Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sperm Donation from the Perspective of a New Parent

With my own son on the way, I find it even more difficult now to understand how an egg/sperm donor can accept money in exchange for creating a child and relinqushing contact. From the moment I found out about my pregnancy, I felt protective of my baby and I developed an enormous attachment to him. While I am at peace with my own situation, that is only because I did everything humanly possible to locate my biological father and offer him the opportunity to know me. I strongly suspect that he knows of my existence from my efforts, but either does not care or has other obligations that outweigh me. So why put emotional energy into someone who does not want involvement in my life? Not only is he missing out on the chance to know his daughter, but now he'll likely never know his grandson as well. If he changes his mind, it's up to him to find me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We're Having a Baby!

Here's our sleeping baby at 12 weeks old!







My husband and I are expecting our first baby! Now that we've told our family and friends, I thought it was time to post a few pictures on my blog.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Look-a-Like Sperm Bank: Searching for the Perfect Genes

This article discusses a new service enabling women to select donors based on the celebrities that they look most like. Although some positive changes have been made in recent years at sperm banks, I think the one below is completely outrageous.

By Kimberly Papa Wolfson, AOL News

Choosing the biological father of your child from a catalog filled with statistics ranging from eye color to ethnicity can make an intensely personal decision seem awfully impersonal. In hopes of helping clients feel more of a connection with a potential donor, Los Angeles-based California Cryobank has developed a new service called Donor Look-a-Likes, which allows women to search for potential daddies based on which celebrities they most closely resemble.

“The toughest thing to do when choosing a donor is to make a personal connection,” says Scott Brown, California Cryobank’s communications manager. “It’s easy to look at stats like eye color, hair, religion, ethnicity, and height, but without a tangible person to see it is difficult to emotionally invest in a donor. Because we can’t provide photos of the donors themselves, this is a way for clients to connect and for us to personalize the experience and give them a better idea of what the donor looks like.”

The service, which the company launched several weeks ago, has quickly become a huge draw for heterosexual couples, single women and lesbian couples looking for donors. California Cryobank has received 300 percent more inquiries since debuting Donor Look-a-Likes.

So which famous faces are the most popular among popular for donor-searching moms? “Fast and Furious” hottie Paul Walker is the most searched, followed "Heroes" star Greg Gruberg, Scott Caan, Ben Affleck and "Private Practice" actor Paul Adelstein.

Choosing a Donor

You might be surprised to find more average-looking actors topping the list instead of, say, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp taking the top spots. Brown says the reason regular guys do well is because heterosexual couples looking for donors, which make up 40 percent of their clients, often search for a donor who looks like dad. “You have to keep in mind that most guys look more like a James Gandolfini than Ben Affleck.”

Choosing who a donor’s celebrity look-a-like isn’t a scientific process. About ten staffers at the bank take photos of the donors and comb the internet in search of potential matches. Together they share their suggestions, and if everyone in the group agrees, they have a match.

“We look at specific features like noses and smiles, but also overall look and what type of guy there are, whether it’s an athlete, actor or a musician,” Brown says.

New clients aren’t the only ones interested in finding a look-a-like. Brown reports that over 50 former clients have contacted the company since the program launched asking who the look-a-like for their donor was, years after being inseminated. “That lets us know this is something very personal.”

So if you’re hoping your artificially inseminated offspring will be the next Tom Brady or Will Smith, choosing a donor based on their look-a-like may seem like a good bet. However, Brown warns, “Genetics is a tricky thing. We have Ph.D. scholars and athletes, but can’t guarantee a child will have those qualities.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Upcoming Donor Conception Movies in 2010!

It looks as though several big movies to be released in 2010 may bring attention to donor conception. Thanks to a fellow donor-conceived person for the following information.

1. The Back-Up Plan: An upcoming romantic comedy film in which a single woman Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) conceives twins through artificial insemination by donor, only to meet the man of her dreams named Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) on the same day.

2. The Baster: An upcoming romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. A man's friend is intent on having a child through artificial insemination by donor. He secretly replaces the sperm donor's semen with his own. He is forced to live with the secret that he is the child's real father.

3. The Kids Are All Right: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska are set to star in the movie revolving around a brother and sister (Hutcherson, Wasikowska) who set out to find their same-sex parents' sperm donor. The donor totally upsets their family dynamic once he enters their lives.

