Is Being A Grown-Up All About Facing Regret?

Once again I have fallen way behind in the comments.   It’s the nature of summer, I fear.   As before, I will return to them and do my best to get caught up shortly.  Many of the topics cycle round regularly so if there are particular points I miss I trust they will be raised again and I’ll have another chance.   To the extent this is avoidance (and I know it is) it’s general (all comments) rather than specific (your comment) so please do not take it personally.

At the same time, it is important to me, too, to add new content and continue the trains of thought that wander through my mind even when I’m on vacation.   I’ve been thinking about the sorts of major decisions that are often discussed here.  Giving a child up for adoption is for me an obvious and enormous one.   Or choosing to adopt a child.   Related decisions like deciding not to have children (which might include having an abortion).  Or deciding to have/raise children (whether via adoption or some other means.)

While I see these as in a class by itself, there are others that might be somewhat related and I think some of you may view them as of equal magnitude so I’ll note them, too:   Providing gametes (eggs or sperm) that will be used by an unknown person to create a child, say.   Or choosing to use third-party gametes–and then deciding whether to go with a known provider, a provider who your child could eventually get information about, or an unknown and unknowable provider.

Let’s just agree for the moment that all these decisions are serious ones that might have long term ramifications.  None should be made lightly.  (I’m assuming we can agree this far even if we don’t agree on whether the decisions around third-party gametes are equivalent to adoption decisions.)

In all these cases, one makes a decision one could later come to regret.  So, for example, one could give a child up for adoption but later come to wish one had not done so.   Or one could provide gametes for a third person and later wish one had not.

It may even be true that the regret is more likely to flow one way than the other.  What I mean is it may be more likely that twenty years in you are more likely to regret having provided gametes than not having provided gametes.    I’m not sure if the same is true about placing a child for adoption–partly because I think it must be very difficult to wish that you had when you chose to raise a child.   But for the moment I’ll assume it is true–that regret is more likely to flow from placing a child for adoption than from not placing a child for adoption.

What does this mean?  What do we do about it?

One thing that seems clear to me is that we need to do our best to set up systems that ensure the people do give these matters thought.    But I am not sure what those systems need to look like.  It seems to me, for instance, that given general attitudes about children that people who place their kids for adoption in this country do give the matter thought.   (This ties back to my point that wishing you had placed a child when you didn’t is almost unimaginable.)   Similarly, I don’t think many women casually decide to have abortions–the social context of abortion is such that it is a decision you’d wrestle with.   Maybe we need to do more to ensure that people in the third-party gamete context think more about what they are doing–but I’m not sure about that, either.

That’s all open for discussion, but I want to move on to a different point.   I think we have to acknowledge that as adults we all make decisions we come to regret and that this is just part of life.  Thus, we ought not to make rules that are designed to always force people to choose the less-likely-to-regret path.

To my mind, being an adult, having autonomy, is tied to having the right to make important decisions–even ones you may come to regret.   You can take a job that requires you to move across the country, even though you give up a job you like and a community you have lived in.   You can end a marriage that wasn’t ideal in the hopes that as a free person you will find a better one, or you can stay in that marriage and pass up the opportunity of establishing a new relationship.   We all live with regret, I think, or at least with the danger of regret and I don’t see that in the name of shielding people from that we ought to restrict their choices.

I’m well aware that what I’ve said here requires further refinement but I must run and so I’ll put it up now and see what happens next.  Maybe I’ll regret this choice but on balance, it’s worth a try.

38 responses to “Is Being A Grown-Up All About Facing Regret?

  1. I like this post but I wonder if there is something here about making big decisions that affect only yourself and making decisions that have an impact on others…particularly children. I do think that preparation for adoption, whether it is giving a child up or taking one on, or giving or receiving donated gametes is important. In the UK there are considerable opportunities to think about adoption as there are statutory processes that parents have to go through and support for both those relinquishing a child and those taking a child into their family. In donor conception donors and recipients are separately able to have counselling prior to going through procedures, but mostly only one session and even then not all sperm donors actually get to see a properly qualified counsellor. At DC Network we have considerable experience of running Preparation for DC Parenthood weekends for those contemplating family creation by gamete donation, but it is only those people who find us and can then afford the fee to attend (until recently subsidised by the government health department) who benefit…but benefit they do. And I would argue that those who give themselves the time and opportunities to face all the difficult questions and grieve the child they ‘had in mind’ before having fertility procedures with donated gametes, are far more likely to be open with their children and less likely to regret their actions. I believe that donors should also have the opportunity to think very clearly about the long-term responsibilities involved in giving away or selling their gametes. In the UK this inevitably means being identifiable to offspring from their 18th birthday. It takes a mature attitude and personality to understand and accept the moral responsibility to stay in touch with those who run the Register of donors and offspring (and this may be changing over the next few years).

