Regular readers know that there have been some shifts around here in how we’re thinking and talking about our donor. After several years of focusing only on our immediate family (and I believe rightly so), we feel things opening up around this topic, in good but sometimes intense ways.
I watch like a hawk when anything along these lines comes up in discussion, in real life, or more often, online. One theme I’ve noticed is that often when a parent voices some sort of worry about what to say, or how their kids might feel about the donor in the future, usually someone offers the reassurance that “lots of kids don’t even care.” Maybe your kid won’t wonder about their donor. Maybe your kid will never ask or care about donor siblings. Maybe you’ll get lucky. (Similar themes come up in adoption discussions).
In the past, when I have thought about the donor or donor siblings, I often pulled out the same reassurance for myself. We can only do what we can do. We didn’t really have another choice. There’s a lot of love in our family and that is enough. Maybe it won’t matter anyway. We’ll handle it when it comes up. Reinsert head into sand.
The idea that this is something we have to handle has been bothering me. Like the fact of the donor is something outside our family, and if we think hard enough about what to say, learn our lines, and handle it perfectly, that then the fact of the donor in all of our lives will just disappear. If we say or do just the right things at just the right time, maybe then our kids won’t care. We’ll be the lucky ones.
But the donor (or at least the fact of his existence) isn’t outside our family. He’s connected to each of us, in a somewhat distant but direct way. The fact of him (and of any donor siblings) is part of our family structure, not something off to the side that has barely anything to do with us.
I realized the other day, that I no longer cling to the hope we’ll be the lucky ones. We do not have a family where big stuff gets brushed under the rug. No. We sink our teeth in and figure it out. I want our kids to do whatever work they need to do to understand what it means for them to be donor conceived, whether it’s a big deal for them, or not so much. And I want them to tell me all about it, because it’s interesting, and because I love them to pieces and want to understand their lives. (And I know my daughter; I don’t think we had much of a shot at “maybe she won’t care” in the first place).