Have you heard of an adoptive triad? Triad means three. Three connected people or things. In the case of traditional adoption, you have the expectant parent(s) (birth parent if they decide to place), prospective parent(s) (adoptive parent once a placement happens), and the person being adopted. Embryo adoption follows a similar pattern: genetic parent(s), parents, and the person resulting from the adopted embryo.
Viewing embryo adoption from a triad perspective is incredibly helpful. Each member makes their own sacrifices and has their own gains. Recognizing this unique interconnectedness helps to build empathy. Empathy, in turn, gives each party a sense of peace and closure at a minimum, and possibly even more if the relationship is an open one.
Living the embryo adoption journey has opened my eyes to a fourth party- the genetic siblings. My son’s genetic parents have been open with their five children from the beginning. The three oldest knew when my husband and I received the embryos. Each child had their own reaction: excitement, overwhelmed tears, and nonchalant disinterest. The varied reactions were all seen as “okay”. The excited child was supported through the idea that it was still unknown if the parties would all meet one day. The overwhelmed child wasn’t dismissed for the inability to really know what to think about it. And the disinterested child was not pressured to show interest.
The younger two were told the next year when the genetic parents felt it was more developmentally appropriate. The conversation came on the cusp of my and my son’s first visit with the whole family. The genetic parents wanted to make sure the younger two had the opportunity to hear the information directly from them – rather than a statement by or inference from another adult during our visit. The genetic parents also wanted the two younger children to be able to ask questions.
My son’s relationship with each of his five genetic siblings has changed and evolved over the past 3.5 years since his embryo transfer. Watching the dynamics has been both heartwarming and insightful.
I have been enlightened by the way his genetic parents have approached their new family dynamic with their children.
The honesty with and unconditional acceptance of each child and their reactions is beautiful.
The sacrifices to facilitate bonding moments, both in person and by mail and the phone, are worthwhile.
The realization that each child can and will define their relationship with their genetic brother is a gift to each one.
I would never trade these precious times and memories for waiting until my son was “old enough” to decide for himself whether he wanted a relationship with his genetic family. Time cannot be unwound. I am thankful for the connections that have been made and am hopeful they can continue to blossom. I encourage anyone involved in embryo adoption to notice an often overlooked fourth party of the adoptive triad- genetic siblings. I hope their interests can be taken into consideration when decisions are made regarding openness and contact.
And, Donor Conception Network offers advice and practical suggestions for talking to your children about embryo adoption.
Our guest blooger is Sara Gregory who writes about her experiences at Chronicles of an Adoption and continues to educate and bring awareness about embryo adoption. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.