Options in Open Relationships between Donor and Recipient Families


First of all, I would like to point out that there is no one formula as to the type of relationship between an embryo donor and the embryo recipient when they have chosen to have an open relationship.
Many donors want to have a relationship with the recipient family with whom they have shared their embryos. The reasoning may be that they, as well as their biological children that they are parenting, may desire to have an opportunity to know one another. Because the donor’s children are full biological siblings, they, as they mature, may also desire to have a relationship with the children who were donated as embryos to another family.
These relationships may cover the spectrum from very open with the families visiting in each other’s homes to only periodic correspondence between the two parties. Typically the donor families and the recipient families grow these relationships as it feels comfortable for each party.
Of course, the personalities of the individuals have a great impact as to how the relationships develop. Individuals who are more cautious may not take risks to allow the relationship to develop as fully as those who are willing to take more risks.
As I have spoken with families who desire an open relationship, both the donor and the recipient families have verbalized that they desire an open relationship for the benefit of the child or children.
Prior to making the decision to donate embryos to a specific family with an open relationship, a social worker will counsel with both the donor and the recipient families to assist them with establishing a plan for the relationship that meets both families’ needs. Typically a document is developed, reviewed by both parties and signed. In many situations, both couples find their compatibility comfortable enough to grow their relationship beyond the initially outlined relationship.
I have seen embryo donors and recipient families who have embraced one another as new extended family members. There has not been language to define this particular relationship. Even though the children of the donor and the recipient families are genetically “siblings,” their relationship is logically more like “cousins.” Many couples have used the term “cousins” to help the children understand and comprehend the unusual relationship. Most children are open to this relationship and welcome the other parties without needing to “define” why these individuals are in their life.
When the adults are at peace with and embrace this unique relationship, the children accept this as normal for their family.

A Day in the Life…

Grant has a great imagination. Right now, he has decided that he is “Animal Mommy” because he takes care of his animals. If you try to call him Grant when he is in “Animal Mommy” mode he says very seriously, “I’m not Grant, I’m Animal Mommy.” He was even Animal Mommy at 3:00 in the morning. “Animal Mommy can’t get comfortable.” Sigh.

We did some preliminary Halloween costume shopping recently when shopping at Wal-Mart. (note: I hate Wal-Mart and only went in because I needed cheap tennis shoes for Maria and Garanimals tend to fit her.) They saw a purple and a green dinosaur and said they wanted to be dinosaurs. A few days later I asked what color so I could order the right size for in-store pick-up (darn it! I have to go back in there). Maria wanted to be a purple (her favorite color) dinosaur until Grant decided he wanted to be blue. She wanted to be blue to match. Grant said he didn’t want to match. Discussion was tabled. The next day I asked what color dinosaurs they wanted to be. They both declared purple. Maria is a rather persuasive little thing.

I’m finally getting all my 2012 photos into an album. Maria asked to help. I don’t know who had more fun reminiscing about last year. She was too cute as she commented on the pictures. We are still working on this project and I think she’s definitely going to take after me on her love of pictures.

Maria is fully potty trained (at least during the day). She proudly went to the potty all by herself the other day (washing hands and everything). It’s bitter sweet. Grant has no interest until bedtime at which time he will spend approximately 20 minutes pooping. Impressive.

At dinner, the kids lead prayer. We pray for lots of things. Last night we said thank you for the play-dough and stickers.

Bonding with a Baby Adopted Through Embryo Donation

Much is written about pregnant women bonding with babies in a traditional pregnancy. However, have you thought about the process when the baby you are carrying is not your genetic child, but an embryo that another family has generously donated to you?
It is a wonderful miracle when that embryo or embryos donated to you settles into you uterus and begins to grow. As the mother, you must feel so blessed to be pregnant with this baby or babies.
As you carry this child, your body provides the blood that courses through this precious little life. This little one becomes adjusted to the rhythm of your body and your life. Your heart beat is also heard by this precious life. Have you thought about the fact that your baby also hears your voice and the voices of those around you? This baby feels the “motion” of your life and picks up on your pace and energy.
It is a miracle that, as you bond with your baby, your baby is also bonding with you and your life.

Painfully Approved

I had been in this same room many months earlier, and remember feeling tremendous hope at that time.