    As someone coming up to my 65th birthday I certainly have regrets about some of the decisions I have made in my life. It really is inevitable and I agree Julie that to try and force people always to take the least regretted path is a foolish waste of time. BUT, where there are third parties involved in the deliberate creation of, or welfare of a child, I do think that significant preparation is necessary so that any child has the best possible chance of growing up proud of who they are. I am of course aware that some of your commentators would say that this would rule out family creation by donor conception altogether. However, my own personal experience of being mother to two DC adults, now aged 29 and 26, and in 20 years of DC Network, I am convinced that the vast majority of DC families do well if parents are confident and comfortable with their choices and open with their children from early on. Certainly no regrets from me about that one.

    • I agree that when decisions have an impact on third-parties there are more things to consider. I those issues are separate from regret, though. I should have been clear that I meant to set them aside and think only about regret. But yourcomments make me realize the degree to which the questions are intertwined.

      I don’t disagree with what you say at all. I think careful deliberation is important and we ought to structure things to facilitate that. But I also think (and I don’t think you disagree with me) that in the end we need to validate people’s ability to make their choices–even choices they may come to regret.

      I’ve taken some preliminary stabs at the third party issues in the past–sorry I cannot search well enough where I am now to find links. I think they are quite hard. Where, for example, would that take you vis-a-vis abortion? You could argue that it is always worse for the prospective child when the woman elects abortion as then the child will never “be.” But for me the choice to have an abortion is one that must be available to the woman.

      I’m also mindful that (at least in the US) the prospect of regret and all the rest has been used to place obstacles in the way of women trying to make their own choices about abortion. Clearly it is an issue that can be misused, which is not to say it isn’t also a legitimate one sometimes. I do not in any way mean to suggest that you are doing anything like this–I’m just musing about why it is a hard issue.

  2. Julie – in regards to regretting adoption – the problem I see right now is two-fold – those who were promised openness only to have that door firmly shut (and not always because of the mother) AND the fact that during the “directed” counselling the mothers meet other RECENT “birth” mothers who are still in the mindset from the counselling. I can search for the study but it takes over 10 years for most to accept the fact that the choice was not the right choice…The fix – make it “non-directive” counselling like in Australia and provide a variety of “birth” mothers to speak to – the ones still believing it was the right thing and the ones who would give anything to go back and make the other decision.

    If you have the time you should take the online course (not long) provided by the Nat Council for Adoption (Infant Adoption Awareness Training)…

  3. It would be nice if people simply remained full legal members of their own genetic families forever. I mean regardless of what genetic parent’s wants and desires and intentions in the matter were or are or should be or should not be, there are simply too many other people negatively impacted by the elimination or the failure to recognize genetic family as legal family.
    That is not to say that genetic parents would always be able to raise their own offspring. They should be obligated to raise their own offspring and should have to go through a court approved process if they don’t want to raise their own offspring just as there should be a court approved process for demonstrating that they are not capable of raising their own offspring if it can be shown their offspring are not safe with them. Becoming a member of a new family via adoption should be like becoming a member of a family via marriage. It should not change the original identity of a person. That would do much to counter regret issues

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “full legal members of their own genetic families” but even so, I’m not surprised you think this. But that’s a little beside the point of the post.

      All I want to say here is this: Right now people can provide gametes and have no legal connection to the resulting child. Quite a few people do this. Some may come to regret it. What do we think about that? Is the possibility of regret (on the part of the gamete provider) a reason to disallow the practice? I guess I think we have to allow people to do things that they may come to regret.

      As I just said in response to an earlier comment, I’m not thinking here about the rights of the prospective children–that’s a separate set of issues.

