Tag Archives: sperm donor

Genetically Predisposed to be an Egg Donor?

New research says that “niceness” may be part of our genetic make up, that we are predisposed to be kind and generous because our DNA contains genes that control the function of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors, receptors for hormones that play a role in our maternal instincts, attitudes about civic duty, and responsibility to others.

I say we because this article makes me wonder if sperm and egg donors like me, and like those mentioned in the article that were more likely to be “giving blood, working for charity or going to PTA meetings,” were genetically predisposed toward donation. More than one chapter of my memoir addresses why I chose to become an egg donor, and for me, the underlying theme was generosity. I saw it as “one level up from” giving blood, with even greater impact in someone’s life.

Photo by Duncan on Flickr.

If I take my Wilde 🙂 speculation one level further, are children conceived from donor eggs and sperm statistically “nicer” because they got half their DNA from these generous people? And if so, are our populations slowly evolving toward kindness and generosity? Gosh, I hope so. I guess only time will tell.

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Film “Starbuck” Earning Raves

A recent French Canadian film, Starbuck, has been garnering awards, including the People’s Choice Award at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s audience award for the festival’s best narrative feature. Click on the photo below or here for a subtitled trailer.

The comedy begins with 42-year-old David Wosniak, a grossly in-debt man child, as his girlfriend announces that she is unexpectedly pregnant and he is being sued in a class action lawsuit by 142 of the 533 children born from the sperm he donated 20 years earlier. The children in the suit want to know the identity of their biological father, known only by the pseudonym Starbuck.

David decides to find and spy on some of his children, now in their early 20’s, as they stumble through their hilariously odd lives, getting hopelessly sucked in along the way.

The film takes the premise to the extreme for the sake of comedy, but are the film makers also calling for tighter regulation and ethics considerations with their humor? Although there are currently no international regulations on the number of offspring that can be sired by any one donor, many sperm banks follow a self-imposed (and policed) limit on the number of samples sold to the public. To date, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who gathers and reports U.S. fertility statistics, does not track the number of offspring born from donor sperm. Sperm banks in the U.S. may or may not collect this information, but they are not required to report it to any agency.

The sperm bank we used in California offers a sibling registry to connect families that have used the same donor, but participation in the registry and reporting of offspring produced is voluntary. When we chose our donor from their list, we did not know how many offspring had been produced from that donor, but only whether or not other children had been conceived. At the time, we thought of the existence of half-siblings as a positive because that meant the sperm we were buying was viable and might give us good results, but it never occurred to us to be nervous about exactly how many half-siblings were out there.

I especially enjoyed this article, by Chris Knight of Canada’s The National Post, which compares the film’s main character to his nick-namesake, the famous bull, Starbuck, who sired more than 200,000 female Holsteins in a 19-year period, and was later cloned to continue the legacy.

Only time will tell whether this film will make it to my hometown for viewing, and whether the issue it raises will spur national and/or international regulation, but earning these awards, and thus expanding the film’s distribution and audience, will certainly up the odds. Let’s hope that talks of an English-language version of the film pan out.

Parental Rights in Unwed Lesbian Relationships

When it’s still not legal for lesbian women to wed in many states, how can courts decide about their parental rights in a “divorce?”

This Los Angeles Times article, Both Lesbian Moms Have Parental Rights, Florida Court Rules, presents a dramatic family saga, no less disturbing if it were a heterosexual couple.

A lesbian couple fell in love. One womans egg was fertilized by donor sperm and then implanted in the womb of her partner of many years. Because the birth certificate has only one space for “mother,” the birth mother’s name was the only one on the birth certificate, while the biological mother’s name was omitted. Jump to years later when the couple breaks up and are fighting over custody. While the initial Florida court regrettfully sided with the birth mother citing current Florida state law, a state appeals court overturned the ruling on Dec. 23. The article states, “The 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that the U.S. and Florida constitutions trump Florida law and give parenting rights to both women. State law, it added, has not kept up with the times.”

But this situation has long-term implications for the rights of gay and lesbian couples. I am curious to see how this case might set a precident in future decisions.

This situation also has all the makings of a movie-of-the-week. The birth mother had fled with the child to Austrailia without the biological mother’s permission, but has since returned with apparently no legal repercussions.

Who would have thought that all this reproductive freedom we now have access to could be misused so terribly? Of course, we don’t know the circumstances within the couple’s relationship, but we definitely seem to be tromping through a gigantic gray area regarding parental rights in same sex couples. Let’s hope the muddiness is cleared soon.

(illustration courtesy of The Guardian)

A Son and Citizen

This Moveon.org video of Zach Wahls, a young man conceived using anonymous donor sperm and raised by two lesbian moms, speaking to the Iowa State Congress about gay marriage made me cry with pride. He’s well spoken and would make any mother proud.

Amen Zach. Amen.

Sperm Donor Documentary on Style

This coming Tuesday, Sept. 27 the Style Channel (and rebroadcast on the National Geographic Channel) will air a new Style Exposed documentary, Sperm Donor (9 PM ET/PT). We’ll meet one sperm donor who discovers through the Donor Sibling Registry that he has at least 74 offspring and we’ll get to watch his attempt to break the news to his new fiancée! Also, two adult half-siblings who found each other on the registry meet for the first time.

Alternative family is a very hot topic right now.