Now, this same room seemed dimmer, smaller, colder.

As I flipped through the 25 pages of our personal home study report at our local Department of Health & Human Services office, I felt a wave of panic. Who would ever want a family like ours? Who would ever choose us?

When you read a personal account of your 30-some years on Earth, from a complete stranger, it’s an odd experience. Harsh. Objective. Judgmental. Devoid of any emotional connection to the life that I actually lived. And, since it’s not trying to be an award-winning autobiography, it also lacks a sense of cohesiveness that feels like you’re reading a story. Instead, it feels like you’re reading an indictment.

As I read through phrases like “Britney dresses with flair,” and “Britney is assertive,” and “the Colton’s efficiently run home life doesn’t leave much room for children breakdowns,” I felt . . . exposed. Vulnerable in a way I’d never felt before. (Now, I don’t even know what “dresses with flair” means, except it harkens me back to the movie “Office Space,” and Jennifer Aniston’s work uniform suspenders decorated with buttons).

I also didn’t like how I was presented in this report. I closed the last page feeling, Is this really how people see me? I felt like I came across as Cruella Deville. Assertive? Would she use such an adjective describing a man? It took everything in me to bite my tongue and not say, “Dear caseworker, in my professional world, people return phone calls promptly. People respond to emails promptly. Simply following up on an unanswered phone call or email categorizes me as assertive?”

But, of course, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to be assertive.

So, instead, I bit my tongue and marveled at how anyone would ever want to subject themselves to the last 12 months that we’ve been through with this home study process.

Delay upon delay upon delay. Unanswered emails. Unanswered phone calls. Countless meetings, pages of notes, all culminating in a 25-page report that labeled me, in my opinion, as someone I would not want to be friends with.

As our caseworker politely explained that this is her job – all reports look like this – we’re a “good family,” I thought back to a sign I had seen walking into the building that day. It was a poster taped to the receptionist’s desk. It read, “147 children today are waiting in foster care to be adopted. Will you be the family they’ve been waiting for?”

I had to chuckle. Really? That sign insinuates that the child is waiting for a family to decide to adopt. Instead, the truth is that the child is waiting for the State to have more resources, more caseworkers, and more time for probing into the lives of decent families.

Those 147 children are not waiting on families like us. They are waiting for the State to get out of its own way and remove the bureaucratic blockades.

As I feel my blood pressure start to rise just writing this, I realize it’s time to close. And, just as anti-climatic as it felt yesterday hearing the words from our caseworker as we left the room …

Our home study has been approved.



I’m saying goodbye to my bosom buddy this week, my Ameda Elite Pump.  I thought I’d be sad about no longer breastfeeding.  A few months ago, closing this chapter from my pregnancy seemed extremely difficult, but it is time to let go.

For me, it wasn’t just about being able to feed my baby from my body (which still amazes me).  Nor, was it just about giving him the nutrients.  It’s the miracle, thanks to embryo adoption, that I was finally able to get pregnant and realize the dream of breastfeeding.  And that my body could and would produce milk.

I would always wonder:  How would that feel to hold your baby up next to you?  What do people mean exactly, when they’d talk about “the bond” created between a mother and child?  What would it be like to store up breast milk in the freezer for later?  (Still wondering that)…

As of July, when I first started weaning, I would get emotional about the thought of no longer producing milk for my baby.  But, it’s now time to say goodbye.  John Luke has pretty much weaned himself, except late nights or early mornings for just a nibble, and the pumping sessions produce minimal results.  I am talking scare results!

I’ve probably held on longer than I should have for the time invested.  At maximum capacity, I only ever got about 15-16 ounces per day, and the production has steadily declined over time.  Ameda and I have had a lot of late night laughs watching Jimmy Kimmel, and we’ve had many cups of coffee side-by-side in the early mornings.  We’ve even taken a few road trips together.  But it is time to let her go..for now.

I went from 3-4 pumping sessions a day, down to two, then to one.  This week, I went two days without pumping to see if I would “feel full”.  On the third day, I pumped 20 minutes just to “let the air out of the tires” but probably would have been fine not pumping at all.

