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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

How Much Do Parents From the Adoption and Third-Party Reproduction Communities Have in Common?

When I have parenting issues that I consider to be adoption related, I know my friends, regardless of their path to parenthood, will listen, but only my adoptive mom friends actually get it, or so I thought.

Like many women who become adoptive parents, I have had experience with the world of infertilityI endured fertility treatments for three years prior to choosing to adopt. Therefore I know firsthand that adoptive parents have some things in common with those who’ve become moms and dads through fertility treatments.

Recently, when I facilitated an adoption panel for an infertility and adoption support seminar through a local nonprofit organization I volunteer with, I was surprised to discover another parenting group that shares many of the same issues as adoptive parents and our kids: families formed through third-party reproduction. Though I had broad knowledge, mainly from some recent articles in Adoptive Families magazine, that there is some crossover with third-party reproduction and adoption, I figured it mainly had to do with the paperwork required to use a third party's egg, sperm, and/or embryo. When I heard this woman's story—she chose to have one child with help from a donor egg and then a second with help from a donor embryo—I would have sworn I was listening to an adoptive mom. As soon as her story progressed past the point of delivering her children, it began to sound very parallel to mine.

We Can’t Plan When Our Kids Will Come

None of us can plan when our child will join our family the way fertile biological parents can. I can't count how many times I have been told by a fertile mom that she was going to try for a fall baby as her first child was a summer baby. Or that she is planning for her children to be exactly two and a half years apart. And then she conceives right on her schedule.

For those of us who have chosen adoption as our route to parenthood, we need to save money, gather paperwork, research agencies, fill out forms, and then wait and wait. We can plan all we want for our next child, but we don't have control of when they will join our family. As for parents pursuing fertility treatments, they too need to save money, research their health providers, figure out childcare during their doctor visits, and then wait. They have few opportunities in a year to get pregnant and therefore cannot plan their conception to conveniently fit a schedule.

Our Kids Have a Unique History

During the panel, the mom who’d opted for third-party reproduction spoke about how she had decided—unlike other moms she’d met through online third-party fertility support groups—to tell her children at a young age that they were born with help from donors. She explained the many other questions she, and others like her, had to face. Would the child be traumatized if they found out later in life? Should parents tell not just their children but also their family and friends?

Not that long ago, this was a discussion within the adoption community. Now experts agree that children should know about their adoptions as early as possible. For a teen or an adult, finding out that they are not biologically related to their parents can be traumatic.

As for telling family and friends, that discussion is still ongoing in the adoption community. Most adoptive parents I’ve met have been very open with their adoption process, so nearly everyone in their lives knows. But there are still some who may keep this hidden from distant family or friends as to avoid intrusive questions or comments. To me, it seems like a no-brainer to tell others that I chose to adopt my children. Would I feel the same if I had chosen to adopt an embryo?

What Our Children’s Personalities, Traits Will Be Is Largely a Mystery

During the panel, the mom continued to discuss how she constantly wonders what her child's interests and talents may be. She chose the donor egg and embryo knowing what the donors liked to do, but does that guarantee her child will follow suit? No parent, biologically related or not, could predict this. Yet the biological parent has clues or assumptions as to what to expect. As an adoptive mother, I always wonder why my child may excel in something. Is my son a natural athlete because his birth father was the same? Or could it be because I took him to a lot of baby gym classes?

This leads into the topic that most adoptive parents face on a daily basis: nature versus nurture. Sure, I thought about this when required to in biology class. Now, I think about it all the time. For example, my oldest son is slowly turning into my husband, Paul, with facial expressions, interests, and a sense of humor that are nearly identical. Would some of these traits have developed in my son no matter what? Or is it because he's been influenced by Paul who has been around for all nine years of his life? How much impact do I have on my children concerning their attitudes and personalities?

We Are Likely to Have Incomplete Medical Histories for Our Kids

Another similarity I found with this woman on the panel is the lack of our child's medical background information. Yes, she has quite a bit, thanks to the facilities that handled her donors’ eggs and embryos. But she doesn't have it all. And unlike someone who has an open adoption with their child's birth parents, she is unable to call up the donor to ask for more detailed information.

The panelist and I both hesitate whenever we need to fill out a medical history form for our child. We need to recall our child's particular birth-family history and answer as many questions as we can. I have it easier than the woman who used a third party. I can just write “adopted” on the form, and the person processing it clearly understands why the information is limited. The mom who gave birth to a child and then has limited medical information is going to be questioned. What does she write on the form? “Embryo adoption”? Will people even understand what that means?

Our Kids Aren’t Guaranteed to Share Any Physical Traits With Us

The last connection I felt to this woman on the panel was when she was describing her child's looks. She knows that her children may not look anything like her, even though she chose donors who were similar to her physical characteristics. Looking at a childhood photo of the woman who donated her eggs to you isn't an exact science. The woman said how she is unsure how to respond when a stranger asks about where her son got his blue eyes or how her daughter got her dark hair. This discussion could be taken directly from the pages of any book on adoptive parenting or straight from this site. Should she just brush off the question? Should she respond truthfully with something like, “Well, her biological mother has a head of thick, dark hair”? How should she handle follow-up questions the stranger may have?