Perhaps 2010 will be a year of greater understanding of issues surrounding reproductive medicine through these movies and future media/discussions surrounding them. I also hope this may spark more media for donor-conceived/their families and help our cause.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy July 4th!

I typically restrict my entries to donor conception. However, last night's fireworks in downtown Houston were too pretty to not share them!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Who's Your Daddy?" - Article by Lori Andrews

(May 2009, published in a leading men's magazine)

In 1981 a sperm donor entered a small room with erotic magazines at the back of a staff lunchroom at Baylor Medical Center. He ejaculated into a plastic cup, opened a small door in the wall and pushed a buzzer. The cup spun out of sight, with $50 in an envelope returning to its place. Like other men in his position, the donor probably spent the money taking his girlfriend to dinner, getting high or - if he was a frequent enough donor - paying tuition. He was promised anonymity and told not to give a moment's thought to what would happen to the sperm once it left that hole in the wall.

Now the result of that sperm donation, a 27-year-old graduate student named Kathleen LaBounty, is looking for her father. And depending on his own beliefs and life circumstances, the possibility that she will find him is either a modern Hallmark moment or something that will scare the bejesus out of him.

Since its inception more than a century ago, sperm donation has been shrouded in secrecy. In 1884 Dr. William Pancoast, a professor at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, treated an infertile woman by putting her under anesthesia and inseminating her with sperm from his best-looking student. Only when he realized that the child looked just like the donor did he inform the woman's husband. The man said, "Fine, but don't tell my wife."

Even today donor insemination is conducted clandestinely. Couples who create children using donated sperm generally do not tell the child of his or her unique conception. Instead, they let the child, relatives and friends assume the baby is the infertile husband's biological offspring. But changing social norms - including the use of donors by single women, cheap genetic testing and the sleuthing power of the Internet - have created a fissure in the wall of secrecy. About 10 percent of the million children who have issued from donor insemination know a sperm donor seeded their life.

Single women usually tell their child at an early age that his or her biological dad was a donor. College professor Leann Mischel created a quasi-family by getting in touch with 18 other women across the country who, like her, used donor 401 from the Fairfax Crybank in Virginia. With 26 children under the age of seven among them, they are now a support group that shares family photos and child-rearing tips. Once a year many of them gather at a theme park for a unique family reunion where the children, who are half-siblings, can get to know one another. It's only a matter of time, though, before one of the women or children decides to find donor 401.

Technologies that were not anticipated when Kathleen LaBounty was coneived have helped children sneak up on donors. An enterprising 15-year-old tracked down his anonymous sperm donor dad by matching his DNA to that of the donor's family on a genealogical website. The boy paid $289 to familytreedna.com for a genetic test that compared his Y chromosome with other Y chromosomes in a genealogical registry. He found several males with whom he had a biological link. By using the last names of those men, the known birth date of his biological father and country birth records, he was able to identify his donor.

An internet registry that allows recipients to share information about donors also makes it easier to identify them. Wendy Kramer, whose son Ryan was conceived through donor insemination, started donorsiblingregistry.com, where donor-conceived children can find their half siblings. Moms and kids write to ask questions like, "Who else has used donor 2064?" So far, more than 23,100 people have registered on the site, and 6,162 siblings have been matched.

LaBounty's mother was not given a sperm-donor number or any facts about the donor, other than that he had been a student at Baylor Medical School. Undeterred, Kathleen recently wrote to all 600 men who attended the school at the time of her conception. Amazingly, 250 wrote back, and 40 of them had been donors. Some of the men were as eager as she was to make contact. One wrote, "I've been waiting 26 years to get your letter in the mail."

That donor was not alone in his longing for information about the child he'd created. Kramer was shocked when the donors themselves started joining online conversations. More than 750 sperm donors have registered on her website to contact their "children." Other donors have hired private detectives or stolen a peek at private medical records to find out about their biological offspring.

Why would a man who was paid to masturbate now want a relationship with the child? Perhaps the experience of being a sperm donor is not always the lark the infertility industry assumed. Men usually donate sperm when they are young and haven't had children themselves. Later when they marry and become fathers, some begin to wonder what happened to their other children.

