From a Donor’s Wife

Many people (and certainly the sperm banks) often don’t understand why 20, 40, 100, or 200 kids for any one donor might be problematic. Besides the obvious medical and psychological issues for donor offspring, this perspective from a donor’s wife also needs to be included in the conversation.

“Hi Wendy,

I would like to ask you to share our story with others in the hope that all sides of sperm donation will receive the attention and respect every side deserves. I feel that if families want sperm donation to be an option, there needs to be education for all involved with regard to the emotional impact-not only at the time of donation/creation but in the years to come when the donor may be building a family in the more traditional sense and the donor-conceived have questions and are seeking the missing part.

I read frequently that the donor-conceived do not sign anything when they are created or born and do not have a choice in how they were created. I would also like people to understand and respect that I didn’t have a choice. I never signed anything that said I would be ok with the idea of blending 40 biological offspring and their families into my marriage. My kids didn’t have a choice either. They never signed anything that said they were ok with someday finding out they are one of 40, not one of four.

My wish is that women retain the right to have the child(ren) they desire, that any stigma over sperm donation is removed, and that greater consideration be extended because many people are affected by the decision to donate and use assisted reproduction. This consideration should be the dual responsibility of the donor and the recipient family. Let’s make these things happen.

Continued thanks for your work,”

The donor’s wife sent a second email message in response to many parents and offspring who commented on her message on the DSR’s Facebook page:

“My husband told me on our first date that he was a sperm donor. I asked him if any children had been born, and he said the clinic wouldn’t share that information with him.

Seven years into our marriage-we agreed to the clinic’s request for pictures and medical information for the very reason of giving kids who came forward a sense of coming from someone-not a vial. We graciously opened our lives as we recognized the psychological needs of others. The clinic still would not share how many children there were. I would also like to point out that at this point he could have asked to remain an anonymous donor-that would have been his right-but he/we didn’t. Yes, he said he would be open to contact if the child showed interest in meeting him-because we had children of our own at that time and could understand why knowing the person who contributed might prove healing. Again, he was thinking of the donor-conceived kids. Up to this point, we were both operating under the false assumption that it would be a handful of kids. Help me understand what “moral responsibility” my husband or I failed to recognize.

Three years after providing the pictures and medical information, a dozen and a half come forward. Today, there are now 40 (that we know of). Over two dozen of those were born before the birth of our first child. When we agreed that he would be open to meeting children who came forward, this is how we thought that would play out based on what we were told by the clinic. Child/parents/family would contact the clinic expressing desire to meet their donor. Clinic would contact us to see if we were comfortable with that. After three, maybe four, we could have decided that was enough and would not welcome further contact from any additional offspring. We would have been able to control the impact this had on our lives. But it didn’t happen that way at all. Social media, person searches, and genetic testing companies have made boundaries and protection of privacy virtually non-existent.

He wasn’t “shirking any duties.” He “didn’t forget he was a sperm donor.” He didn’t donate for “easy money” as one poster suggested, and he absolutely thought about his actions. And I am not “jealous.” He did not bring the donor conceived into the world. He brought our four children into the world. He stood by my side as I birthed each one of them. The families of the donor conceived are the ones who brought their children into the world. Let’s not muddy this important distinction-that we create our children with intent and love, that sometimes assistance is needed to make that happen, but as parents, we bring our children into being. From their first breath, we belong to our children and our children belong to us. Our children absolutely do not matter more as people, but they matter more TO US and their emotional health is more important TO US because they came from my body and were created out of our love. Wouldn’t anyone of you say the same thing…that your children rise above all others for one reason-you carried them, you raised them, you protect them? Who would we save first in a burning building? Exactly. Our own. But I guess in our case, I am made to believe that if my husband’s forty-four biological offspring were in that burning house, he would be expected to simply choose a child at random for they are all the same, right? They are all his biological offspring so he should treat them all the same. That is what is being asked of me, of us, of our children. Does anyone see the hurt and pain here?

Please don’t blame this completely lifechanging event on the fact that my husband donated, and as such, he should have been prepared. Please don’t tell me, that by marrying him, I agreed to let any and all families into our lives. Or that my children’s needs don’t count or are overshadowed by those of the donor-conceived because our kids got to live with their “bio-dad” all these years and the donor-conceived didn’t get to. We should not be made to feel guilty or indebted because we made our family a different way, and that yes, four people have the privilege of calling him dad or daddy. (We never refer to him as our kids’ bio-dad.)

As far as what number is acceptable, what would it be for you? Five? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? More than that? What difference does it make what the donor’s family feels comfortable with. We weren’t told how many births had happened. We didn’t control that number; the clinic did. And I agree with the poster who suggested this clearly demonstrates the need for regulation and more education for all parties.

Nobody is saying donor-conceived people don’t matter. I am saying that the best we can do with so many varying needs and wants in the sperm donation community is to respect each other and support each other to the extent that we are able. My experience is my experience. You haven’t lived it so how can anyone pretend to know what learning of 40 offspring has been like for our family? And on the flip side, how can I possibly begin to understand what it feels like to grow up without that sense of coming from an actual person? I think we can all agree that the starting point is changing the process of sperm donation. So let’s do that rather than pummeling each other in posts, placing blame where it shouldn’t be, and making statements about families and people we know next to nothing about. We have the numbers to make change. Until the industry changes, stories like ours will continue to happen and some donor-conceived individuals will continue to be met with rejection and silence.

On an ending note, stories of poorly mismanaged sperm banks will continue to come forward. At what point will enough experiences and opinions be shared that men no longer want to put themselves in these complex and sticky circumstances because they don’t want to deal with what other families have gone through? There will come a time at which monetary compensation for the donor will not be adequate for giving away total lack of privacy for the rest of their lives. How much money does my husband deserve for all the hurt feelings this situation has caused us over the years? And how sad will it be when a single woman or a couple who wants to have a baby can’t because men no longer donate?

Thank you to those who expressed empathy and understanding. Thank you, Stefani, for sharing your feelings when finding out your daughter had four half sibs. Shock, anger, betrayal, and bewilderment were your words. And she conceived with donor sperm. The fact that this woman could relate to these feelings when she herself carried a donor-conceived child warmed my heart. It tells me that our two sides of this situation are not that far apart. There is a chance to work together to bring about change…for everyone.

And here’s a little something for thought…when I donated eggs after we were married, I was required to provide an extensive medical background and pictures even before the process could begin. The recipient was also required to write a letter of appreciation, thanking me for my donation. It was a symbolic way of recognizing that what had once been mind was now hers. I understand when a man donates, there are millions of sperm, and when a woman donates, their might be twelve eggs. But I don’t see why the same standards don’t apply. I still have that letter. My recipient has never reached out, and the clinic shared there was more than one birth. But if she did want to reach out, she would be required to do it through the clinic as she signed a contract to that nature. So clearly I don’t have a problem with the fact my husband donated. I have a problem with the numbers we were forced to digest, after the fact, and the complete lack of oversight on the part of the clinic to address boundaries in a more organized way. I am not disrespecting the 40 children. I am disrespecting the government and state bodies that think that assisted reproduction is a business rather than the art of bringing families into being, and time and time again, operate without any regard for the humanity behind it all.

So let’s show them that there is no doubt-our families matter.”

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