Monday, November 14, 2011

A Big Shock

A couple of weeks ago, I checked Manhattan Cryobank's website because I wanted to confirm the donor's eye color.

To my surprise, I noticed that he was listed as an anonymous donor, not as an ID release donor.

The original donor that I had picked out, affectionately known as "Didge," because he played the didgeridoo, had had problems with the labels on his vials. The day of shipment, the lab emailed me to say "call us right away." When I got the message, I called right away and it was then that I learned that the labels on his vials were chipped. The lab manager, Alan, told me that my RE wouldn't accept the vials in this condition, even though the vials themselves were fine. He also told me that I had an hour to pick a new donor in order to make sure it arrived at the RE in time... but that he would help me pick someone if I told him my priorities in a donor.

I told him my only two non-negotiables were CMV negative (I am CMV negative so my RE insisted on the same in any donor I used) and ID release. There were a few other characteristics I was looking for, European descent, average-ish height, on the slender side. I wasn't really that picky. Alan then described to me about eight different donors, all men that he had met in person, including describing his two favorites. I picked his second favorite.

Can you guess where this is going?

Lo and behold... the donor I used is not, in fact, ID release.

Alan insists that he never told me my donor was ID release.

I'm pretty sure that I checked the website to make sure that he was ID release, but a) I was making a big decision in a very short time, and b) there's lots of little boxes and I could've misread them, and c) it's possible that there was a mistake on their website.

We will never know what happened. Alan isn't admitting to anything, and was, not surprisingly, defensive.

It's possible that my vague mention of taking legal action wasn't the most productive thing to do.

I since called back and left a message with another person in the office. Perhaps not surprisingly, he has not returned my call.

When I called my sister, tears dripping on my nursing baby's head, she suggested that I could at least ask if the bank would contact the donor and ask if he would be willing to make an exception to his decision.

I will ask about this.

She also suggested that I write a letter to Calliope, today or tomorrow, describing how I am feeling right now.

Here's how I am feeling: shocked, guilty, and very, very sad.

My poor girl. She's growing up without a father. The very least I could give her is the opportunity, some day, to explore her genetic heritage if she chooses to. And now that door has been closed. Because someone, or maybe, two someone's (me and Alan) made a couple of stupid mistakes. If only I had printed out the spreadsheet that lists all the donors, I would at least have documentation that showed that he was listed as ID release (if indeed, it did).

And now, should I choose to have another child, do I use my nine frozen embryos from the same anonymous donor, so that Calliope and her sibling have that genetic link with each other? Thus denying her sibling the same?

I'm so scared that Calliope will someday be so angry with me that she won't be able to get past this.

I really wanted to have a super productive day today, my only day this week without plans, but instead I am sitting around feeling absolutely horrible and depressed and not getting anything done. I think I need to go pound it out on the elliptical, since Calliope is asleep and I can't get out in the sun.

To my readers: please don't feel defensive if you chose to use an anonymous (non-ID release) donor. This is just how I feel. I am sure that there are very valid reasons to go the anonymous route, and I certainly don't think anything negative about people that choose that. It's just... I had this all figured out, you know?


  1. Wow, I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. I would have reacted in exactly the same way, while also remembering how rushed and weird these situations can be, and how months or a year later it's impossible to remember "did I check that?" What a blow, though, really.

    I often wonder if my open ID donor will turn out the way I hope, and remind myself that a) he could be dead in 18 years, b) he could not be reachable, c) could change his mind and refuse contact, and there's really nothing I can do about that, or d) turn out to be kind of a jerk. I'm already preparing a speech for my unborn child so he doesn't get his hopes up about some day meeting some awesome guy and having some amazing connection, because anything can happen.

    Still and all I'm sorry you're having to go through this, it totally sucks!

  2. Oh Abby, I'm so sorry. Your sister gives very good advice about writing Calliope a letter now, while you're in the will mean so much to her. & just my opinion, I would use the embryos you have for a sibling for least they will have each other but also can you imagine how she'd feel if you used a new open id donor & her sibling could contact their donor & she could not? It could feel like salt in the wound.

    Again, I am so sorry.

  3. Oh, I just had a thought...does Calliope's donor have any extras available? Like baby photos, lifetime photos, silloettes, voice recordings? Maybe you could gather as much info as you can for her. It could help her in understanding what happened

  4. Oh, Abby, this is so NOT FAIR! I have to admit, where I thought you were going at first, was that they'd actually shipped a different donor... either the original guy you'd chosen, or a different one that Alan told you about over the phone, etc. And so that Calliope had a different donor than you'd thought she had all along. I don't know what's worse - that situation with an ID-release donor, or the one that actually happened...

    But try to think of it this way... If you'd known this donor wasn't ID-release, you wouldn't have used him, and then you wouldn't have Calliope! She'd be a totally different person. I don't know if that's helpful or not, but since she IS perfect, maybe this is just what was meant to happen??