And who wouldn't want a beautiful, talented daughter like Kathleen LaBounty without having to go through the stages of colic, potty training, second-grade recitals, and driver's ed? But would donor 401 of Virginia be equally welcoming if 26 young offspring showed up at his doorstep?

The tens of thousands of men who serve as sperm donors each year may soon have to come to grips with those questions. Consumer's demand for more information as they choose donors may make tracking them easier. While LaBounty knows only the date and place of the sperm donation, women seeking sperm donors today receive anywhere from five to 20 pages of information about each potential donor. Although donor 1049's name is not included in his profile, a clinic's entry on him includes a photo showing a clean-cut, cute Californian. He says he's a member of the Clean Oceans Campaign and the Surfrider Foundation. He describes himself as secure, sensitive, innovative, intelligent, creative, thoughtful, ambitious, competitive, respectful, comedic, and optimistic. His SAT score is 1355. His 54-year-old mother is a healthy, intelligent and adventurous painter who wears reading glasses. His brother is a developer. How hard would it be to track down this man?

Searching is not without risk. Jeffrey Harrison, a hot catch as donor 150 in the late 1980s, was described on his donor form as a blue-eyed, six foot-tall lover of philosophy and music. Three years ago two of his sperm-donor children, daughters born into different families, found each other and began their search for him. Instead of encountering a superstar philosophy professor or symphony conductor, they found a man who lives in a trailer and supports himself doing odd jobs.

And what about the donor's current family? Not all donors' wives are pleased when they find out about other children. Some understandably feel threatened.

So far, none of the Baylor donors who have undergone paternity tests have provided to be LaBounty's biological father. But even when connections are made, not everyone proceeds with the same speed, desire or level of interest. One donor wrote on the donor-sibling website, "I flooded my biological daughter with photos of me and her cousins and grandparents. But just as a example, last night, as I was sending off a quick e-mail to her, my wife reminded me that my son was upstairs vegging out on the Discovery Channel instead of brushing his teeth and reading. The clear implication is that time taken to interact with donor-insemination children kids is time taken away from the regular kids, and I parent them less because of it. It's a rearrangement of the social order to have relationships established this late in life."

Kirk Maxey, president of a chemical company, served as a donor for more than a decade at the behest of his then wife, a nurse. Happily married with children of his own, he reached out to two daughters he created through sperm donation. And now he's helping other donors. He created a nonprofit genetic-testing center where donors and children of donors can have their blood tested for genetic markers to see if they match. He is also pushing for laws that would allow children to learn the identity of their donor, even if he had been promised anonymity. Such laws already exist in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK. In early 2009 a Missouri lawmaker introduced a bill that would allow children of sperm donors to learn the donor's identity when they reach the age of 18.

As a result of this social movement, American donors are preparing to deal with paternity tests that finger them as fathers and potential laws that may identify them to their donor children. A California doctor who created 33 donor children while in medical school has rewritten his will. If his donor children sue his estate after he dies, they will each get $1. While it's a lot less than he received for the contents of that little plastic cup, it's still a lot more than he ever bargained for.

Monday, March 30, 2009

WHO AM I?: Documentary

WHO AM I? How do you define identity? What role, if any, has genetics played in shaping the person you are today?

We’re SEEKING DONOR OFFSPRING to participate in an international high end documentary series on Assisted Reproductive Technology and the link between biological and genetic history and identity. What makes this documentary series unique is that it is told through the eyes of the offspring conceived through ART; your EYES.

We want to hear your stories; your perspectives; your insights into the impact of the technology that helped bring you into this world and your vision for the future.

WHO ARE WE? Please allow us to introduce ourselves:

Tammi Michelle Faraday is a Television, Feature Film & Documentary Producer, Investigative journalist, Human Rights Lobbyist, Television Presenter, Broadcaster, and one time Senior Associate of an international law firm. Tammi recently returned to Australia after being based in London for two years working as a producer on critically acclaimed and award winning feature films and feature length documentaries for the BBC (UK), WGBH (United States), SBS (Australia) and Channel 2 (Israel). These include: "The Insurgency" (a BBC/WGBH feature length documentary about the Iraqi insurgency); "The Nuclear Wal-Mart" (a BBC Panorama investigation about the private international nuclear network); "Yitzchak Rabin - Case Unclosed" (a groundbreaking documentary on the late Prime Minister of Israel); "Rape on Trial" (a BBC Panorama investigation about rape and the criminal justice system in the UK) and the multi award winning feature film in Australia, "Wil".
In 2008 Tammi launched her international film production, media and communications company - Juggernaut Media Management.

