Research and Reflections on Donor Conception

The topic I want to talk about today is coming out of my journey forward to become a mom through C@lifornia Conceptions (CC) and donor embryos... it's the question of, "How important is knowing our genetic history and connecting with others who share this history?"

I'm reading the book, "Finding Our Families," right now, which focuses more on children conceived with donor sperm and having one biological parent, but relates in many ways to all children conceived with donor gametes on male or female side or both. I wanted to read it because I wanted to reflect and find more information about using donor embryos and the experiences of the families and children in these situations. I also watched MTV's, "Generation Cryo."

The insights I've gained include:
  1. When you tell the child seems to make a huge difference. The earlier the better seems to be the general consensus, but sharing information in a developmentally appropriate way is key. I have heard many shares and conversations about this on SMC blogs and discussion pages, and I know there is a lot of learned wisdom and books to help with this.
  2. Different children will respond in different ways and some may want to talk about and be very interested in hearing as much information as possible, while others may not be that interested, at least not at first. The advice I've read is to follow the child's lead and try not to take any reactions personally.
  3. Related to not taking reactions personally, the FOF book specifically recommends working out our own feelings, issues, and questions because the kid will read these and may be limited by us in expressing their feelings or authentically expressing or receiving what they want in this area. This includes grieving for dreams that we weren't able to fulfill, like having a biological child.
  4. Finally, there are many people who have gone before me/us and paved the way to successfully search for donors and donor siblings and to build relationships with them, if we choose. I know some of you have connected and met with sibling groups and I appreciate even more, now, what you shared about these experiences.

My personal reflection includes focusing on my own experience of losing my mom at the age of four and feeling myself as though I were lacking pieces of my identity growing up. How I felt relieved in my 20's to get a box of her stuff, including several photo albums and possessions of hers, and experienced additional growth in my sense of identity and satisfaction in my 30's when I connected with her best friend growing up and in early adulthood and heard a lot of new stories and insights about my birth mom, as well as feedback about how alike or not alike she thought we were. I also met several other close friends of hers later at a reunion, which was wonderful.

I know that the way my father dealt (or more accurately didn't deal) with my birth mom's death affected me a LOT and affected my grieving process and my own identity. He made it seem shameful and like something that should not be talked about. I got the message that I'm lucky he remarried and I have a mom who is just like my mom because I was so young when they married (not true). I felt different within my family and felt a different relationship with my mom (step-mom) than my sister and brother but, because this was never acknowledged, I had to make sense of it in childlike ways that were not accurate, and I felt worse about myself because of it. This did not have to be the case if they would have talked about it more openly and made space for me to ask questions and talk about my feelings. I felt very emotionally isolated in my family. All this motivates me to do things much differently when I have a child. I know my situation was different in that I was five when my dad and mom (step-mom) married and my sister and brother were both from their marriage, but there are many similarities.

I am having thoughts that I really wish my child could know one biological parent. I feel sad that they can't even have a genetic connection with my family and know biologically related cousins and aunts and uncles, etc., though I know they will still have them and feel part of the family. I have no doubt I will love them as much as I would a biological child, and I'm excited about the opportunity to carry them and connect with them and contribute to their formation all throughout pregnancy. I have the skills and tools and commitment to communicate well with them about their origins, but I wish I could give them more.

At this point, I have a sense that I might become an advocate for donor-conceived children in some way (maybe all parents of donor-conceived children are) and help them to find any information they want to find, including pursuing finding their donors. I know this may be a controversial view. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that if someone donates eggs or sperm to create a child, whether they were capable of considering it at the time, they should come to understand the child's longing to know more about their genetic origins. Of course, if we found the donor(s) and they did not want to get to know the child, I would respect that, but I would hope they would answer questions over email or mail, including any health or medical information not initially provided or known.

The existence of the Donor Sibling Registry gives me great joy! I'm so grateful to these people for founding an developing it and will no doubt be part of it. The other great discovery I've made is that CC families have an online group and a secret FB group, and the women on there are so totally awesome and supportive. We can connect with one another using file numbers and can find out further male donor information because CC gives the first name of the donor and the bank. So, I know I can connect with donor siblings, both half and hopefully full, through these means.

All this reflection also led me to further research about using a donor egg and my brother's sperm. I know, that just sounds totally bizarre and brings up feelings around incestuous taboos, but it is actually genetically no different then using your sister's egg and donor sperm which many folks have done, and the places I contacted said that yes, this is definitely an option. Unfortunately, the price is nowhere near as affordable as CC at over 30 thousand. So even if I wanted to make that choice, I cannot afford it, which I feel disappointment about. I do feel good about considering this and researching all options so that when I explain my process to my child, I can say I did think about their feelings and explore all options I knew of.

I would love to hear any of your stories, reflections, or advice, if you're willing to share? Please let me know in comments if you would like to communicate over email. Thanks for reading and going through this experience with me. Overall, I'm really excited and grateful about the CC choice!


