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.


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