Annette Baran, MSW, is a social worker and psychotherapist in Los
Angeles who has written extensively about adoption, assisted reproduction,
and their effects on families. She says that it's critical for parents
to examine their feelings about how becoming involved in ART affects
how they view themselves. Here, she focuses on couples that used
to the Audio Version
ANNETTE BARAN, M.S.W.: It was our understanding, from interviewing
enough of these men that sterility is often part of a feeling of
impotence. Even though the man is not really impotent, he feels
impotent. And this is supposed to take care of that. However, from
the man's point of view, having never resolved or explored any of
the feelings involved with it, they hung on. And he felt like a
fraud through the whole pregnancy. And particularly when everybody
was congratulating him that his wife was pregnant. And then finally
when he was handing out cigars and it wasn't his child. And it continued
and upset the family system incredibly.
Between he father and the mother, the power shift was patent. The
woman had all the power. It was her child. And what she would silently,
loudly scream is, "This is my kid, not yours!" It hung
between them. The father, losing power and feeling impotent, really
did not take as vital a part in the parenting of the child, and
the whole system went awry.
In an interview with a couple at the adoption agency, who had to
tell me about their infertility record because we asked. And these
people leveled, and told us that he was infertile and that their
first child—the only child they had—was a child of donor
insemination. And they raved about this little girl. And I said,
"If this kid is so terrific and it was such a great thing,
why don't you do it again? Why are you adopting?" There was
this enormous silence while she sat there looking down at her lap,
quivering. And he said from somewhere deep in his gut, "If
it's not mine, I don't want it to be hers, either." And he
couldn't go through it again.
Similar feelings occur in couples who use donated eggs or surrogate
uteruses, according to Hilary Hanafin, Ph.D., the chief psychologist
at the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Los Angeles.
to the Audio Version
HILARY HANAFIN, PH.D.: When I started, I didn't realize
that shame was such a big part of this. I've seen, over the years
that with women in particular, the grief and the shame that they
could not do what women are supposed to do according to history
and nature and society. That they could not provide the uterus,
the egg, the birth for their husband or for their child. I have
some parents who really feel it very little. But the women who do
feel that shame really, I think, struggle the most, because it's
such a private, buried feeling. They can cloak it in many things.
I have found that the women who come to this process feeling shame
about their inability to fully create the child on their own, and
the women who already carry some shame for whatever reason in their
history, due to their own parents, or where they come culturally;
the women who feel shame have a much more difficult time trusting
that when the child knows the story, that everything will be okay.
That they don't trust that their relationship with the child will
survive the truth, because their own shame and grief dominate the
cloud of secrecy of where the child came from.
Elaine Gordon, Ph.D., a psychologist in southern California who
specializes in issues related to infertility, has noticed the same
to the Audio Version
ELAINE GORDON, PH.D.: I've seen shame as an underlying,
just really motivating force for the decision making that a lot
of parents make as they try to build their families. That they have
gone through lots of failed, unsuccessful, heart-rending infertility
efforts--sometimes years and years and years. And they're ashamed.
I mean, they basically—they do not feel man enough, woman
enough, that they are just not who they are supposed to be or who
they thought they were supposed to be. And then that starts to contaminate
how they look at themselves, and how they treat the children and
what they tell them, or what they don't tell them, what they tell
their friends, what they tell other family members. It's a grand
contaminant that is not going ultimately to serve the family.