Thursday, August 23, 2007

Who Is A Mother?

The Allison Quets contested adoption case, discussed earlier, is bringing up many great comments pro and con of whether Allison - or any mother fighting to overturn the adoption of her twins conceived with donor eggs - is a "natural mother" or a mother at all to the twins she carried. And if not, does it matter in terms of supporting her right to her children?

In an effort to garner support from the adoption community for Allison, I was told by her supporters, that: “the DNA of the children are present in the mother for decades, and vice versa. There is a genetic component, albeit one that is atypical.” To help untangle this complex situation, following is an article explains the biological connection between mothers and children of their womb. After that is an open ended discussion I hope you will join:

Mothers 'Inherit' Some Characteristics Of Their Children
Researchers to Present Amazing Discovery

MILAN ( - Mothers undergo permanent changes during pregnancy, in which they "inherit" some characteristics of the child they carry and, through the child, also receive some characteristics of the father. This is but one of the surprising discoveries to be presented at the congress entitled "At the Dawn of Human Life," organized by the Institute of Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Catholic University of Rome. The congress begins Sept. 6 in the Vatican, as part of the Jubilee of University Professors.
The child inherits half of his genetic patrimony from the mother. He also "hears" the outside world while in the womb, through the mother's body, a fact which substantially conditions the unborn child's life. Now, research indicates that the mother also undergoes long-term changes caused by the "person" of the child and, indirectly, also from her husband.
Professor Salvatore Mancuso, head of the gynecology institute, said: "We have proofs that beginning in the fifth week of gestation, in other words, when a woman realizes she is pregnant, an infinite number of messages pass from the embryo to the mother, through chemical substances like hormones, transmitters, etc. Such information serves to adapt the mother's organism to the presence of the new being.
"Moreover, it has also been discovered that the embryo sends stem cells that, thanks to the mother's immune system tolerance, colonize the maternal medulla, and adhere to it. What is more, lymphocytes are born from here and remain with the woman for the rest of her life." Mancuso continued: "From the fifth week there is clearly a passing of cells, but messages begin at conception. Even during the first phase of cellular subdivision, when the embryo is moving in the fallopian tubes, there are transmissions through contact with tissues touched by the moving embryo.
"Later, after implantation in the uterus, the dialogue is more intense through the blood and cells, and chemical substances enter the mother's bloodstream. "Finally, the child's stem cells pass to the mother in great quantity, both at the moment of birth, whether spontaneous or Cesarean, as well as at the time of abortion, whether spontaneous or voluntary. These cells are implanted in the mother's medulla and produce lymphocytes, which have a common origin with the cells of the central nervous system; they have receptors for the neurotransmitters and can make messages pass that the maternal nervous system understands."
He added, "An astonishing area of research is opening up. This is information of enormous importance on the first phases of life." When asked whether it was difficult to make rigid divisions of the phases of the embryo's development, Mancuso said, "It is a grave error to make distinctions between the embryo and pre-embryo. It is such an initial phase - one cannot of course speak of a central nervous system - but the messages the embryo sends to the mother express manifestations that are proper to the human species. The instruments used are highly specialized chemical substances and cells, such as stem cells.
"It should be remembered that if communication was lacking, the maternal organ would reject the embryo. The dialogue makes possible the perfect acceptance of an organism that is 50% foreign to the mother's genetic patrimony. In fact, these chemical substances, which express nutritional and metabolic needs of the embryo to the mother, cause an immune depression in her that facilitates the acceptance of the new being."
When asked how long the fetus' influence on the mother lasts, the professor answered: "Stem cells have been found in the mother even 30 years after the birth. It could be said, therefore, the pregnancy does not last the 40 canonical weeks, but the woman's entire life.
"This should be cause for reflection also in regard to the hypothesis of 'renting' a womb: In this case, the mother who carries the embryo accepts a being whose genetic patrimony is 100% foreign, and who will 'modify' her for the rest of her life. We have no idea of the long-term consequences of such operations.
Regarding the transfer of the father's characteristics to the mother via the unborn child, Mancuso said, "These are areas that are yet to be explored. Of course it calls for reflection on a new way of understanding pregnancy. Also, a very close tie is undoubtedly created between man and woman, because the child has 50% of the father's genetic characteristics. Moreover, the hematopoietic [blood-producing] stem cells go to the medulla and produce offspring cells, lymphocytes and neurotransmitters with the capacity to dialogue with the maternal central nervous system. It is somewhat as though the 'thoughts' of the child pass to the mother, even many years after his birth."


