Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who Did You Say You Are?

You might remember a post I wrote a week or so ago, Time Changes Everything  where  I was talking about the 56 year old that decided to use the last two frozen embryos that she "won" in the divorce to have a set of twins.  The ex isn't keen on the idea, to say the very least,  but they were part of her settlement...so I guess they were hers to handle anyway she saw appropriate.    The reason I am bringing up the subject is that while that is an odd situation there seems to be a plethora of stories lately about maternity and paternity confusion.

Thought Number One: FYI: Craigslist + Catheter = Child Support

You probably remember hearing about the case out of Kansas when the State of Kansas decided to sue a sperm donor for child support.

 I know! That was my first reaction too!  Well...seems there are a few facts that came out in court that the media failed to mention.  This might not make it more palatable for a state to be suing a sperm donor but it does bring up some questions as to the legal process that protects children in unusual family dynamics.

While it is true that the State of Kansas did, in fact decide to sue William Marotta for $6000.00 in past child support related to the fact, he fathered a child via a sperm donation to a same-sex couple,  Jennifer Schreiner and her now-ex-partner, Angela Bauer.  The problem arose from the manner of the "donation".  The women posted an ad on Craigslist to find a suitable daddy for their child.  Mr. Marotta came to an agreement  with the women that he would not be obligated to the child in any way. This wasn't handled by an attorney or a clinic...just a man, a plan, some sperm and two women that wanted a baby.

Unfortunately for the clueless parents-in-the-making,  the law in Kansas (and in 10 other states), requires a physician  or clinic to be involved with the insemination process  for it to be considered a legal "donor" situation.   It turns out that men furnishing their sperm for the purposes of baby-making,..... because of a Craigslist ad, and some hand delivered semen (OK..maybe hand isn't the appropriate word...but you know what I mean.), it might make the legality of it a bit "iffy".

As it turned out the two moms split and both filed for welfare and child support from the state.   Then Kansas went looking for the daddy, thinking he could help to take some  financial responsibility for the now three year old little girl.

The case was heard in a local court in  October and a decision is due before the end of the year.  The lawyers on both sides feel that there will be appeals, no matter which side wins.  Ultimately, the thought is that the laws will have to be more specific to protect donors from being sued and persons seeking artificial insemination will hopefully be more inclined to approach insemination with the aid of physicians which would of provided a legal basis to protect the donor, even in this case.  

Thought Number Two:  Maternity and Paternity is Getting More Complicated

The other day I was watching one of the morning talk shows and there was a segment about the reality show that is being aired on MTV called the Cryo Generation.   The  6 part realty show documentary follows the search conducted by a 17 year old college student, Breeanna Speicher who decided to search for her biological father.  Her biological father was an anonymous sperm donor for her two moms.

Sperm donor clinics became prevalent in the 1980's so there is a whole generation of children now to the age where they may be curious about their genetic backgrounds. There is even a movie currently in theaters, Delivery Man  which tells the story of a man that finds he is the biological father of 500 children. 

As for the MTV Cryo Generation group, they have been aided by Wendy Kramer, the founder and director of the Donor Sibling Registry.   Through the registry, Breeanna has found 15 half-siblings that were also fathered by Sperm Donor #1096. Ms. Kramer believes that children have the right to know where they come from and satisfy their need to know their genetic parent.

Which brings me to..."why this is of interest to me".

I find it interesting that today there are so many resources to help in seeking one's genetic parent.  In the mid 1970's after having Kiddo #2, I decided to track down my biological mother.  Back in that time period there were groups that you could work with that had figured out strategies to find parents but without computers it was very difficult. Most of it required tracking down people that might knew other people that knew other people.

In my case, the year 1975 had my poor brain  swimming in a pool of postpartum hormones that kept telling me that there was a woman somewhere in the world that had two adorable grandchildren that she knew nothing of. I might add, that she was also not aware that these two children were the most perfect, beautiful children that were ever born.  (maybe I was prone to overstating it a bit due to the hormone-tainted-brain-pool as well.)

My circumstances were different in the fact that I was separated from my biological mother at a very young age but I vaguely remembered what she looked like (or so I thought) and I knew her maiden name and  her surname at the time of my birth.  So, I spent my days going through phone books of various cities looking for  a last name and calling a LOT of people asking if they knew this person or had they had ever given birth to a little girl named Cheryl  M. After a myriad of calls, I managed to connect with someone who knew her current married name and the state she was currently residing in. I backtracked....looked through more phone books until I called the right person. 