Ros Tatarka is an established producer with an extensive track record primarily in television production. In her early career Ros worked on some of Australia’s most iconic television dramas including Prisoner, Neighbours and A Country Practice. She later went on to Associate Produce the mini-series Snowy and the first nine telemovies of the successful Halifaxfp franchise. As Producer her credits include the first series of Something In the Air, and the telemovie and first series of Good Guys Bad Guys, for which she won an AFI Award. Ros was most recently engaged as the General Manager, Industry Development and Investment at the State Government Agency, Film Victoria. In this role, Ros headed up the business unit responsible for stimulating and supporting growth and excellence in the Victorian screen industry. In 2008 Ros returned to the independent sector and through her production company, CreatEve Pty Ltd, is developing a slate of projects including feature film, television drama, documentary and new media.

For further information please contact Tammi Faraday on + 61 (0)401 952 962 or boss@juggernautmedia.com.au
or Ros Tatarka on either +61 (0)411 567 556 or rtatarka@optusnet.com.au.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ethical Considerations for Sperm Donation - What is Missing From This Picture?

What are the ethical considerations for sperm donation? According to a slide show about infertility on the website of Stanford, one of the world's leading research and teaching institutions, these are the following factors that must be considered:

"1. The rights of the sperm donor.
2. The rights of the clients who are purchasing the sperm.
3. The criteria by which sperm are collected (i.e. choosing a donor who has certain traits).
4. The amount of sperm that a single man can donate."

However, one major group - in my opinion, the most important one - is missing from this discussion. Yes, the very people produced through reproductive technology! I find it striking that we are frequently not even brought up in this debate, yet we are the entire reason that the industry exists in the first place. We also happen to be the only ones who have no ability to consent to the conditions surrounding the "medical treatment."

This also brings me back to the donor-conceived octuplets with six older siblings who are currently receiving much media attention. It is very unfortunate that the doctor, the donor father, nor the mother (Nadya Suleman) really thought about the best interests of the children. I hope that their sad situation at least results in better regulations and places more focus on the children in the weighing of the ethics of the current practice of reproductive technology. Whether there are fourteen children conceived through donated gametes or one, they deserve to have rights.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Proposed Legislation: Exciting Progress in the U.S.!

Cynthia Davis of the Missouri State Legislature contacted me and explained that she is trying to grant all donor-conceived people in her state the right to access the donor's identity at age 21. At this point, NO such legislation to ensure that all of us conceived through donated gametes (egg/sperm/embryo) have the option of finding our biological families exists in any state in the U.S. Therefore, this is a huge and exciting step that will perhaps lead other states to consider adopting similar legislation.

Cynthia hopes to have a hearing about her bill (HB355 - see summary below) within the next three months. If you are from Missouri and would be interested in speaking at this hearing, please contact me at KathleenRuby@aol.com and I will get you in touch with her. Thanks, Cynthia, for helping us advocate for the rights of thousands of children who are intentionally kept from knowing their own families and personal history.
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The following is a summary of the Introduced BillHB 355. Sperm and Egg DonationsSponsor: Davis. This bill allows an adult child born as a result of a sperm or egg donation to obtain identifying information regarding the donor by requiring the name of the biological parent and the donor parent to be shown on the child's birth certificate. The State Registrar will file the original birth certificate in the event the non-donor parent requests a new birth certificate. Unless contracted in writing, no legal relationship will exist between the child born as a result of a sperm or egg donation or the child's parent and the child's donor. In the event of a birth as a result of a sperm or egg donor, any person or entity required to file a birth certificate must send the Department of Health and Senior Services documentation of the birth including the child's name, sex, and date and place of birth; the biological parent's name or other parent's name; and the donor parent's name.An adult child of a sperm or egg donation made prior to January 1, 2010, can make a written request to the circuit court in the county in which he or she resides to secure and disclose identifying information of his or her donor parent. Donor parents can register with the Children's Division within the Department of Social Services if they choose to allow a child to obtain his or her identifying information. Any adult child born as a result of a sperm or egg donation will be subject to the same requirements as an adopted child when seeking identifying or non-identifying information regarding his or her donor parent. Children born as a result of a sperm or egg donation made after January 1, 2010, can receive a copy of his or her original birth certificate indicating his or her donor's identifying and medical history information from the State Registrar and the donation facility.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What About The Children? - by Renee Smith at the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network