By the end of this adoption seminar, I could see that parents in her position do not have a firm place in neither the infertility nor the adoption world. I imagine they can relate to women with infertility before and during pregnancy, but once they begin to parent they may discover they have much more in common with the adoption community. Unfortunately, they may not always feel included.

How We Can Be More Inclusive of Each Other

Last month in Adoptive Families there was an essay written by a woman who described how she chose her route to surrogacy in India. When this essay was promoted on Adoptive Families’ Facebook page, there were many harsh comments from those in the adoption community. People found the article “upsetting” and thought it was “out of place in an adoption magazine.” Perhaps I may have felt the same prior to listening to someone talk about parenting after using third-party reproduction. Now I realize that we in the adoption community have a lot more in common with these women from the infertility community. Obviously, we all struggled to create our families, made tough decisions, went through loss, and eventually found the best path for us toward parenthood. We all appreciate the gift that is parenthood and try not to ever take it for granted.

But there is even more in common with that small group within the infertility community that chooses to use third-party reproduction. We all have to decide who to share the story of how our child came into our family. We all are curious about the personality and interests our children will exhibit. Is it predefined or can we influence it? We all have blanks when needing to answer questions about our child's medical background. Some may have the blessing to be able to contact someone to get more information but not all of us do. Lastly, most of us will have children whose faces do not resemble our own. That is something that only a parent who has a non-biological child truly has to come to terms with. With all of these similarities, how can an article on third-party reproduction not be included in an adoption magazine?

I truly hope the adoption community realizes that there are others out there from the infertility community who can use our experiences and support. Not only can we lend assistance to these parents who used third-party reproduction, but we can learn from them too. Parenting a child is not an easy task. Why shun people who are going through the same struggles with their children as we are? In my humble opinion, the more people and resources to help our children the better.

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Thank you, thank you.  I can not tell you how perfectly you described my situation and feelings.  I am currently 6mo pregnant with twin boys…via embryo donors.  My husband and I decided that we weren’t comfortable using an anonymous sperm donor for our situation so we began pursuing traditional adoption until we found out about Embryo Adoption.  We completed a homestudy and did all the pre-reqs for both the adoption agency and the fertility clinic.  We decided to look for the donor couple through the adoption agency, because we did not want to use 2 random people to create our child, but wanted embryos that had already been created through IVF in a loving marital relationship.  We were matched with a wonderful couple who we’ve visited twice, and have a very open relationship with them.

The whole reason why we subscribe to Adoptive Families is because we consider our children to be adopted, although this isn’t legally the case.  We had to go through many of the same processes leading up to the match with the donors, and following their birth, we will have many of the same parenting struggles to deal with.  The donors do not look like us at all, in fact, the donor mom is part Japanese, while we are completely “midwestern white.”  On top of that, the donor couple has twin daughters who are our sons’ full sisters.  Keeping a good relationship with the entire donor family (including 2 other children who were adopted domestically) is important to us, but is bound to bring up all sorts of confusing issues for the kids (on both sides).

We have definitely felt “stuck in the middle.”  At every prenatal appointment, I seem to come across a new nurse or ultrasound tech that I have to explain some aspect of our story to, because they’ve never heard of Embryo Adoption.  Every adoption article I read, I have to analyze to see how our kids might be affected in similar situations at school or even among well-meaning family members.  It’s already a challenge, and the boys aren’t even born yet.

By skitteny on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm.

Do not forget to think about the similarities on the other side as well. From reading the blogs of adult adoptees I have seen numerous links to the blogs of adults conceived via donated sperm and surrogacy. They share a common theme and the two groups are slowly coming together to advocate for each other.

I suspect it is only a matter of time before the children of donated embryos grow up and start writing their own story.

Adoption and assisted reproduction can bring great joy. But it is also hard. It is important to remember that.

By Global Librarian on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm.

Chidren of donated embryos are adopted children also, and their parents are also adoptive parents, although the details/circumstances of the children’s birth/adoption are different than those of a child from a traditional domestic/international adotion). 

One difference is, their adoptive mother had the special blessing of being able to carry them and give birth to them, and to bond with them in utero and be there in the hospital with a joyous experience (which is different from the joyous yet intense/nervewracking hospital experience of open adoption). 

Another difference is children of embryo donation have biological parents, but not birthparents as traditional adoptees do (although actually their adoptive mother is also their birthmother, but not their biological mother, which adds a new facet to the situation)!

And another difference being how their story began…with their adoptive parents possibly being a part of choosing them (choosing the embryo from particular biological parents who looked liked the adoptive parents, etc), which is different than the birthmother choosing the adoptive parents in an open adoption or the agency sending a picture to the adoptive parents of their child for a foreign adoption

I remember an adoptive mom of embryo donation and I getting into a discussion about her child’s mother here at AFC a little while back.. she said that she was her daughter’s “only mother”, and I don’t agree… her child also has a biological mother.  This type of adoption is new territory, and so will take some time for everyone to work through all the different facets of it.  (As an adult adoptee of a closed adoption, it will be interesting for me to read what the children in this type of adoption think/feel when they are ready to share)


By twicethelove on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm.

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Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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