Talking with Diane Ehrensaft, Author of "Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates". Todays question for Diane is about NOT TELLING.
The Nov 14 workshop will have a variety of options available on the topic of disclosure. With that in mind,I have wanted to support the people who are in what we call "the no-tell camp". Not with the objective to change anyones mind about this, but rather to help them to process whatever feelings go along with parenting after donor conception and surrogacy.
So Diane,can you start off with anything you think might be helpful for
those on the other side of the disclosure discussion?
Okay, here are some thoughts about emotional experiences for parents who have decided not tell their children:
There is no boiler plate solution to sharing or not sharing with your children the facts of their conception, and each parent or set of parents will make their own choices about that, matching their family needs and personal beliefs.
For those of you who decide not to tell, a whole host of feelings may come up that are good to be prepared for. You may feel caught in the vice created by the tensions between two opposing groups: those who feel there is no reason for a child to know (this being the common stance of the medical field over the years) vs. those who feel you are doing a disservice to your child, both emotionally and medically (for those who use donors), by not telling them the real story of their conception.
Your job, of course, will be to hold to your own personal decision regarding your child while giving yourself room to explore all the reasons you made that decision. Some parents who don't tell worry that they will be "outed"--that somehow their child will find out from another source and be furious at them, even reject them. Some of you in the not telling camp may hold a belief that genetics are really not that important and wonder why others make such a big deal of it. Indeed, there are many in other countries who have just that thought about we Americans, and feel strongly that once the egg and sperm come together, all that matters is that a baby is made who is yours for the rest of your lives, and that it is presumptuous to assert that the children will ever even care about it at all. You may feel relieved that you don't have anything that will get in the way of the love between you and your child, which is all that all of us would ever want in our bonds to our children. You may feel relieved that your child is protected from potential harm if you live in a community or within an extended family which would not take kindly to a child conceived in these "new-fangled" ways.
If there are two parents, and you are the non-genetic parent, not telling makes it so much easier to create an even playing field between you and your partner, so that there is no worry about your child seeing you partner as the more "real" parent. Just like people who have chosen to tell, you may wonder at times if you have made the right decision to not tell, and indeed there are some people whose feelings change over time and then decide at a later date that they would like to tell their children. Parenthood is a life long process with twists and turns along the way, so what we know now as a parent of an infant may be so different from what we come to know later as a parent of a teenager. The felt advantage of deciding not to tell early in your child's life is that it is a decision you can definitely change later, whereas if you make an early decision to tell your child about his or her origins and then regret it , there is absolutely no way to undo that decision once the cat is out of the bag.
Whatever the range of your feelings, the most important thing is that you feel supported for the way you have chosen to build your family, including the decision not to tell, for in the larger scheme of things, we should remember that we are all family.
Sara:Diane, thanks as always.