman too old to give him what he was now wanting.

At the doctor’s office, we saw the very last egg in my ovary on ultrasound. The doctor gave us some kind of shot to give it a boost but it failed to produce a pregnancy. While we were there, he said to us – there is another way – and described donor egg technology to us. We utilized a website for matching couples with women volunteering to donate their fertile eggs. We selected one that my husband noted, one of her answers matched my own philosophies in life. She turned out to be a good choice. A mother with 3 children already of her own. She has donated to at least one other couple we know of but we do not know the outcome of that effort for not all assisted reproductive technology efforts succeed. In my online cycle group, only about 50% did.

The doctor in the town our donor was living in at that time did 4 procedures that year with only one success – ours.

Having now learned about the way an infant bonds with its mother in the womb, I’m grateful we rejected adoption as our means to becoming parents. Our donor subsequently donated a second time to help us conceive our second son. Therefore, our two sons are fully genetically and biologically the same – and yet very different people. They have their natural father as a mirror as well. Each of them is some part but not wholly the same as their dad. I marvel that I must love my husband a lot to want 3 of him – though of course, as I just acknowledged that is not 100% the truth.

At some point I became aware of a woman in my Mothers Via Egg Donation online support community who was researching a book. It is titled Creating Life Against The Odds – The Journey From Infertility To Parenthood. The author is Ilona Laszlo Higgins MD FACOG. For contributing our experience to her research, I was given a signed copy of her book. She wrote in the title page – “To Deborah and Stephen who undertook this special journey to bring Simeon and Treston into their lives! With love, Lonny”

Today, my oldest son celebrates his 20th birthday. I have referred to him as my savior because it was in trying to conceive him that I discovered I was positive for hepatitis C. Otherwise, I may have destroyed my liver without ever knowing this virus was there by drinking too many alcoholic based drinks. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since learning about it.

I had to fight with the doctors at the hospital where my c-section took place 20 years ago today to be allowed to breastfeed my son. The lactation consultants there came to my defense. I nursed him for over a year (and at 18 months, each boy tested negative for the hepC virus). When he was about 3 months old, we embarked on a long journey that eventually caused us to traverse through about half of these United States in the Eastern part of the continent. I nursed him in public everywhere we went and to be honest, I had the right kind of clothes to do so with subtlety.

I share all of this to encourage women struggling with any kind of infertility to consider this method. Your baby will be born to the woman in who’s womb the baby grew, who’s heartbeat and internal processes has been the background noise of its development, who’s voice the baby has always known. This is all every baby that is born desires in life – to be with its natural mother. My sons do not have my genes but in every other way, no other person is more their mother than I am.

Not long ago, I read an essay by a woman with a great attitude. She was donor conceived. She accepts that she would simply not be who and how she is any other way. It is my hope that my sons will also understand their origins with that clarity of acceptance. It isn’t all that different than my own self understanding that if both of my parents had not been given up for adoption, I would not exist.

Sometimes the honest truth is the best. We have always been truthful with our sons without making a big issue about their conception. With the advent of inexpensive DNA testing, I’m glad we chose the path often referred to in donor conception support groups as “tell”. Their donor did 23 and Me. Then, I gifted my husband with a kit, then my oldest son with a kit and finally my youngest son with a kit. The youngest one was only slightly disappointed that he didn’t have any of my genes. But I am still “Mom” to him and we remain very close at heart – where it truly does matter.