What kind of embryo donor-recipient relationship is right for me?

Some of the biggest questions both donors and recipients ponder as they’re going down the path of embryo adoption is “What are my options?” “What relationship do I want to have with the other family?” and “How will I feel about knowing a family that is raising the sibling of my child?”  There are good reasons for any choice. 

What are my options?

While many fertility clinics only offer anonymous donation, and traditional adoption agencies only open adoption, in embryo adoption, any variation is actually viable. It is only important that the donating and receiving families have the same perspective about their prospective relationship. 

OPEN RELATIONSHIP

An open relationship means that you share contact information, so that you can connect directly. It can range from simply reaching out to ask questions, sharing updates, to regular in person get-togethers.  An open relationship does not require a commitment for communication type or cadence.  You may reside in the same neighborhood or across the country, which will play a role in how often you’re able to coordinate those play dates.

Those who choose this option consider that they want to give their offspring and the genetic siblings in another family the option to know more about themselves and their origins when they are ready, and potentially to know each other and develop that genetic bond one might have with a cousin, for example.

Recipients and donors who are currently in open relationships often feel a strong sense of connection, and happy to offer their children relationships with their genetic siblings, when it feels right.   

Feelings may also change throughout the journey and lifetime, and that’s okay!  When agreeing to an open relationship, we work with you and the partner family to establish the agreement that is comfortable for you.  And once you have your children, you can expand that relationship organically if you choose! 

Notes:

Even in an open relationship, there is no risk that the genetic donor could “change their mind” post-birth.  The legal documents establish full transfer of ownership, and the “parent” is the recipient.

Research indicates that children, when exposed early in life to their origin story, are easily able to differentiate between mom and dad and the families who donated the embryos.

SEMI-OPEN RELATIONSHIP

Families can choose to remain anonymous to each other, but allow communication through a 3rd party portal.

Those who choose this option want to keep the door open to give their offspring and the genetic siblings in another family the option to learn more about themselves when they are old enough to be curious and developing their sense of self (eg. 5 - 7 yrs old!), to send updates, or to ask questions about medical or other issues that might have genetic components, for example.

With this option, there is also an opportunity to open the relationship to share contact information at their own pace. Both families can simply agree to share information when they’re ready.

This is a common starting point for those who are not sure how they feel and want to allow for flexibility and access down the road.

See notes in “Open” - they apply here, too!

DONOR-IDENTIFICATION

Donor-identification allows for the child conceived via donor embryo to obtain contact information for the donors when they reach 18 years old. The families remain anonymous, with no contact, until that time that the 18+ yr old offspring requests. This option keeps the door open to allow offspring to choose to reach out if they want to learn more about their heritage as adults, but they must wait until they’re of age.

UNDISCLOSED (ANONYMOUS)

An anonymous relationship means that families do not share identifying information.  The agency manages the physical and legal transfer of the embryos, so that there is no connection to the donor family. 

Recipients and donors who have anonymous relationships feel at ease that their families remain insular.  There is not an ability to change this agreement, so it’s important to think carefully about your children’s future interests when making this choice.

Note: With consumer-direct genetic screening tools such as 23 & Me, it is not possible to guarantee anonymity, as offspring are not accountable to an agreement signed by others on their behalf.

 
Photo by Emily Elizabeth

Photo by Emily Elizabeth