I don’t normally have this channel so will try to find it another way to see it. Any local pals: Please let me know if you can tape it for me.

Let me know what you think!

One Donor, How Many Siblings?

My hubby sent me an article, One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring in today’s New York Times (thanks Mike!). It highlights a problem I worried about when I became an egg donor twelve years ago and when we chose to use a sperm donor eight years ago. When I became I donor, I stipulated that I donate only to people from out-of-town. I didn’t want to see my offspring in the grocery store or worry about them going to the same high school with my children. As a result, I only donated to families from Canada and other counties in the state.

We chose our sperm donor from a bank in California. At the time, the clinic only noted that at least one child had been born by our donor, not how many. But I saw it as a positive, demonstrating the sperm’s efficacy. I assumed the sperm would be sold to a few locations throughout the country, making the odds that my children would bump into one of their few half-siblings statistically unlikely. But ten years ago, I didn’t realize that sperm could be frozen indefinitely, that more and more people would take advantage of the advancing fertility technology, and I trusted that the sperm bank would use good sense and limit the number of offspring produced by any one donor. But reporting of births by parents is voluntary and as this article points out, this area of the fertility industry is not well-regulated.

My boys already have half-siblings that we know about: twin girls born from my donated eggs, Ruby and Raven, who live two counties away and our unique relationship has formed the basis of my memoir. The boys also have a non-biological half-brother born in my husband’s previous marriage. But what about the unknown half-siblings born from their sperm donor?  What if the sperm donor had children of his own? Is it important that we know of their existence? Their geography, sex, and age?

When I asked these questions of our sperm bank, they directed me to their sibling registry. We’re listed there, but as of this writing no other siblings appear there for our donor. A search of the Donor Sibling Registry shows no other siblings by our sperm donor either, but the site has an annual fee of $75, so it’s still quite possible that my children have many other half siblings across the country.

Will my children yearn to meet their unknown half-siblings and donor someday, a situation happening all over the country and chronicled in the forthcoming documentary about which I blogged, Donor Unknown? If they do, I hope that we’ll handle the situation with the grace and understanding that our children deserve. But let’s face it, we’ll probably make some mistakes, because we’re human, and we’re slogging into uncharted waters.

The article also mentions the modern sex education a parent must share with their teenagers born from donor sperm. The teen must know and remember their donor number,  and they must assess the birth status of each of their future partners. I think we all remember those awkward junior high/high school conversations leading up to a first kiss. Can you imagine the dialogue a teenager born from donor sperm must have in this modern day?

“So…umm, well…so your parents…umm, when you were born…umm,…so, there’s, like, no chance you were born from donor sperm is there??”

With this extra monkey on their backs, my boys won’t have their first kiss until they’re 25! Maybe that’s a good thing for my blood pressure, but seriously, I want them to be happy, and although the odds still seem in their favor, who knows what the climate will be like in the next ten, twenty, thirty years when they’re searching for a companion? Nowadays, and in the future, the geography that I thought would protect them has been made insignificant by the age of computers and technology. Most of my single friends use web-based dating sites. Will these sites incorporate a check box for “conceived from donor sperm or eggs” as a screening option or conversation starter? Will it be part of their dating profile? Probably someday. It’s only a matter of when.

I’m trying not to worry too much about this dilemma, for their sanity, and mine. My hope is that we, as their parents, will have educated our boys enough, and raised them with enough confidence and openness to approach these new dating experiences with only the usual amount of awkwardness. It will be tough no matter how we prepare them, but hopefully, being born from donor sperm won’t be the factor that keeps them from finding and feeling the love, security, and contentment that we all seek, and that they definitely deserve.

Do you think the number of offspring from each donor (sperm and/or eggs) should be tracked? Regulated? Or should we just print the donor number on our Facebook info page so we can avoid those potentially awkward moments?

Egg Donor Starts a Class Action Suit

According to Courthouse News Service, egg donor Lindsay Kamakahi has sued the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), and the Pacific Fertility Center for conspiring to fix egg donation compensation. Her lawyers are asking for a class action certification.

She alleges that ASRM and SART published maximum compensation rates in 2000 and has not raised them since. Apparently, these rates are part of guidelines put forth for fertility clinics who are members of ASRM. If they don’t follow the guidelines, then they will be excluded from a national directory of providers. This exclusion is where the gray area begins.

Kamakahi’s assertion is also that the illegal compensation maximums were calculated based on rates paid to sperm donors, but because egg donors go through considerably more health risk and inconvenience (injections, exams, etc.) they should be paid more than sperm donors.

If her allegations are true, she’s right. Egg donors do go through a lot more invasive procedures, including anesthesia, vaginal exams, and multiple hormone injections. Although complications are rare, the risk is still present. If women could give up their eggs via masturbation, would we be having this discussion? 

Ideally, this could be settled without a class action lawsuit, but we all know that our world is often less than ideal.

My minor beef with the article is the mention that the surgical procedure for egg retrieval “may require several days of restricted activity to recover.” It is true that it MAY require this much time if complications arise, but they are rare.

This article, granted written on a legal blog, focuses exclusively on money. Yes, I donated eggs so that I could get money to pay down my student loans, but I also donated because I wanted to help people to have the family they wanted.

The legal system and the capitalist system can be so frustrating. Let’s hope for a speedy settlement via mediation…but I won’t hold my breath.