Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In the Matter of Mothers

From the Atlantic, a piece mostly about surrogacy and egg donation, entitled Do Mothers Matter?, also relevant to adoption, despite a quasi-disclaimer:
Do mothers matter? Having no mother was -- at least until recently -- widely agreed to be a tragedy. Psychiatric case studies, Disney movies, and well-known spirituals such as "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" have testified to the importance of mothers and the pain of mother loss. But such views have not meant that every child has lived in a society that affirms the importance of the child's bond with his or her mother. Children have been denied their mothers because of class biases (see, poor); racial and ethnic biases (Indian, Aborigine); as part of severe civil conflict (Argentina, Dirty War); amid widespread, institutionalized human rights abuses (slavery); or because their mothers were rightly or wrongly perceived to be unfit (see: history of adoption, good, bad, and ugly).

Yet even as the broad history of helping ourselves to other people's children continues to be probed and largely condemned (except in the case of adoption, where most reasonable people agree that such an institution must exist in order to find loving homes for children in need of them), a newer and notably deliberate form of mother loss has sprung up, one that receives relatively little debate and is often presented as benign or even good, without question. I am referring, of course, to the practices of surrogacy and egg donation.

* * *

Based on a representative sample, in "My Daddy's Name is Donor" we reported that most sperm donor-conceived persons strongly object to anonymous donation of sperm. Nearly half feel troubled by the role of money in their conception. Most want to know about their biological father's family, and they wonder if that family would want to know about them. Compared to their peers raised by biological parents, sperm donor-conceived persons are more likely to struggle with delinquency, addiction, and depression.

Clearly, at least some of these kids are not really all right. It seems entirely plausible that at least some conceived never to know their mothers might share the feelings of the sample in our study. For decades we have debated whether fathers matter. Must we now debate whether mothers matter, too?


Anonymous said...

I have long wondered why this topic is so overlooked by the adoptee/adoptive/first mother community.

Is it because a frozen embryo is not considered "life" or viable? and therefore the woman that carries that life to term is indeed the natural mother despite no genetic link? That somehow carrying that child and the labor involved, trumps adoptive mothers or mothers created through other circumstances? Or is equal to first mothers who relinquesh, but endured a labor and carried a child within for 9 months.

And honestly who gets to determine "what/who" a mother is or should be?

But sadly it will only remain a debate & probably nothing more, as the course of science continues to march forward, regardless of a general consensus or a plea by those children "mothered" in this way.

Judy said...

Do you think that the absence of a father contributes to some of the psychological problems sperm donor offspring tend to have?
I read an article not too long ago on sperm donors searching. It was striking that 90% of these young adults grew up with NO father. Most had single mothers as parents.
Nothing against single mother parenting, but the numbers were striking as it related to sperm donor offspring searching. I could read and feel the angst and sorrow.
I wonder if there are any studies about psychological problems with donor sperm children that include growing up with a father (non-biological, of course) versus without.

Anonymous said...

Judy, Olivia Pratten grew up with a father, and she is shaking things up in British Columbia:

Also to check out:


and especially eloquent:

Anonymous said...

from theadoptedones...

I have great empathy for the donor conceived. I find it incredibly sad that society did not take the time to examine how adoptees felt before rushing in and creating so much heartbreak for the donor conceived. I also question why parents who go this route did not do their homework on this either and make better choices and not use anonymous donation.

Anonymous 6:05
Adoptees are speaking up about this - perhaps you are just not reading enough adoptee blogs...

Dawn said...

A friend of mine tried to conceive using donor sperm and I talked to her a lot about the right of the child to know the donor. Although to the parents donor sperm is an ingredient needed for the desired outcome to the child it is still their DNA and biological tie. After many discussions she decided to pay more to use a sperm bank that allowed for the child to contact the donor. In the end she was not successful but our conversations about adoption, identity and child rights had a profound impact on her decisions. I was surprised how some of our friends thought these conversations were absurd and felt the child didn't ever have to know or thought the child wouldn't care if they knew.

Anonymous said...


Or perhaps just not the adult adoptee blogs you frequent then.

Judy said...

Anon (2nd post) - I will certainly go back and read your links. At first glance, these seem to be isolated examples... More like case studies.

To be more clear, I was wondering if there have been any studies to compare the single parent family / donor sperm child versus two parent family / donor sperm child (as it relates to psychological problems).

Anonymous said...

I don't know of any such studies either, but I become concerned when the right to know one's biological origins gets conflated with psychological problems a searcher may or may not have.

Judy said...

Anon - i dont think we are on the same pate.
I have no qualms about full disclosure. I am against anonymous sperm or egg donation.
That is a separate issue, in my mind, than the psychological problems a donor produced child may have.

marilynn said...

I am posting these because the comments at the Atlantic site on the article blew me away - I could not believe that some women who gestated egg donor offspring believe and are saying that they are that child's biological mother, not the egg donor.

The egg donor becomes a mother when her offspring are born whether or not she gives birth to them. She won't be their legal mother but she is absolutely 100% the biological mother of her own offspring.


American Society of Reproductive Medicine
"Biological Mother: The woman from whose ovum a child developed and who is therefore genetically related to that child."
"Egg Donation. An egg from a fertile woman that is donated to an infertile woman to be used in an assisted reproductive technology procedure such as IVF. The woman receiving the egg will not be biologically related to the child but will be the birth mother on record. The process of fertilizing eggs from a donor and transferring the resulting embryos to the recipient’s uterus. The recipient will not be biologically related to the child, although she will be the birth mother on record."