A Slow Restart: Adoption Study and Differences, Part 3

Sorry for the long break.  I really had no idea how exhausting a college tour could be–granted that it included wonderful time with many friends.   But here I am again.   I have not read all the comments people have posted and will get to that.  For the moment I need to get myself started up again here.   And I’ve got this unfinished thread, too.

Remember this all started with a very interesting study on adoption and the historical transition from secrecy to openness.   (I write this as much to remind myself as to remind you.)   I wanted to think about what the study might tell us about the current trend away from anonymity as to gamete providers for ART.   To do that, I started to think about the ways in which adoption and use of third-party gametes are the same and the ways in which they are different.

The first post was about sameness.    When I turned to differences I tried to look at it from particular points of view–that of the child conceived with third-party gametes, that of the provider of third-party gametes, and that of the adults using third-party gametes.   What those links should demonstrate is that I did the first two.  Here I want to do the third.

So here I want to consider the differences between adoption and using third-party gametes from the point of view of the person who is planning to be the parent.   In some ways I feel like this ground has been pretty well covered in the preceding part, but I wanted to round at the view.

One starting observation is that many people who do become parents either via ART or adoption consider both.    This seems like it might be worth noting because the same isn’t true for the other players I’ve considered.  Children have no choice in the manner of their conception and I really don’t think many people decide between giving a child up  for adoption or providing gametes for ART.

Of course, this isn’t a difference between adoption and ART, but it does have some bearing on the question.    Of all the players, the prospective parents alone actually do their own analysis of the differences between adoption and ART and choose between the two.

That said, can we agree that it is an important and sometimes difficult choice?   I think that to the extent that it is an important and sometimes difficult choice it’s pretty obvious that the two things are meaningfully different from the perspective of the prospective parents.   But that still doesn’t tell us what the differences are.

In looking at what the differences are I think I end up rehashing the differences in the earlier parts, though they look a bit different from this angle.   So for instance, a woman who chooses to use third-party sperm has the experience of being pregnant.   A woman who chooses to adopt does not.   I think it fairly safe to assume that for most people, the experience of being pregnant with a child you plan to raise is a meaningful one without regard to genetic connection.

Perhaps the most relevant difference is that the ART parent will typically have some genetic connection to the child–1/2 of the genes provided come from that person-while the adoptive parent will have none.    There’s something (at least to me) deeply ironic about this difference.   The use of third-party gametes is most objectionable to those who care deeply about the genetic connection but the people who choose this route may well choose it because they share that feeling about the importance of genetic connections.

I think there is actually a good deal more to be said about these points and doubtless others, but I will keep it superficial for the moment–in the interests of time and space.     Probably the next thing to do is to go back to the original question–given the samenesses and the differences between ART and adoption, to what degree should we have similar policies?

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8 responses to “A Slow Restart: Adoption Study and Differences, Part 3

  1. “The use of third-party gametes is most objectionable to those who care deeply about the genetic connection but the people who choose this route may well choose it because they share that feeling about the importance of genetic connections.”

    Thank you for acknowledging this.

    The paradox appears sometimes to be resolved in this way: we want to maximize the genetic connection we’ll have with our child, so we choose, say, donor sperm. The genetic bond the mother will have to the child will be relevant. The lack of genetic connection to the intended father will be irrelevant, because love is all that matters. And the child’s genetic connection to her biological father will be irrelevant, because we’ll love her just the same, despite the “otherness” of her genes. And she’ll be encouraged to feel the same about herself – half her genes are known and talked about and accepted and even stressed (whatever question I had was answered with “You look just like your mother”) and the other half is the suppressed, irrelevant, dark half.

    • i think this is true most of the time, but not always- one must also look at the long arduous selective road to adoption compared with the much easier ability for anyone to buy sperm from an on line catalogue. that could well make the difference for some people.

      • This is important. Certainly getting third-party sperm and using insemination is a whole lot easier than adopting a child. And that surely must influence some people to use it. It may even explain most of the choices made. (I did consider this a bit more in the next post–just catching up on comments.)