    Also, if Alan asked you what you were looking for, and you specifically told him that non-ID-release was a non-negotiable, then he WAS wrong. The problem is, without anything in writing, any legal argument would come down to he said-she said, I think. :(

    I LOVE the idea of writing Calliope a letter. And I also agree that if it were me, I'd use your remaining embryos, for the same reasons Tiara mentioned - 1) They'd have each other and 2) So your two children wouldn't have different experiences as far as their donors, leading to potential emotional messiness (not that there isn't any already).

    I'm SO sorry this happened. But just go take a look at sweet Calliope, and remember that she wouldn't be here if this hadn't happened...

  5. And one more thing (I'm pulling a Tiara ;) ),

    From what I've heard, many, many, many children born from ID-release donors never meet their donors. The guy may die, or be un-findable, or uninterested, etc. Or the child may not want to. There's no guarantee.

    And, anonymous donors can and sometimes DO change their minds. Look at Ben, the donor from "74 Kids and Counting" or whatever it's called. He was anonymous, but changed his mind and sought out families who used him. And my ex-bf, who donated anonymously, has told me he may eventually contact families who used him (he knows at least a couple have tried to find him).

    So, you never know what the future holds. I hope this is at least a little bit helpful...

  6. I can only imagine how upset you are right now. Keep in mind that none of us can predict the future. Even open ID donors might not ever be willing to meet with his child(ren). Furthermore, I have heard stories of anonymous donors that end up searching out offspring on the donor-sibling registry. Hold Calliope tight, and know that she would not be her if it had been a different donor. I really like that you are writing a letter to her, and I do think that when she is older, she will understand.

  7. There clearly was a mistake (at the bank) - but life is full of mistakes and one has to make the best of it. (BTW I would have gone ballistic!). The good news is that there will probably be loads of half siblings for Calliope to connect with should she wish to, and with modern genetic testing she will likely be able to find her donor (with some effort) if it is something that is of great importance to her - and it is not important for everyone. I am so sorry you had to go through this.

  8. I love the idea of writing a letter. I write to J and I think it helps to get feelings out there, in that moment. She'll understand and she'll know your intentions were always for the best. This mix-up doesn't change that. If anything it lets her know even more that her and her future were always in your thoughts. What child wouldn't want to know that?

  9. Wow. I can only imagine how upset and shocked you must be! I really can't imagine that Calliope will be angry at you for this, though. Disappointed maybe but not angry. Like bunintheoven said, hopefully she'll meet enough half sibs that she won't feel the lack of meeting her donor one day. Or who knows, maybe she won't even be interested. My OB who used a donor says her teenagers have never been particularly interested. "All that agonizing about using an anonymous donor, and they don't even care!" Let's hope that's the case for her, too.

  10. Oh man, Abby. I'm sorry, how stressful. But like most have said, and I agree, Calliope will understand what your intentions were. I didn't know my father growing up (after divorce when I was 3 I saw him once at 5 and once at age 7). And I must say I had no real interest in finding him or meeting him as an adult. My sister did and she was able to find him, but on my own I would not have had enough interest to make it worth it. Calliope really may not care at all, you never know. Still, it's a major mixup, and I'm sorry it happened!

  11. I am now on my third comment attempt.

    I can only imagine how disappointing (and infuriating) this must be. It was such an important and thoughtful decision you had made. But as another poster mentioned, you have Calliope because of this donor. Who know what will happen, but I don't think she will hold this against you.

  12. This website is likely abandoned but just in case there's still a human being behind the curtain I would say thank you for sharing. I've also used Manhattan Cryobank and had difficulty with wily Alan. (Sperm count in one vial was markedly lower than advertised. Alan threw a fit over the complaint even though the numbers were indisputable.) Alas, there's an Alan at every sperm bank. It's a shady business with little oversight and zero transparency, but it can serve a valuable purpose and so I'm grateful for it.

    My bigger comment here, though, is about Calliope and your perspective on the anonymous donor. The truth is that your daughter will develop whatever attitude about her life circumstance that you feed her. Frame the situation negatively and she will feel bad about it. Frame it positively—as a virtue, not a handicap—and she will grow up believing herself to be one of the most wanted children on the planet whose mother went to extraordinary lengths to bring her into this world.

    Take a moment to think of the hardships that so many children inherit at birth. Did your daughter really have such a bad spin at the roulette wheel of life? We all know that life can be cruel and capricious. Other kids will suffer far worse than growing up not knowing their biological father. (Some adults would even call that good fortune.) Your daughter is very likely special, lucky, all things considered, and it's up to you to help her believe that. It's probably the most important thing you could ever give to her.

    I love the opening lines of Abe Lincoln's best-known biography: "Abraham Lincoln was not interested in his ancestry. In his mind he was a self-made man, who had no need to care about his family tree." Abe Lincoln, an honest guy who rarely made excuses for himself.