This weekend our donor’s parents are coming over to meet our daughter for the first time. I have no idea how it will go. I trust our donor 150%, otherwise I would not be up for this meeting. Before I could even say the words, he articulated what I was going to ask for: that they follow our lead after this meeting. We’ll see how it goes and how we’re feeling and we’ll be in touch if we’d like to get together again. This could be the start of our daughter having two additional people who become part of her web of loving support- which includes my parents, my spouse’s parents, my siblings, my spouse’s siblings, my auntie, a long line of cousins, and a few friends who are integrally involved in her life and have thus been named “Uncles.” Or, it could be one meeting. I just don’t know.
It’s strange- I don’t feel trepidation about this meeting. I just feel like we’re walking into the unknown. I was not necessarily ready to take this step before this time, thus our waiting for nearly three years. I think it’s a culmination of the trust we’ve build up with our donor, my spouse and I working on strengthening our relationship and communicating with one another until we fully understood and respected each others’ concerns about meeting them. I could be being naive, but I feel safe about this meeting. A big part of me feels like my daughter can never have too much love. It reminds me of when I did my first ten day silent meditation retreat. It was hard- brutally hard. My ass hurt, my brain was driving me crazy, my back ached, and I convinced myself that I was getting lock jaw because my jaw kept clicking every time I would eat during meal time. In the silence of that mess hall I listened to that dull click in my head and I was sure I was walking out of that retreat center not talking even after silence was broken.
But I also had great epiphanies and moments of such ecstatic joy I am certain that I had tiny glimpses of what is referred to as nirvana. In one of those moments I had such a clear, intense thought that it kept beating through me like a pulse coursing through my body: you have an infinite amount of love to offer. you have an infinite amount of love to offer. you have an infinite amount of love to offer. It wasn’t even words really. As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, my eyes pressed tight, but my neck wet with tears, I had a knowing in my entire body. There I was at that center because I had suffered a heartbreak I was convinced I would never heal from and I could see more clearly than I ever could before that one’s heart is never fully broken. Our capacity for love is infinite. So I take that into this weekend. I could latch onto my insecurities around not having carried and birthed our daughter… around the fact that she doesn’t carry any of my genetic material or biology… that she doesn’t look a thing like me, even by a stretch. And yet, I choose to not take that path. I choose to be open to the possibility of even more love in my daughter’s life. Or at the very least, exploring the option.
Often Betsy’s posts spur my own thoughts around what to write about- it’s a fabulous part of doing this blog together. One of Betsy’s recent posts got me thinking and I had this realization about why it’s sometimes tricky for me to come up with material to share on this forum, even though I think opening up allows the most meaningful parts of my experience as a non-gestational parent to be shared and received.
We have a known donor and he is a good friend of ours. We don’t go shouting from the rooftops that he’s our donor, quite frankly it’s not really anyone’s business and I want to respect his privacy. At the same time, it’s nothing we’re embarrassed or ashamed about and we feel strongly that being somewhat transparent helps normalize the reality of what we had to do to start our awesome, little family… so our good friends know as do some family members. I feel sensitive about what I share in regards to having a known donor since anyone with access to the World Wide Web can stumble upon this information.
I will admit that there are things that come up for me around being a queer non-gestational mother that are around having a known donor and how this fact impacts my life and experience as a parent. Not because our donor is doing anything wrong- he’s actually incredibly thoughtful, respectful, and generous- but simply because of the reality of being a non-traditional family and me being the odd-lady-out so to speak in a society that institutionally and culturally doesn’t fully understand or support non-gestational parents (and I’m saying that living in a state where I actually have some legal protection). The fact that he has a biological tie to our daughter and I don’t does make our situation a bit complicated. Again, nothing he’s doing wrong, it just is what it is. Maybe it’s more the fact that we have to have a donor period that makes it complicated. I actually have found that as time has gone on I have come to associate love and warmth in regards to how our donor plays into our life as a family. He has been overwhelmingly cool and respectful about this whole gig. I can see that our daughter likes him and he cares about her and anyone who cares about her has won some high points in my book. And yet there is this small, admittedly probably insecure, part of me that gets nervous and territorial sometimes like I need to defend my role and prominence in our family even though it’s probably not really being threatened… at least not by our donor. It’s like I’m swinging quiet punches, but I can’t see my target and I don’t even want to be fighting.
