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Back-to-School: How to Help Your Kids Cope with Unexpected Questions from Classmates

School is officially back in full swing for us. My daughter is starting a new high school this year and for the first time it hasn’t crossed my mind that she will have to answer questions about her family.  For the first time, she’s going to school with a friend who was also adopted from China, and attending a diverse School for the Arts in a large cityIt’s a new experience for us. Since kindergarten my daughter has attended private, parochial schools. She was the minority race and the only kid adopted from China so she had answered all kinds of questions from classmates over the years.

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“What happened to your real parents?” 

“Did your mom die?”

“Where are you from?”

“Is THAT your mom?”

“That’s your brother!?”

 

My daughter’s first experience with a question from her peers was as early as pre-school. She came home happy from school that day. While I was helping her get ready for bed, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and it triggered a memory from that day. She stretched the outer corner of her eyes and said, “Joshua told me my eyes look like this today! I want them to look like yours.” I told her how beautiful I thought her eyes were even though they were different than mine. Then I went on to ask her how it made her feel to try to decipher the intention of the comment. “Did it make you feel bad, honey?”, I asked. “Kinda”, she said. “Oh honey, I’m sorry that made you feel bad. You have beautiful almond-shaped eyes and Joshua was probably noticing them since they are different from his.”

Most pre-school children are simply curious and ask innocent questions to understand the world and people around them. Simple answers usually are enough. However, sometimes there is a clever and mischievous youngster in the class who learns to push other’s buttons early. 

If your family differences are less conspicuous at first, your child may not have to deal with classmate questions until after preschool. As children move into middle childhood, social comparisons begin and kids may need to develop more sophisticated ways to respond to questions from peers.

“Where did you get your blue eyes?”

“You don’t look like your mom at all!”

“Is that your REAL dad?”

Children need help understanding how to respond to their friends in constructive ways that maintain healthy boundaries. They also need help addressing inappropriate and mean comments they may encounter. And you may too. In my book, Three Makes Baby, I offer five ways to teach your kids to handle social situations. They all begin with the letter D and I use game analogies to help you remember to use them in a moment that catches you off guard. Hopefully, this will empower you and your child to handle any uncomfortable situation that comes up. 

When peer questions or comments upset your child, you’ll want to know how to comfort them. As a parent, it’s best to be prepared early.  If you are struggling to find the right words, you’re not alone. It helps for families to have conversations at home in advance so a child feels comfortable talking about their family story. I offer simple phrases you can share with your child in my book, Three Makes Baby. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon.com, Target.com or BarnesandNoble.com.

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The SEED Trust relaunches with help from the EDNA project — The EDNA Project Blog

After 21 years of providing information and support in the field, on Friday 3rd May 2019 the National Gamete Donation Trust re-launches as the SEED Trust (Sperm, Egg and Embryo Donation Trust). The charity has worked tirelessly over the years to provide impartial and accessible information about donating and receiving eggs, sperm and embryos in […]

via The SEED Trust relaunches with help from the EDNA project — The EDNA Project Blog

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The End of Donor Anonymity

I began counseling couples going through the International adoption process. Even though domestic adoptions were becoming more open in the US, international adoptions were still inherently closed. When international adoptions declined drastically in the mid-2000s to improve child trafficking regulations, I switched gears. I learned about third-party reproduction counseling from my fertility doctor, and I began screening anonymous egg donors. Early on, the young women I screened didn’t give much thought to what it really meant to donate their eggs. I remember one young lady comparing it to donating a kidney. I knew more education was needed in the field.

I started to feel conflicted about my professional life. As the adoption field became more open, the third-party reproductive field remained fiercely protective of genetic secrets. I knew the psychological challenges of anonymous egg and sperm donation on a child. The closed adoption system was repeating itself, but worse. I knew that children should have access to their genetic information but there were no regulations requiring donation facilities to keep the information on file for a lifetime.

I couldn’t remain neutral anymore. How would these children find out their genetic information if they wanted to someday? There were major gaps in psychological preparation for intended parents. Intended parents had questions that agencies weren’t answering. Parents were seeking more than simple answers.

In session, I covered details that other professionals weren’t, like epigenetics and how infertility grief affects parenting across the life span. One counseling session was not enough time to prepare couples for the journey. I recommended joint counseling sessions with known donors to discuss roles and intentions and to anticipate the child’s needs. There came a point when I couldn’t be neutral anymore.

The turning point came when an angry client called and threatened me. I was on a road trip with my family in Oregon in 2015, when my cell phone rang. It was a client I had seen the week prior. He and his wife came to me for couples counseling to prepare to secretly use an acquaintance as an egg donor. I remembered his wife so well. She was suffering when she came to my office, deeply grieving. I felt for her. I saw her brokenness and felt her heartache. I felt the resistance in the room but who could blame them? Their dreams were broken and now they had to face the psychological complexity of egg donation.

I knew they wanted to just brush this under the rug and move on. It would’ve been much easier for me to avoid the hard topics, but my job was to counsel them according to ASRM guidelines. My heart pounded as I informed them of the ASRM’s recommendation to disclose the truth to the child. As the husband’s tension rose, I chose my words more carefully. I knew he was protecting his wife’s feelings, and I wanted to be tender too. It was uncomfortable, but it was my job to be neutral yet compassionate.

It was also my recommendation that their donor come to a counseling session with them to discuss their relationship moving forward. Do they all agree on disclosure? Has the donor shared the secret with anyone? How would they communicate if the secret got out? What would they do if the child wanted contact with the donor? What would the relationship with the donor be like?