Let me tell you, you haven't had a more bizarre phone conversation than when you ask someone if they gave birth to you and they pause before they answer. Which makes one wonder if the person fainted, couldn't remember or thought it was a trick question. 

Now.... you would think of this as a success but....here is the thing about tracking down biological parents.  They don't necessarily want to be tracked down.

My sweet husband went along supporting me in this quest even though he had been lucky enough not to have to endure a mother-in-law up to that point and encouraged me to invite her to Kansas City for a visit.  Seemed like a fine idea at the time.  I was 23 years old and was about to meet a person of which, I had just wisps of memories.

BTW....Memories are totally inaccurate. I now know that very young children don't see their parents as they are. I have to think our adult memories of our parents are also not entirely accurate because of  our childlike perceptions at the time the memories were created. 

Another component to this is:  time is not your friend when trying to reunite with a parent.  I would have to think the longer the time span, the harder it would be to fill the gap.

As for my mother, she did arrive in KC, via the bus.  My first surprise was the fact she was blind.  (I would say that I didn't see that coming but that seems cruel.)  If one was to write a screen play based on me picking her up at the bus station, it would appear to be a comedy.  I thought I knew what she looked like.  I wandered around the station for quite awhile trying to figure out which of the hundreds of women in the terminal might be her,  when luckily,  she heard me talking to someone.  I presumably  was whining about how I should of asked her for a clue of some sort to know who she was.   Good thing she had good hearing.

While her blindness meant she couldn't appreciate how beautiful my babies were, it added another dimension to what was to be  a bizarre couple of days.  (This is just another example of why my husband deserves a medal for all he has had to endure in our 42 years of our marriage.)

 All in all, I realized, she came to KC out of curiosity and the need to justify why I wasn't a priority in her life.  From my point of view, it satisfied some of my curiosity but left most of my questions unanswered. I later learned that she preferred to tell people she had only one child which was a son she had adopted later in life. This was just one of the  indicators that she had detached herself from me and wasn't needing to reconnect.

I received word a couple of years ago she passed away.  In her obituary, it listed her adopted son and two previous children...my brother and me.  Obviously, someone felt the need to include us but they had a first name (which was the wrong name) and "last name not known".

SOOOO..back to the idea of searching for biological parents.  For all the paternity tests, the DNA testing and tracking down unknown siblings, technology has made it easier, I'm sure. Computers and Smart phones might of made my search more efficient.  But the current climate of invitro, sperm donors and surrogacy makes more cases that might arise for children wanting to know their parent.

 Sadly, for those that feel that connection, the truth  is "some people won't want to be found?" Those that do...hypothetically they might really result in a kumbaya kind of moment. BUT in cases such as the Cryo Gerneration....  If donor #1096 isn't interested in seeing or knowing about his 15+ kids, is it more hopeful  or more hurtful to try to find him?

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Chubby Chatterbox said...

My father-in-law and his younger brother were adopted separately when both were toddlers. As an adult, my FIL hunted for his brother. He learned his sibling was never told he was adopted and that he had a bad heart condition. It was thought learning he was adopted might kill him so my father-in-law didn't pursue it any further.

Cheryl P. said...

That would be tough to learn as an adult. I think maybe there was a time people felt the need to not tell their kids. Today with all the in vitro, surrogates, sperm donors, egg donors....adoption might be the easy one to deal with.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Thank you for sharing your story and kudos to you for pursuing what you needed to do. It's true that reunion stories are often not the happy occasions we assume they must all be. Some are downright disastrous. And many don't resolve things to anyone's satisfaction, really.

Cheryl P. said...

I have met a number of others that met with biological parents and rarely does it turn into a warm, fuzzy moment. Although, I have heard a couple that did. I suspect the sperm donor for the 15 kids will remain anonymous unless there are a change in the laws. They are setting themselves up for a long complicated hunt, I would think. Still...they found some half-siblings that they didn't know they had. That might turn into one of their life blessings.

Jo-Anne said...

I have a cousin who is adopted and she has never wanted to find her biological parents, my sister in-law is also adopted and she found her biological mother who didn't want to know anything about her or even meet her which was upsetting for my sister in-law but she did meet her biological grandmother and some cousins. What I do know is that I am glad that I have never been in that situation.