At different points in my life I’ve thought about how polyamory* seems like something I could get behind, if I was born into a different world than this one that is (think Starhawk’s utopian San Francisco ala The Fifth Sacred Thing)… one where everyone involved was supremely intentional, thoughtful, safe, respectful and loving. Yet in reality it seems like a lot of work and rather exhausting, even though I know some people do it with grace and joy. Maybe that’s a metaphor for my own little family and our donor: I want to believe it can work, and most of the time it really does, but the larger society makes me question things along the way. I think I will have to use my instinct as my compass and hope for the best. Right now it’s a balancing act between respecting my own needs and being open to what will bring the most joy, love and support into my family. My compass is saying to trust the path.
* “Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly], meaning ‘many’ or ‘several’, and Latin amor, “love”) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” – Wikipedia, 2012
Earlier this week, I scanned my Facebook news feed to see an NBC news story that the FDA was slated to ban gay men from donating sperm to sperm banks.* Like many people I “shared” the story on my FB page outraged by the ignorance and bigotry in this imposed regulation. The reasoning behind it, as one spokesperson from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine was cited as saying in the article: “you can’t be too careful [in taking measures to reduce the spread of HIV].” As a former sex educator for a large reproductive and sexual health organization, I know full well that one’s sexual orientation is not the issue, but that certain sexual behaviors- unprotected anal sex in particular- are higher risk for spreading HIV and other STIs. Plenty of heterosexual couples engage in anal sex, but are straight men being cut off from entering cryogenics clinics (a related irk: the story referred to “homosexual sex”- there is no such thing people; there are different sexual acts that people of all sexual orientations engage in)? Shouldn’t they just ask would-be donors about recent sexual practices if they’re concerned about higher risk behaviors and then screen the semen for infections (really the only way to know for sure)?
There was also another part of me- for admittedly selfish reasons- that found myself having a moment of panic: our donor is a gay man. We have been hoping to use the same donor a few years from now so that I could try to get pregnant. Although we inseminated at home, I suddenly found myself scanning my brain, wanting reassurance that there wasn’t going to be a roadblock to this plan. What if we need to call upon the medical establishment for a little help when that time comes… will we reach an impasse? Some sperm banks, such as Rainbow Flag Health Services, actively recruit gay and bisexual donors. Although Rainbow Flag’s plan is to continue doing so for the time being since the ban is not currently being seen as a law, but rather a strong recommendation (if I’m following this correctly), will this affect their organization and scare some clients from using their services? I know for us, and many other friends we know, we were particularly drawn to our donor because he is a gay man. He seemed to understand and have increased sensitivity around the needs of our queer family-to-be. I would be incredibly disappointed if we weren’t able to work with him again as a donor. Also, I have been overjoyed at the thought of being able to conceive with the same donor who my partner was able to create our daughter with. I know this is edging into controversial territory, but I love the thought of my daughter being biologically connected to her sibling. I say that not because I think biology is the seminal part of what connects people together, but because my spouse and I are not able to create a baby together and I love the notion of my gestational child having some of the features of their big sister and her of them. In my mind, it’s as close as my spouse and I can get to being able to actually create a baby together (although I feel like I was a part of my non-gestational daughter’s conception process and pregnancy for sure).
I guess for the time being we’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight and hope that the FDA will see the scientific error of their ways and remove this discriminatory regulation that doesn’t breed safety, but rather ignorance and bigotry.
Posted in Anonymous Donor, Being Non-gestational, Insemination, Known Donor, Legal Issues
Tagged anonymous sperm donor, artificial insemination, donor, donor sperm, insemination, known donor, lesbian parenting, non-bio mom, non-gestational, queer parenting