This is an exchange I had last night with a parent-to-be, in regards to choosing an open or anonymous donor.
This might be helpful to others out there struggling with this decision. Kudos to this woman for reaching out to educate herself on the matter!
Prospective Parent “R”:
Thank you so much for being available for inquiries and for all the important work you are doing.
I am a member of SMC and read your article in the spring newsletter. I am very much struggling with the question of choosing an anonymous vs. a willing to be known donor and your research is very informative and persuasive in the direction of choosing a willing to be known donor. My choices are somewhat limited because I wanted a willing to be known and Jewish donor who I felt good about. As it turns out, I found a willing to be known donor who strikes me as a solid option but I do not feel too excited about him except for his being Jewish and willing to be known vs an anonymous donor who has many qualities I am very drawn to which make him a particularly compelling choice.
It was my impression that many of the donor children you interviewed were not given the truth from an early age and had extremely limited to no info. about their biological father, for example not even knowing their ethnicity. I would tell my child from early on about his/her method of conception and biological origins and through california cryogenic, I am supplied with a good deal of info. about the donor. I am wondering if you might be able to speculate on whether you think it is likely to be damaging to a significant % of donor children if they have an anonymous donor who they are told about from a young age AND are provided with a good deal of info. about them as compared to many of the children of anonymous donors you surveyed. I also wonder if you expect that the cultural landscape will change sufficiently within 20 years, making it likely that many donors who chose to be anonymous now might be inclined to change their mind in the future as the public becomes more educated about the importance of donor children being able to contact their donors.
Thank you very much for any thoughts you might have,
We know through research (and lessons learned from the adoption world) that it is an innate human desire to want to know where we come from- our ancestry, our genetics and our medical backgrounds. For donor offspring this desire can run much deeper than seeing a 12 page medical profile (remember- this a one day snapshot in the life of a healthy 20-something’s life) or a baby photo of their donor. Just like adoptees, many (not all) feel a deep desire to know that invisible one half of their DNA.
Although we do know that it’s more painful when donor children find out the truth later in life, many donor kids always have a deep yearning to meet their donors. For my son, who knew he was donor conceived from the age of two, every birthday candle he blew out until he was 15 (and met his donor) was with the wish, “I want to know who my biological father is”.
So for many parents, it might be a “donated cell” or just a piece of “genetic material”, but for many donor children it’s a lot more than that- it’s their biological and genetic father. Some kids are mildly curious, and some have a desperate need to know. The problem is that you don’t know which type of kid you’ll get. And it doesn’t matter what you tell them through childhood, as I have heard many parents minimize the importance of their donor, and end up having a desperately curious child. (And visa-versa!).
I can’t recommend using an open donor strongly enough. If only with the thought that you child may ask you one day….”if you could have chosen an open donor that I could have met….why didn’t you? Why did you choose a donor that I would never have the chance of meeting?!”
So there’s my two cents!
R: Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. selfishly, it is hard for me to give up the anonymous donor who I am so drawn to, but it is not worth the risk if I end up with a child (like yours) who feels a powerful yearning to be able to contact his/her bio. father.
If I could ask you one more question, I wonder if you expect that the cultural landscape will change sufficiently within 20 years, making it likely that many donors who chose to be anonymous now might be inclined to change their mind in the future as the public becomes more educated about the importance of donor children being able to contact their donors. I know it would be a gamble, but it is my sense that the anonymous donor I am considering is someone who wants to do the right thing but is ignorant (as most of the general public is) about the possible negative consequences for the child of having had an anonymous donor and would likely make himself available to be contacted if he understood the importance.
Thank again and very much,
Wendy: This is why we work so hard to educate the public- because we know that donors are never properly educated and counseled.
We do have more than 1200 donors on the DSR, and I do expect the numbers will keep growing. But for now, the sperm donation industry is very slow to change anything that might affect their bottom dollar…
Ask your sperm bank why they won’t tell donors about the DSR, or educate them about the published research on the donor offspring. See what they say.
We mailed this sheet to every sperm bank and clinic on our site, hundreds, and not one agreed to hand this out to prospective donors: Are You Thinking of Donating Sperm?
R: The more I dwell on it, the more it feels like a violation of a child’s basic rights to use an anonymous donor. If I choose a willing to be known donor (which I’m feeling like I will), it will be because of your research.