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Saturday, January 29, 2011



I am writing today to prospective parents considering egg donation, to the parents of donor conceived children and to donor candidates. I want to address the claims made by and in support of “Eggsploitation: The Infertility Industry Has a Dirty Little Secret” a documentary soon to be screened on Capitol Hill by the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Since word of this film came to our community, my colleagues and I have been talking about the young women portrayed, each alleging grave side-effects suffered, they claim, as a result of their respective egg donation experiences. “The young women interviewed in this film talk about suffering from strokes, brain damage, internal bleeding, or infertility after the procedure. Some ended up with cancer. Others nearly died from complications of the surgery done to retrieve the eggs” says Chuck Colson, Founder of the Colson Center for a Christian Worldview.

My colleagues and I are comparing notes, we are sharing our respective histories of working, likely, in a collective sense, with thousands of egg donors, we are worried that the correlations alleged in the film between dire health consequences and egg donation will impact how hopeful parents (and even successful recipient parents) regard this family building option. We are concerned that donor candidates will become alarmed.

While it would be unfair to the women interviewed to question the truthfulness of their stories, I can emphatically state that in my close to ten-years of working with egg donors, I have never known a donor to report a stroke, brain damage, a diagnosis of cancer or a near-death experience. None of my colleagues had any such stories to share, either. Certainly and unfortunately, we are all aware of the potential of ovarian hyper-stimulation as well as other possible post-cycle health issues. But do know that those of us who practice responsibly take seriously our obligation to make donor candidates aware of potential side-effects and we trust, too, that the physicians, nurses and mental health professionals will review, in detail, all possible risks before a donor is allowed to proceed.

Wesley J. Smith, a compensated consultant to the producers of “Eggsploitation” writes with hyperbole in his article “A Preventative Against Biological Colonialism” that “donors are not patients in the traditional sense…rather, they are means to an end for the real patients of the clinics…donors may be viewed as a resource to be harvested and then forgotten. Indeed, the film documents how donors quickly become out of sight and out of mind.”

And Colson continues: “If (donors) express any concerns or reservations (about the process), according to the young women interviewed in the film, they are pressured and even guilt-tripped into continuing.”

I not only find both Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Colson’s comments distorted, I question their points of reference. Most clinics, in my experience, treat donors with enormous regard, with tremendous compassion and are very careful to assess whether or not a donor meets the standard of “informed”.

What can you do if you are considering egg donation (either as a recipient or a donor)? Ask questions. Talk to your agency about what information is made available to donor applicants about the process. Ask what the clinic’s donor education program looks like. Ask about agency and clinic practices regarding the documenting of an applicant’s health history in order to assess whether or not she is an acceptable candidate. If you are a donor applicant, ask if the agency or the clinic can connect you with previous donors so that you can inquire about their experiences. Find out from both the agency and the clinic how many donors may have suffered medical complications. Be pttro-active in gathering information. I suspect, if you are diligent in your fact-finding, that both donors and recipients will find responsible programs that prioritize a donor’s well-being and take good care should she have need for follow-up.
See the film if you must (and as a side-note, consider the agenda of the organization releasing it) but please do not let this documentary dissuade you from a process you otherwise thought might be right for you.

Amy Demma, Esq.
Amy Demma is a New York licensed attorney practicing in reproductive law. Amy was the founder of Prospective Families, an agency now affiliated with The Fertility Source Companies

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Conversation with Mikki Morrisette of

I'm, always on the look-out for good info to share with our Choice Moms of The NYC Gathering, or Single Mothers by Choice. In the disclosure discussions we deal with how, when and what to tell our children and the others in our lives. Here is Mikki's take on how to deal with the others  in our lives during the early years.

About filling our paperwork for schools etc....

"Most women I've heard of opt to put N/A, or leave it blank, on birth certificates. I think in the case of schools the same would apply. But it might also be important to make a note that the child is "from a Choice Mom family, meaning I opted to build our family despite the lack of a partner." 

That's basically what I did.

Similar to adoptive families, it becomes important at times for good teachers to understand that not everyone is coming from the traditional family. At least where I am, there is more open discussion about it in those early years to lay the groundwork. 

Especially when it comes to the family tree assignments that start to happen in kindergarten. It's good to walk tall and proud. :-)

One innovative solution to the family tree assignments, which happen in early school years, is an idea that my daughter and I came up with years ago. 

