Tuesday, February 20, 2007


As we continued to wait for the final embryo donation contract I wondered what made Jenny and Erin different from the other embryo recipients who had contacted me. Everyone else wanted our embryos and seemed to view us as an intrusive necessity. I was leery of intruding with these families because the sense I got from them was that ideally we would hand over the embryos and never contact them again.

Because embryo donation is NOT an adoption, people who have children using donated embryos need not worry that the biological parents will try to get "their" children back. Embryo donation is a property transfer, not an adoption. No children exist when embryos are given away and none may ever exist unless the recipients have very good luck.

With their rights fully protected, embryo recipients need not worry about their legal parenthood. The only state that elevates the rights of the genetic parent over that of the birth parent is Nevada. In all other states the person giving birth is the mother.

So the secrecy and coldness I felt from most recipients does not protect them in any way. And it did not spark my interest. I wanted a couple that felt good about themselves to the point that they could give their child permission to know all the factors that shaped her.

I wanted to know why Jenny and Erin seemed so much more self-assured and child-centered than the other recipients who wanted our embryos:

X"I guess to both of us, we want to be able to look that child in the eyes and always be honest. Honesty will include telling them that we did not provide the genetic make up that they have. A known donor will allow us to be honest and also have the resources to answer any questions that they may have that we can't answer.

I did not know my mother's mother. And I strongly believe that many of my characteristics come from her. I think to have a true understanding of who I am, I have to know who she was. To me, it's kind of like therapy of some sort. The mindset of “You can't treat an illness if you do not know the etiology”.

I believe couples feel a stigma for being
infertile. It’s interesting to sit in the lobby at our fertility clinic. The men always seem so nervous and sometimes ashamed. I am just thankful that there’s a clinic to help us. Erin did cry one time because she felt that (in her words) she had “failed”. That of course broke my heart.

I think that most people take fertility for granted. Erin is the picture of health! I think it was devastating to her to find out that the one thing that was wrong with her body was the one thing she wanted so badly. She was, of course, in true Erin style, joking about it a few days later as we were preparing deviled eggs for Thanksgiving dinner, I overcooked them and while we were peeling them big chunks were coming off. They looked kind of sad. I asked Erin if we should cook more and she said of course not, that we would just proclaim this “the year of bad eggs”. So, in good spirits we gladly go forward!"

This positive attitude had attracted me to Jenny and Erin. They were focused on having a child and any children they have will be "theirs" no matter what DNA they have. Secure in this knowledge they do not see a reason to cut their children off from a full picture of where they come from.

I was again buoyed in my feeling that these were the right recipients. I waited impatiently to sign the embryos over to Jenny and Erin so they could get on with their plan to become moms.


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember the couple that contacted me because one of their many sons had autism. They wanted a large family but they had read research suggesting that autism has a strong genetic link. They did not want to have another child with autism so they were looking towards embryo donation to try to have a child without the disorder.

I get health updates from Reuter's Health. The US National Institutes of Health has now done a huge study on whether or not autism is genetic. They have now found that it definitely is passed on genetically in almost all cases. That embryo recipient couple (to whom I did not donate) was right to seek another way to have a baby.

Maybe this will stop all that dangerous foolishness about immunizations causing autism. People who do not immunize their kids should not be allowed to have any because their judgement is too impaired to take proper care of those children. If you have ever seen a young person with polio -- decades after it was abolished through vaccination -- or heard of a baby dying from an easily preventable disease she should have been vaccinated against, it is clear that vaccines are a blessing we should embrace. Only the most ignorant among us really believe that vaccines are harmful.

Having the genes to pass along autism or any other genetic disorder is not a mark against a person. It is out of their control. Carrying a genetic disease is not anyone's fault. But choosing to pass along that same disease should be a criminal offense.

If there is a serious genetic disease that runs in your family such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, which causes blindness, you should get genetic testing to see if you carry the gene yourself. If so, you should not have your own genetic child unless you can afford to do IVF with genetic testing to eliminate sick embryos. Even if your partner does not have the disease, you still have a one in four chance of your child being born a carrier of that disease. If I had a one in four chance of winning the lottery I'd be playing it every day.

Anyone who can only be satisfied by having their own genetic child, even to the point of dooming them or their children to sickness, has too much ego tied up in parenting to do a good job.

I did not chose to donate the embryos to the family with the affected child, but I did consider it. They truly loved their kids -- enough to prioritize their health over a genetic link. That's a real parent.

"International study finds new autism genetic links

By Will Dunham Sun Feb 18, 5:32 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists revealed the most extensive findings to date on the genetics of autism on Sunday, pinpointing two new genetic links that may predispose children to develop the complex brain disorder.

The five-year study, led by an international consortium of researchers from 19 nations, indicated autism had numerous genetic origins rather than a single or a few primary causes.

The researchers scoured DNA samples from 1,168 families with two or more children with autism, and used "gene chip" technology to detect genetic similarities. They also looked for tiny insertions and deletions of genetic material that could play a role in autism.

The scientists hope that nailing down the genetics of autism will lead to better ways to diagnose it and focus efforts on developing drugs to treat it. They announced they are launching a new phase in the research to map genes responsible for autism.

The study incriminated a gene called neurexin 1 involved with glutamate, a brain chemical previously implicated in autism that plays a role in early brain development, as a possible susceptibility gene for autism. A previously unidentified region of chromosome 11 also was implicated.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders apparently stemming from genetic and environmental causes. Geneticist Stephen Scherer of the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto said 90 percent of autism may have a genetic basis."