Uprooted

This kind of discovery is happening more and more often with the advent of inexpensive DNA testing. I belong to a circle of mom’s who all gave birth in a 4 month period of time in 2004. We have pretty much stayed in contact – at least a majority of us. At one point, way back when, our group ended up divided on the common question for those who conceived via Assisted Reproductive Technology over whether we would tell our children the truth or hide it. Some definitely chose that second path, my husband and I did not. I am grateful for that choice.

It’s not as though we’ve ever made this a big issue in our household and I’ve not made it a public issue locally as well (in the early days I received some hints of questions seeking to know). One of the strategies early on was to let our children tell if that was their choice and not make that choice for them. Only recently, have I become more outspoken about our family’s origins because – gee, I will be 68 this coming May and I have two sons, one that is almost 18 and one who will be 21 this February.

There is another strategy that we owe it to other woman who could be deceived by our having given birth at advanced ages that they have all the time in the world – as I believed in my 40s when my husband decided he wanted to be a father after all after 10 years of marriage. He was always glad I had “been there and done that” so no pressure on him to parent, as I do have one daughter who is now soon to be in her 50s and she has gifted me with two grandchildren. Then we learned how low the odds of that actually happening were due to my own advanced age. A nurse practitioner recommended her own fertility doctor saying “you don’t have time to waste.” He is the first one who told us that there was “a way” and that way for us was via egg donation.

We have stayed in contact with our donor since day one. Facebook makes that easier today. The boys have met her in person more than once but distance limits that contact. I do show them pictures from her FB page from time to time. When she tested with 23 and Me, I gifted my husband with a kit, and then when my oldest son turned 18, I gave him one, and rather than wait for the youngest one to turn 18, went ahead and gave him a kit.

Doing this also allowed us to tell our boys, now that they are older, all of the reasons that we chose to do what we did. Also to emphasize that they simply would not exist or be who they are any other way. There is no “if only” things had been different. And that no one could be more of a mother to them than I am and it is clear by their behavior towards me that I am precisely that to them even with this complete knowledge.

While it is decidedly strange to see another woman listed as their mother at 23 and Me after having carried their pregnancies in my womb and breastfeeding each of them for a year, as well as being in their lives 24/7, I do not regret making private message access to her available to them if they so choose.

I understand the yearning for truth about our genetics. Both of my parents were adoptees who died 4 months apart, still basically ignorant of their origins. My mom did try to get her adoption file (a file I now have complete possession of) in the early 1990s. Within a year of my dad’s death, I had identified all 4 of my original grandparents and have contact with some cousins and a couple of surviving aunts.

There are very real and serious issues with donor sperm. It has produced a lot of children with the same genetic paternity and has existed under a protection of privacy. Unlike egg donation which we are aware that our donor went through a painful process as well as a fraught experience with powerful drugs, it is relatively easy and painless to donate sperm, as my own husband did in order to give birth to genetically, biologically related sons (our sons do have the same maternity and paternity and so are 100% siblings). Some egg donors were also promised privacy in the early days of assisted reproduction.

Here is some information about the book, Uprooted, that I have featured today (but which I have not read) –

By his forties, Peter J. Boni was an accomplished CEO, with a specialty in navigating high-tech companies out of hot water. Just before his fiftieth birthday, Peter’s seventy-five-year-old mother unveiled a bombshell: His deceased father was not his biological, genetic father. Peter was conceived in 1945 via an anonymous sperm donor. The emotional upheaval upon learning that he was “misattributed” rekindled traumas long past and fueled his relentless research to find his genealogy. Over two decades, he gained an encyclopedic knowledge of the scientific, legal, and sociological history of reproductive technology as well as its practices, advances, and consequences. Through twenty-first century DNA analysis, Peter finally quenched his thirst for his origin.

​In Uprooted, Peter J. Boni intimately shares his personal odyssey and acquired expertise to spotlight the free market methods of gamete distribution that conceives dozens, sometimes hundreds, of unknowing half-siblings from a single donor. This thought-provoking book reveals the inner workings—and secrets—of the multibillion-dollar fertility industry, resulting in a richly detailed account of an ethical aspect of reproductive science that, until now, has not been so thoroughly explored.

The Audiobook and ebook have been available since January 4 2022. The print book is to be released tomorrow on January 25 2022.

Assisted Reproduction

Breanna Lockwood with mother Julie Loving

The 51-year-old woman served as the gestational carrier for her daughter and son-in-law and gave birth to her granddaughter. The newborn, named Briar Juliette Lockwood, is the first child for Lockwood and her husband, Aaron, who are the baby’s biological parents.

These kinds of stories based upon the miracles of assisted reproduction, always raise opinions. Among those who have dived deep into such issues this is considered, for the baby herself, probably one of the best possibilities that such medical capabilities produce.

