I saw this blog post from OliviasView called Parenting donor conceived children: Is it different? several days ago when it popped up in my inbox. The title certainly intrigued me and usually I read her posts as soon as they get to me. But this one sort of struck a nerve and I did not feel like I wanted to deal with the topic at the time. However, today for whatever reason, I felt like I wanted to tackle it, and not just with a quick read but with an actual point of blogging about it. So here is my 2 cents!
“The uncomfortable truth is that very few of us would have chosen to have a child in this way. We would have preferred to have the child of the person we love and live with. The delight and joy at being pregnant/giving birth/raising the child is likely to be tempered at one time or another by sadness that this is not the child of the person we love: for me – not the child I had in my mind when I imagined what OUR child would be like. For some people using DI or egg donation, this acknowledgement of difference happens when the child is quite young -the complete lack of physical resemblance to the non-genetic parent, the emergence of traits which seem to come from no-where. For me it happened slightly later. Our first DI child had been a difficult baby and a hyper-sensitive toddler and child. When he was seven or eight I went through a period of finding it very difficult to relate to him. It was only when I realised that it was because he wasn’t living up to my fantasy of what I wanted our child to be like – he wasn’t displaying the qualities and talents I had wanted a child to inherit from Walter – that I was able to mourn the child we couldn’t have together and accept our son for the truly lovely person he really is. I could not feel closer to him now.”
The post hit home for me and addressed a lot of my own fears and concerns about raising donor conceived children and wether or not that made my parenting different from those parents who were able to both supply the genetics for their children. I have not yet looked at my children and felt any disconnect, and to be honest, reading that part made me feel very sad and extremely fearful that one day that might happen to me, I really can’t bare the thought of ever feeling a sense of distance from my own child. I have blogged about my struggle with my monthly “Auntie Flow” and how even though I know I can NEVER have a genetic child with my husband, I hate her because she keeps taking that little bit of a fantasy away from me every month. She really can be a nasty bitch! You can read my post all about that here: “Still Playing Head Games With Myself”
“and it’s amazing how much extended family conversation in particular revolves around who looks like who and where various talents (or horrible habits) might have come from.”
It is incredible to me how sensitive I am to this situation. A large part of my husbands family does not know that we used donor sperm and therefore the conversation constantly comes up when we are at get togethers about who looks or acts like who, and I am always uncomfortable in these moments and tend to freeze up. Surprisingly my husband is the one to immediately perk up and respond with something light and funny to fill my silence. It is one of those things that I wonder if I will ever get over. My kids are very young still, 2 and 3, and I am not sure if they pick up on the awkwardness that I am feeling. When they get older I hope I have a better way of handling it because if I continue to treat it like a negative situation then that will certainly reflect onto them and how they feel about being DI kids.
“I am not, however, talking about being ‘a perfect parent’. This is a trap we can easily fall into because our children are so wanted. We absolutely do not need to feel guilty at being infuriated, yet again, by our much sought after children.”
I often have the guilty feelings when I am feeling frustrated or angry with my kids. How can I be feeling like this when these little angels were so wanted by us, and we worked so hard to bring them into this world. It has been an internal struggle for me over the years, and I get extremely pissed off when I am just being a ‘normal’ mom and telling my parenting woos of being tired and cranky to someone who knows our situation and their responses are “well, be careful what you wish for” or “Well its what you wanted” …uggggghhhhhhhh, is just feels like a slap in the face. I suppose that I still have a lot of work to pull myself out of guilty mommy mode on this one!
“…What of the future? Walter and I assume that at some point both our children will go through a range of feelings about their inability to know more about one half of their genetic inheritance. These feelings may range from sadness to real anger at having this information denied them. It is our guess that this may not happen until they are quite a bit older, possibly contemplating having children themselves and/or doing a mid-life stock-take, making family connections etc. Although they will be autonomous adults by then, what they will be going through will be the result of a decision Walter and I took many years before, so I think we have a duty to be there for them, emotionally at least, for the duration. I don’t think it would help to feel guilty (as I know at least one adult offspring’s mother does). Nevertheless we have to accept responsibility for the decision, and support our children whatever way we can, although we cannot be ultimately responsible for their happiness or success in life.”
This has to be my biggest fear about raising DI children, when are they going to get mad at me, when are they going to turn to their father and in a moment of anger say “You’re not my real Dad”, it makes me tear up and cringe every time I think about it. We made choices for them and now we have no choice but to live with them and try to understand them. A while back I wrote this in a blog post, and it still holds true for me today when I read this part of Olivia’s post:
“I have said it before and I will say it again, I don’t want to live my life based on fear. Fear of my fellow man and how they will take my information and use it against me. This fear was embedded into my psyche as a very young child and I was always told to keep the family secrets to myself. I have struggled with this concept as an adult many times and especially when it comes to having donor conceived children. I DO NOT want my decisions to affect my kids negatively, especially when I feel so strongly about them, and my decision to talk about my family being created through donor conception is one of those tough choices I have had to make. I have made my bed and now I have to lay in it, these children have been created using donor sperm and I will never regret that. I have chosen to talk about it over the www via a blog (a very mommy thing to do these days)! I have chosen to tell them they are donor conceived, and I chose to use an anonymous donor. Yes I have chosen for them, but as parents that’s what we do until they are adults and then they go off and choose to create or not create their own families and they will make choices on how and when they will do that. My fear can not run my choices but neither can my heart, there has to be some sensibility to it all and I will be the first to admit I am not sure I am there yet!”
Olivia’s Post has touch a real nerve with me today, but not a bad nerve, just one that brings the fact that I am raising donor conceived children to the forefront after weeks of pushing it aside and busying myself with everyday life. I am reminded that I need to have these days where I look at them and focus on how we are going to tell them and when. Focus on making sure they never feel badly about being donor conceived and focus on keeping my emotions and feelings in check so that I never make them feel like our decisions were ones we regret!