On our birthdays, we draw a flower and, in the roots and stems and petals, write the names of the people who are most important to us. (It's interesting to note how some vary from year to year, and who remains the same.) Rather than noticing a blank side of the family, as with traditional family trees, where "biological dad's" side cannot be filled in adequately, we focus our efforts on recognizing that there are many friends and family in our network who help us evolve as the person we are becoming."

You can read more about this, and see an example, here:
Mikki Morrissette

Thanks again Mikki. So great to have you here in NYC!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Resolve Newsletter 1.19.11

Great Groups, Events, Teleseminars and more.....even a new Long Island peer group led by a great volunteer!
Home  |  Calendar  |  About  |  News  |  Contact

Update from the Northeast Region of RESOLVE:

Serving Fairfield County Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Eastern Pennsylvania
HelpLine: 888.765.2810
RESOLVE believes a well-informed and well-supported infertility patient reaches resolution quicker, spends less money and is in a better frame of mind at the end of her journey. Team RESOLVE is a community of resources, trusted partners and experienced professionals where women and men diagnosed with infertility come together to find their resolution. We encourage you to build your own Team in 2011. Start with some local RESOLVE programs and services in your area:

New RESOLVE Peer-led Support Groups Starting

RESOLVE support groups connect you to a community of women and men who share your experiences, your dreams and your journey. Don’t walk this path alone. Join a RESOLVE support group.
New peer-led support groups starting!
  • General Infertility Groups in Hermitage, PA & Mineola, NY
  • Secondary Infertility Group in Shrewsbury, PA
Visit our website for a complete list of support groups and other RESOLVE programs in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania and to learn more about the benefits of a support group.
RESOLVE also has online support communities. Click here for more information.

RESOLVE Events in Your Region

The New York City Affiliate of RESOLVE presents the Winter Seminar Series:

Join Us for a Free TeleSeminar

RESOLVE offers free TeleSeminars twice monthly.  Register today for this week's TeleSeminar called "This Woman Has a Secret" on Thursday, January 20 or visit our website for a list of upcoming TeleSeminars.

RESOLVE Needs You as a Volunteer!

Volunteering with RESOLVE gives you a unique opportunity to assist others whose situation may be very similar to your own, even if you may be following different paths. If you are still on your journey, reaching out helps you to feel less isolated and to connect to new friends with similar experiences. And, volunteering is a way for us to regain some control that infertility may have taken away.
The Northeast Region has a special need for HelpLine Volunteers. To learn more about this and other volunteer needs, please click here. 

My Comments Posted to The NY Times on The Twiblings

This took 2 days of moderation to get posted. I thought it didnt make it because of the PVED plug but it did. I wrote in again without the PVED part and that one made it too, similar but tweaked.
Sara Axel
New York, NY
January 13th, 2011
10:38 am
Thank you for writing this article and discussion.I started the NYC Gathering in 2002 as an in-person peer support group for people thinking about creating, trying to create a family, and parenting through donor-conception and surrogacy. Back then we thought that we'd be much further along by now in public acceptance and attitudes of others, but sadly we have much further to go. The article gives me hope for some sanity but sadly I and others still get weird or downright mean) comments, on-line and to our faces about ourselves and our kids, and its what keeps most of us in the closet. I've been criticized for outing my kids but I refuse to hide in shame. I won't out anyone who comes to our groups (and there is also secure on-line support at PVED.ORG), and I will continue to take these kinds of public hits from others who have no idea what my life or family life is like (and think I'm not really the only mom so I can't really be there for my kids when they find out how hurt and angry they too should be about all this). I do this in hope that someday we will have a safe community for our families where we don't have to fear such harsh words or judgments of others.624.
Sara Axel
New York, NY
January 14th, 2011
10:26 am
Thanks #618-Crista (and of course to Melanie for the article).In the years since starting a peer support group in NYC for anyone thinking of, trying to conceive and parenting through donor and surrogacy in 2002, I can count on 1 hand how many traditional, hetero families have been comfortable and open about this family-building journey without caring about the judgement or harsh words from others, let alone write about it in the NY Times Magazine. I've been targeted myself, taken some hits from people who say I wont be able to comfort my kids when they are mourning the loss of their other mother, and more of the same kind of criticism written in the comments here. I don't think too many more people will want to come out of the closet if this is whats waiting for them on the other side. Its really too bad, because we've finally overcome so many other stigmas, I just don't understand why we have to create or perpetuate this one.