      • Regret is something I would be surprised if you are at all concerned with. The major difference with regret in adoption and regret in gamete donation is that nobody (save the extreme right wing) seems to want to vocalize that giving up a gamete means giving up a child unless you’re only donating a gamete for research purposes unrelated to reproduction. Everyone in the business of harvesting gametes downplays the cold hard reality of what is actually going on – they are in fact abandoning their own young because there will be no court approved adoption. Their offspring will be born and they will become parents for all medical intents and purposes and their family members will gain relatives and will become family to their offspring for all medical intents and purposes and there will be no record of this. Even if they are lucky enough to locate their offspring through a site like the DSR they will never be legally recognized for what they are which is kin, family. The regret of a gamete donor is less empathized with because they are brainwashed into believing that their offspring belong to other people who purchased them. I’m quite sure its an anguish that is absolutely gut wrenching for those who realize what they’ve allowed to happen to their own offspring.

        No I don’t think we should let the likely hood of regret lead decision making. I do think it would be good to use plain language though. Ultimately the best course of action is to simply hold people accountable to and for their offspring permanently so that if they are going to regret giving up a child to be raised by someone else they all have to do it in the same court approved fashion so that they all have the same hurdles to jump before its official and someone else can raise their offspring. People would still do it give up the children for adoption that resulted from gamete donation – but they’d do it in an above board manner where at least the regret would not include just letting anyone that paid have at their young. They’d know that all the normal checks and cross checks took place and that the family had to go through an adoption process and court approval first before getting to raise their child.

        As I’ve said before most gamete donors would not give the keys to their car to a stranger for an afternoon and here they just let some stranger raise their child without having them go through a court approved adoption to do it. It is most regrettable for anyone with half a conscience.

        To that statement I have received responses from gamete donors saying that they “just have to trust” that the people really went through so much to have a child and will be good parents. And my response was “no, you did not just have to trust some stranger to take care of your offspring. Why on earth would you just have to trust someone to care for a helpless infant without checking them out first? Would you just hand your neighbors baby to some stranger that wanted to babysit for a day? We don’t trust total strangers with children that is why we make people go through the adoption process – to protect children from being purchased. What the hell were you thinking? You’just had to trust’, bull sht.”

        Yes I’ve made a couple of people cry. But they are looking for their child now and they were not before. So I don’t regret it. Not one bit.

        • Donors are not ‘brainwashed’ into thinking one thing or another about their donation. People drop out at enquiry or counselling stage because they are more aware of what’s required and they get to think about the issue more and decide whether it suits them, but they turn up in the first place clear that they are donating eggs or sperm, and with their own ideas about what that means to them. Not everybody thinks the same way about the implications nor should they be counselled to think one thing or another.

          People who feel strongly that the bio relationship is what makes a family are unlikely to ever enquire about becoming a donor.

          I was one of those people who replied that you ‘just have to trust’ that the parents really want a child and will treat it well. And I stand by that – if you don’t trust that, you don’t go through with the donation. I am not stupid, it was not something that never crossed my mind, and I took responsibility for donating despite that circumstance – my considered choice.

          • Yes, I remember. I would never imply that you were stupid. You also took the time to go into great detail about what you’ve done to prepare yourself for the possibility of being contacted. You’ve prepared your relatives for that as well. You have acted very responsibly as a gamete donor realizing that you did in fact create a person and have some responsibility toward that person.

            I don’t think counseling is the greatest idea as it will bend one way or the other depending upon who is paying. I think allowing gamete donors to select the people who are going to raise their offspring would be a good semi compromise. I think having to give the child up for court approved adoption would be the fairest thing to the child as far as deserving the same level of protection as other children being raised by genetically unrelated parents.

            I do doubt that you would select a set of adoptive parents for a total stranger’s offspring using the method of ‘if they are willing to pay a whole lot it must mean they’ll be good parents’. There is a reason why that method is not used when saying its ok for adoptive parents. I’m assuming that you might advocate for greater control over the process for those who wish to donate.

            I know I did not make you cry. But you also thought through the implications and prepared yourself better than the couple of people that cried. I don’t think they were stupid either. I think that there is a spin put on the process that puts donors in the position of being brain washed or in a position of believing what is convenient at the moment.

