I’ve written a bit before about how we’ve chosen not to share information about our donor (such as it is) with folks outside our immediate family while our kids are still too small to understand. We feel that information belongs to Leigh (and to this next baby), not really to us, or to the community at large.
That sounds fine and all, but I know other perfectly wonderful parents come at this completely differently. They reach out to donor sibling families, feeling it is their obligation as parents to make those connections, so their kids don’t have to. And to be clear, I’m talking about unknown frozen bank donors here, either ID release or not. Navigating a KD relationship is a whole separate ballgame, and I can’t really claim to know anything about that.
I notice I’m often careful to phrase this approach so it sounds like we’re solely protecting our kid(s) interests, and in many ways we are. We modeled our approach after adoptive parents we know and respect very much, and at it’s core, I do think it’s the right thing for our family. But it is a bit disingenuous to claim we’re only thinking of our kid(s).
Lately, I’ve realized that some portion of my unwillingness to freely share what we know has to do with my own discomfort (and I think Gail has some similar, but not identical, issues here). With Leigh, the existence of a donor at all implied that there was someone, and probably many people, with an arguably stronger link to my daughter than I had, at least at first, before we a few years of real life together under our belts. I found that deeply threatening, and for a while, it made me rather frantic to conceive our second ASAP by the same donor. Once we had this little baby, that connection outside our family felt like a threat, and even though there was absolutely no one who would have tried to take her away and I had full legal parental rights, my relationship to Leigh felt insecure and fragile. At that time I got some advice to focus on building my relationship with her instead of worrying about the donor or moving forward immediately on a second pregnancy (it was proving hard to convince Gail that was a good idea anyway). The fact was, my relationship with Leigh was what mattered and it wasn’t under threat. Adding more complications to our life (via an immediate jump back into TTC) wasn’t going to fix anything. If I could just wait, and get my footing, I might realize nothing was broken.
That was excellent advice. Two years later, it’s hard to even remember what I felt like back then. I don’t feel resentful of our donor. I feel several complicated things, but foremost among them is gratitude. I’m more comfortable with the idea of donor siblings. I’m certainly not chomping at the bit to make real life connections there, but I am much more OK that they exist at all.
And this has brought me back to re-evaluate our approach to the donor information, but not in how we interact with the outside world. Rather, I’m thinking about how we hold the presence of the donor within our own family. While not blabbing at the park with whoever wanders by about details of Leigh’s genetic origins seems quite reasonable for our family, I’m afraid that some of that silence has carried over to our own internal family dynamics. We shy away from almost all resemblance talk. Gail and I never discuss the donor in Leigh’s company. At all. We talk lots about different kinds of families and other age appropriate kids-of-queers stuff, but nothing about the donor. The same source of the good advice to focus on Leigh before frantically running off to the sperm bank also gave advice that we can wait to have any conversations with Leigh about the donor until she brings it up. I’ve heard that as conventional advice from other sources, but I think I may be using that as an excuse. I worry that pieces of our own remaining discomfort at having needed her donor’s help at all will transmit to Leigh via our relative silence. Sure, we say we’ll answer whatever she asks, but if the topic isn’t truly an open one, she’ll pick up on it, and then she won’t ask.
So with that, Gail and I are working on opening up talk of the donor between us, and in Leigh’s presence. I’m not talking a nitty-gritty sit down with our toddler to explain how lesbian babies are made, but rather working to cultivate comfort and openness in us parents. Job number one on this front is that when this new baby comes, Gail and I are going to resist shutting down resemblance talk. We didn’t explicitly shut it down before, but our discomfort with the topic, at least on my part, was surely palpable. I will work very hard to suppress my automatic bristle should anyone talk about how Leigh and the new baby look alike. Once I get that under control, I’ll work on seeing that connection between our two kids, which was one we were willing to fork over a lot of cash for, as a really great thing, and one that it is OK to actually talk about.