Jana Rupnow's dedication to advocating
for change in the donor conception industry was driven by her deep
understanding of the psychological challenges involved, as well as her personal
and professional experiences. Jana began her career in fertility and family
counseling after she and her husband experienced secondary infertility and
became adoptive parents. Her clientele included those experiencing infertility,
undergoing IVF treatments, and, when fertility treatment wasn't successful,
people choosing adoption, donor conception, and surrogacy.
Within six months of opening a private
practice, she observed a troubling trend of secrecy and misinformation among
prospective parents choosing donor conception as their path to parenthood. Many
of them planned to keep the fact of donor conception a secret from their future
children, often influenced by advice from medical professionals at fertility
clinics. This pattern of secrecy deeply troubled Jana.
It wasn't just intended parents who were
misinformed. Jana met with potential egg donors, most of whom didn't fully
understand the long-term implications of donating their eggs. "I remember
one young lady comparing it to donating a kidney. I knew more education was
needed in the field."
Seeing clients in both adoption and donor
conception, she noticed that as the adoption field became more open, the
third-party reproductive field remained fiercely protective of genetic secrets.
"I knew the psychological challenges of anonymous egg and sperm donation
on a child. The secrets of the closed adoption system were repeating themselves and something had to change."
As an adoptee herself, Jana understood
the psychological challenges associated with being kept in the dark about one's
genetic origins. She had been aware of her own adoption from birth and knew
that discussing non-traditional family structures was not only possible but
crucial for healthy family dynamics.
During her counseling sessions, Jana encountered intense emotions, including shame, discomfort, grief,
and loss, that many couples felt. She skillfully navigated these sessions,
addressing her clients' infertility grief while advocating for honesty and
openness on behalf of their potential child. This endeavor was not without
challenges, as even some medical professionals within the field resisted her
Jana also identified major gaps in psychological
preparation for intended parents. She went beyond the typical counseling
sessions, covering details that others often overlooked, such as epigenetics
and how infertility grief affects parenting across the lifespan, as well the potential for multiple half-siblings in other families.
She recognized that a single counseling session was insufficient to adequately
prepare couples. To address this, she wrote and self-published a resource for
intended parents, Three Makes Baby, and began a marketing campaign direct to
the parents on social media. “My clients were eager for more information about
donor conception and there was a major gap in available resources.
“I knew that life was long, and I couldn’t
stop thinking about the future children. I felt a deep responsibility to them
because I was like them. I was a child with a mysterious identity to figure
out. I lived through the confusion, the grief, and the silence."
Through her dedication, Jana aimed to
empower intended parents with knowledge and support, ultimately working toward
greater transparency, understanding, and psychological preparation within the
donor conception industry. She started a podcast and an International Awareness
Day, (IDCAD) to continue to raise awareness on the topic. Today she is Director
of Medical Resources and Content with USDCC, a non-profit group advocating for
improved standards in the field of donor conception.