This Sunday, I was unlucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel at a workshop for parents interested in or already using reproductive technologies to grow their families. I suspect the panel coordinator misunderstood my stance on the subject- the stark contrast of my welcoming vs. my fare-well was rather extreme. I don’t think I told the moms and dads what they wanted to hear…
Here is what one of the panelists had to say about ME.
I walked into the conference room immediately greeted by smiling middle-aged women who already knew my name. “I saw your picture on one of the fliers! Welcome!” The women were overjoyed to have me there. They read my four-sentence bio. “So you were donor-conceived! How was that?!” I grimaced in response, “Umm, not so great actually.” “Oh,” their faces dropped, “but you donated your eggs as well?” “Yes.” I responded. “Well thank you so much!” They said. “Um, yea, no problem.” I responded. As I sat down I felt a quick pain somewhere around my uterus- a pain I feel often ever since selling my eggs.
More than half of the five hour workshop consisted of deceptively cute quotes from little kids and tweens about their feelings on being a child of “donor” conception. Quotes like such from a girl less than 10, “Mommy, did the man that helped you make me have to give his penis away too when he gave us his sperm?” It was embarrassing and demeaning. There was almost zero attempt at any real philosophical/intellectual discussion. The mantra essentially was, this is your baby, you paid for it.
I soon learned that I was the only donor conceived person in the room over the age of 13. In a room of nearly 50 people, it was me against the moms. They sat me on a panel consisting of a middle-aged mom and her 13-year-old twins, for which she spent five minutes posing leading questions in a baby-talk tone such as “is there anything different about being donor-conceived?” at which point the two children (weighing cumulatively about 80 lbs wet) responded, “No, I’m just like everyone else.” This bothered me. Just because your donor-conceived baby is now walking and speaking English semi-fluently doesn’t mean they’re yet capable of analysis or admonishment.
Other panel members included a fertility lawyer and former serial egg donor, accompanied by her daughter (slightly younger than me, maybe 20 years old) who has already frozen her eggs in anticipation of infertility. Also I sat next to a gay couple who used both egg donors and surrogates for their two children (a third is on the way), a 52-year-old woman with 6-year-old twins who painfully experienced “secondary infertility” past age 40 (Is it allowed to be called secondary fertility? Isn’t that just called old age?).
The only person in the room who wound up supporting anything I had to say was a woman with four children, three of which were conceived through donor sperm. Surprise-surprise, her story was that she felt the secrecy and torment of having three children this way accelerated or caused her divorce. Her children are entering their early twenties now and their well-being and emotional health is severely impacted. “I am an example of everything you should not do in life,” she said.
The happy-happy joy-joy atmosphere came to a halt soon after I delivered my position. I began my story with an acknowledgment to my audience that I understand and empathize with them about the pains of infertility. I congratulated them for coming to the workshop and their healthy pursuit of information regarding their children. I wanted to start off on a good foot. But of course, in describing my story, I stated clearly my conviction against donor conception. The hands flew up with questions. “Well then what are we supposed to do then now that we already have our kids?” one man asked. I was then pushed to offer a solution. The discussion leader then prompted me, “So what you’re saying is that we just need to be able to listen to them about their problems with this, right?”Another point of theirs: “Well everyone’s got problems. How is this like any other problem kids have to deal with.”
If I could go back in time I would say, the difference is, as parents you are the primary guides and counselors into the world and all its problems. Your children will turn to you first. If they’re born with a disability you can comfort them and say, “Well my love, God works in mysterious ways. We don’t know why he made you disabled, but he has a purpose for you.” When kids at school bully your child or taunt them, your child can come to you. You can protect them. You can call the other kids parents and work out an apology or act of repentance.
But with this issue… your child can not come to you. Your child will be forced to work out this huge, oppressive, philosophical debate alone in her mind, without the guidance of a loving parent. Because essentially, the person responsible for her problem, is you. The person who placed this burden upon her is the very person who purports to act wholly in her best interest.
And in response to Theresa Erickson in her blog about me and my apparent rudeness, I was thrown to the sharks. I have the right to be angry. The system and “technologies” that pay her bills and buy her lifestyle are the very systems and technology that robbed me of a real father and I don’t have to be nice to anyone involved in that industry. I feel cheated and betrayed and do not feel sorry in the slightest that I came off as rude. In the future, I’ll do my best to stay calm and inviting, rather than angry and repellent, but this was not a fair panel. And the truth hurts.
Apparently I am the enemy of the fertility industry, yet they make billions of dollars a year purposefully creating thousands of kids just like me. The irony is that, the more people like me they create, the more they build up the bodies and minds of the army that will soon defeat them. Oh, the poetry.