Monday, November 05, 2007

Selfish Parenting???

I can’t help but think that when I read about the reasons why people choose to keep a child’s conception secret that they are being selfish. The secret is there purely to serve their own interests and are an attempt to avoid any conflict or strain while implementing a false façade of a traditional nuclear family.

After spending a relatively short period of time parenting myself, I have come to the conclusion that the whole concept of parenting is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the parent themselves and everything to do with the child. The needs and welfare of the child are paramount and those of the parent are subservient or even non-existent. This is the way it should be and is the quintessential model of true parental love. Yet it appears that in many ways that under donor conception practices and typically those keeping “the secret” that this model is turned upside down and that the needs of the parent is now above those of the child. Perhaps the intense drive to procreate and the emotional rollercoaster of infertility un-balances the scales and resets a parent’s ability to determine whose needs are paramount as the focus has been on their need for so long.

Deception of ones origin is never in the best interests of the child. The damage that can be done down the track when “the secret” is inadvertently or accidentally revealed may never be undone. Yet is just keeping “the secret the only part of selfish parenting”?

The question then would follow is: “Are people that choose to have a child via donor conception being selfish because of the possible implications for that child?”

Is the deprivation of a child’s identity, heritage and kinship with their genetic father/mother, siblings etc ever in the best interests of the child? By putting the desire to “have” a child above the welfare of the child we are once again tipping the scales towards selfish parenting. After all you never “have” a child, they are not objects to be owned, as parents we are merely guardians of another soul.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Is Love All That Matters?

Many people state when utilising donor conception or adoption that love is all that matters. In a very simple world it would in some ways be nice if it was. But the world, our lives, our relationships and our families are anything but simple.
If love is all that matters, then why are divorce rates so high? These couples were so in love with each other that they got married but they then developed irreconcilable differences and they can quite often end up being very bitter towards each other. It is a sad and simple fact that not all love is permanent. What is permanent however, are biological/genetic connections. These can never fade or be erased. You are either related to someone through blood and genes or you are not. This is where the phrase blood is thicker than water originally stems from. Biological relations who sometimes experience difficulties will come together in times of need, where non-biological ones would not. It has formed the basis of our culture and our humanity for thousands of years, yet donor conception attempts to degrade this foundation by eroding the physical and emotional connections between a donor father/mother and their offspring.
Adults will do anything for their own children including giving up their own lives but they very rarely would do the same for another couples child. Why? It is the preservation of the next generation, the continuation of your genes and the keeping of the family unit. Donor conception blurs the edges of the otherwise definable family unit. No longer are the raising parents always the biological ones, who on the other hand are lurking in the shadows. Perhaps never to be seen or heard, yet forever present. Can love help smooth out these blotches in the family unit? Sometimes it can but if the relationships within this unit become strained for whatever reason, the foundation can be eroded even further. This has adverse consequences for both the child and non-biological parent.
When we see that numerous donor offspring are experiencing emotional pain from kinship loss, incomplete identity and family health histories who are also from families that are still intact with all parties that love each other we have to question whether Love Is All That Matters.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Donor Conception and Counselling

This area gives me a great deal of concern. All people wanting to undertake a donor conception program are usually required to undertake at least one counselling session. All fine and good. The problem is that the counselling session is provided by the clinic with their own counsellors. There is a complete conflict of interest here as the counsellors have a vested interest and are not impartial to the whole process. Their very job is dependent on the clinics getting enough patients to pay their salary. So it is not in either their own or the clinics best interest to turn prospective patients away as being unsuitable or to provide them with every bit of information on the subject which may persuade them to change their minds about pursuing that course of action. Their best interest is obviously to have as many photos of happy couples holding their new bundle of joy up on their clinic walls.
This may seem to be a cynical view but when you consider that counsellors are rarely if ever seen at donor conception conferences that involve stories or reports of offspring and their experiences, they do not inform the prospective parents that there is a possibility the child may be unhappy with their conception, and they do not offer follow up sessions 1, 5 or 10 years down the track to determine how things are doing then this cynical view is pretty close to the truth. It would be assumed that they too would have learnt from the experiences of the adopted generation but they have failed to listen. They claim to always have the best interests of the child at heart but obviously the heart has failed to communicate this belief to the brain.
If donor conception is to continue then surely independent counsellors should be employed by the governement rather than the clinics, ones that are educated on all the issues surrounding DC while providing more than one session in the early stages and also be following up in the years to come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Catch 22 of Being Happy With My Opposition to DC

As I mentioned previously, I used to be happy, almost proud of my mode of conception and supported its use until I had children of my own. Once I had come to the realisation that what it in fact did do to me and also my own children, I started a downward spiral.
The problem is once you have realised the terrible pain and loss that yourself and your own children have and are suffering it makes it difficult to be happy about your conception. Simply because the more distress it causes you the more you think about it and the more you think about it the more pain it produces. Hence the catch 22 and the never ending cycle.
Sometimes I wish I was still back in my happy little conception world where I was oblivious to the problems and loss it had caused. To be naïve about it and continue on life’s little path not paying much attention to it at all. But I know I can never go back there.
It would be nice to follow a more Buddhist philosophy with regards to suffering in this context, in that I should not feed the fire that causes the burning. As in some way the suffering can be seen as being self-induced due to the emotions I put into it even though I am in a situation not of my own choice. However, to do so would be to also extinguish the concept of family and kinship which is so central to our whole society and our own humanity.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Response to Donor Egg Story

This is a letter that I wrote in response to a donor egg story and which was published in the Dec/Jan issue of Adelaide's Child.