Published January 28, 2009

Kathleen LaBounty is 27 years old and has no idea who her biological father is. Kathleen's problem is complicated further by the fact that she was conceived through sperm donation during the period of mandatory anonymous donations in the early 1980's. Her mother had always told her she was "special," and when she was 8, Kathleen found out exactly what that meant. As she grew older, Kathleen developed a strong desire to find out who her biological father was. Her only clue to finding him is that he attended Baylor College of Medicine. Kathleen has written letters to over 600 graduates in hopes of finding her biological father. She is also searching for her donor-conceived half brother who was put up for adoption after he was born with a mental disorder.

So far Kathleen has received over 250 responses from Baylor graduates. She has met 15 of them in person and has undergone DNA testing with several of the men. Her search has turned up very little since she started, however her efforts have not gone unrewarded. Kathleen has developed relationships with several of the donors as well as non-donors. The graduates that have contacted her have been very supportive and encouraged Kathleen to keep searching.

Kathleen is one of many donor-conceived children who are searching for their biological parents. The biggest hindrance to their searches has been the choice or the mandating of the donor to remain anonymous. At face value, one would think that a donor has the right to be anonymous.

Unfortunately for Kathleen and others, anonymity cuts the important link between a biological parent and child. Couples seek sperm and egg donors in order to conceive a child that has a biological connection with them. However, the biological connection the parent so desperately craves is severed between the donor and the donor-conceived child before they are even born and have a say in the matter.

In 1997 the Supreme Court set precedence for adopted children in Doe vs. Sandquist. The ruling stated that an adoptee had the right to information about their biological parents when they turned 21. There is no such precedent for donor-conceived children. Unless the donor chose not to remain anonymous, the search for a biological parent is very difficult with very few leads. Donor-conceived children and adopted children experience similar emotions. They have the same curiosity to discover their missing element, their other biological half. These children also face the same problems. Kathleen became ill, and doctors were unable to determine the cause for a long time. Had Kathleen been able to hand the doctors a copy of her biological father's medical history, they might have found the cause of her illness, diabetes, sooner than they did.

Beyond the practical reasons why donor-conceived children should have access to the identities of their biological parents, there is something intrinsically unfair about not considering the feelings and emotions of donor-conceived children as they grow up without half of their biological source. Granted there are many children who grow up like this due to natural occurrences of death or separation of parents, but the difference is that parents and donors make the choice knowing that the child may likely never know who the missing person is.

The solution to these complicated problems is to ban anonymous gamete donations. In 2005, the United Kingdom banned anonymous sperm donations. The number of donors had actually risen slightly, but the number of women undergoing fertility treatment has dropped. Men are more conservative and vocal about how many women receive their sperm. If the children want to get more information about their donor they can receive the information when they turn 18. Such a law in the United States would benefit donor-conceived children greatly and would not significantly harm the fertility industry.

My Daddy's Name is Donor


At first glance, the message on this bib (which is also available as child and adult t-shirts) may seem funny, disturbing, sad, or perhaps even a combination of all the above. Yet again, the message - My Daddy's Name is Donor - is minimizing the man's potential importance in our lives and poking fun at the fact that our biological father is simply a nameless, faceless person whose existence doesn't matter to us. However, we don't remain opinion-less babies forever. We all grow up and have the ability to come to our own decisions. How many babies who wear this bib will reach adulthood and not be satisfied with their only knowledge that their biological father's name is "donor"?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Upcoming Documentary!

An incredible single woman considering sperm donation as an option to create a child produced a documentary as part of her master's film making program. In Anne Catherine's journey to determine whether or not donor conception is the right decision for her, she visited with donor-conceived (Ryan Kramer and me), past and current sperm donors, cryobank directors, recipients (including Wendy Kramer), and her own relatives with an infant conceived naturally.