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By: Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D.

Part 1 of 2

Deciding whether or not to share your children’s donor origins with them is a challenge to all parents who have taken alternative paths to family building.

Here are some questions to help guide your decision:

  • Do you believe children have the right to know their genetic history?
  • Does your right to privacy supersede their right to know?
  • Are you comfortable with the medical risks in leaving them to assume that your medical health and genetic history are their medical legacies?
  • Are you prepared to deal with the emotional fallout if you need to make an emergency disclosure because a medical problem arises?
  • Are you prepared to handle the emotional fallout of an accidental disclosure (e.g., the child overhears a private conversation between you and someone who knows about their origins or snoops around and finds out)?
  • Since knowing one’s genetic origins contributes to identity, are you comfortable letting your child formulate a sense of self based on false or missing information?
  • When your children ask questions about themselves, are you prepared to fib or lie in order to protect the secret?
  • If you share your children’s origins with them, will you provide them with information about your donor when asked?
  • How will you handle their questions if there isn’t appropriate information available?
  • Do you worry that they will become frustrated if their questions can’t be answered?
  • Do you worry that your children will feel less bonded to you or reject you if they know their genetic origins?
  • Do you worry that they will use the information against you when they are angry with you?
  • Do you worry that they will feel different and alienated from their peers if they know?
  • Do you think you will feel embarrassed if they share their origins publicly (e.g., on the playground or at school)?

It’s important to understand your philosophical perspectives and acknowledge your emotional vulnerabilities in making a decision about whether or not to disclose your children’s origins to them. Answering these questions can help you understand yourself better as you grapple with this important decision.

Part 2 will address the when, how and where in sharing your children’s origins with them.

Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D . is a clinical psychologist in private practice who works with ARR clientele and numerous prospective surrogates, egg donors and parents to assess their emotional readiness for alternative paths to family building.

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By Cindy

I’m 33 and I live in northern Illinois. I have a 9-year-old son and I’ve been in a relationship with a great, caring woman for nearly 10 years. I also just gave birth to twin boys with a wonderful man. I was his gestational surrogate.

A few years ago, my partner and I were dismayed at the number of people who wanted children but couldn’t have them on their own. These are people who would make great parents and deserved the opportunity. So we just figured we’d like to help.

We found Alternative Reproductive Resources through our local newspaper and decided to give them a call. The process was wonderful, and we were made to feel more like being part of their family than just a client. We met one gay couple, and were excited to get started, but it just didn’t pan out. Then we met our match.

We certainly weren’t going to limit our choices based on something as trivial as whether the prospective parents were gay or single or a different race. In fact, our intended parent was a single guy who hadn’t found anyone yet but decided he didn’t want to wait any longer to have children. He and my partner and I hit it off immediately, as if we’d been friends for years. We could tell he’d make an excellent parent – the man exudes “small-town goodness” from his pores.

We let our family and friends know our decision and there were some obvious concerns, especially from my mom and stepdad. After providing them with some more information, though, everyone has been extremely supportive. To a small extent, I think we also opened the eyes of the gay and lesbian community. Lesbian couples are the perfect surrogates because they’re usually more open-minded about non-traditional families. We’re a group that has experienced an unsettling amount of discrimination with regard to adoption and marriage, so less-than-conventional families are kindred souls. Our friends got a thrill out of watching my pregnancy progress.

When the end of November rolled around, I began to get nervous. My C-section was scheduled for December 3. I had no reason to be concerned though. My partner was holding my hand the whole time. Two beautiful, healthy boys popped right out, two minutes apart, and our intended parent’s life changed. The most rewarding experience of my life, besides my own son being born, was seeing this new father hold his sons. His mother couldn’t stop thanking me.

After it was all over, my partner and I decided we’d definitely do it again. (We’re agreed, however, that we want no more of our own!) We’ve already been able to see the boys once since the delivery and their father is adjusting quite well. We intend to stay in contact with the family, even if it’s just the occasional Christmas card or school photo.

This experience was exactly what we had hoped for. So many worthy people are out there looking for help in creating their own family. An open mind is all they need to make their lives complete.

By Cindy

I’m 33 and I live in northern Illinois. I have a 9-year-old son and I’ve been in a relationship with a great, caring woman for nearly 10 years. I also just gave birth to twin boys with a wonderful man. I was his gestational surrogate.

A few years ago, my partner and I were dismayed at the number of people who wanted children but couldn’t have them on their own. These are people who would make great parents and deserved the opportunity. So we just figured we’d like to help.

We found Alternative Reproductive Resources through our local newspaper and decided to give them a call. The process was wonderful, and we were made to feel more like being part of their family than just a client. We met one gay couple, and were excited to get started, but it just didn’t pan out. Then we met our match.

We certainly weren’t going to limit our choices based on something as trivial as whether the prospective parents were gay or single or a different race. In fact, our intended parent was a single guy who hadn’t found anyone yet but decided he didn’t want to wait any longer to have children. He and my partner and I hit it off immediately, as if we’d been friends for years. We could tell he’d make an excellent parent – the man exudes “small-town goodness” from his pores.

We let our family and friends know our decision and there were some obvious concerns, especially from my mom and stepdad. After providing them with some more information, though, everyone has been extremely supportive. To a small extent, I think we also opened the eyes of the gay and lesbian community. Lesbian couples are the perfect surrogates because they’re usually more open-minded about non-traditional families. We’re a group that has experienced an unsettling amount of discrimination with regard to adoption and marriage, so less-than-conventional families are kindred souls. Our friends got a thrill out of watching my pregnancy progress.

When the end of November rolled around, I began to get nervous. My C-section was scheduled for December 3. I had no reason to be concerned though. My partner was holding my hand the whole time. Two beautiful, healthy boys popped right out, two minutes apart, and our intended parent’s life changed. The most rewarding experience of my life, besides my own son being born, was seeing this new father hold his sons. His mother couldn’t stop thanking me.

After it was all over, my partner and I decided we’d definitely do it again. (We’re agreed, however, that we want no more of our own!) We’ve already been able to see the boys once since the delivery and their father is adjusting quite well. We intend to stay in contact with the family, even if it’s just the occasional Christmas card or school photo.

This experience was exactly what we had hoped for. So many worthy people are out there looking for help in creating their own family. An open mind is all they need to make their lives complete.

By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

I can’t think of one nurse that I know – and believe me, I know a lot of them – who wouldn’t tell you that what motivated them in their choice of career was largely the opportunity to help others. That’s one reason why we see numerous nurses (and others in some way involved in the healthcare field) become involved as surrogates. It’s a topic I explore in an item posted on nurse.com (the Web site for Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek). Please link through (registration required) and share your thoughts!

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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