Genetic patrimony seems to be what the DNA ancestry projects such as the National Geographics. It traces our lineage and connects us all back to Africa.

So...does that make one the "natural" mother of donor eggs she carries? Are mother and child biologically connected through passed DNA and stem cells?

Does a mother who used donor eggs then have the same "rights" as a natural mother compared to an adoptive parent, or is she still no more related to her child than a foster care giver or adopter?

Does the fact that she has carried the child inside her and felt it move within her and the baby heard her voice for nine months create an emotional bond as mother and child? Who could carry a child, labor and birth, and not feel like a mother?

Yet, do we ever want to support a child being created with half or all of its genetic and medical history lost to it through anonymity?

These are questions courts are struggling to answer as reproductively technology continues to thrive. They questions we who work to support mothers rights are going to be forced to ask and answer more and more.

For myself. my heart tells me that a mother wh carries a child is the mother. And yet I firmly believe that the answer lies with the last posed question to which the answer is clear: None of us in Family Preservation or even adoption reform and open records would be supportive of any anonymity. We need to remain firmly against any anonymity in the creation of life.

However, do we not support children created from anonymous donors who are seeking their truth? Of course we do!

So, while choosing to support to not to support Allison Quets based on her intentional use of anonymous donor eggs might be a difficult, even heart-wrenching decision for some of us - or a clear-cut no for others of us... what happens when we focus not on Allison but on the children she birthed, Holly and Tyler. Where do we then stand? Do we not support these children's right to know the mother who carried them as well as their right to try to locate their genetic parentage?

And, in this case, do we not oppose a coercive adoption that is denying the right of the individual who birthed the children and signed a surrender to revoke her consent to have them adopted? Are the children better off with total strangers? Or does Allison not have any more tight to them as they do?

Please also see comments at:

Friday, August 17, 2007
Allison Quest Seeks Support


HeatherRainbow said...

thanks for posting this link. I have been supporting Allison since the beginning. Allison and I have a very strong connection.... why? Because the same lawyers and agency that are taking her twins from her... also took my daughter.

Michael Shorstein and Kelly (lawyers) and Kathleen Stevenson (First Coast Adoption Professionals, adoption agency) are deeply connected to the Florida courts, judges, former Attorney General (Uncle Harry Shorstein) and the power they have, is DISGUSTING.

Even if people do not personally support Allison as I do, consider at least not supporting these criminals.

Amyadoptee said...

I too support Allison Quets. I think what these agencies/attorneys have done is deplorable. Even if you don't agree with the donor egg/sperm thing, she does not deserve to be treated with the utter disregard and humiliation that these folks have done consistently done to natural mothers.

Parents & Professionals for Family Preservation & Protection said...

Please also see comments at:

Friday, August 17, 2007
Allison Quest Seeks Support

Anonymous said...

I want to reply and say something but don't even have words as this case is so insane to start with all the legal and ethical issues, not to mention the added debate of donor conceptoin.

But I do view Quets as the children's natural mother...not their genetic mother but their natural mother, and through pregnancy and birth, there is a biological connection of sorts, again, not the same as genetics.

There are many issues at hand here not the least of which is the happiness and lives of the Quets twins and Allison, but adoption policy and ethics, immoral adoption "professional," illegal adoptions, and the idea of revocation time periods and whether sick women can reliquish. If a woman is sick, her ability to sign a contract in basic contract law, is questionable. Why not when a child is involved? Worries me for all mothers who have the misfortune of facing pregnancy related complications.


Parents & Professionals for Family Preservation & Protection said...

I read the comments here and at at the post two days prior and I am torn.