    • Maybe paradox was the wrong word to use, but I certainly think you’ve outlined the way in which the assumptions/hopes/beliefs are in tension. I made this topic into my next post, as you doubtless know by now since it has taken me a very long time to work through comments. Almost there, though.

  2. I would suggest that the majority try ART (sometimes repeatly) until they give up or only have the funds for one more try or either – before moving to adoption – relegating adoption as the 3rd or final option of becoming a parent. Some will move directly to adoption and bypass ART with some of because it is based solely on religious beliefs that ART is wrong.

    I do believe experiencing pregnancy is a motivating reason.

    I also believe they don’t wish to compete with the ever present ghosts of the family of birth always being at least subconsciously, if not consciously, part of their parenting experience. That is precisely the reason many choose international adoption over foster or domestic infant adoption – there is at least an ocean, if not a language barrier as well, between their family and the family of birth.

    With the concept of openness in adoption being the trend people are finely having to accept that adoptees have two families – one they live with – one they don’t. What is interesting is the wide variety of types of openness and if you dig deep – few are able to work through their insecurities as the second parents (and granted the first parents have difficulties too) and be able to accept the totality of both families as important while different. I do believe for the AP’s this is also because of the long struggle they have gone through, and the pain they have felt getting to the finish line and that they just want to be a normal family. You have to be ready for being a complicated family, with many different and evolving dynamics to be successful in a truly open adoption, that requires ego’s to be left on the door step.

    With ART the setting of boundaries / family settings / terminology / bonds are most likely for the most part, less than in adoption.

    • Good points here–and I’m sorry I didn’t read comments on this before I wrote the next post. Oh well.

      I wonder if it would be useful to think about different populations. I think heterosexual couples are in a different position from single women or single men or same-sex couples. And I think gender matters, too. For single women and lesbian couples, for instance, all they need is sperm. (Cue The Beatles?) Getting third-party sperm and doing insemination is easier, cheaper and faster (often) than is adoption. So I’d expect these populations to choose this route with the most frequency.

      Single men or gay male couples, on the other hand, need the most elaborate and expensive ART–surrogacy. They migth be more likely to go the adoption route as a result.

      I think the ever-present ghosts in adoption are important, too. Do you think it is fair to say that the discussions around donor-conceived children raise the prospect of ghosts there, too? Maybe that is why this is so contentious. ART, which seemed tidy when compared to adoption, may in fact be messy, too. People who like tidy ART might resist that idea?

      I really appreciate your insight into the position of the APs. (Those are adoptive parents, right?) I bet you are right–they just want to be a normal family. They want adoption to be over and the difficulty/complexity behind them. It’s easy to sympathize. And I know that now they counsel people contemplating adoption that it is a life-long process–never over, never done. Maybe setting the expectations properly will help in the long run.

  3. Julie said: “I think the ever-present ghosts in adoption are important, too. Do you think it is fair to say that the discussions around donor-conceived children raise the prospect of ghosts there, too? Maybe that is why this is so contentious. ART, which seemed tidy when compared to adoption, may in fact be messy, too. People who like tidy ART might resist that idea?”

    People wanted tidy so they convinced / self-deceived themselves that ART would be completely different than adoption, and why they refused to learn the lessons already learned in adoption…the problem is that there are still ghosts in ART too…

    As to differentiating between types – yes the mindsets are different, the tolerance/acceptance of difference is greater…and the journey to adoption is generally different.

    As to your last paragraph – yes – many AP’s are learning this in their prep classes – some don’t want to hear it though…(AP’s does equal adoptive parents)…

  4. As I think the last few posts in this thread showed, there are many ways in which ART and adoption really are different. So it was probably easy for people to believe that the ghost problem would occur in the latter but not the former. It looks like that turns out not to be true, but I can see why people didn’t immediately assume that.

    To be clear, I don’t mean to concede that the ghosts are always there in ART. Sometimes they are. I wonder if they are less likely to lurk in ART than in adoption, given some of the differences between ART and adoption? And I wonder if openness about manner of conception effects their presence.

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