The last time I tried to wean, I’d bought cabbage and ended up making slaw- No joke!  I wasn’t quite ready to end this emotional bond.  To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready to not be able to produce milk.  There’s something about being able to feed your baby if you’re stuck on an elevator, or stranded on a deserted island.  It’s a maternal instinct, I guess.

But now with a new head of cabbage in the fridge, and my pump renewal due at the end of the month, I must say farewell.  Hopefully, it’s not really goodbye Ameda, but “So long bosom buddy, until we meet again”!  You’ve been a good friend.



I previously posted about an explosion of babies being born around the same time at our church. Me and two of the other new moms sing in the choir. The choir threw a party for all of us one Sunday after church. They wrote parenting advice in a book they titled ‘Words of Wisdom’ to give to us as a keep sake. I wanted to share. Here is what they wrote:

Words of Wisdom:
For Your Blessed Event
From: JUMC Choir Members

*Do noisy things like vacuum while they sleep. They’ll learn to sleep through it.

*Enjoy the moment! The house cleaning and other things will still be there tomorrow, but you can never retrace the moment. Love unconditionally!!

*Always listen with an open heart. They grow so fast you can miss out if you don’t.

*Take time to play. Very important.

*Learn to talk with your children. Not at them.

*When your little one is old enough to understand be sure to hold him/her in your arms and tell him/her how much they are loved. If he/she wants to cry hold him/her tighter.

*Always be available to listen. The house cleaning will be there. The little one will not.

*When you talk to your child get on their level. Don’t talk down to them. Make sure you look at them and have their attention. Listen!! Really listen to your children.

*Don’t expect perfection. Let your child know it is okay to make mistakes. Tell them mistakes you made growing up. You do make mistakes.

*Introduce your children to healthy foods at a young age. They can learn to love good foods as well as fast foods. Water is healthy also.

*Listen! And listen between the words.

*The best thing for the inside of a child is “the outside”. Go out and play! Turn the TV off and go outside.

*Love them to pieces, read to them, listen to them. Have appropriate rules, and stick to them.

*Teach them the blessings that come from doing things for others.

*Don’t let your child “divide and conquer”. Discuss in private then stick to your decision.

*Be firm with your children, but in a loving way. Mean what you say.

*Hold them and tell them every chance you get that you love them. Read and pray with them.

*Don’t force them to hug or kiss another person.

*Make meaningful memories together.

*Laugh through the bad times, look for the blessings.

*Remember every moment together could be your last. Always express your love.

*Get a nap when you can while baby is sleeping. The laundry will wait.

*Remind them to eat their vegetables and brush their teeth.


My parenting advice: Don’t worry about what other people think. Only -YOU- know what is best for you, your child, and your family.

Birthfamily visit #4


We had our annual birthfamily visit with Brae’s birthfather and his side of the family. I’ve said this each year, but they really do keep getting better and more comfortable.

We met at a local amusement park and the kids had a blast going on all the rides and into all of the little venues.

Brae knew more about his birthfather this time around, mostly just from being more able to understand. I had tried to tell him that his birthfather, along with his birthmother, had helped create him and loved him very much. And then his birthmom pushed him out of her tummy, right into Mommy and Daddy’s arms. It was an act of selflessness, love, and sacrifice.

Knowing all of this, as soon as we got to the park and met the birthfather’s family, Brae immediately said, “Ok! So which one of you pushed me out of your tummy?!” It was the ideal icebreaker.

Brae and Sienna both hammed it up the whole visit, putting everyone in stitches. Sienna being her usual hostile, spunky self, and Brae just willing to do anything for a good laugh.

We didn’t get personal until near the end of the visit when the birthfather’s grandmother mentioned that Brae’s birthfather still had a hard time with the adoption. Of course, he was grateful and happy Brae was in such a good, loving home, and that all had turned out just fine, but still just mourning it all. She asked if we’d be willing to speak with him sometime about how he was feeling. Absolutely, we said.

It hurts my heart that he feels that way. I just don’t want to see him hurting. And, I cannot imagine the pain that he has endured during it all.

I’m sure that pain never goes away. The hope is that with open adoption, the pain of the unknown is somewhat diminished. And, that over time, a relationship between the two of them can develop.

At the end of the visit, as with all the other visits, they had early birthday presents for him. And, very sweetly, they brought gifts for Sienna as well.

We left with full hearts.

Until next year!
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