This is a bit off-topic, but I came across something on the web that is bothering me. Rather than just stew about it, I thought I’d see if I could add an intelligent comment here.
As everyone no doubt knows, Elizabeth Edwards died this past week. Her funeral was yesterday. She was 61.
Some years back, after the death of her 16-year- old son, Wade, Elizabeth and her then-husband John Edwards had two more children. Emma Claire is now 12 and John is now 10. It’s not that hard to do the math and realize these children were born relatively late in Edwards’ life–she must have been in her later 40s/early 50s.
One could wonder whether the Edwards used ART. Perhaps they did. Maybe it is even likely. One could even wonder whether they needed to use eggs from a third-party. I have no idea. It’s possible. But surely this is a matter that the Edwards family is entitled to keep to themselves.
Did they discuss whatever they did with their children? Again, I have no idea. I think the parents were entitled to make their own judgments about what to tell their kids and when to tell them. These children are still fairly young and the last couple of years cannot have been easy ones for them. Perhaps the parents thought they had enough to deal with just now.
Now here is what is bothering me. There’s a post over on the Family Scholars blog from a woman named Alana S. I’ll just quote the last line, as this is what really caught me out. She’s writing about the children here:
I’m most curious about which woman they eventually grow to mourn the most- the loss of Elizabeth, or their biological, egg donor mother.
I find myself reading this as an attempt to deny or undermine the role that Elizabeth Edwards has played in the lives of her children because she isn’t biologically related to them. (Nevermind that we don’t even know if this is true.) This insistence that biology must be most important and that lived reality doesn’t matter is the single aspect of the discussion about donor-conceived children I find most troubling.
Maybe an egg donor was used and someday the children will really want to know about that. Maybe the information won’t be available and that will be a cause of grief and loss. Maybe Elizabeth Edwards was not as honest with her children as some might wish her to be (assuming, of course, that she had something to be honest about). But none of that, in my view, entitles one to deny the reality of her role in her children’s lives. She was their mother, the only mother they’ve known.
I don’t want to make this into a zero-sum game. I don’t want to argue over a hierarchy of loss and grief. You might convince me that the egg donor (if there is one) is an important person and that the children should have information about her. But please, don’t try to tell me that Elizabeth Edwards was not their mother or that they won’t grieve for this loss.