My Friend Halle talks to her daughter and friend about DE

Halle is another mom of 6 yr twin girls. She replied to "Don't ask Dont tell with this story (and she's one of the few people I know that speaks openly about donor and third party reproduction):

"Over the weekend Dani was telling her friend that "first she was in another ladies belly and then she was put in my belly".  Her friend asked "So do you have two mommies?"  I jumped in "No, only one Mommy.  A mommy is the person that takes care of you everyday.  The one that feeds you and dresses you and buys you things.  That's a Mommy.  The other lady is called a "Donor".  The girls seemed happy with that explanation.  I believe that is how they learn.  By others asking questions and just generally being comfortable with it. 
Families are created so many different ways now.  I think people judge less and less."

Thanks, Halle!

So, tell us your story. If you'd like to share please contact me at
Thanks and best to all,

Friday, January 14, 2011

DE Mom on Public Perceptions Of Third Party Reproduction 1.14.11

From Beatrice......Hi Sara, I read your most recent blog post (Don't Ask, Don't Tell).  I then went online and read the NY TIMES Magazine article about the Twiblings and its follow up article by the same author.  Next I read the comments from readers about both stories.  WOW.  Now I see what the negative feedback is that you get from some people.   The comments seemed to be either for or against third party reproduction.  But when I take a step back, doesn’t this reflect our political views as well?   You are either conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, for Obama or for McCain/Palin/Romney, etc.?   Myself, I am what I’d call moderate, neither conservative nor liberal, but somewhere in between.  I am liberal when it comes to social issues and conservative when it comes to financial issues.   I don’t think you can make conservative people believe in third party reproduction.  You are beating a dead horse.  What I think you can succeed at, is educating the young people.   Our future political and reproductive views lie in the young.  If you want the public at large to view third party reproduction in a favorable light, suggest to your kids one day that they stand up in front of their class and do a speech about their road to life.   I am hoping that Brendon does that one day.  Somehow, I think he will.  Personally, I think sex-ed in the classroom needs to cover a woman’s reproductive life and explain that it is limited.  The media has done a good job of making it look easy to have a baby over age 40, and it is not the fault of the celebrities.  Mariah Carey, SJP, Kelly Preston, Celine Dion and the scores of other celebrities deserve their privacy when it comes to their own reproduction.  Older women want to feel and appear youthful, we don’t want to look old, do we?   It makes us feel good to see older women reproduce.  The media feeds on that and profits from it by reporting on the over 40 crowd and their pregnancies.  So, Sara, my main opinion about your blogpost is that you should not take it personally when others do not share your opinions on third party reproduction......

Thanks to Beatrice for writing in. I hope there really won't be a need for Third Party Reproduction and ART in the future, but I hope my girls grow up to be healthy and strong, smart and caring, and great egg donors too if they want to be. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

The End of Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Happy New Year to all! One of my resolutions for 2011 is to grow The New York City Gathering and to continue to be responsive to the needs of all our members. I want everyone reading this to know that ALL people who are considering third party reproduction or are on the path to having children this way, as well as those actually involved in third party parenting, are welcome to The NYC Gathering’s events, workshops, dinners and discussion groups. My goal is to create a community for our families

Now, down to business: In 2010 we saw a few signs of public acceptance of Third Party Reproduction and Parenting and a few signs of how far we still need to go. When I started the NYC Gathering nine years ago, a respected friend told me that in twenty years this will be no big deal. Almost halfway there, I’m sad to say that this might not be. None of us at that first meeting on October 2002 would have guessed that in 2010 Arizona and Oklahoma would have had a vote on whether to put a ban on donor compensation, or that in 2009 Missouri would vote on whether to put donor names on birth certificates. On a positive note, who would have ever thought  that we’d see an HBO special “A Family Is” featuring gay celebrity adoption mom Rosie O’Donnell, loosely based on Marlo Thomas’s work in “Free to be a Family.”

In 2010, I heard many personal criticisms about my choices online, in person, from all kinds of people. Smart people who said to me: “Why do you have to tell your kids about this?”, or right in front of my kids, “Donor egg, I could never do that”. One professional with a deep interest in this field wondered if I’m just a little too public, and said maybe outing my kids is not such a good idea. Unfortunately, it’s not only the Internet-stalking crazy people I have to worry about, but the general population and their perceptions of Third Party Reproduction.

