By Kristi Blazi Lado
I’ll admit that that my ignorance on donor conception was somewhat willful. The human rights abuses in adoption has occupied so much of my psychological space that I just haven’t been open to learning about something that had so much potential to be worse.
When I first saw the promos for MTV’s Generation Cryo, my first thought was for the love of all-that-is-holy, no doorstep ambushes, Jersey Shore behavior, or anything that would make people who are searching for biological relatives look like lunatics. I’m glad I gave it a chance because not only was the subject was treated respectfully but I was able to fully appreciate the parallels between adoptees and the donor-conceived.
Generation Cryo is a documentary series following sperm donor-conceived Breeanna Speicher in her journey to find her biological father. Bree tours the country to meet some of her 15 half-siblings that she discovered through the Donor Sibling Registry, a non-profit organization created to help siblings connect with each other and possibly their donors. A few agree to travel to California to support Bree in her search.
In watching this show, I observed family dynamics that were glaringly similar, if not identical to closed adoption situations.
Many of the young adults in this show were very worried about hurting their parents, particularly their fathers, and in the worst cases were saddled with managing their parents’ feelings of insecurity. Some seemed to accept this as being their responsibility and (much like in-the-fog adoptees) modeled their parents’ attitudes toward the donor. In the worst cases, meeting the donor was seen as an act of disrespect to the parents.
It was very sad to witness Jonah and Hilit’s dad, Eric, struggle with not being their genetic father and the effect it had on his family. He admits that he was hesitant to tell his children how they were conceived because he wanted them to be “his” kids. He remarked, “Adding donor… adding siblings is not my definition of family.” Eric’s wife, Terri, is the only one in their family that expresses interest in meeting the donor. I love what she says in response to Eric’s disapproval: “I would want to know where they came from because that would help me know my children better.” Exactly. Isn’t that why adoptees search? We want to know ourselves better.
Eric wasn’t the only parent with unresolved issues. When Paige and Molly inform their mother of the donor’s name she looked less-than-pleased remarking, “This is going to hurt him [their father] a lot… more than you know,” and “You are mine. I don’t want to share you with him.”
Luckily for Breeanna, her two mothers were very supportive of her search. I couldn’t help but notice that the three siblings expressing the most interest in meeting the donor – Breeanna, Jesse, and Jayme – were the three that didn’t grow up with a father figure. I don’t feel this is a coincidence. It seemed easier for these families to deal with the idea of having the donor in their lives because there was no perceived threat to an existing father’s role.
The parents’ approval of the siblings’ relationships, while being a great thing, also (in my opinion) exposes the hypocrisy of those who disapproved of their children finding the donor. In other words, relationships with biological relatives are considered healthy & ok as long as nobody feels as if they are being replaced. It was obvious to me that the ease of which the siblings relate to one another was likely due to the fact that their parents were not threatened by these relationships.
This show has strengthened my conviction that the degree to which the parents have come to grips with their infertility and accepted the truth of their child’s origins will have a significant impact on the level of anxiety that child will feel about searching for his roots.