An Eventful Last Week - Friends, Family, and Fertility

My trip to Oregon was awesome! Three favorite parts:
  1. Meeting with three awesome friends Friday night at a local wine bar/restaurant and a fourth joining us at the end (these were my peeps throughout the weekend). We immediately launched into familiar dynamics and reminiscing and laughter. So fun! I forgot how funny my high school friends were! It's been 15-20 years since I had seen two of them, so it's pretty amazing we just picked back up and felt close right away. We went on to have an awesome time connecting with our other classmates at the pizza parlor we frequented in high school, especially after football games - it hadn't changed! 
  2. Walking downtown to the Saturday Market the next morning with my brother, sis-in-law and two little nieces. A nice outing in beautiful Eugene, time to catch up, and a tasty crepe breakfast down at the market. Here's a pic from our outing (sis-in-law is taking pic). 
  3. Walking down to pick up my older niece and nephew - My Dad was out of town, so Zoey and I enjoyed staying at his condo, which is three blocks down from where my sis now lives in Mom and Dad's former house - then walking to the mall across the street to have lunch and paint pottery. Love being creative with kids! My poor niece, J, was feeling under the weather but with some liquid ibuprofen she toughed it out. She painted me a snake after I had raved about a snake my nephew had painted back at their house, which was so sweet. I can't wait to get my snake and place it in a place of prominence in my house! My nephew, E, was so cute and painted a sporty football with both he and his mom's name on it for her birthday, so they could place it in the trailer they've recently acquired and have loved spending time in lately.
After this trip, I am optimistic that my closest high school friends and I will stay in better touch. There were a few other friends with whom it was nice to hang out, as well, including one who works at the state university in Bend and said she could help me get a counseling job there (!). I could theoretically rebuild my business anywhere... My family had a house in Bend and goes there regularly, and I've always loved the area. But on the negative side, I feel like I just got settled here in this house with my new housemate, plus my plans to become preggo in the near future at CA Conceptions clinic not far from where I live. If I did get the job, though, it would pay well, and I could probably fly down for procedures and get a lot of testing done locally. We will see... I'm not sure if maybe I wasn't just feeling the love from the reunion and wanting that to continue.

Speaking of CA Conceptions, I got my saline sonogram done last week! Woo hoo! It was painful! I think the doctor doing the procedure was not as skilled as he professed to be, as there was another doc in there giving him guidance at times. But he got the job done, and the great news is that I'm all clear! I thought I would be since I had fibroid surgery a couple years ago, but it was great to have it confirmed. I have a small fibroid way in the back of the uterus that he said should not be an issue. I also was weighed and they told me I need to lose *3 pounds* to qualify for the refund option. I should be able to do that, right? Right! My housemate said she could give me a diuretic from her work if needed. lol I feel like a wrestler trying to hit my fighting weight.

I also started my new "for now" part-time job this week - so far, so good after a couple of days. More on that later. Hope you all have a great weekend!

p.s. I finally started my cycle the Friday of my trip to Oregon. It was a pain dealing with it at the events, but I was just so glad to get it, I didn't care. I feel so much better. And the doc saw two cysts on one ovary, which he said probably caused the hormone balance and delay. So peri-menopause is not the culprit on this one...unless it causes cysts? But the doc also said I had very few follicles happening on my ovaries, which aligns with my age.



OMG, I am so frustrated today! For one thing I was woken up by freakin' house builders readying the outside for the work they'll do on the bathroom this afternoon. It's work that needs to get done, but hammering and power tools is not a great alarm clock or background noise. I'm leaving in a few minutes to work out. I have an interview this afternoon with the brain injury support organization. Seems like a really good "for now" part-time opportunity, and I do hope I get it. But that adds to the stress, of course. Plus leaving for Oregon tomorrow. Plus I *still* haven't started my cycle! I asked my doctor via email and she said her guess was, wait for it, perimenopause. ha Well, I guess it probably is but it's so strange when you experience symptoms you've never experienced in your life. It's also continuing to delay my scheduling the saline sonogram. sigh. Well, better run, thanks for listening to my vent.



So, it's been about 5 weeks since my last cycle - 35 days! Argh. Isn't it classic that when you actually want your cycle to come, it won't? I can't schedule my saline sonogram for the C@lifornia Conceptions program until my cycle comes. The past couple days it feels like it might be starting to come but then, no. Please say a prayer to the menstruation gods for me.

In other news, my new housemate, L, moved in and so far, so good! I have had a few little flashbacks of how I used to feel living with the former crazy mean housemate, then I remember and relax. I don't need to worry about every little thing setting her off. I don't need to tiptoe around and try and anticipate her needs or her moods. L apologized yesterday for leaving a cup in the sink - I said, "No worries, I'd like that freedom sometimes, too, when we are in a hurry or at the end of the night." Cool! Communication and easy going-ness. And she likes Zoey! She asked me - of course you can! :) - then took her out on a long walk yesterday and Z loved it, of course. It's kind of cool that she's a nurse, too, in case of an injury or to ask her opinion on health stuff.

