photo challenge, 12


There really haven’t been discernible sunsets here this week – at least not in the city – as the gray days have just rolled into night with little transition. [This, of course, is total RLG weather.] In lieu of a sunset photo, here’s our backyard, taken from our dining room, at about the time the sun was likely coming down.

Okay, as promised: the Donor Sibling Registry.

First let me say that I know everyone has their own opinion about this, and that makes sense. It is a complex thing, and a controversial issue in the queer community, and surely there’s no wrong approach to it. Please please know that I mean everything I say with specific regard to our family. And please afford us the same respect: if the registry isn’t right for you, please withhold judgment, as that doesn’t make it universally wrong.

I love the DSR. We weren’t sure we would, not through either of our pregnancies. But once this baby got here, and once we adjusted to new parenthood and started figuring out who our son is, it became less and less threatening. Here’s the thing. Bram has two parents. He doesn’t need a dad. I feel no insecurity on this point. And gods willing, he’ll have brothers and sisters. By “brothers and sisters” I mean witnesses to his childhood, people who come from his people, sons and daughters of his mama and pomo, other children who grow up alongside him, who will hopefully be there for his big moments: who will be his family. He doesn’t need that from anyone else, and no one else could fill that role. Once I felt assured of all of this – and no longer wondered if turning to the DSR would, even unconsciously, be an effort to fill a lack – it started to feel safe.

Bram has no lack. But he does live in an ever-connected world, and we are raising him to see beyond the artifice of boundaries and conventional organizing principles. As a culture, the fact that we value connectivity is undeniable. We love connection: what else explains the blog communities we build, or the hours we spend reaching out using social media, or the families we construct out of friendship groups. I think this may be especially true in the queer community, wherein people learned to create and redefine family when the people who were supposed to function as such let them down. My devotion to all of you – to your thoughts and lives and families – is evidence of our need for community. I cannot imagine parenting without this space. If this is true for me, it must be all the more true for my children, who will [likely] never know a world without instantaneous global connection. I think about what that will mean for them, how living in a world of iPhones and Skype and Facebook [and whatever smart people think of next] will shape their world. Baring an apocalypse, Bram will turn to these tools to build his community.

When I think about what that community might mean, then, I think about his donor siblings. Not his brothers and sisters, but his donor siblings: people in the world who, for better or worse, share his blood. There are parents out there who, given the same vast number of options we were given, chose the same person to provide half of the DNA for their children. Who came upon the same profile, the same photo of the same little boy, and thought: Yes. Him. We choose him to fill this sacred and ineffable role in our family. That is beautiful to me. It makes me love them without ever having met them, just as I love B’s donor. Just as I love E’s donor. And those parents have children who look like my son. They do. I know because I’ve seen them. And oh how I love their children. How their children feel like family to me, not in a way that’s territorial, but in a way that feels expansive, that builds bridges from my heart to the hearts of strangers who are strangers no more. Families that share something with us that cannot be defined.

That we can offer all of that to Bram is thrilling to me. This is so not because I think he needs it, but because we are human, and we crave connection, and love is limitless. If he sees something of himself in these children, I can only read that as beautiful. If he loves them, if he thinks of them as his in some abstract way, I can only feel good about having opened the door. I don’t think we can ever have too much family. At least not when family means more humans to anchor to, to understand ourselves by, to love.

So the DSR is right for us. It hasn’t taken anything from us, and it’s already given a lot. It’s too soon to tell how much these connections will grow – and it’s way too soon to know what they’ll mean to Bram – but I’m grateful that we have them. I think they offer a way into some of the lovely mystery of this sweet way of building a family. I look forward to seeing what gifts they’ll have to offer in the years to come.


11 thoughts on “photo challenge, 12

  1. thanks for this post, its interesting to read, particularly since its not something (for better or worse) we will ever be thinking about since we have a known-donor.