Jacqueline Tomlins in her story Life Cycles on egg donation fails to mention any effects that being donor conceived has on the child and how their rights are being infringed upon. Being a donor conceived person myself it is always frustrating when reading these stories, however heart felt they may be that they never take in the perspective of the person that really matters, that is the child.

Her story mentions that donors are required to remain anonymous and that the legal issues are governed by the South Australian Council for ReproductiveTechnologies. The SACRT is only an advisory council, the legal issues are actually governed by the Reproductive Technologies Act. The SACRT has however recognised the problem associated with anonymous donations and has strongly recommended that anonymous donations cease. This is also in line with theNational Health and Medical Research Council's stand on the issue. Our own legislation does allow for anonymity yet it also states the the welfare of the child is paramount. These two factors are mutually exclusive.

In addition the practice of donor conception contravenes the UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child to which Australia is a signatory. Article 7 states that a child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Given that less than 30% of children are even told about their conception (Monash report) and the fact that in SA, offspring are not entitled to identifying information about their donor, many will never know who their genetic father/mother really is. Article 8 states that the child has a right to his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations. All of these are stripped from a child as a process of donor conception.

The main premise of using donor conception over adoption is that both the infertile couple and the clinics all recognise the importance of at least one of them being genetically related to their child. This is a double standard in that the other genetic connection is now viewed as being disposable. It is both morally and ethically wrong to choose on behalf of the child which biological connection will remain and which will be thrown away as they are equally both important. Not only does it remove a biological father/mother from the child it also removes any siblings. The adverse effects of adoptionon the welfare of the child has been recognised for decades with the identity and loss of biological connection issues experienced by them being mirrored inthose of the donated generation.

Tomlins states "the biggest stumbling block for women is how they see the resulting child". This child is no different from any of their own children in that the factors that make up this child, it's DNA, is the same. The only difference is the emotional and monetary input that goes into raising the child. This DNA will govern how the child will look, many of it's interests and in many cases how it behaves. While it was previously thought that much ofa person's personallity was environamentally driven it is being discovered that more and more of it is in fact genetically derived. This is no more apparent than in those identical twins that have been separated at birth that have grown up still leading rather identical lives and interests. Many donor offspring once being reunited with their donor have finally been able to place certain looks and character traits that is not evident in their raising family directly to their donor. To be able to do so provides the offspring with a greater sense of completeness as they otherwise only have half the picture of who they are.

Tomlins states " that it is quite common for donors to meet the baby". This is clearly incorrect as the Monash study shows that only 30% of offspring are aware of their conception. The rest have been deceived about their origins, yet many once they discover later on in their lives about their conception they will often remark about how they didn't seem to fit properly. Out of this 30%,an even smaller amount will ever meet their donor. For those born in the 60s,70s and early 80s the numbers are even lower with many offspring unable to access any records (even non-identifying) as they have been either destroyed or just not kept.

In her statement that "Their children have a special story, they say, a story of which they are proud", Tomlins is only referring to point in which the child is only a child. As they grow older their views may change, some will, some won't. The point is that as a juvenile you are too busy being a child to be concerned with identity issues and family relations. These don't surface until teenage years and in some instances not until adulthood. For me personally it did not change until I was 28 and had children of my own. Until that time I was a supporter of donor anonymity and also reasonably proud of myorigins. Now it is completely the opposite. Through my own childrens eyes I have been able to recognise the unbreakable bond that flesh and blood gives us. No matter what may ever happen between my wife and myself, or whatever mayhappen to me, I will always be my children's father. Nothing can ever change that. As soon as I thought about how it would break my heart that my children might ever grow up not knowing who I am, was I able to relate that to my own situation of being donor conceived. I was able to fully understand how the severance of my biological connection with my father had deprived me of family relations, it has left me with only knowing half of who I am, and has given me a different family name than the one I otherwise should have. It has also deprived me of a family heritage and family health history. I cannot answer health surveys or questions from doctors acurrately which can adversely affect my health. I was also unable to answer all of the questions in our recent national census.

I still love both of my parents as much as I ever could, and the death of my father when I was 10 was the single most devastating loss of my life. Yet this love does not fill the void both myself and many other donor offspring experience as a direct result of being donor cenceived. While I can understand how heart wrenching infertility is now that I have children of my own, what many recicpients need to also understand is that they are making very serious decisions on behalf of this child that will grow up into an adult with feelings of their own. Their emotional pain of infertility may be passed on into emotional pain for their child.

The most important thing we hold dear in our society, is that of our family.Yet due to donor conception practices and the laws of SA, I like thousands of others will never know who my own flesh and blood is.