I do not put much weight in the DNA passing theory since it was proposed by Right-to-Lifers and does not seem to be supported by real science. Thus technically, Allison or any mother who uses donor eggs is no more genetically a mother than an adopter.

However I still come back to what my gut has said from the first time I heard of her plight: She carried these babies and felt them inside of her for nine months AND she was coerced and pressured by a corrupt adoption industry.

For myself, the later over weighs the former and I will do whatever I can to support her.

I do, however, not fault any organizations for refraining from campaigning publicly on her behalf simply because they have to pick their battles.

At OriginsUSA, we are being contacted on a daily basis by mothers in contested adoptions. It is pitiful. We are developing a data base of state laws regarding revocation time periods etc, and attorneys but it seems they all get to us far too late to help, as one must revoke almost immediately in all states...and even then, we know how bleak the outcomes are.

Suzanne Drapeau said...

Parents and Professionals for Family Preservation,

Actually, there is a substantial and growing body of scientific study on microchimerism. It is not a pro-life construct but an area of significant research in immunology and hematology. I've attached a brief bibliography I have been gathering as I research why I have developed autoimmune disorders since pregnancy. By coincidence, my personal research also supports the argument that Quets is biologically connected to Holly and Tyler.

Verneris, Michael. “Fetal Microchimerism--what our children leave behind.” Blood
102.10: 3465-6. 15 November 2003. 4 Aug 2007

The text summarizes recent studies on fetal microchimerism and explains implications of the research and questions fetal microchimerisms role in graft-versus-host disease when female donor organs are used. In addition, the role of fetal cells in mothers and maternal cells in offspring is considered in transplantation.

Dr. Michael Verneris is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology-Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation, and the Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota. Blood is the published semimonthly by the American Society of Hematology; Blood is peer-reviewed and published since 1946.

Verneris discusses this study:
Adams, Kristina M., Nathalie C. Lambert, Shelly Heimfeld, Tracy S. Tylee, Jennifer
M. Pang, Timothy D. Erickson, and J. Lee Nelson “Male DNA in female donor
apheresis and CD34-enriched products.” Blood 102.10: 3445-7. 15 November
2003. 4 Aug 2007;102/10/3845

Another text from 2002 on the phenomenon:
Nelson, J.L. “Microchimerism: incidental byproduct of pregnancy or active participant in
human health?” Trends in Molecular Medicine (Mar 2002) 8.3: 109-113. 25
August 2007

Evans PC, Lambert N, Maloney S, Furst DE, Moore JM, Nelson JL. “Long-term fetal microchimerism in peripheral blood mononuclear cell subsets in healthy women and women with scleroderma. Blood. 1999;93: 2033-2037

Maloney S, Smith A, Furst DE, et al. Microchimerism of maternal origin persists into adult life. J Clin Invest. 1999;104: 41-47;102/10/3845

Parents & Professionals for Family Preservation & Protection said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome. Ironic that my autoimmune issues would connect to adoption cases, but here we are. If you review the references in each of the listed texts, you'll find a large number of articles to review as well. "microchimerism" in Google produces many other articles. I also have quite a few articles from my University's databases that aren't linked here because access is denied unless someone is a student or staff member at the school. I can email the full texts to you, but I can't paste links in your comments as the documents are too long.

Parents & Professionals for Family Preservation & Protection said...

I hope it helps clarify things.

However, I have to say that despite all that, I am totally opposed to anonymous sperm and egg "donation" as are all involved in adoption. It is selfish and puts the life of the child being created at risk. I think that was was what was meant by "designer babies."

Allison or others may have concerns about their aging eggs - then don't conceive! There are orphans and special needs children that would really benefit from loving homes or one can be a big sister or help chilren in myriad ways.

Choosing to cerate a child anonymously is simply selfish IMO. It lacks the foresight to see the child as a separate human being with needs and rights of its own - instead of viewing it as something one wants to please themselves and their needs. Not unlike buying a car. That puts someone like Allison in a category much closer to adopters.

It seems to me that Allison wants it both ways. She ignored genetics in creating these babies anonymously and ignored the biological connection of the egg donor, but now wants to claim that she has a biological connection to them.

