Genetic Ties

We have to use donor sperm/eggs/embryos to have a child. How important are genetic ties to feeling close and connected to a child?

People seem to believe that blood ties are critical in creating a bond between parent and child. And when couples have children together, they often hope to see the things they love about their partner, reflected in their child(ren). Heredity can help provide explanations for a child’s physical traits (“she looks just like her mother”), disposition (“he is stubborn just like his grandmother”), abilities (“he’s got his father’s gift for languages”), or behaviors (“she’s organized just like me”).

But parenting is about more than genetics. At its core, it is about relationships – a relationship between a parent and child – a relationship that is like no other relationship in duration, commitment, and intensity.

Genetic ties are not the only way to feel close or connected to a child. Some parents do not feel close to their children, despite being genetically related to them. Just like parents who adopt a child, parents who choose to use a donor(s) to create their family, usually say they “couldn’t love their child any more” if this child was genetically related to them.

So if you are considering using donor gametes (sperm, eggs, or embryos) to build your family, it’s important to remember that this form of family building is not a 2nd best option as opposed to having your own biological children. Rather, it’s an alternative that gives many individuals and couples a chance to experience pregnancy and childbirth – one that results in many loving and close families that would not have been possible otherwise.

You might also find these books useful:

Helping the Stork: The Choices and Challenges of Donor Insemination by Carol Vercollone, Heidi Moss, and Robert Moss (1997)

Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation by Ellen Sarasohn and Evelina Sterling (2012)

Assisted Human Reproduction Canada has a fact sheet on third party reproduction and the Canadian law here.

If we use eggs or sperm from a donor, will the child eventually want to find their “real” parent?

It’s important to remember that the donor is just that – a person who has donated microscopic tissue or cells. They are more similar to someone who donates blood, or bone marrow, or a kidney to save another person’s life – only in this case, their donation helps you and your partner create a life. Although the donor contributes genetic material, s/he will not be your child’s “real” parent. You are the real parent(s) – the person(s) that made a conscious choice to create a new life with the assistance of the donation from a third party.

If you convey the message to your child, that she or he was wanted and that you made a loving choice to bring them into this world, you will be sending a powerful and important message about their origins and about the fact that they were conceived from love.

In the past, it was common for parents to keep their child’s origins a secret for fear that the child would be upset, or when they are older that they would reject their non-genetic parent. Couples also worried about how other family members would feel about the child if they knew. But times have changed, and many more parents are talking to their children from an early age, and explaining in simple, positive terms, how they were created.

When they are older, some donor conceived children express curiosity about their donor. As a way of better understanding themselves, they may want to find out more about their donor’s medical history, family history, appearance, or about him/her as a person. This curiosity is normal. It doesn’t mean they want to have a relationship with the donor or that they see the donor as their parent. They usually just want to know more about their origins.

If you are considering using a donor to help you have a child, these children’s books may be useful in understanding how donor conception can be explained to a child:

The Family Book by Todd Parr (2010)

Mommy, Was Your Tummy Big? by Carolina Nadel (2007)

A Part Was Given And An Angel Was Born by Rozanne Nathalie (2002)

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