I received this question via email and I answered directly but I thought it was worth posting here since I know there are others with donor gamete conceived children who read this blog who might be curious (in addition to those who have adopted and those who are adoptees themselves):
“Can I ask why, why is it so important to know the genetics? I am asking because my kids are from donor sperm. They have a mom and a dad and a genetic history. You already are what you are. What does it matter if you have the name and lineage? There are diseases that run in families, but Cystic Fibrosis popped up unexpectedly in my niece. No one had run the genetic tests b/c there was no family history. Insurance won’t even cover the testing most of the time. I’m just not sure what answers you are looking for that my kids may someday look for as well. I am not insulting the desire. I really just don’t understand…”
Fair enough. And, while you will find my answer below, let me also add that there is an element of information being withheld from me that I believe is my right to know that fuels my desire to get it. And, given the state of mind of my birth mother, it behooves me to not reveal everything about why I want it. In the case of donor gamete conceived children, if the agency(ies) providing the gametes make an attempt to update medical/health histories on the donors known to have had offspring, that will be a boon for everyone and might be enough to satisfy many donor gamete conceived children’s desire for information.
First, using donor gametes to create a wanted child and being adopted in a closed adoption are simply not the same thing. Someone donating tissue for the purpose of creating a life is NOT the same thing as a woman finding herself pregnant and deciding to place her child because she cannot care for him/her.
Second, if you grew up in a family with your own genetic make-up and were regaled with stories growing up how you take after this or that person or get this or that trait from so and so or even see your own resemblance in any one of a number of people in your family, they you can’t possibly understand what it is like NOT to have that, ever.
Not all adoptees, just like not all children conceived through donor gametes, have the same drive to know about their genetic families. In my case, everything I know was frozen in time 48 years ago. You think that health related issues haven’t cropped up in my genetic family since then? I now know that my maternal grandfather died of colon cancer, something that wasn’t even screened for 48 years ago. And, because my physical traits skew predominately Italian, I know and therefore want to know more about my paternal genetics since I now know that I don’t take after my genetic mother. For me, the need is primal and likely also compounded by the fact that I am so completely different (in almost every way) from my adoptive family (and, I am grateful to have the family I do and the childhood I did, regardless of the current estrangement from my parents. It is, for better or worse, the only family I have ever known).
Finally, and this is now evidenced by finding my husband’s mother, who knows what might be in store by knowing if I have half-siblings. We all want connections in this life, in fact, that is what I believe life is all about. So, while I am not looking for it specifically, if it turns out that I have half-siblings on my father’s side and my son therefore has half-cousins, then it will only serve everyone to know that and it will be up to each to determine what, if any, relationship they want.
And, FWIW, I want the same for my young son, conceived through donated embryos. I know that he has two full genetic older sisters and while they may not be raised as a ‘family’, their shared biology does connect them and I am hopeful that the original couple desires the same. And, if they don’t, then I hope that a donor sibling registry will help them find each other. I have all the data that is available to me on both donors and am hopeful that if my son wants to find either of them that he can. And, if not, that’s ok, too. I feel no vulnerability and have no worry at all that he is my son and we are his family. Whether and how his genetic family means anything to him is up to him.
It is also possible that in my case, the childhood death of my brother and the early dysfunction of our family as a result, drives me even more.