January 18, 2007

Reflection on DI Dad's Explanations

There are so many things that could be said about a very honest and open blog entry by Eric Schwartzman. In response to various questions he received, he offered an explanation of why he and his wife chose the donor-insemination route of having children. Here are bits of what he wrote, along with my comments.

In writing these comments, my words are sometimes sharp. However, I mean no disrespect to Eric and his wife, should they read this. I am sure they are doing a great job raising their children, probably better than many other (biological) parents. I have no doubt about their love for their son. However, LOVE is not everything, despite what we hear today. The fact remains that the Schwartzmans intentionally created a child in an unethical way that violated their son's rights. Why did they do it?

"As far as I know and saw the desire of my wife was to bear her own children. The pain I saw during each failed IVF cycle and failed DI cycle was pure. She wanted that biological desire to be pregnant and give birth to a child."

This is one of the common reasons for resorting to reproductive technology. It is, as those reasons tend to be, self-focused. It's natural for a woman to want to experience pregnancy and to want to give birth. It's natural for a husband to want to fulfill that desire in his wife. On the other hand, this is still just a DESIRE. It's not a NEED; she will not die if it is not fulfilled (many other women also do not fulfill this desire). In addition, it is most certainly not a RIGHT, because no one has the RIGHT to another human being. While people do have the right to try, no one has the right to actually HAVE a child. Unfortunately, this strong emotional desire for parenting has now been taken to the level of trumping other people's fundamental rights and needs - like the right of a child to its own biological parents.

"Why was it important for my wife to be related herself? Because she could and needed to be....She wanted to be pregnant because that biological need or desire was overriding and that she / we wanted to raise a family together as one more facet of the life we wanted to gether."

Interesting...again, this glaring contradiction (sometimes called hypocrisy) has been commented on by DI children. It was SO important to the wife to be biologically related to her child, that she ripped out another equally strong biological connection from her new son's life, just to have it herself. Well, what is her son supposed to think of that? Has anyone thought about HIS "needs" for biological connections to his parents? Couldn't his need be just as strong as the wife's? Eric says it accurately here when he says that her desire was "overriding." In effect, it tanked over her own son's needs and rights. Of course, it was easier to do back then because her son didn't even exist. It's easy to eliminate the rights of someone who isn't even born yet.
"Now onto my rationale of half adoption and reconciling that need to the child’s need (and ours) for kinship. I don’t wholly believe kinship need be via blood. I believe kinship can be gained via loving relationships and shared experiences. Where blood kinship can be found it should be celebrated (via my wife’s family, via developing bonds to half siblings perhaps). Where there are no blood kinships social bonds are just as important."
It's great that Eric also recognizes his son's need for kinship. Yet he follows that with another contradiction: social bonds can be "just as important" as blood kinships. So then, why the need for biological kinship? So where it CAN be found, biological relationships should be "celebrated", but where they can't, they really aren't more important than social ties? So if everything is equal after all, then why are biological ties worth celebrating?

It's interesting that Eric says, where blood ties "can be found". As if it was just accidental or something out of their control. The fact is, in this case they intentionally created that lack of kinship, they intentionally bore that kinship hole into their son's life.

"My son knows I love him and he returns that love based on our mutual actions. He accepts my role as father as he knows little beyond basic biology and only can truly appreciate that I am there for him when he needs me to be and that I am an integral part of his life as he knows it....Did he and I need the blood kinship to be father and son? No....Do I know that biologicaly I am not their father. Yes."

Saying something does not make it so...You can re-define the words "father" and "son" to include a man who is willing to pretend he is the biological father. He is willing to take on the role that actually belongs to the biological father, and assume that man's right to raise his own biological child. But he cannot really become that man. However much we twist ourselves into a verbal pretzel, the fact will always be that Eric is only a stand-in for the real father of his boy. His son is carrying the genes of a completely different man and belongs in the genealogy of that other man. His real father has, in a sense, "given him up for adoption" by donating his sperm. Eric is in fact the adoptive father to his son.

Eric's blog is a sad one to read. Don't get me wrong. He is very articulate, the blog is well-written, so interesting and good reading. However, the unethical nature of their son's conception just takes my appetite away. Nothing they can do or say can really compensate their son for that. Even if their love reaches the heavens, it can never replace the genetic father.

How many of us would willingly give up our own father? I wonder what Eric's son would have chosen, had he really been given the choice. Imagine that he had been in the room with the Schwartzmans, the doc, and the sperm donor, that he knew them all and was old enough to make rational decisions. Would he have still chosen to sever all ties with his biological father and be raised only by the Schwartzmans? Isn't it possible that he would have loved his biological father and his biological father's family, and that he would NOT have consented to the fate that befell him?

But he did not have that choice. The choice was made for him that his biological father didn't matter, and that social ties to his "social" father were just as good.