            Therein lies the regret I suppose. Glad you wrote. I bet Julie is thrilled you wrote. It shows that not everyone reacts the same. And it put me in my place.

            I always like what you write Kris. You are a class act. If I ever hurt your feelings I’m sorry. My heart is in the right place but my mouth is not always as delicate as it should be.

          • Kriss, why do you “just have to trust”? why should you trust at all? in fact, how can you trust? there is no screening procedure as to who receives donated gametes.

          • “People who feel strongly that the bio relationship is what makes a family are unlikely to ever enquire about becoming a donor.”

            True but should people be able to buy themselves into a situation where they get parental rights over another person’s offspring?

            Genetic parents are not necessarily going to be good at raising their own offspring, someone else may do a much better job of it. I agree. But people cannot purchase themselves into a genetic parent child relationship; this is why it is the starting point in an ethical chain of custody. People can and do purchase themselves into adoptive parenthood and sometimes the adoption is not recorded and they are simply listed as being the child’s parent rather than their adoptive parent. This happens in gamete donation situations a lot.

            Why is it OK for people to purchase the title of parent in gamete donation and surrogacy when it is not OK otherwise? Why do most people have to go through the adoptive process to become legal parents of other people’s offspring but buyers of gametes don’t? Ultimately its just done so early that the transfer can’t be detected by authorities which is the appeal I think.

            What is your take on that disparity?

            • I suppose I feel that difference is because donors are not giving away babies they nurtured through pregnancy but eggs or sperm they have little emotional connection with. The recipients (usually) have the emotional bonding of pregnancy and birth to build up a relationship and prepare for being a parent and (usually) the partner of an egg recipient is the bio parent of the child.

              In the UK you don’t pay to become an adoptive parent. The hoops are relentless and make sure parents are very committed (and also that a lot of children stay in care far longer than they should).

              While I personally think maybe the process could be speeded up from the years it takes (and the years for kids in care and the damage that causes them) I’m not an expert and would defer to those who are. Of course, sometimes they don’t get it right. It was a relief to find my sister’s adoptive parents were decent people who brought up her and her two adoptive siblings well.

              This issue isn’t really about money though is it – from your point of view the issue is the unacknowledged genetic link and the lack of contact with bio family, and that holds regardless of whether adoption or donation is paid for. I wouldn’t assume that because people follow the normal processes for adoption or donation in their country that they care any less about the kids. You might complain that in the US adopted children are bought but in the UK they’re given away. That process in itself doesn’t say anything about the value of the child.

          • I agree with your sense that those who think biology is everything won’t be providing gametes. As you say, too, there are elements of trust. That’s an important observation I think I missed.

            What’s striking to me is that this is all so much more thought through than issues of conception are for people who just have sex/get pregnant with no intention to do so. This is what my one-night-stand hypo is about, really. We all know that people do engage in intercourse without giving any thought to the prospect of children–who will raise them, whether it’s a good idea, etc. A man who chooses to provide sperm for ART is arguably much more responsible than a man who engages in unprotected sex with a woman he hardly knows.

            It does, of course, depend on good people running the ART facilities and I’m sure this doesn’t always happen. Regulation to ensure the best practices–counselling and all the rest–is a good idea.

            • What? People who engage in unprotected sex do it because it feels better than protected sex; if they wind up with offspring do to their reckless behavior its an accident. They were irresponsible sexually but it need not mean they will be irresponsible parentally. So the one night stand guy who is accountable to and for his offspring once he is made aware that he has offspring is definitely more responsible that a sperm donor because why? Because he is responsible for creating a life and is responsible for sustaining that life until the little person can fend for him or herself. The gamete donor is horribly irresponsible. They have no idea the result of their reproductive behavior and actually promise to behave as if they do not care what happens to their young. Its the height of irresponsible sexual/reproductive behavior. Having 150 offspring that he does not financially support and does not know their faces or their names and exposes them and all the rest of their relatives to inbreeding and lack of medical information and a host of really lousy stuff is way more irresponsible and selfish than a guy who has a one night stand and pays his child support and splits custody and muddles through it doing his job as his kid’s father.