If a man is a sperm donor he has made the decision by being a donor that he doesn't want to anything to do with the child and he shouldn't be held responsible the mother knew that when she had the baby it is wrong to decided years later that he should have to pay money in way of support for the child.

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, some adoptive children never feel the need to track down their parents. I wasn't adopted, I was taken away from my mother (very long story) and lost track of her over the next 17 years.

In the case of the sperm donors, I don't think the baby mamas are the ones trying to track down the donors...it's the kids wanting to know their genetic background. As for the case in Kansas...the state doesn't recognize this was a donor situation and they don't want to pay welfare and child support without the dad contributing.

lisleman said...

That first story - I'm just slow at the moment or need better reading between the lines skills? Appears there wasn't anything artificial about the insemination. I mean there is only one DIY method I know of and that one has been used since the missing link group made a human.

Your story - so interesting. I do believe in open adoption. If possible just get it all out there from the beginning. Of course, times have changed attitudes about unwed, unplanned pregnancies and we don't send young women off to live with the nuns so no one knows. Thanks for sharing.

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, it was artificial insemination as two women don't have the goods or the equipment to make a baby but,,, the problem with buying sperm off of Craigslist and injecting it up someone's hooha is that the state of Kansas (and 10 others) require medical supervision and documentation for it to be recognized as a donor situation. For all the state knows, William could of had a relationship with one or both of the women and was now trying to get out of any responsibility. (I don't think that is the case but had they followed the guidelines there wouldn't be a court case)

I don't know what I feel about open adoption. I have seen it work in some instances but if the birth mother was unfit to keep a child, I am not sure as a parent that I would want any interaction between the birth mother and my child.

I guess it depends on the situation.

Yes, thankfully, things have changed where girls aren't sent away. Seems illogical now but that was still happening when I was in school.

Riot Kitty said...

Wow, Cheryl. You've gone through a lot. My two cents - 1. your kids are damn lucky to have you; 2. your biological mother missed out; 3. (OK that's three cents) what are these kids going to gain? Presumably donors don't want to meet 15 kids. The whole system is WEIRD.

I've never thought blood was thicker than water.

oldereyes said...

Cheryl -

It is a discussion in which I have some interest because both my kids are adopted. My son's attitude is, "They abandoned me, why would I want to track the down," while my daughter was always interested in finding what her natural Mom was like, until, of course, her natural Mom tracked her down uninvited. It freaked my daughter out for a while to have a letter turn up in the mailbox from her birth Mom. Muri took it better than I did (she almost always does) ... I was worried Muri would be hurt when Amy began corresponding with her birth Mom but Muri handled it OK. I'm not sure if they still correspond ... if they do, I'm sure I'm left out of the loop, which is fine. I don't understand people seeking to track down the men responsible for a test tube full of sperm. Donating sperm would ... to me ... indicate a degree of detachment that precludes any parental relationship. But I am very old fashioned.

Cheryl P. said...

My early life was a bit "odd" but for the most part my grown-up years have been pretty smooth. I would think my kids would think they are lucky most of the time but as with all kids...there surely have been times that they would of wanted to trade us in.

I think this docu series is interesting in the fact that these kids have the clarity of knowing that they have a biological parent that NEVER intended to be a father in any sense of the word. He got paid to provide sperm...it was a business transaction. The only thing to gain is to have a visual of a person and perhaps some medical information.

While I am sympathetic about wanting to know how that person might age or what their medical history looks like, it would be very complex in terms of the emotional whiplash of meeting a man that you are genetically linked to but not connected in any other way.

These kids are young now but some of this meeting up with half-siblings and seeking genetic information may have repercussions down the road.

Cheryl P. said...

When I was younger, I met a number of adoptees that wanted to find parents and as many that didn't Out of those that I have met, it was nearly always men that weren't interested in reconnecting.

WOW...that has to be less common to have the biological mother seeking a connection.,,,Isn't it usually the kids that want to meet the birth mom or biological dad? When I decided to try to track down my mom, I had the occasion to connect with others trying to find parents as well. I have to think that everyone wants to think they were "wanted" and perhaps it was a set of unfortunate circumstances that led them to be adopted. The problem with romanticizing the "possible scenarios" in this, is that someone is likely to be disappointed in the true story.

