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Roots and Wings for Donor Offspring

Donor conception can be talked about openly and honestly between loving parents and their donor children. Telling is just the beginning though. And having a curious child in no way lessons your importance or significance as a parent. It is an innate human desire to want to know where we come from.
07/22/2015 02:19pm ET | Updated July 22, 2016
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There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.
One is roots; the other wings.

This Hodding Carter quote has been the tagline on my Donor Sibling Registry e-mails for many years now. This week I spoke with an egg donor mom who questioned me about it, asking if I interpreted the quote as meaning that donor conceived children's "roots" are from the genetic parent(s) and the parents that actually raise the child supply the "wings," saying that she felt like she was both to her adult son.

To me, the quote means that we parents owe our children both: roots and wings. It's not just one or the other. Parents who raise donor children do provide both roots and wings in the form of family, security and instilling our children with the confidence and the tools to fly on their own one day. Also though, we do need to acknowledge the "other" significant part of the roots that we might not be able to supply and that might be very important to our children.

So sure, parents who raise children certainly do provide both. But, there is another person who also contributed to our children's roots: half their ancestry, DNA, and medical history do come from the other biological parent.

Once again, we hit upon the notion that some parents like to think that the donor is just a "piece of genetic material" or only a "donated cell." But in fact for many donor-conceived people, it's much more than that. They have an unknown person who contributed half their DNA, their ancestry and their medical background: three very important pieces that contribute significantly to who a person is.

Just like in adoption, some kids are not very curious, and some are extremely curious to know about the donor. And as in adoption, families need to be supportive with whichever type of child they get. Or you might end up with resentful offspring; angered that keeping the secret was more important than their right to the truth. Or fearful offspring protecting the parents that haven't yet healed from the pain/shame of infertility. That's not their burden to carry. It's not their shame to carry on. Too many offspring come to the Donor Sibling Registry in secrecy, behind their parents' backs, afraid of hurting or angering them.

Secrecy does imply that there is something shameful about the methodology of conception. Donor conception can be talked about openly and honestly between loving parents and their donor children. Telling is just the beginning though. And having a curious child in no way lessons your importance or significance as a parent. It is an innate human desire to want to know where we come from.