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How the Bough Bends: Users of Donated Gametes


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How the Bough Bends: Users of Donated Gametes

  1. 1. How the Bough Bends: The Creation of Family, Kinship and Community by Users of Donated Gametes Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D. Presentation to the American Anthropological Association November 15, 2006
  2. 2. Who Uses Donated Gametes? <ul><li>Single Mothers by Choice (SMCs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>17% rise in babies born to 30-44 unmarried women between 1999-2003 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lesbian Couples </li></ul><ul><li>Families with Fertility Issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>donor sperm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>donor eggs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>donor embryos </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. The Gamete Donation Business <ul><li>Sperm Banks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>California Cryobank shipped 9,600 vials of sperm to single women in 2005. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Egg Donor Agencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>$8,000 fees are typical </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Surrogate Mothers </li></ul><ul><li>Gestational Surrogates </li></ul>
  4. 4. Research Methods <ul><li>Participant Observation </li></ul><ul><li>Online Support Groups </li></ul><ul><li>Infertility Conferences </li></ul><ul><li>In-Person Support Groups </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Email Surveys </li></ul>
  5. 5. What Gamete Recipients Seek <ul><li>Intelligence </li></ul><ul><li>Personality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sperm Donors--sense of humor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Egg Donors--goals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Genetics </li></ul><ul><li>Phenotype Matches </li></ul><ul><li>Open vs Anonymous </li></ul><ul><li>Full Legal Rights </li></ul>
  6. 6. Sperm Recipients vs Egg Recipients <ul><li>Single Mothers by Choice </li></ul><ul><li>Body is Normal; Life is Abnormal </li></ul><ul><li>If Fertility Challenges; Life and Body both feel Abnormal </li></ul><ul><li>Mothers through Egg Donation </li></ul><ul><li>Life is Normal; Body is Abnormal and for some, Intensely Abnormal </li></ul>
  7. 7. Single Mother by Choice Profile <ul><li>Late 20s through mid 40s </li></ul><ul><li>Highly Educated with Professional Career </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Often Financially Secure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fiercely Independent </li></ul><ul><li>Family Revolutionaries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clear distinction between themselves and women who become single mothers through divorce or by accident </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Biotime Clock Pressure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Baby First; Marriage Maybe </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. SMC Process (part I) Thinking <ul><li>No more time to wait for Mr. Right </li></ul><ul><li>Implications of an SMC Identity </li></ul><ul><li>Networking/Support Groups </li></ul><ul><li>Finances </li></ul><ul><li>Personal Support System </li></ul><ul><li>Let Go of the Western Cultural Dream of Parenting with a Beloved Husband </li></ul>
  9. 9. I’ve faced that I’m not going to have this picket-fence-y life…now I have permission to directly pursue what I want. It’s a very curious and ambivalent liberation, because I would rather not be single. It’s not my first choice. TTC Choice Mother
  10. 10. SMC Process (part II) (Separation) <ul><li>Trying to Conceive (TTC) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scheduled Inseminations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2 week wait </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fertility Boosters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>IUI, IVF, hormone regimens </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Many were unaware how fragile female fertility is </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deciding on a Donor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymous vs. Open </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Dream Guy vs. Similar Phenotype to Herself </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sperm Bank vs. Private Arrangement </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. When it came to donor selection, I found it almost as difficult as selecting a husband, but was thankfully more successful at it. It was a fascinating process in that the package of traits I focussed on were different from those I looked at on a date or in a relationship. Choice Mother of a one year old child
  12. 12. My very first consideration for choosing a donor was that he be “open” or willing to meet my child after he or she turns 18…. Intelligence was a huge factor as well. I have a lot of my own identity wrapped up in intelligence and really want the same for my child. TTC Choice Mother
  13. 14. I weighed phenotype pretty heavily until I realized that there was not an unlimited catalogue of donors from which to choose. Then I went with intelligence and personality. Choice Mother of two children
  14. 16. SMC Process (part III) (liminal phase) <ul><li>Pregnancy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fear </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Begin incorporating New Identity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Start Building Support System </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social, Physical, Emotional </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May Stop Dating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Shift in expectations from relationships with men </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 17. SMC Process (part IV) (re-incorporation) <ul><li>Birth </li></ul><ul><li>Parenting </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allomothers and Daddies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Support Systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Blood Family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other SMCs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extended Family via Donor Sibling Registry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Networks can be akin to a polygynous family without the financial support or physical presence of the progenitor/father. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 19. Its exceptionally important that my son know other children who are “like him” so that he does not feel like an anomaly. I have found that having a child on my own has made him something of a community baby….unlike married couples who want/expect privacy on these issues. Choice Mother of a one year old child
  17. 21. Egg Recipient Profile <ul><li>Married/Nuclear Family </li></ul><ul><ul><li>some SMCs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>30s-early 50s </li></ul><ul><li>Fertility Problems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>often age-related </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>unsuccessful with IUI/IVF treatments </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Very much want children OR siblings for their birth children </li></ul>
  18. 22. Egg Recipient Process (part I) <ul><li>Thinking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acceptability of Non-Genetic Connection to child? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Costs? Very Expensive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Donor Fees, Lab Fees, Limited Insurance Coverage </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tell Others? Keep Secret? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Compare to Adoption </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More control over prenatal environment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Health Considerations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>for both mother and babies </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 23. Egg Recipient Process (part II) (separation) <ul><li>Trying to Conceive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Selecting a Donor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protocols </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sync up recipient and donors menstrual cycles </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>IVF process for donor </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Uterine prep process for recipient </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Transfer </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2 week wait </li></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 24. Most Important Egg Donor Qualities
  21. 25. Desired Egg Donor Qualities
  22. 26. Regarding Race/Ethnicity, we wanted someone who blended well with us…they didn’t have to match me! I had no interest in telling the general public about our infertility issues… It all worked out in the end, I went with my gut and I wasn’t wrong. DE Mother
  23. 27. One of the things that “spoke” to me about her was a photo. She had an expression that could have been me in college. She didn’t look like me. She was no clone. But something in that expression spoke to me. DE Mother of two children
  24. 28. We mainly looked at her smile. That was huge. She seemed to love life Expectant DE Mother
  25. 29. Egg Recipient Process (part III) (liminal phase) <ul><li>Pregnancy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Often Difficult </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Miscarriages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>embryos that might otherwise have never implanted </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Premature Births </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multiples </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>anxiety over carrying/raising twins+ </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 30. Egg Recipient Process (part IV) (re-incorporation) <ul><li>Birth </li></ul><ul><ul><li>C-sections common </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Immediate Love for the Baby </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Babies treated w/extreme care & devotion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Postpartum Depression Rare </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Very relieved to finally become a Mother </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Parenting </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Join the world of “normal” parents </li></ul></ul>
  27. 31. Conclusions <ul><li>Gamete seekers focus on intelligence, personality and phenotype </li></ul><ul><li>Seek “normal” gametes to create “normal” families </li></ul><ul><li>Family/Community Revolutionaries? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Donor Sibling Registry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>DE support through conception process but little interest in social networking for parenting. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New Definitions of Family and Community </li></ul></ul>