Fertility therapist and Author. More about Jana.
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IDCAD 2023 is focusing on truth and transparency. Telling children the truth about their donor conception has become common wisdom, but how do families put this into practice over the years? We hope this year's IDCAD slogan continues to raise awareness about the importance of sharing your child's donor conception story with them but doesn't end there. There are many ways that truth and transparency can make a difference in the field of donor conception, where secrecy has flourished for decades. The graphic shows a few ways that truth and transparency can be put into practice in the field.
"As someone who works in marketing, I understand the power of language and how it can influence perception. It's interesting to look back at the language used in the 30s, 40s, and 50s surrounding donor conception. "Sperm donor" and "donor-conception" were both negative terms that carried a lot of stigma.
But then something changed. Someone had the brilliant idea to repackage donor-conception as "semi-adoption." Suddenly, the negative connotations were gone, and the idea of using donor sperm became more socially acceptable.
This shift in language was especially important for men, who often felt a sense of resistance to the idea of using donor sperm. By framing it as a form of adoption, it became less emotional and more practical.
I came across this information in my research, but it was interesting to hear my mom's perspective as well. When she and my dad were making the decision to use donor sperm, their doctor never used the term "semi-adoption." But looking back, my mom said she viewed the term as positive because it helped to remove some of the stigma around donor conception.
Their doctor did talk to them about the legal issues surrounding donor conception, which were still largely unresolved at the time. They could have chosen to have my dad legally adopt the child, but that came with its own set of complications. Instead, they decided to have my dad listed as the father on the birth certificate, even though he had no biological connection to the child. This was a common practice in the field, as outlined in a 1925 handbook by Kroener & Seymour.
It's fascinating to see how language can shape our perceptions and attitudes. And in the case of donor conception, it was a small shift in language that made a big difference in how people viewed this form of family building."
Three Makes Baby Podcast
Happy Together Children's Book
You Look Like Me
How it all started in 2020. Read interview with Jana Rupnow and Michelle Smith Laurie from April 18, 2021.
More about the founder, Jana Rupnow
Q: International Donor Conception Awareness Day, April 27: Why is Awareness Important?
Today is the first annual International Donor Conception Awareness Day is a day advocating for and celebrating donor conception. We are proud to be a founding member of this initiative, and hope it can spark meaningful conversation and progress for everyone involved in donor conception.
We spoke with International Donor Conception Awareness Day’s founder, fertility therapist Jana Rupnow, about the importance of raising awareness and advocacy for donor conception, and support for donors, children, and families. Jana shared her own family building story and background in a conversation with Donor Concierge, and spoke with us about the progress she hopes to see in the fertility field.
Q: How do you think Donor Conception Awareness Day will impact donor-conceived families?
Jana: I’m hoping the day will help families begin talking about donor conception more openly. They often want to talk about it, but they just don’t know how to bring it up. They wonder when to start having the conversation. I’m hoping the day will prompt families to bring up their story and learn that they aren’t alone! Having an internationally recognized awareness day legitimizes the issues of donor conception. Lifting the secrecy and shame surrounding donor conception is important to help grow healthy families.
Q:One key focus of ours is providing resources and support for those pursuing egg donation. We really encourage people to embrace their journey and be open about donor conception, but we know it can be hard. How do you approach these conversations?
Jana: Openness starts with an attitude and that can be fostered. Parents may have some emotional work to do before they are ready to talk to others about donor conception, but it’s so important to do so. The sooner the better so you can start talking with your children when they are young. One of the goals of this day is to give people permission to be more open, and overcome the secret practices of the past. People today are much more open about donor conception, thanks in large part to prevalence of social media, but there is more work to do. Online communities are blossoming with conversations and connecting people across the world that are going through the same experience. It’s a great place for support for personal topics like infertility and donor conception.
Q: We think it’s important to advocate for donor conceived children, and remember the impact these decisions will have on them. How do you think we can support people who were donor conceived?
Jana: We can support donor conceived individuals by understanding their unique experience and allow them to process their emotions, no matter how uncomfortable they make parents feel. Donor conceived individuals may wonder about their donor, and they may be sad, angry, and confused by the donor’s motivations and absence of genetic information.