              Can you defend the statement that gamete donation is a more responsible act than getting a stranger pregnant? Its not the behavior prior to the birth of the child that makes a person a good parent Julie. Your an adoptive parent I’d think you’d be down with that. Your always trying to make pregnancy a care giving excercise when it is not. Its just not. At best a woman who commits to see a pregnancy through simply takes good care of herself while she’s pregnant. I’m sorry but there is a real big difference between taking good care of yourself and taking good care of someone else. She can eat healthy all she wants it won’t keep the kid from starving once its born because that is when the child care starts, not before. You give women way too much credit for carrying and delivering the child as if it counts for actual child care points toward a down payment on legal parenthood. They go to the bathroom inside your body without any smell or diapers or desinex. They don’t cry or complain or spit up. Its just the same as not being pregnant only you look really horrible you don’t get hit on and when you cough you pee yourself. So pretty much women have to be really uncomfortable in order to become genetic parents and men don’t, but that really does not qualify them more than men in the care giving department. Yes their bodies produce food but not always I did not produce food bet your surprised and that is what formula is for.

              I say you find another angle. You’e got the whole possession is 9/10 of the law thing and that is what the whole birth mother thing is about anyway. Its more believable.

              • Well, with some one night stands, the man and woman are truly strangers – they may not even know each other’s names or where they live. If a child results, the father may never be able to find the child (if there is one), and the mother and child may never be able to locate him, either. So I wouldn’t call such people responsible just because the guy will hvae to pay if he is somehow found.

                • Now wait, Rebecca, if he is somehow found and he does what he is suppose to do for his child how is that irresponsible? Financially supporting a child is an enormous task and generally comes with some level of involvement and the family would know the child as well. He may turn out to have a great relationship with his child, in fact he has a better chance of having a good lasting emotional relationship with the child than he does the mother or any other woman for that matter. While 50 percent of marriages end in divorce 50 percent of parent/child relationships do not end in being totally cut off and shut out. Most parent child relationships are semi dysfunctional and somehow weather the storm. Same can be said of adoptive relationships I bet.

                  • I would say the very fact of sleeping with someone you don’t know at all without even knowing WHO they are, and especially without taking precautions, is irresponsible in itself.

        • I actually do think a lot about regret and how to talk about the issues related to it which means (to me anyway) that I am concerned about it. I just do not know quite what to do with it.

          It’s surely true that not everyone thinks that giving up a gamete is the same as giving up a child. Some people think that (and the group that thinks that does include some very conservative folks) and some people don’t. If a person doesn’t equate gamete with child then the regret issue is quite different. I’d assume that people who think that giving up gametes is the same as giving up children aren’t typically providing gametes for ART. I’d expect that most people who are giving up gametes are more inclined to think of the gametes as something different from children.

          Perhaps the people to worry about are the people who change how they think about gametes over time–the ones who begin thinking that gametes are not the same as children but who come to think that they are. Those folks might provide gametes for ART but then later come to regret having done so.

          In any event, I think the question of whether giving up gametes is/is not like giving up children is one that each person has to answer for her or himself. It’s not a scientific question, it’s a question of values or personal belief. Perhaps one day we will have some broad social consensus on it but I’d say that for now we do not have that consensus.

          • “In any event, I think the question of whether giving up gametes is/is not like giving up children is one that each person has to answer for her or himself. It’s not a scientific question, it’s a question of values or personal belief.”

            No I cannot let you get away with saying that as if it actually works as a response to a really grounded and logical comment. First of all people who are pro gamete donation are always saying how people with the opposite opinion think that giving up gametes is giving up a child. No Giving up gametes is giving up gametes. People donate their genes for research unrelated to reproduction all the time. Those people donate gametes without giving up a child. People that donate their genes for reproduction at fertility clinics….they’re also giving up their kids. In fact they sign paperwork to that exact effect they just don’t file it in a court where it would count or get recorded so in many ways its almost like it never happened because nobody but them and the clinic knows they did it. Ugh. It is a 2 part gig Julie and you know it, these clinics would not accept their donated gamtes if they did not also agree not to raise their offspring once born. So these gamete donors are also parents who slip out the back jack lay low hide out and avoid having to be recorded as having any offspring or having any responsibility toward them, they have to be willing never to seek custody or visitation of their minor offspring or their gametes would not sell or whatever they call it.

