Is the egg donor family my son’s family?
Several years ago we learned who our egg donor was. We learned her name, we met her, and we established a relationship with her. In fact, we adore and love her – LOTS. The relationship she and my son have is actually quite lovely. Really, we couldn’t ask for a nicer person to receive genetics from to complete our family, and I often give thanks for her, and what she helped us with.
Over the years she’s attended recitals, birthday parties, she’s even had Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner with us. To the outside world that might seem sort of odd or peculiar but to us it’s just normal. It’s how life is in our family, and how we roll, and for us it works.
Luckily she lives not to terribly far away, about a 45 minute drive. We can jump in the car and meet her for a meal, or just to hang out (which we have done!) We don’t live in each others back pockets. She leads a very full and independent life like we do, and so we don’t see her every single day, or every single week – sometimes its several months. But we all keep in contact through email, cell, or texting when we don’t see each other, like other families.
Not too terribly long ago our donor and my son were texting back and forth like they do sometimes – and she asked my son if he’d like to meet her sister and her sister’s husband. When my son shared that with me I was left with “Huh, I wonder what precipitated that?” And since that time I have been mulling this over in my head thinking about what that would mean for our family.
My son is a teenager now, it’s not like he’s five. I don’t pick and choose his friends any more than he picks and chooses my friends. I may not like all of his friends but that’s just the way life is. Your kids don’t socialize and hang out with who you want them to – part of raising children is to prepare them for the world, and help them gain independence. So when this information came my way I reached out to folks in my inner circle to ask them what they thought and what they would do.
Their answers were varying. Some wanted to know if this the sisters desire to meet my son or if this was the donors desire to have them meet. I wanted to know that as well for a myriad of reasons. However, what we have all agreed upon is the premise this this needs to be my son’s decision. If it’s something he wants, not something he feels obligated to do, and I agree with that 100%.
It goes back to what I have always said which is “It is child led, every bit of it.”
This can all be very complex with many layers, as well as beautiful at the same time.
But I am still left with the same question — Is the egg donor family my son’s family? When my son and I discuss our egg donors other three or four egg donor cycles (She’s a repeat egg donor) we talk about the kids from those cycles. I have asked my son if he views those children as his half siblings and would he want me to attempt to reach out and contact them. His answer has always been “No not really, I don’t look at them as my siblings, they are just people, I don’t know them.” And so when we talked about his donor and her family he doesn’t view them as his family either. They are just people. In fact, he said that when he expressed an interest in meeting his donor and having continuing contact that didn’t mean her entire family.
I recognize each family is different in how they view what the term family means to them and what that may look like to them.
Interesting, complicated, beautiful, complex, yes?
I’m am the creator of a podcast that tells stories about non-traditional families. I am looking do speak with some Parents via Egg Donation about the choices and circumstances that went into their decisions to use an egg donor.
I realize this is an extremely complex and personal topic but would love to make more people aware of these kinds of stories and remove some of the stigma that exists around them.
Please let me know if you can put me in touch with anyone willing to be interviewed. I am based in New York City but could do an interview via skype or phone for people not in that area.
The podcast is still in production so we don’t have any episodes up yet but I am hoping to have the first episode (concerning marriage) up very soon.
Officially, in medical text books or in Webster’s dictionary, the primary definition of a parent is ‘one who has offspring’ and the definition of a family is a group that originates from the same source individuals. There are secondary definitions that do include child birth and child rearing and social connections which would be the definitions that apply to situations where people give birth to or raise someone else’s offspring. But at the end of the day if that primary definition applies to two individuals – that one is the other’s offspring or that two individuals are descendants of the same people it means they are related and are therefore members of the same family. There is no way around the fact that the boy in the article is the offspring of a female and that her relatives are that boy’s maternal relatives and they are all from the same family according to at least one definition of the word family that everyone knows and understands. At the doctor if he is asked about the health history of his mother and mothers family that group of people will be the people that the doctor is referring to – child birth and child rearing are not germane to that situation.
So in a very real and practical way the boy in the story is going to have to understand that those people are his family for no other reason than that they are related to him. He may or may not choose to treat them socially as his family but he will know that they are his family and he can then opt not to date his cousins for instance. I would hope that the woman who wrote the article would at least want him to think of his maternal relatives as being his family at least for the limited purpose of excluding his family members when choosing prom dates!
Also if the woman who wrote the article had a sister who had a child wouldn’t she still think of that child as being her sister’s son and her nephew? Would the fact that someone else was raising her nephew be so alienating that she would decide not to use the technical term to describe their relationship as being aunt/nephew? What about his grandparents? Surely they would want to meet and know their grandson.
Hello – And thanks for your comment. In regards to third-party reproduction, I think it’s more involved than just the nuts and bolts of the process – the DNA.
There is no argument that my son who is the boy that you refer to in the blog entry is the offspring of his egg donor and my husband. No one is denying that at all. In fact, he’s known his story since he was born. In our family, we use specific language. We were for to our egg donor by name. And when we are at the doctors office talking about health issues that are hereditary will use the term our egg donor. And that’s my sons choice – he doesn’t want to confuse the doctor, because if you ask him he has one mom and that’s me.
I am smiling as I read your words that you are telling my son that he’s going to have to understand that those people are his family for no other reason that they are related to him. As I am reading this passage to him out loud he shaking his head and saying I’m sorry the commentor just doesn’t get it.
The person who wrote the article is me, his mom. But as I said in my original post this is all child lead and my son is now the side of being an adult is 17. It’s up to him to choose whether or not he wants a relationship with the maternal side of his genetics. For instance, he has a deep and abiding relationship with his egg donor. In fact, our entire family loves her so much. Our philosophy is that a child can never have too many people in their lives that genuinely and purely love them. She is invited to every family function that we have, any recital, any school related function – for that matter she sat right next to me when he had surgery last month, she will be sitting next to us at his wedding, and I’m sure she’ll be sitting right next to me as we wait for a child to be born.
But the truth is he really has no interest in the rest of her family – and that is probably because they don’t acknowledge him either and that’s okay. So I don’t think it’s up to me to want him to think of his maternal relatives as being his family – that’s up to him.
He also doesn’t have a burning desire to search out his half siblings. And that’s his choice. We respect that.
And it’s not as black and white as I think you’d like it to be. There are many layers I believe and it’s my job to support him in whatever he decides.
Genetics/biology doesn’t earn you automatic family status and the rights and privileges that go with that.
Are you by chance an egg donor or sperm donor?