Sunday, December 10, 2006


When I quit my last job, I took with me a cautionary tale. My ex-supervisor, L, had finally been chosen by a birthmother to receive a newborn, and agreed to an open adoption. She soon used a petty excuse to cruelly cut off contact between her daughter and the daughter's genetic family.

A former co-worker from that workplace and I were talking recently about my own pending embryo donation. I told the co-worker, Barb, how L's awful behavior was informing my own choices in selecting recipients and creating a contract. Did Barb remember the story the same way I did?

At the time, Barb worked more closely with L than I did. She echoed my memory of the story, but added some details. L had complained about the terms of the open adoption from the moment she signed the contract. The birthmother's primary request was for photos and updates of the baby. In the first six months of the baby's life, when a newborn changes so rapidly, L was obligated to send one photo each month.

From Barb's recollection, this requirement did not sit well with L. Barb heard L complain constantly about how inconvenient it was to have to send a photo of the baby every month. She said she did not have time to do this and simply failed to honor the terms of the contract.

This was a shocking revelation. I can only assume that L actually signed the open adoption contract with no intention whatsoever of honoring it. After all, the birthmother gave L the most precious gift one person can give another. L had waited close to a decade for an oportunuty such as this one.

L's behavior sounds particularly lazy to anyone reading this over the internet, but L is not a tech-savvy person. Using a digital camera or sending a photo via email would be completly beyond her. But the least she could have done is buy a disposable camera at the drugstore, snap a shot or two right there showing the baby was still alive, and send it off. She could have even used one of those mail-in photo developing places with the birthmother's address as the return address for the finished photos. Elapsed time: fifteen minutes if she took the baby with her when she bought the camera.

No, it wasn't the photos. L wanted to forget she was infertile. She agreed to an open adoption she didn't want to get a newborn she did want. Then she just refused to honor her side of the agreement. Eventually she did what she wanted to do all along: cut off all contact with the baby's genetic family using the lame excuse that the birthfather contacted her directly to see the baby. I had to consider the possibility that people act like this when I began to investigate donating my embryos to an infertile couple.

NEXT: how L's treachery shaped my search for recipients