            If they were not giving up their children nobody would care what they looked like or where they went to school or what musical instruments they play. People care about the donor’s attributes not because they are dying to have one of their gametes to put in a curio cabinet; they care about the donor’s attri9butes because they want to raise a little tiny reproduction of them they want to raise the donor’s children because the donor has attractive and likable qualities. The donor has to be willing to reproduce with people they’ll never meet and be willing to let their offspring be raised by people they’ll never meet as well.

            So its really not fair to make it sound like people who are against this process of comodification think sperm are like little tiny babies, I’ve never read a single opinion against gamete donation that said eggs or sperm are the same as children. Glomming them together is a tactic to make people like me seem like simpletons or pro lifers.

            • I personally have a very positive view of gamete donors. They are helping people who cannot have children of their own due to biological reasons have children. Generally these children are very much wanted and are born into families that are well equipped financially, emotionally and physically to take good care of them. Children that are born with gamete donation are looking forward to much better lives than children born of one-night stands. The typical case in one-night stands is not of a father who supports those children financially. Rather, the typical case is the opposite of that. I think people having children through one-night stands are really irresponsible because they have not prepared themselves to emotionally, physically and financially to support the resulting child. And I don’t consider paying child support when one is forced by law to pay it as being responsible. Being responsible would be to pay it without being required to and that is not the general case in one-night stands.

              • Kali
                If a woman is able to identify a host of men that she slept with 9 months prior to the birth of her child and a paternity test proves that one of them is the father, do you believe the child should be entitled to financial support from him or not? Do you feel the child should be entitled to be recognized as his child and therefore as the legal kin of all his relatives or not? Do you feel the child should be entitled to receive his social security death benefits if he dies before they are 18 or not? Do you feel that he is inherently unfit to have a relationship with his offspring simply because he had casual sex with a woman he did not know very well? Once men are made aware of the existence of their offspring and are ordered to support their offspring they do generally cultivate relationships with them and fathers are more involved with their children physically and emotionally now more than ever before in history because fatherhood is recognized for what it is: a relationship to the child and not the mother so children of unmarried parents are entitled to their father’s support even if he is not married to their mother. That is a very good thing and men are much more responsible fathers now. The thing that you are scoffing at is saving families from being broken up because unmarried women no longer are compelled to give their children up for adoption knowing that their children will have their father in their lives or at bear minimum his financial support. Don’t children deserve that and how can you say that paying child support is irresponsible when the court orders it? Who would sign up to pay child support on a child of a woman they barely know if there was not a paternity test that resulted in a court order?
                Are you suggesting that being promiscuous prior to the birth of your offspring makes a person unfit to raise their own offspring?
                Tell me Kali where does the chip on your shoulder come from? Why don’t you think that men should be accountable for the offspring they create to the same extent as women and why do you feel children are only entitled to care from their mothers? I almost get the impression that you think the mother’s romantic relationship with a stranger should trump the child’s genetic relationship to its father if the mother was so inclined. Why?

                • I think you have made the logical leap from “is irresponsible” to “should not be responsible”. I have no problem at all with making the genetic father pay child support and provide medical records as long as no one is forced by law to submit to genetic tests and no one is forced by law to name sexual partners.

                  • Then you think its OK for a mother to withhold the identity of the father to the child’s financial detriment?

            • I think the difference in values is about how sacred one considers the genetic bond vs. the emotional bond formed through caregiving. In the usual case when the legal parent is also the genetic parent, the genetic bond and the emotional bond is with the same person. However in case of gamete donation or adoption the two are separate. In that case, my personal values are such that the genetic bond is way down on the priority scale vs. the emotional bond formed through caregiving. Your personal values seem to have the opposite prioritization.

      • But Julie the rights of minors are intrinsically tied to the issue of regret when a parent regrets all or part of their actions with regard to not raising their own offspring.