I have a lot of opinions on this but I wouldn't put them here in the comment section due to time and space constraints. What I would say is that establishing a correspondence with a birth parent isn't about trying to recreate a maternal relationship. Muri sounds like maybe she is secure in that fact...she is the MOM and you are the DAD. No one can diminish that in any way.

When I met my mom, it was more like meeting any other older woman. I never figured that we would be able to come to a place resembling a "mother and daughter". While I was hoping for a different outcome, I knew it wasn't likely that we could reconnect in any significant way in a matter of a couple of days in Kansas City.

Of course, my situation was different really, as I was taken from my mother against her will which changes the dynamics of it. She was a victim in her own right. Oddly, she blamed me for not trying to get back to her as I got older. Now every time you hear of an abduction in the media, you hear people blaming the victim for not trying harder to break away. This is a very complex subject that few people can understand without being put into the same set of circumstances.

As for the Cryo kids...yes, this is a set up for a bad outcome. I don't believe they will ever get his identity but even if they do...he has, as you point out, never intended to have any attachment to these children.

lisleman said...

You are very right about the depending on the situation. Part of the open adoption process that I know about (suspect it might vary in different areas) requires the mother to select the new parents from a list. That selection process helps both sides with future relationships. Of course things can change over time and we all know relationships can be the most changeable thing around.

Crystal Colleir said...

So sad! Thank you for sharing your amazingly difficult and strange experience. I cannot even imagine how that would be, finally meeting your genetic parent only to learn they've completely moved on. =(

Cheryl P. said...

It is an interesting process to track down a birth parent and somewhat an emotional roller coaster as well. A good friend of mine at the time, had just located her birth mother, and found out that her mother had been a prostitute that had given birth to a number of kids. Those children also were put up for adoption. So...really...no matter what happened with my meeting, it had to be better than that.

It was...and as you said...she had moved on. I think that comment is very insightful, on your part, I have used that same phrase for the situation and a lot of people don't get it. But that is the reality. She married someone, adopted a child and started a fresh new life. It was easier for her emotionally to forget all the past pain and start again. That is why she told people that she only had her son. I can't really fault her for trying to find happiness. My brother and I came to terms with that.

Cheryl P. said...

In a perfect world, it would be wonderful for a child to be surrounded by people that loved them. I have seen and/or read about cases where the birth mother and the adoptive parents all work together. It's nice when adults can act like adults.

Wendy said...

Ah Cheryl, there is a lot of thinking that went into that last line, "I came to term with that". Disappointing nonetheless. But, at least you did pursue it to its conclusion and offer her the opportunity. I have friends who gave children up for adoption because back in the olden days that was mostly the only option. Some moved on with ease, other cried every year over the loss. People are all so different. I am saddened that your mother did not appreciate the woman you'd become and be thrilled to embrace the opportunity to share a new- found joy. Her loss.

Wendy said...

I had a friend long ago who actually slept with four different men in a week (yecks!) to get pregnant. Which she did. She had no desire to include the man- er, the father- in the arrangement and of course back then, the whole DNA thing wasn't much of a thing. She never knew who was the father, and to my knowledge, they never knew she was having a baby. I actually find the cryo generations troubling. Sperm donor. Gosh there were lots of those in the olden days, it is just that now they can be tracked. Who does it benefit? Sad that it always involved the courts with children who can be hurt either way the decision goes. A very complex subject so obviously close to your heart.

AletaObrien said...

Thank you so much for sharing about your journey to locate your biological mother. I think it's a very natural thing to want to know the history, if nothing else for the medical reasons… but also for a sense of knowledge of oneself and for many other reasons.

My brother and his wife don't read blogs, so I feel comfortable in writing this here… they are doing Donor IVF, as her eggs are no longer any good. They tried multiple times using IVF and her eggs and no success. Here's the part that I don't like… first of all, I'm not supposed to "know." (Which is stupid, really, because my mom is the grapevine queen and I'd think my brother is intelligent enough to know that if you share it with her, it goes from sea to shining sea.)

Worse though… they don't plan on telling the child that he/she is donor ivf. First, I don't like secrets like this, because it almost makes it look like they are ashamed of going donor ivf and feel like they have to "hide it" rather than getting support from the family… but ok, that is their decision.