Indeed, he will never really have that choice, because for him, his real father will be an unknown. He will never know what he missed out on. But he will have missed out, because there are certain aspects that a "social" father just cannot replace. And there will surely be a hollow place in the son where there will always be a longing.


LorMarie said...

He will never know what he missed out on. But he will have missed out, because there are certain aspects that a "social" father just cannot replace. And there will surely be a hollow place in the son where there will always be a longing.

Respectfully Veronica,

Picture this: Imagine your husband feeling that there are certain aspects of another woman that you cannot replace...or if he in the future develops a hollow place in his heart for another woman that you cannot satisfy. You never know what may happen in the future. Sounds horrible doesn't it? Your comments in this post are no different.

Anonymous said...


It seems to me that you are not personally related to the enourmous pain and struggle that couples go through when they have infertility problems. Wanting to have children is not just some craving that some people experience.

Now, you constantly talk about the "right of a child ot its own biological parents" and I don't really understand it. It sounds like to you, parents are actually harming a child by conceiving him and that just sounds like a contradiction to me. I don't see the harm on giving a child a loving family to grow into. Yes, you can call it an unconventional family, but you cannot say the child would be better off by not existing at all.

My opinion is that you are looking at it the wrong way. Instead of asking: "How many of us would willingly give up our own father?", you should ask a different question.

For example (and forgive me if I'm stepping into your personal space), let's say you found out right now that your father is not your biological father and that the only way to conceive you was to use a sperm donor. Now, if you think about it, would you have wanted it another way? In other words, wasn't it all worth it to just be able to grow up with the person that you call "father" now? Was your life worth after all? I agree with you that you don't have to support the way you were conceived (like rape-created children are not pro-rape), but in this case, would you have preferred that your parents didn't look for a donor to create you? You were created with love by your parents using unconventional ways. Your parents did everything they could to have you here with them right now and give you their love. It was not self-focused. It was not all about them. Having a child is not like getting a toy. It's creating a human being a giving him a life and a family to grow into. Even using donors, it's still an act of love (as opposed to rape, incest, etc).

What about the donor? Well, he knew what he was doing. He gave an enourmous gift to a family and that is the love he gave to the child. Everybody in the process is doing this for the child.

So, in summary, yes, you are right saying the child had no choice. Of course, how could have he/she? The parents are assuming the child will be ok with this. But saying that he/she was better off by not existing at all, it's also assuming something that we have to way to know.

I know happy families who have used donors. How can you say it's better to have one wretched and hopeless couple instead of a happy family of three?

Anonymous said...

A few points. One: not one person in the history of the entire world has had any say in the manner of their conception. As a person grows older she develops thinking and reasoning skills which are influenced by the breadth of her exposure to the world. It takes a great deal of time to develop these skills which is why we don't let people make big life decisions until they reach a certain age. It's why we make decisions for our children. Bringing a child into the world is (hopefully) an adult decision. I agree that choosing to do so in such a way that there is no genetic connection to one parent does present challenges that would not exist in your ideal situation. But those challenges do not constitute a violation of anyone's basic human rights. Especially since what you are talking about is not the unborn so much as the unconceived. The unconceived do not have rights as they are completely hypothetical.
Second...to quote a favorite film, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." That word is "unethical." I think you may be confused on the concept of ethics. Ethics are what we use to figure out for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. I realize that some people have figured out that using the word "unethical" to describe any action or behavior with which they personally disagree based on their own moral compass gives their opinion a certain zing; whereas, using the more accurate (albeit less popular) word "immoral" would largely cause it to be dismissed as belonging to a small minded demagogue.
Third. I do hope you're enjoying the view from up there on your high horse. Isn't it easy for you to look down on everyone else who hasn't been as fortunate as you? As half of a couple who has survived a very late miscarriage and subsequently lived with infertility for many years, it angers me deeply when one of the "haves" gets all judgemental about the "have-nots." Knowing the joy that your own children have brought you, it seems singularly ungenerous to want to deprive anyone else of the opportunity to know those same joys. Of course having a child isn't a right. It's a privilege and an opportunity; one that comes to some (much) more easily than to others. A child should not be considered a possession whose provenance makes it more or less valued.
Fourth, and finally, the ability of a man to impregnate a woman is no indication whatsoever of his ability to be a good father. Conversely, the inability of a man to impregnate a woman does not preclude his value as a father. It does not make him a stand-in or a poor substitute for the "real" thing. A child conceived with a donor simply has an additional father (or mother). Granted, it is more complicated...more challenging for everyone involved, and maybe that makes it wrong for you, but it doesn't give you the right to decide for anyone else.
I sincerely appreciate that there are people out there who are willing to donate the germ that others need to build their families. Even considering the option of using a donor means that a couple must be willing both to rely upon and accept the kindness of strangers. It's been a humbling experience, to say the least. Perhaps that's something you should look into.