        Clearly there is much more to regret when a child is abandoned at birth rather than given up for adoption. The reality of gamete donation does meet the definition of abandoning ones offspring at birth; offspring born, genetic parent not there, fails to be identified on the birth record, fails to financially and physically support their offspring, makes no formal provision for their offspring’s care, does not go through the normal process of adoption intended for the protection of all parties chiefly the child to be adopted.
        Bottom line is that once we are born our genetic parents are either there to care for us or they are not there to care for us. If they are not there to care for us it matters very much if they followed a course of action that demonstrates they took responsibility for having reproduced and ensured that their offspring would be cared for by person’s up to the job and also made sure things were properly recorded so the child would not appear to be genetically related to the people being granted parental authority.
        The amount of regret associated with gamete donation vs adoption should be greater because so many ethical steps were missed. The law does not see it as the same, but technically gamete donation meets all the criteria of black market adoption do to the lack of being recorded in court first as the child’s parent second as being granted an exemption from having to care for the child and third as having someone else take over those responsibilities. There is also often the dark specter of having been paid to reproduce and being paid not to raise their offspring and being paid to sidestep formal adoption.

        Much more to regret there.

        • I’m not sure what you mean by saying that the rights of minors are intrinsically tied to the issue of regret. I think one could say that the minors have rights (rights we ought to think about) even if there are no issues of regret. And I think a parent could place a child in an open adoption (which think might respect the rights of the child) but still regret not being able to raise the child oneself. I don’t mean that they are necessarily unrelated–but it seems to me that generally regret has something more to do with the mindest of the adult involved than does the right of the child.

          • Well there is regret about not following the path you wish you’d taken for personal reasons and there is regret about doing something that really screwed someone else over and left them in a compromised position in order to get some personal gain. Maybe the thing I’m talking about is remorse. Like remorse for committing a crime and taking advantage of someone. Regret and remorse are same, different?

          • Absolutely people can regret not raising their offspring while having given them up for adoption in the most ethical above board way ensuring the child knows and is known to their genetic family with all but the legal family aspect being covered because of current laws against it. Sure that is a mind set thing to have regret at that point and that can’t be tied to universal truth for all people to experience identically.

            In Gamete donation there are some real liberties taken with other people’s ability to have the information they need to make sound health and reproductive decisions and there is just no way around the fact that it oversteps bounds and there is a likelyhood that the people impacted will feel violated at having choices taken away from them without their consent. Guilt would be the appropriate response. Guilt again may be different from regret or remorse. Maybe I am using a generic brush to paint their sad little faces.

  4. I think some states have too short a waiting period to consent to adoption, which may increase the number of women who make the wrong decision and have very serious regrets. I think 24 hours after birth for an irrevocable consent is far too soon considering giving birth can require surgery and strong medications/pain killers. I don’t think every woman will be recovered enough to truly make that decision so soon and adoption agencies take advantage of that.

    • I’m not solid enough on the law but perhaps you are right. I do think it is possible for a woman to give consideration to adoption before she gives birth. But every state requires some sort of confirmation post birth. And certainly there are circumstances under which 24 hours cannot be enough for that post-birth period to be anything meaningful.

      At the same time, I do see the tension. If a woman has considered it all carefully and decided she wants to give up her child for adoption, then you want to get the whole thing done as easily and swiftly as possible. Probably better for everyone, really. Adding further safeguards and time requirements makes it harder–and here I really do think of the way people opposed to abortion have used the idea of periods for reflection etc to impair the ability of women to choose abortion.

      All of which just means I don’t think it is easy to say what the right answers are.

      • Well, from the perspective of a newborn, as long as it is well cared for, it can adjust just as easily to a new caregiver at a week old as a day old. I believe most/all states have the option of temporary foster care if the parents can’t sign TPR yet or want to think it over a few days. So since the child will be fine either way, the question then becomes what is more harmful to the mother. While having to wait a few days to sign might cause temporary distress to the mother, I’d say the long-term harm is less than a woman who wasn’t fully committed to her decision being pressured to sign away her child forever while not recovered enough for it to be a truly free, informed decision. There’s also another option some states have taken, which is to allow the mother to sign shortly after birth, but give a short time period (it varies by state, but is usually anywhere from 1-4 weeks) during which it is revocable and the child will be returned at her request.

        • if a woman has had a c/section both she and the infant will be cared for by hospital staff for 3 days.

          • i would say at absolute minimum then, the 24 hour period should be lengthened in case of surgery. its not as if we desperately need someone to care for the baby, the hospital is doing that. if the mom has insurance or medicaid, they would cover the baby’s care for that time.

