Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anonymous Us: Some Thoughts on Third-Party Reproduction

By Mary C. Tillotson
Photo via Wikimedia

Some things don’t get talked about very often – maybe because they’re too complex for our world of sound bites and pigeon-holing, maybe because they’re uncomfortable topics. Alana Newman knew this and founded Anonymous Us for this reason: to talk about what it’s like to be conceived by a third-party donor.

Anonymous Us is a website for donor-conceived children, sperm and egg donors, surrogates, fertility-industry professionals, and others whose lives have been affected by the fertility industry to share their stories anonymously. Founded in January 2011, the site boasts almost 200 stories that run the gamut of emotions.

“The reason I started my site is people are just too ashamed to come forward,” she said.

Alana and I chatted on the phone about a month ago, and it’s taken about that long for my life to calm down enough so I could write anything about our conversation. As you’ll see from her website, not every story is like hers, but many are.

I was especially interested in Alana’s thoughts on two issues: on a personal level, the complicated emotions involved in third-party reproduction, and on a societal level, the family breakdown that third-party reproduction contributes to. She has experience and knowledge in areas I don’t, so I’ll let her take it from here.

I’ve always known that I was donor conceived. You hear a lot, if you go to a lot of the main people talking about donor conception ... a lot of the parents will tell you that everything’s okay if you tell your kid when they’re young. As long as you’re open, as long as you’re honest, there won’t be a trust breakdown and everything will be fine.

But I have to disagree with that. My parents were always open and honest with me, but there’s quite a few very serious issues with donor conception, and it’s hard to know where to start...

We have this idea that it’s a minority thing and only a few people have to deal with this, but there’s an infertility epidemic right now ... and it’s putting a lot of people in a predicament where they want to use third-party sperm and eggs or surrogates.

It’s a real moral dilemma for couples. Often people have the understanding that ‘as long as you have a good dad and the kids are always wanted, if someone’s willing to go this far to have a kid, the kid’s going to be really wanted, isn’t this a great thing? We can assume the kid will be well-raised.’ I have a lot of doubts about that.

An infertile man that married a woman, then they discover that he’s infertile – the wife has this biological urge to reproduce. She wants to be pregnant, to have her biological kid. This urge inside of her is just gnawing. I’ve heard of a lot of women [saying] to their husbands, ‘If you don’t let me use a sperm donor, I will divorce you.’ With my mom, that was the situation: ‘You let me do this or I’ll divorce you.’

Men don’t necessarily want to raise a sperm banker’s kid, but they endure it. They go along with it because they don’t want to get a divorce. They’re grieving the loss of their fertility, and the last thing they want is for their marriage to fall apart...
Image by dignidadrebelde

A lot of [donor-conceived children] feel conflicted because they want to know who their biological parents are, but they don’t want to hurt their social parents, so the tension lies in balancing. To seek out a relationship with a biological parent often means antagonizing or hurting a relationship with a social parent...

What we did with sperm donation is we said biology doesn’t matter. Then lesbian couples and single moms said, ‘Then why does gender matter?’ and ‘Why do fathers matter?’ They said, ‘Fathers are disposable.’ Biological fathers are disposable, and now fathers, period, are disposable.

Then, because we have gender equality language, now we’re turning around and throwing away mothers. Now, the most lucrative packet the fertility industry offers is an egg donor plus a surrogate, and they’re marketing that package like crazy. All their marketing materials are promoted to gay male couples to sell them babies, and you can make up to $300,000 on one pregnancy by this.

Now we’re saying mothers are disposable...

Girls who grow up without their fathers are way more promiscuous and get sexually transmitted infections as a result: ‘How do I get male attention?’ when they don’t get it at home. But we don’t know what happens to kids who don’t grow up with their mothers.

* * *

What does all this mean? For me, the big takeaway is that biology matters. We can think of ourselves as self-determining individuals, but where we came from on a physical, biological level, matters.

For more information, check out these websites:

Alana Newman
Alana's YouTube channel
Anonymous Us
Donor Sibling Registry

Alana Newman is the founder of Anonymous Us.

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