The “Who am I?” question

During one of my readings for Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, a woman in the audience, “Sula,” said she cried when she read the book’s dedication: “To my children and their other mothers, with love.” Sula and her husband had chosen to create their family via egg donation. My dedication, and the parts of the story that highlighted the role of Olivia’s birth mother and my subsequent search for her in the highlands of Guatemala, triggered something deep within Sula. She said because of my book, she now views the role of her egg donor in a different, more substantial way.

I was reminded of this episode today when I read this article by Tom Blackwell in Canada’s National Post, published in the February 2011 edition of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Newsletter. The abstract reads:

A pending case in Vancouver will determine if donor-conceived individuals in Canada will have a right to learn the identities of the people who provided eggs or sperm for their conceptions, Tom Blackwell reports in a January 28 National Post article titled “Genetic Rights: The Other Half of the Family Tree.” Although opponents of disclosure argue that raising the curtains on donor identities will decimate an already-small pool of gamete providers, the suit emphasizes the importance of finding one’s identity and roots, and points to the success of mandatory disclosure in Great Britain.

In the same edition, the Adoption Institute posted a report on adoption’s lessons for assisted reproductive technologies (ART), “Old Lessons for a New World.” The summary states:

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released this Policy Perspective brief in February 2009 which suggests that the knowledge derived from adoption-related research and experience can be used to improve policy and practice in the world of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as sperm, egg and embryo “donations.”  Old Lessons for a New World” identifies several areas in which adoption’s lessons could be applied, including secrecy and the withholding of information; a focus on the best interests of children; the creation of “nontraditional” families, particularly as more single, gay and lesbian adults use ART; the impact of market forces; and legal and regulatory frameworks to inform standards and procedures.

Clearly, as an increasing number of people turn to assisted reproduction as a method of forming families, the lessons learned from adoption will become even more critical.

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2 Responses to “The “Who am I?” question”

  1. Terri Quick says:

    As the grandma of an adopted child, I fee it’s important for me to be aware of what issues my granddaughter may have as she grows, and what feelings and issues my son and daughter-in-law may face. So, I try to be current and well-read along those lines. But, I find when my sweet Sofia is with me (at least two-and-a-half days a week), I am completely engrossed with the joys and challenges of living part of my life with my four-year-old granddaughter. Anything at all to do with the fact that she is Guatemalan or adopted never enters my mind. She’s just Sofia and we bum around together in the same way any grandma, grandpa and granddaughter would. I hope this brings some normalcy to her life and reduces any focus that keeps reminding her that she is somehow “different” and/or “unusual”.

  2. Jessica says:

    Terri, I agree. My parents feel the same way about our children, as they do about each of their grandchildren. Every child is treated the same. As it should be! That said, there’s a part of our children’s history that does make them unique–as there’s a unique part of the story of every living being. And for our children, that happens to be the history that came before us, that is from family in Guatemala.

    Your comment has made me aware that maybe I focus on this part of our family TOO much on this blog. :-) Perhaps I’m thinking about it a lot because we just returned from a visit to Guatemala, where I saw in vivid relief the influence of Olivia’s biology. For example, Olivia already self-identifies as an “artist.” Last trip, we gave art supplies to her siblings. Their gift to us was the sketchbook returned, filled with drawings. And lo and behold, they are also artists! (I say this as someone with zero artistic talent.) This is one example of many, many….

    Anyway, the last thing I want my children to feel is “unusual.” “Special” maybe and I’ve always been partial to “different” myself. But thanks for pointing out that I may be going a little overboard. Our children are our children. Your granddaughter is your granddaughter. Nothing can change that.

    As a parent (which is a relationship different from that of grandparent, of course), I want my children to know I acknowledge and understand whatever they may be feeling about who they are and where they came from. Or not! Maybe it’s not/will not be an issue for them. In case it is, though, I hope I’ve made it easier for them to come to me to discuss.

    Thank you so much for your comment, Terri.

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