        • Most of the Mom’s and Dad’s I’ve helped were young and pressured to sign the adoption papers. This would be the 1950’s through the 1980’s I’ve dealt with. Some were from other countries where they actually wanted their baby adopted because they could not afford to care for the child. Only one Mom was totally unaware that her child was being adopted. The Mom was the step daughter of a labor and delivery nurse who’d promised she could keep her child and even decorated a nursery in the house for her but she did not wake up in the maternity ward and when she got home the stuff in the nursery was gone – sold to the adoptive couple.

          Its so sad the common thread I see is deep gratitude to those that raised their kids; humbled feeling small and sad they could not have done it themselves. Sad they were not there for all those milestones.

          I wish that the temporary problems parents may have caring for their offspring could be met with an adoptive situation that did not fully sever their legal parenthood. Usually its only a few years and they are capable of caring for their child on their own. The all or nothing aspect of adoption is so rough.

  5. Julie said: “It strikes me that part of the problem is that anyone who is willing to devote the time/effort probably has a viewpoint–that’s why it is worth it to them. No one does this just for the money (counselling, I mean) and if they did, I’d worry about that, too.”

    Thanks for the article re genetic counselors paid by genetic testing companies – exactly the same concern. From the article you linked above in the NYTimes “About 9 percent of the nation’s approximately 3,000 genetic counselors now work for testing laboratories, up from 2 percent in 1990, according to the National Society of Genetic Counselors.”

    Now compare that to what I would guess to be close to 100% of the counselors paid by the adoption agencies (who go out of business if babies are not surrendered and the counselor out of work). This quote from 2010 article by Barbara Fedders. Clinical Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina School of Law.

    “For example, the more than 2,000 licensed adoption agencies
    nationwide provide pre- and post-adoption counseling to birth
    parents and also obtain medical and social histories of birth parents
    and their families for adoptive parents.”

    Click to access Fedders%20Race%20Market%20Values%20Domestic%20Infant%20Adoption.pdf

    It it the same ethical problems found in adoption where the lawyers at the agency represent both sides but only one side pays…the counselors are employed by the agency or in the rare case is an outside counselor – they are still paid by the agency.

    CPC’s are frequently funded by adoption agencies – you have to dig but the big ones are and of course the Infant adoption awareness training is provided to them as well. The Nat Council for Adoption is funded by adoption agencies and you need to look at the fee structure to be a agency member of the NCFA.

    That is the problem I see – when surrender becomes the goal because that is how those “helping” stay employed (right up the chain) – can you say that the expectant mother has true autonomy – or should the concern be to provide more protection to the expectant mother to actually allow her the right to autonomy.

    There has to be more than a division/wall – perhaps moving it to the government isn’t the right solution like they have done in other countres – it could be done with the agencies funding a pool of counselors but it would be difficult to set up to ensure the expectant mother has autonomy.

    • You know, I’d be all in favor of expansive social programs that made it cheaper to raise young children and to do so with confidence. Those would include good health care for parents and children, free child care, free preschool, maybe counselling and support services to teach parenting skills. You’d have to revamp workplaces so that you could hold down a good job and be a parent. This undoubtedly includes paid family leave time to care for sick children.

      I know this isn’t directly responsive to what you say about how the counselling works, but something about the last part what you wrote made me think about the bigger picture. Children are an expensive proposition and I’m sure there are people pressured to give their kids up because of the economic realities. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s our choice–collectively as a society.

      • I agree and I don’t mind that my tax dollars go to fund an emergency infrastructure that I may never need to rely upon. I’ve never had a fire but I don’t bitch about funding the fire department. Helping families on hard times stay together and remain responsible for their kids is really beneficial to the entire society.

    • “Now compare that to what I would guess to be close to 100% of the counselors paid by the adoption agencies (who go out of business if babies are not surrendered and the counselor out of work). ”
      Everyone is always saying I should get paid to reunite families but then my income would rely upon the continued destruction of peoples families and keeping information secret so that only people with special knowledge can get the answers and charge a fee for it. Its really hard when even adopted people and donor offspring tell me themselves I should charge but there is something icky about benefiting from the secrecy and lies I want to see abolished. The circumstances for making money at it to feel ethical are impossible someone like Oprah would just have to underwrite the reunions without wanting to exploit those people’s anguish for profit. Nobody will do that its a pipe dream. I think counselors are very much in that position and I don’t trust them to be impartial.

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