I find something is very troublesome about that. Either biology counts or it doesn't, and of course any doctor will tell you, it does. What happens to these twins when they need their medical history? What if they need a transplanted organ or bone marrow? Where was the consideration of that when she conceived (created) them?

What if someday one of the twins dates or marries a sibling because their genetic mother donated eggs to more than just Allison?

I feel for her, and I hate what adoption has done...but...I can also understand why there is not a ground swell of support for her among those of us concerned with these issues.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with what you say about donor conception, but I can also say that I never understood the issues involved until this case. In many ways, Quets's situation does further your cause, or it has with me. I now share your concerns with donor conception. An unfortunate reality is that families who use donor gametes do not have these issues explained by the clinics, and they often learn to complications when it is too late.

To me, Quets is an embryo adopter and that creates a different level of connection to the children than is created in infant adoption. So yes, she adopted Holly and Tyler. But in my opinion, and it is only my opinion, by carrying, having them imprint on her, and almost dieing for them, Quets is much closer to a genetic mother on the spectrum of motherhood than she is to the infant-adopting mother.

I really did not intend to come off as argumentative, and I apologize. I simply wanted to share what I had learned about pregnancy in my own medical research. I appreciate your posts and the words that you share very much.

Parents & Professionals for Family Preservation & Protection said...

I haven't sensed anyone being argumentative here. These are very complicated issues and i think they are being discussed intelligently as well as they are both. But all with respect, which is greatly appreciated.

Yes, embryo adoption! That is what she did. As far as not being informed, that is the major problem with so much in all types of adoption. People adopt from over seas, especially EE not knowing the problems institutionalization and fetal alcohol syndrome involve - or not wanting to know...

And mothers relinquish not knowing the lifetime of pain and grief they will suffer...

Education is key!

But the money-makers both in repro tech and adoption don't want us to know the truth. Their business flourish so much better base don lies and myths. Adoption is "the same as if" the child was born to you ...a win-win...and everyone will live happily ever after cause love will cure all! They are selling fairy tales and the public is buying lock, stock and barrel!

Anonymous said...

Yes, education is critical, says the teacher ;). That is where your blog and other sources of information become so important in sharing Allison Quets's story and the issues surrounding her experience. So many things are touched by her motherhood: embryo adoption, donor conception, hyperemesis, PTSD, contract law and pregnancy complications, adoption fraud, zero revocation laws, adoption myths, social worker ethics, medical responsibility, definitions and kinds of motherhood, the adoption industry as baby marketers, infertility, grief, and so on. Hers is an unprecedented case, and I think it has the potential to change many lives for the better if the right people will listen and act.


Anonymous said...

As a rallying point to get this particular lousy and dishonest agency, the case of Ms Quets is not a good one, however personally sympathetic one may feel towards her as a person who made a series of bad choices and has suffered the consquences.

There is too much muddying the waters. There needs to be some separation between the reprehensible actions of the agency and irresponsible actions of Ms Quets right from the choice to buy an embryo and take a huge and well-documented risk with her health by carrying twins to term in her late 40s. Then she compounded this by kidnapping the children.

She did not have a crisis pregnancy. She had ample time to plan for help and support after the delivery which was very likely to be difficult and possibly life-threatening given her age. Yes, she suffered and nearly died, but she signed up for that when she decided to get pregnant. The whole discussion of fetal cells getting into the maternal bloodstream as somehow entitling her to these children is specious at best; it is a medical condition of pregnancy, not a badge of motherhood or any sort of emoptional connection to children carried by a true surrogate which is what she is, whatever she intended.

I do not see where suffering grants her any more special consideration than any other embryon buyer or any adoptive mother who went through years of painful and costly infertility treatment before adopting. Suffering does not entitle one to kidnap children whom the courts have put in the legal custody of others.

The donors were, from what I understand, anonymous, which shows how little regard she had before the fact for those children having a genetic history, no matter what she says now.

Find some other actual natural mothers who were ripped off by this agency, and then go after them and forget this case.