    And of course, B is ADORABLE! Love that toothy-smile :)

  2. We are in the process of registering with the DSR, not out of our interest, because honestly I hadn’t ever even considered this an important step for our son, but because our son is incredibly interested in meeting his sibs, which he calls brothers (8) and sister (1) not half-brothers or half-sister.

    This came out of a conversation we had with him a couple of months ago when he was asking about the donor and how we had picked him. I was surprised at his reaction when we told him that we knew for sure he had at least one half-sib, because the donor had a recorded pregnancy and live birth. Our son had tears in his eyes at the idea that he might have a brother or sister. Since some of his sibs are close to his age (he has at least five born within a year of his birthday) he imagines that he will be able to develop a relationship with them and that they will understand him better/more on an instinctual level that he hasn’t achieved with his friends. We have promised him we will register before the end of the year, we just need to work it into the budget.

    As much as we might want to deny the connection that blood forms, I truly believe that it carries weight with our children. Perhaps the fact that we weren’t able to give our son a sibling within our family, or the fact that he has no cousins who live in close proximity, has made this connection even more important to him. I just know that if it matters enough to him to move him to tears at the idea, it is important for us as a family to pursue. Both myself and my wife are emotionally supportive of the idea. I think for us, our greatest concern is that he not be disappointed by the process.

    He has said that he is surprised that he is more interested in meeting his sister than in meeting his brothers. I think he also found it interesting that running and skiing are two of the hobbies of the donor and both of those things are activities that he both loves and excells at. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  3. We are in such a quandry about this now, especially since a mother of a donor sib has been reaching out to us lately. How do you (intend to) introduce this to Bram? I think we’d need to come to peace with the idea of a larger, abstract family, but what seems to mostly be holding us back is the feeling that this isn’t our choice to make, and that we need to wait for E to make up her own mind. But I also don’t want to deny her the possibility of knowing these people from babyhood, or to lose the connections when they are offered. If you don’t mind blogging on demand, how do you (and, going forward, how do you plan to) interact with these families? Emails every few months? Facebook groups? Annual vacations on the Riviera? Do you refer to them as donor sibs, donor cousins, something else?

  4. I can only speak to this as a child conceived via sperm donor, but I love the idea of the DSR. Of course, my own reaction to it is informed by the fact that I learned of my father’s non-biological status to me, and thus the truth of my conception, as an eighteen-year-old woman. I’d never fit in much with my extended family, and this became a bit of a symbol to me in that they’d all known about my biological parentage, and I hadn’t. Unfortunately, I was conceived long enough ago that there is no donor to match me with, but if I knew the donor’s identity, I’d jump at the chance to get in contact with any siblings I might have, if they’d have me. Bram’s upbringing will obviously be much more honest and open one than mine was, and I can only imagine that this sense of community and family will be another piece of the wonderful light he brings to the lives of others. I’m glad you’ve found it exciting, and as always, I adore your musings on this process. Just beautiful.

  5. Mick – the DSR has records and matches going back into the 50’s. All you need is the donor number and the cryobank the donor was purchased from. If you really are interested in locating the donor or donor sibs, I would suggest you see if you can find the information out from parents or even the doctor.

  6. Thank you for writing this. I needed to read it. I needed to read such a poignant, thoughtful, beautiful expression of openess and giving and expansiveness about our donor-conceived families. My thoughts on the DRS are angsty and messy. I don’t know that threatening is the right word, but I definitely get worked up and oddly confused and bewildered about the right way through those questions. I loved reading someone who has such a whole-hearted embrace of it. Keep writing about it, I think it might help me work through my issues.