On the job search front, I have an interview next week for a resource specialist position with a brain injury organization. I have been applying for a few jobs outside of college counseling and getting more positive responses. It only pays half as much as college counseling :(, but as I tell my clients, it would be a "for now" job. I'm just really wanting to get some more money coming in to supplement my business income before my unemployment runs out, and so that I can move forward with my baby-making plans! My fingers are double crossed that, in the end, I do get a part-time counseling job at the college closest to me, but in the meanwhile, I'm going to branch out and go for other things. I did get two new clients, so that's exciting, too.

Next Thursday, I head to Oregon to see family and attend my 30th high school reunion. I'm a little nervous but mainly looking forward to it. The people organizing it are super friendly and encouraging everyone to come, even if you haven't lost that weight or made a million bucks. lol Zoey is getting vaccinations updated AND a bath and nail trim to get trip-ready before we leave. I am going to get my nails/toes painted and get a haircut. My dad will be out of town most of the time and I'm staying at his townhouse. He stopped seeing my aunt from Nebraska, which we were all glad about, and has been dating an age-appropriate, non-familial, local woman who seems like a great match for him. Funny how men often take up with someone new so quickly, though. My dad had a clear intention to find another partner and didn't want to be alone after all these years being married. Anyway, I'll see him for a day when he comes back and my sister and brother and families will be in town. A couple reunion events are open to all alumni, so my brother is coming to the Sunday afternoon gathering at a well-known micro-brew pub which should be fun.

I'm heading out in a couple of hours to a birthday party for a friend from my 6-month EOL leadership program. She has terminal pancreatic cancer so it's kind of a goodbye party. I feel sad and wish she had a lot more time. We weren't super close but she is a really good person and she made that big donation to my campaign, for which I will forever feel grateful (as I do for all the donations). This one was surprisingly huge, and I'm going to thank her again in a card and look forward to giving her a big hug.

Quick S update before I sign off... He saw the doctor and had an exam a couple days ago and his healing looks great! So he will get the ileostomy reversal surgery. The bad news is that apparently in the month after surgery, it's really tough and he would not be able to travel. He has two trips in October, and he was hoping to have the surgery done beforehand. Looks like he will have to wait until he gets back. But overall, it's great news! We may get together before I leave for Oregon. His birthday is next week. It's kind of strange... he feels like he was the slighted or rejected one in our break-up, even though he was the one who made the decision that he did not want to be a father, knowing how important that was to me. And stated it in no uncertain terms like he was drawing a line in the sand, which to me "felt" like breaking up. As baffling as it is to me, he insists that he did not expect that to lead to a break-up and felt like I "chose motherhood over him." I flat out told him on the phone the other night that I thought that showed a huge ego, and he didn't deny it. Frustrating and sad. I do seem to be in a better place right now and more open to friendship, but I'm not sure we will be able to move into that anytime soon. Time will tell I guess.

Hope you have a great weekend! I'm enjoying reading about all the summer activities...Hopefully I can spend a few hours out at the reservoir with my sister's family when I go home and do some swimming.


Things on my mind

I'm going to do a bullet post of "Things on my mind." How's that for general? :)

Things on my mind:
  • Good stuff first! I found a housemate! We signed the sub-lease yesterday and she's moving in this evening. After having a couple months on my own, it will be an adjustment, but we are both Introverts and she seems to have really positive energy so I'm optimistic.
  • Also, I had a last minute super-generous campaign donation from a friend, so the campaign total ended at about $2100! Super appreciative and grateful about that. I'm holding funds in a separate account to add to my own savings and hopefully a loan (will apply as soon as a nail down a part-time counseling job). I can schedule the required saline sonogram as soon as my cycle arrives.
  • I signed two new clients last week, leading to the highest week of income yet for my business: $1800. This is great timing, as I have additional costs upcoming with Zoey needing a routine vet visit and grooming, then traveling to Oregon for my high school reunion next Thursday. Oh, and I just remembered I need an oil change, too!
  • In other news, I wanted to follow up on my posts about the online date with the guy who had borderline A$pergers. I did let him know that I would like to be friends but felt we weren't compatible enough for a romantic relationship. I said I would understand if that didn't interest him, since he was looking for a romantic relationship. He hasn't replied, so I think that assumption is true... wishing him well.
  • S find out this Thursday whether he can have the ileostomy reversed surgically in the near future. Despite our tension and lack of clarity right now - we are only talking every week or two - I am still praying for great news and a full recovery for him. Please send good thoughts.
  • I am feeling stressed today... my monthly cycle is due any moment, which I am sure is contributing. The house will be cleaned today for my housemates move-in, and my "clean before the cleaner gets here" is not done and won't be done as I would like. Oh well. Also, I'm heading over to my landlord's house soon (he lives in a cottage next door) to go over and sign a new lease and pay some money. It will be good when it's done but it's kind of stressful and tedious.
Okay that's the news from Lake Martinez (in honor of Prairie Home Companion - Garrison Keeler's retirement). Hope you are enjoying your summer so far.