Anonymous said...

If Quets disregarded the children's genetic identity in the beginning, that does not mean she does now. And that does not mean she doesn't have identifying information. She may or may not. We don't know.

The fetal cell exchange is isn't a "badge of motherhood" it is a biological connection to the children. Nothing more and nothing less.

And as for signing up for life-threatening complications of pregnancy. one does that in the 21st century. Had YOU ever heard of Hyperemesis? I imagine it never crosses anyone's mind until she is so mind numbingly dehydrated that she must be hospitalized.

Has Quets made mistakes? Yup. Everyone does. The children are here, and to debate if they should is rather dehumanizing to THEM.

Is this the best case for going after Shorstein et al.? I don't know. Maybe maybe not.

Is she just a gestational surrogate? How can anonymous say Quets is a "true surrogate"? "True surrogates" carry WITHOUT intention of parenting. Quets conceived these children with the intention of parenting. She is not a surrogate. Is she an adoptive mother? Yes, but that does not make her the same as an incubator for someone else's babies.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have heard of hyperemesis, under the more common designation of severe "morning sickness". A friend of mine had it years ago. It is mentioned in common books on pregnancy as one of the "when to call your doctor" events.

I am also familiar with the fact that a person who is throwing up constantly is in danger of dehydration that can require hospitalization. One does not need to be a doctor to understand that.

As to this being the 21st century and no more need to worry about maternal mortality, it is actually going up for the first time in years in the US, due to too many C Sections and the increased age of many mothers. See this link:

Risk to mother and baby increases with the age of the mother. Any first time mother over 35 faces some increase of risk, and the older she is the more likely there will be complications. Not rocket science, common knowledge. Ms Quets took a big risk without a support system in place, and she lost. But those children are the real losers, created to fill a selfish need.

beth said...

How awful that death rates are rising. That is very sad. Quets is lucky to be alive...and luckier still is the world that the babies lived. They are gorgeous children, very cute.

Everyone should see their picture and remember why we debate...for their best interest.


Suzanne said...

How is it possible this case has not been resolved after two years? The children clearly belong with Quets, she is the natural mother legally and morally. They exist because she loves them and was willing to risk death to deliver them (and yes, severe Hyperemesis is life threatening, not a little but a lot....I could list a number of women who died while I waited to deliver my second child.)

What went wrong with the case? It appears so strong...911 calls, medical records, improper behavior by social workers and attorneys, coercion throughout the process, manipulation. All of this (and being sick is NOT a reason to take a woman's is a reason to help her), and the Quets children are still with a couple willing to tell a mother no, I want your babies and they get them? What is wrong with our legal system?

This is a legal nightmare for ALL of us...adoption advocates, women's advocates, pregnant women, adoptive parents...the children remaining with the Needhams after so long causes damage to all of our causes, and most of all, staying with the Needhams damages Holly and Tyler. Are the Needhams truly prepared to deal with adoption issues, preemie issues, and complications of Hyperemesis?

Sissy said...

Can someone help me understand how the Needhams have retained custody, how they got it in the first place? Doesn't ICPC require following the laws of both states? NC has a 7 day wait (down from 21...gross...and didn't want counseling for relinqishing moms, that's awful.) How did the Needhams get the kids with Quets saying no within hours.

Help me figure that one out. I really want to understand.

Anonymous said...

Reading this thread, and I have a question. How does everyone know that the genetic donors are anonymous? What if Quets used donor gametes due to medical issues in her own family, wouldn't that be responsible?

As for Quets being an adopter, that's a negative term. I don't see it. She is a mother. Full stop.

Anonymous who claims to know Hyperemesis and what it is and what it does: As for Hyperemesis being "severe morning sickness," well, no, not really. Hyperemesis may look like morning sickness to the uneducated, but to those who know this disease and the women and babies who die of it, Hyperemesis looks like 27 pills/day, 3 liters if PICC line fluids, 9 months on bedrest, increased rate of other complications like PreE and preterm labor, and very likely long term health problems for both mother and child. When morning sickness starts killing mothers and babies, then let's compare the two.

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