But not tell the child? This makes me sad, because eventually, the truth always comes out.. if not from one of mom's relatives by accident, then what if a blood transfusion is needed in the child's future and what do they say then?

There's a reason so many books are out there for kids to read about adoption, not keeping it a secret and making sure the child knows how much the parents love them. The same should be available for donor ivf - some type of book to help parents explain it and not feel the need to hide it.

Ok, sorry for the rant and side story.. :(

Cheryl P. said...

I totally agree with you, Aleta. Secrets are so destructive. I had a niece that found out a family secret as an adult and it caused a very harmful emotional break. Plus...I am like you, WHY NOT tell the child? When did honesty become a bad thing? I don't get it.
Donor IVF could really be a huge blessing for a couple that needs to go in that direction. I hope they are successful. Children are such a blessing. Maybe they will have some clarity in time about telling their child how he/she was conceived.
The medical information is a real issue that at some point will come into play. I still have huge unknowns about medical histories. It's a burden not knowing if I am a candidate for something that I might have the ability to be proactive about.

Cheryl P. said...

Isn't it bizarre that women would be so casual about conceiving a child like that. When I was in the hospital after giving birth to my daughter, I had a roomy for 2 days before a single room became available. She was on the phone calling guys...(maybe six or so) claiming they were the father. She told each of them that the baby looked just like them. I think she was just waiting for one of them to make an offer of support.
I agree with you that sperm donation definitely has a negative side now that DNA can be traced. I, also, think it would be helpful to alleviate the problem of insufficient information by having donors provide an extensive medical profile with their "sample". Maybe children don't have the right to know the man but they should know some pertinent facts about him.
Yes, whether it's a donor situation, adoption, desertion, or abduction...a missing or unknown parent is a very complex dynamic. I have read entire books on the subject and very few capture the situation from the perspective of the child.

Cheryl P. said...

You are really kind Wendy. Some situations just can't be resolved...too much water under the bridge so to speak. I actually had a lot of pity for her. She felt victimized that her kids were taken from her and it left her broken.
I have met a number of children that were adopted or abandoned but I can't think of ever meeting someone that had a child that they put up for adoption. Gosh...that would be incredibably difficult. I wonder about the ones that seem to easily moved on...were they at peace because they had such a firm resolve that the baby was better off?

Wendy said...

I suppose 'ease' is not quite the right word. I think more acceptance that it was necessary, and then inner resolve to deal with the decision. One was 14 at the time. And absolutely felt it was best for the child. Another friend had the baby, and well...it was not good for either child nor her. another had an abortion. Interesting that I know so many but very few adoptees. All life choices have emotional consequences, I feel that all these choices, whether to keep, to have adopted or to abort ,are incredibly difficult . Difficult to make and often, difficult to live with afterwards. A lot of brokenness . Some of these friends are long gone, and perhaps in a later age of life, they might have reflected and said 'wish I could have/would have ' chosen differently. But one can't go there, just like hindsight to avoid getting pregnant in the first place,

Wendy said...

Scientists claim that many of one's medical life challenges are genetically based. I have no access to that information from my own family. So, I agree with you that at the very least, those are pertinent facts to know. But most of those men, especially in a true donor situation, are young, mostly unaware of what could happen to them later in life. hum, but couldn't they access that from the sperm donated anyway, the genetic markers? Ah, it always gets more complex. I agree that very few books capture the situation from the perspective of the child. No doubt, there will be more soon. Maybe you'll consider writing one!

Cheryl P. said...

I have thought of that as well, not only could the sperm be evaluated but a person that would be wanting to know about potential diseases could have genetic testing done. I don't know enough about it to say if the tests are done for specific diseases or if there is a panel that shows a liklihood of any number of diseases. Again technology is advancing all the time.

As for writing a book. I started one a few years ago but the more people I talked to that remembered my case the more hurtful it became. The detectives and judges in the state I was from were long retired but still remembered the circumstances. All in all, the story took on a very gloomy and depressing feel so I quit writing about it.

Cheryl P. said...

I can appreciate that there are cases where girls who aren't even women yet, aren't equipped to be mothers. I wish that young girls had the capacity to really understand the repercussions of unprotected sex.

Yes...I would think that at least some would look back and wish that different choices were made but sadly there is no "do overs" in this.