Online, I’ve been criticized for shoving a script down my kids’ throats about differentiating between egg donor and mom. They insensitively offer to comfort my kid in place of me, when she can’t find her “other mother.”   These people are clueless about the fact that in our home we encourage our kids to share their feelings. We encourage them to find and be the best of themselves they can possibly be and create their own definition of family. They will definitely be able to think and do for themselves because I wouldn’t have it any other way and neither would they!

In this week’s NY Times Magazine section there was a wonderful first person narrative written by Melanie Thernstrom about how she and her husband, Michael, had two children with the help of an egg donor and two surrogates. She was proud of her decision to go this route and disclose it to all, no matter what the repercussions might be. Bravo for her courage! Sadly, she is in the minority. Too few heterosexual couples are coming out about Third Party Parenting. perhaps because they feel it will invite judgment. This article garnered a robust 326 comments within its first twelve hours online, outpacing other hot-topics such as tax cuts, abortion, gays in the military and Wikileaks.

 I hope you didn’t miss Peggy Orenstein’s column in the Times Magazine section, “The Way We Live Now” column a few months ago about the “Think Pink” movement, and how years ago women who had breast cancer had to stay in the closet. Substitute third party reproduction/infertility for breast cancer and her 70's comparisons were right on the mark for where public acceptance and awareness of assisted reproductive technology are and how the fertility industry treats the hetero families they help create.

I was born in 1961 and remember in the 70’s, whispering the words divorce, black, cancer, gay and adopted. But we still can't even whisper donor conception, unless you've suffered a long and horrible road (with no disrespect to severe infertility folk intended). Ok, yes, we're shouting it privately amongst ourselves, but that’s about it.

Older moms received a lot of press in 2010. There was a nice article on becoming an older mom on The photo was bizarrely retouched to accentuate the silver-hair of a woman holding a baby. Donor-conception was mentioned as practically eliminating the biological clock. It was on the transcript of The Joy Behar Show with Joan Lunden on CNN. A sincere thanks to Dr Grifo, I really liked his honesty about fertility education. But according to the transcript, the mental health professional on that program didn’t even mention donor. What does that tell you??? Just think of the Travoltas, SJP and so on. No, celebrities don’t have to be the ones to come out and lead the way for the rest of us. I get that.

But the lines between privacy and secrecy are increasingly blurred, and most donor parents I know say it’s their kids’ story to tell. I really try to respect that--I'm not saying I don't. I just HAVE TO be the one to say it’s OUR story to tell because if I don’t, if I pretend its a non-issue when the rest of the world is so very open to just about everything else, then I fear that by the time my kids grow up they will deep down feel that there is something wrong with them. To me that equals stigma and shame. A subtle message, but a painful one nonetheless, as everything else is so openly discussed today other than donor conception. That’s problematic for me and I think it’s problematic for my kids.

In 2010, I saw The Kid, an Off-Broadway hit about a gay couple seeking to adopt. I loved the music, the lyrics, and the message. It didn't matter to me that its a gay story. It is the exact same story I have heard about TTC via donor conception and the infertility rollercoaster, including what it does to people and relationships, and what it takes to stay whole as a couple and a family, before, during and (hopefully) after kids. I saw two people speak to each other about the high cost of not having their own working ovaries and loving each other regardless, even in those horrible moments when they don’t know which way any cycle or pregnancy will go until they take home a baby. And on the other side of this story is the fact that the gay population have come along way trying to achieve their own acceptance, and are still fighting for equality today. They are now the leaders behind the anti-bullying movement and I applaud them.

Over the past eight years, I’ve met a broad range of incredible couples and individuals on this journey. Choice moms and gay families. Even this year’s film “The Kids Are All Right” showed us that gay families are like everyone else and pretty mainstream, almost passé, “No Big Deal“ according to a Sunday Styles piece in the NY Times. Sometimes I think I’ll never fit in anywhere, and I fear that my kids will feel the same. I hope and pray every day, and work fiercely to create a safe community for donor-conceived and surro families, so my kids won't feel alone and wonder why no one ever cared how they felt when people whisper, “Donor egg. I could never do that…..” You fill in the rest.