The couple declined this meeting and we moved on. I sent a psychological report to their doctor and noted that the couple declined a joint session but had met the counseling requirements of the ASRM. My personal recommendation upset the doctor’s office manager, and she wanted me to rewrite the report without the negatives. I explained I did not put anything in the report that would disqualify them for the procedure according to the ASRM guidelines. I simply felt it was best for known donors and couples to talk through what their relationship would look like for the child’s sake.

That’s when the office manager contradicted the couple and told me they were using an anonymous donor. I’d like to think it wasn’t a direct attempt to lie to me. I’d like to think she meant that the known donor wanted to remain anonymous but that was impossible. The couple already knew their donor. They were friends on social media, so by definition it was not anonymous. I refused to change my report, so the office manager threw it in the trash and told the couple to see a different counselor. That’s when the husband called me and accused me of not providing the proper counseling. He threatened to report me if I did not refund his fee for counseling. He felt that I shoved “my agenda” down his throat during our session.

I was ready to quit counseling for third-party donation that day. I was sickened by what I saw happening. I had already been bullied by egg donation agencies to pass unqualified donors and lost business because I wouldn’t rubber stamp the psychological evaluations. As I expected, the angry client’s doctor’s office never sent another one of their patients to counseling with me. I knew so much more than they did, but they didn’t want to hear it.

I knew that life was long and I may have to answer to the unborn children someday. I felt a deep responsibility to them because I was one of them. I was a child with a mysterious identity to figure out. I lived through the confusion, the grief, and the silence. I fell silent again, muted and unheard in this field.

As disgusted as I was by the phone call that day, something stirred in me, and I knew I couldn’t go back to doing what I was doing before. Not the same way. That angry client showed me that I wasn’t okay with the way anonymous donation was being conducted. Science may change the way we conceive babies, but it can’t change the role DNA has on human identity development.

After decades of research, the adoption field understands why children should have access to their genetic information if they want it. It’s time for the third-party reproduction field to require more education and implement industry standards to reflect our knowledge of human development. If they would not listen, then I would go straight to those parents and ask the questions. It was time for me to do it. I might lose all my business, but I counseled differently starting that day. I started telling clients when they called for an appointment that I was on the side of openness before they even stepped in my office. I lost 80% of my business the following year, but slowly I began seeing more known donors, same-sex couples, and other couples that were open to being open. It was liberating.

Since then, I’ve counseled many couples using known (family members or friends) or open/ID release donors. The adoption community understands that openness is possible and healthy for the child. We can learn a lot from the adoption community’s approach to open adoption. I have interviewed hundreds of donors over the years and many of them were willing to be identified. We can’t let fear stop us from what is doing best for the children being born.

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Three Makes Baby– Bestselling Book for Donor Conception Parenting Preparation

Since it’s publication in August 2018, Three Makes Baby has climbed to Amazon’s #1 best-selling book in the category of donor conception preparation and parenting. Selling over 200 copies to five countries, this first-of-its-kind parenting book, written by a professional fertility counselor, is receiving glowing reviews from readers and professional groups across the globe.

“I just finished reading Three Makes Baby and wanted to thank [Jana Rupnow] for putting this wonderful book in the world. My donor-conceived kid is now in preschool and while we have been open with her about her story, my husband and I still have some unaddressed grief. Your book really helped me revisit some feelings from our infertility journey and go forward with more courage to address our pain.” – S

The Donor Conception Network in the UK has endorsed the book, offering it in their library to their group of over 2,000 families. Olivia Montuschi, co-founder and Practice Consultant at the Donor Conception Network writes,

“This wonderful book should be read by everyone contemplating having a child by donor conception, people who are parenting a child conceived by egg, sperm or embryo donation and the professionals who support them. What makes me most excited about this book is that it supports and mirrors very closely my own approach to parenting donor conceived children.  Firstly she recognizes that children will understand and give meaning to their conception story in different ways at different developmental stages.  Rupnow then acknowledges that mixed feelings about donor conception are normal in both intended and actual parents and indeed for DC children and adults.  The ability to be able to hold these mixed feelings at the same time, to be able to see both sides, (what she refers to as dialectical thinking) is vital for successful family building by DC.  If parents are happy to recognize and embrace difference whilst also embracing similarities between themselves and their children there is then room in the family conversation for children/adults to have both positive and negative feelings.  Rupnow endorses something I often say in Preparation for Parenthood workshops that becoming a parent by donor conception is a wonderful opportunity to raise a child who is ‘themself’ rather than expecting a chip off the old block.

Three Makes Baby can be purchased on Amazon. For media inquiries, professional development or speaking engagement requests email jana@janarupnow.com.

 

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The book I wish I had written: Three Makes Baby – How to Parent Your Donor Conceived Child — Three Makes Baby

Originally posted on oliviasview: This wonderful book should be read by everyone contemplating having a child by donor conception, people who are parenting a child conceived by egg, sperm or embryo donation and the professionals who support them. The author, Jana Rupnow, is a counsellor from Texas who says this book has been a labour…

via The book I wish I had written: Three Makes Baby – How to Parent Your Donor Conceived Child — Three Makes Baby

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The book I wish I had written: Three Makes Baby – How to Parent Your Donor Conceived Child

Thank you!

oliviasview

This wonderful book should be read by everyone contemplating having a child by donor conception, people who are parenting a child conceived by egg, sperm or embryo donation and the professionals who support them.  The author, Jana Rupnow, is a counsellor from Texas who says this book has been a labour of love and written with the people she has been helping over the last ten years in mind.  She takes a child focussed perspective but writes with enormous compassion for people struggling with infertility and trying to make the decision to have a child by donor conception.  As Rupnow herself is adopted and has a daughter she adopted from China she is no stranger to issues of loss, difference and interest in genetic heritage.  Throughout the book she uses examples from her own experience of adoption and parenting her daughter, recognising that adoption and donor conception, whilst sharing some…

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