  7. So well said! It made me cry and smile at the same time. You have captured my thoughts and feelings about this so well. Up to this point I have not been able to express to my partner why I believe being connected with the DSR & other famlies is important for our daughter. My social work background leads me to be open & honest with my daughter about who she is & all of this is apart of her. I have never felt threatened by the DSR, but it has helped me to read other post from people who are guarded by it & to maybe have some insight to my partner’s feelings.
    When I had just learned of the DSR & how many other donor siblings were out there, I was explaining it all to my dad. I didn’t realize that my then young 2 yr old was listening or paying attention. The next day she told all her daycare workers she had a sister. The daycare workers interpretted that I was going to be having another baby, but I knew what my daughter meant. I can’t tell you the excitement my daughter had in her voice with the thought that she has a sister out there, even knowing that she doesn’t live with us.
    I haven’t really explained it all in her terms yet, but I have written a book explaining to her about her donor & that the donor has helped other families like ours to have children who otherwise would not be able to have them. I haven’t shared the book yet, but I’m thinking the time will be soon.
    Yes, thank you for your blog & opening up this conversation as we all seem to be embarking on new territory these days!

  8. fascinating, beautiful and insightful. as dysfunctional as my extended family is….there is still something neat about being from the same blood line – seeing what we have in common. it is so intriguing and connecting. beautifully written my dear!

  9. You are amazing – thank you SO much for writing this great post. I’m so happy you have found joy from the DSR. I see the registry as a one day inevitability. I’m glad it’s out there but I’m slightly wary of it. I wish they didn’t call it the *sibling* registry. I think it’s that word that doesn’t feel right to me (I like to say same donor children).

    We’re probably going to wait for G to decide whether she wants us to join or not, but in this connected world you talk about, I can’t imagine we’ll avoid the temptation forever. I’m happy to have your perspective on it.

    (I just peeked over there and there are now children under our donor – it had been blank up until recently. Now I’m extra curious. One of the babies was born one day after G!).

  10. Hi,
    That’s a beautiful way to look at it. It’s also fascinating to read other commenters thoughts and experiences.
    For us a known donor has always felt like the right way to go, and we are fortunate enough for me to be TTC with my wife’s brother as our donor. In my culture (indigenous New Zealander – Maori), it’s very important to know your whakapapa (genealogy), so that’s why we wanted to do it this way.
    I love reading your blog and hope one day soon we’ll have our own little version of Bram to blog about rather than just the mission of getting there!

  11. To me, having friends who had made this connection and seeing first hand their children who embrace their connections made DSR irresistible. Our friends children are older as well as their half siblings or children from their same donor. They have met at least once and share stories. Seeing pictures of the kids connecting with each other and hearing about the odd bonds they felt without even spending much time together brought even me to tears.
    I don’t think about things for that long. I just jump and embrace whatever I get myself into.
    That being said, I registered our son before he was born. He was the only child (fetus) of his donor on their. I didn’t even tell my wife. She luckily is used to my “jumps” and understood my desire for our son. It took a very long time to make a connection. Now that we have, the children are small but they have similarities we enjoy as adults. We have this connection with others who felt the same love for our donor. They saw something in the same person we did and trusted he’d donate good DNA.
    I remember the first moment I looked at a picture of my son’s half-sister. He was just about one at the time and couldn’t understand. Despite that, I shared a moment with him before bed. He was peaceful and with tears in my eyes I held him up to the computer and whispered, “B this is your half sister”. There is no good way to explain the emotion of that moment. Nomenclature, language in general is hard for me so forgive me if half sibling is too strong for anyone who reads this. I’m a scientist. We write in short hand and speak a limited language.
    That being said, I have a hard time believing this will be anything but amazing when our son is old enough to understand. We are having our second son by the same donor who will be our son’s full brother and we expect to have more. We have talked about what this will mean for him and his brother to be. Will they refer to these connections as brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters? They already face explaining their different family to their friends. Will they say they have full and half siblings? As they get older, how will that change? We have made one decision about this. That decision is all the rest will be left up to our sons. I can’t say enough about how special it is to enjoy this stage of DSR and the connections we have made. My hope is it will only blossom and it will never bring hurt to any of the children involved.

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