Today the next chapter in the saga of my "missing" granddaughter will have to wait, as the letters in the New York Times in response to Ross Douthat's column, The Birds and the Bees (via the Fertility Clinic) that we wrote about last week garnered a number of letters in the Times today, under that headline: A Family, No Matter How It's Created.
Well, that sums it up because that is certainly the attitude of the loudest voices out there in society. We want children! We want a family! We aren't having any the normal way! WAAAH! (forgetting to add that most of the people with conception issues are past the age when fertility is at its peak). Yes, I know there will be commenters who will write and say, You are too cold, what about pollution, my mother was 46, disease, etc., but folks, look at the statistics. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says it well:
"As women delay childbearing, there is now an unrealistic expectation that medical science can undo the effects of aging."Every individual and couple is unique and could be more fertile or less fertile as compared to the average for their age. Some 30 year-olds already have significantly diminished egg quality and dwindling supplies of eggs, and some 43 year-olds can be fertile. There are no guarantees that an individual woman will have a slow and smooth drop in her fertility potential as she ages. Although rare, it is possible to have a rapid decline in egg quantity and quality as early as the teens or twenties.
One letter--the first one!--in the Times today is from the medical director of Princeton IVF, Seth G. Derman, whose job obviously depends on supplying what infertile couples are buying. Derman writes that to deny the people who pay his salary the right to create babies with anonymous donor eggs and sperm "would indeed be cruel." Already I've got a bad taste in my mouth. But what made the hair on the back of my neck stand up was this statement:
"Restrictions would also lead to an increase in directed family donations (like sister to sister). As a fertility specialist, I have done a number of these types of egg donations and am far more concerned with the emotional health of these families than those who use anonymous donation."So he admits that he is ONLY concerned with the adults in the room, not the child being created. At least if it is a sister-to-sister egg donation and maybe gestation surrogacy, that child is at least going to grow up among people who look like him and, say, have the same aversion to Brussels sprouts (which is genetic, by the way). Apparently, too bad for you if you happen to be a kid put together there from bought parts.You are not the client, not his problem 15 or 20 years later when you are burning with questions of identity.
And there is the usual, we created our child this way, but we LOVE that child, so there, letter. Really, folks, we expect that if you go to the trouble of having a child through sperm or egg donation, you are probably going to love that child, but does that love, Jeannie Lorenz, of Bethesda, MD., also include having answers for them when they want to know whose egg they are a product of or whose sperm? Why they can curl their tongues, hate the taste of caffeine, or constantly question authority, are good in math, all inherited traits? When you can't curl your tongue, love all things caffeine, believe in rules and are terrible in math?
However, adoptee, therapist and author, Betty Jean Lifton, as well as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Paul Brinich, held up our side of the argument: that not knowing who you were at birth is the cause of much anxiety for a great many adopted people. Betty Jean wrote:
"However, he [Douthat] quotes a Web-based survey that says offspring of sperm donors are more likely than adoptees to have identity confusion.
"My in-depth work and that of other adoption specialists show that the adopted are just as much the victims of the “webs of secrecy” that surround them as the biological children of sperm donors.
"Adoptees wonder just as much about their origins, envy peers who know their biological parents, worry that their parents have lied to them about important matters, and wonder if someone who looks like them might be related.
Adoptees have worked for decades to end the secrecy and restore the rights of the adopted to their original birth certificates and knowledge of their heritage. The movement has already helped raise the important questions that donor-conceived adults are now asking."
Betty Jean LiftonAnd Brinich adds:
Cambridge, Mass., May 31, 2010
"Gametes obtained from donors — paid or not — carry in their wake a host of emotional complications. Surrogacy adds further twists.
"The perennial question of childhood — “Where do babies come from?” — has always challenged parents. Likewise, every adolescent has wrestled with “Who am I?”
"As the answers to these very normal questions become more and more complicated, it’s clear that technology has leapt ahead of society. Assisted reproductive technology requires thoughtful, psychologically attuned responses by parents, professionals and our society"
Chapel Hill, N.C., May 31, 2010
To which we add: Amen. Anyone considering having a child with anonymous sperm or an anonymous egg, ought to attend a session with the children of sperm donors who wish to be able to answer natural basic questions about their identities. The U.S. Declaration of Independence, based on what might be called the laws of nature as men and women perceive them, (."..the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them"), guarantees all of the citizens of the United States the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Stripping an infant of its identity, as well as telling a mother that she has no right to know what happened to that child once he or she is adopted, denies both of the parties the right to any normal "pursuit of happiness" that all others enjoy.
Personally, I've made myself a good life, more or less; I live in a beautiful place in a nice home that right now is being reshingled with red cedar, and the workers are pounding against the east wall of the house as I write today. It will be fresh and new within the week; then we start on the deck that is falling apart. I've had work and I've had love, but my life has been so indelibly marred by not only the loss of my daughter to adoption, but also by the 1935 New York law that took away the right for her and I to ever know each other. And that denied me whatever comfort I might have knowing she was alive, and well, until I went around the law, paid a searcher, and found her. She was the adopted daughter of two other people, but she was also my natural daughter and I had every right in the cosmos to know where she is.--lorraine
Before anyone starts going crazy over what is "natural" in the order of things, and how that natural can be interpreted to many misfortunes, I understand, but if you are going to bitch about my interpretation here, bitch elsewhere. It just wears us all out.