Late discovery is especially complicated for donor conceived individuals and includes processing difficult emotions including issues of betrayal. But it’s completely normal for individuals who grow up in a loving family that has been open with them about their conception, to feel these things too.
Complex feelings arise when people have the opportunity to meet their donor and rejection is a common concern. Their parents don’t understand why they would be scared of rejection from someone who is a stranger, but again, it’s totally normal to feel this way. The key is to set boundaries and manage expectations ahead of time.
Q: One important part of advocacy is using the right language .What language should we be using for the donor “parent” or the genetic “siblings”?
Jana: I use “genetic parent,” despite this not being the perfect fit. There are so many definitions of “Parent” – social, biological, and otherwise, so it’s complicated. The important thing is what the child wants to call the donor. It may change over time, starting with “donor,” but evolving to a term your child prefers. In known donation, many people use the donor’s given name. It also depends on context: someone may not want to explain the specifics of their conception in every conversation, so the language will vary. It comes down to individual preference, while being respectful of other’s preferred terminology.
Q: Some parents are afraid of not being enough for their child or their child considering their donor a “parent.” Do you have experience navigating those fears or obstacles?
Jana: Yes, this is one of most common fears parents share with me. A healthy parent-child attachment happens over time through repeated caring and emotional sharing and continues as a reciprocal relationship that is ever-evolving between a parent and child. Genetics are not required to form an attachment to a child, and the adoption community has lots of data to back this up. Parents usually gain confidence as their child grows, but it’s also common to get stuck. Parents sometimes think that being open and having the first conception conversation is enough but that is just the beginning. My best advice is to seek training and gain skills to deal with new life stages and emotions. Having an ongoing resource is key, whether that’s therapy, workshops, books or other support options. I wrote Three Makes Baby- How to Parent Your Donor Conceived Child to be a long-
term resource for families. Your child is going to grow and change, and these conversations will grow with them.
Q: We know a lot of people in the fertility space are advocating for awareness and support for parents, children, donors, and more. How does IDCAD fit in?
Jana: My hope is that IDCAD will encourage organizations with aligned mission to come together to work to improve long-term resources for families. The solutions we have are lacking, and we need to come together to increase transparency and support across the board. The response I’ve received from IDCAD partners and fertility professionals has been really positive. I’m hopeful that together we will continue to make progress.
Thank you to Jana for spearheading this effort and discussing these issues with us. We firmly believe that it is our responsibility, and the responsibility of every fertility professional, to support and protect the people involved on all sides of fertility. We truly hope this day continues to spark progress for our field, and unites us further to push donor conception forward. If we all come together, we can make real change.
March 29, 2022
Online event aims to educate on donor conception DALLAS, Tex. – The third annual International Donor Conception Awareness Day (IDCAD) is scheduled to take place across social media on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, under the theme “Let’s talk, listen and learn.” The day will encourage dialogue between all parties involved or interested in donor conception through third-party reproductive technologies. IDCAD is intended to raise awareness about the use of such technologies and highlight the unique lifelong experiences of the people who result from their use, i.e., donor-conceived people. This year’s event will feature live discussions and presentations by donor-conceived people, parents, gamete donors, and mental health professionals. Interested parties are encouraged to share their own stories across social media using the hashtag #IDCAD2022. In addition to issues faced by donor-conceived people, IDCAD will also tackle topics such as removing the shame, secrecy, and stigma associated with infertility; building families in the LGBTQI+ community; the rights of egg donors to receive accurate medical information; and educating donors about how their decision impacts donor-conceived people throughout their lives. Parents who have kept their child’s donor conception a secret are also encouraged to use the day to tell their children, as the importance of early disclosure will be addressed as well. Founded in 2020 by licensed psychotherapist and author of Three Makes Baby, Jana Rupnow, this year’s event is planned by Rupnow along with parents who have used third-party reproductive technologies, gamete donors, and representatives from the U.S. Donor Conceived Council, Donor Conceived Community, and We Are Donor Conceived, on behalf of donor-conceived people.
To learn more or get involved with IDCAD, visit https://donorconceptionawarenessday.com/. CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org
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