I had my daughter at the age of 19 in all ways conventional. That marriage ended. I remarried and after 10 years of marriage, my husband informed me over Margaritas at a Mexican restaurant that he had changed his mind and actually did want to become a father.

It was too late for me. I sorrowed he had married such an old woman. Then, medical science made it possible for us. I carried, birthed and breastfed 2 sons thanks to the gift of another woman’s eggs. I gave birth at 47 and 50. There are times it comes fully upon me how old I’ll be (70) when my youngest is 20. However, my husband has been every bit the awesome father I thought he would be. Because of financial circumstances, my daughter did not live with me past the age of 3 but was raised by her father and step-mother. It was my second chance to prove to my own self that I wasn’t a failure as a mother.

Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption. In the short 3 years that I have been able to learn who all my original grandparents were (something my own parents died not knowing), I have been in this group and read so many books and while I do not think surrogacy is a good idea due to mother/child bonding in the womb and the separation that occurs after birth, I have known of two couples that did choose that route to becoming parents. It really isn’t my business but I do have concerns.

While our method of becoming parents is not perfect, we’ve always been honest with our sons about their conception. They are connected to the egg donor via 23 and Me and have met her more than once. She lives far away and so the relationships are not close. I am grateful I had the opportunity to parent, even so late in life.

Hedging Parenthood Bets

I don’t know anything about this publication but it fits my mood coming into today’s essay.

Read where one woman wrote – “We spent the last 1.5 yrs going thru the foster care process to be told during the home study that we are not eligible since we are still trying to conceive thru IVF. Either way, we still want to foster and adopt and really don’t want to wait much longer. We are 43/44 yrs old and have also been trying IVF for close to 5 yrs. Does anyone know a group that would allow us to foster or adopt while we continue IVF?”

I can honestly relate.  I conceived my oldest son at 46 thanks to IVF and another son at 49.  I won’t say it was the perfect way to have children but they would not be who they are or exist otherwise.  I love them dearly and so, can’t regret the effort behind having them.  While I had to give up passing on my own genetics to conceive them (I had actually already been there, done that, with my daughter, so it was perhaps easier for me to accept, than it is for some people), I do believe the route we took was far better than adoption.  I’ve had lots of opportunity to observe adoptees (both of my own parents) and birth mothers who gave up babies to adoption (both of my sisters).

The comments coming back to the woman above (the comments by others are not in response to my own situation) were not kind.

One wrote – what it sounds like to me is time is running out for us so we want to collect as many as possible to fill our desires before it’s not possible anymore! Also problematic because I’ve heard many adoptees talk about how they were raised by older parents and the huge generational gap caused even further issues. Older people expect old fashioned things, they don’t fit to be parenting in these times, let alone parenting traumatized children.

Well, we are older parents.  However, what I find comparing my two lives (parent at 19 and then in my late 40s) is that we are more willing to give up our own desires to meet our children’s desires where they express themselves.  There is a lot of wisdom and sometimes patience and often an intolerance for what doesn’t seem needed but we are there 24/7 for our boys.  I would not call my sons traumatized the way adopted children always are.  They do know the full truth of their origins.

I do remember my own OMG moment related to age – when I turned 60, my youngest was 10. I thought when I turn 70, he’ll only be 20. That startled me, though at 50 giving birth to him did not.  And one other thought about older parents – I know a lot of parents who died when their children were young. These parents were not old. Truth is we are all born to die, we are not guaranteed a particular length of life. Life is what it is and no two lives are the same. Also many of us live distantly from our offspring. I don’t always see my grown daughter or grandchildren even once a year. Money just isn’t there, though the visits when I am lucky enough to have one, are always precious.

One woman assessed the story above this way – #1 they are likely trying to find a child to ease their pain from infertility and replace the child they can’t have, #2 they are likely hopeful adoptive parents and will sabotage reunification from the git go which is part of any foster care effort and #3 they are likely only accepting 0-3 year olds.

Another noted –  It’s really sad that you cannot conceive, but please don’t traumatize an entire family of people with a lot less privilege than you have in order to satisfy your fantasy of a perfect life. If you want kids so much, divorce your partner, and marry a single parent with a child.

On that note, when my husband wanted to have children and I discovered how low my own odds of successfully conceiving were, I was privately sobbing, you need to marry a younger woman, but that was not what he wanted to do.

And finally, I do agree with this point of view – nobody should be trying to adopt or foster and do fertility treatments. Foster kids and adoptees aren’t backup plans. Also, nobody should try to do domestic adoption and foster to adopt. This is why therapy should be a requirement.  There’s no reason to continue IVF if you want to adopt. I’ve seen couples do IVF literally weeks after adopting. They shouldn’t adopt.