By Amber Leventry
I don’t like surprises. I am not fond of change. And I hate the feeling in my stomach when things are out of my control. All three of these crazy-making items collided when we bought baby-making sperm.
My biggest hang-up was the knowledge that someone unknown to us could also buy our donor’s stuff; the donor we agonized over, analyzed and grew to love through essay questions and a photo of him as a toddler. Our donor.
We knew our guy might become someone else’s guy, and never mind that we needed this guy’s sperm—a lesbian’s kryptonite—I did not like the very likely chance that our children would have half siblings, or donor siblings. I never wanted to be pregnant, but I hated that I could not be biologically connected to my children while strangers could produce a child with half of my children’s DNA. I was convinced that unknown, biological connections would be disruptive and invasive to the family I hoped to create.
When my partner, Amy, and I began the trying process, we knew all of our donor’s vials had been sold. Based on the amount available and what we bought, we guessed one or two other parties had bought the rest of his supply. After a few failed intrauterine insemination (IUI) attempts, I worried less about the future and more about my desire and urgency to get Amy pregnant. Each try reduced our stash and chances of not only one baby, but the opportunity to a have another child and full sibling.
I started to check our donor’s profile on a regular basis to see if his stuff had achieved a pregnancy. On paper he was fertile, but I wanted the reassurance he really could produce a child.
When his profile confirmed a pregnancy, I was relieved and optimistic we would achieve a pregnancy too. That optimism brought a sudden understanding: Being afraid of change or lack of control did give me the right to hope for a baby while selfishly hoping against another family’s same dream. Even if that meant our dreams would forever be linked or brought together by genes I do not share.
Amy did achieve a healthy pregnancy—two actually—and I have been thankful every day since for those genes.
When I met Amy, I knew I would spend my life with her. I believe something bigger than us brought us together. Despite my initial hesitation and fears, I believe this is true for the donor we chose. Maybe we could have built a family with another donor or through adoption, but we didn’t. Our reasons for seeking a donor collided with his desire to help families. Out of thousands of choices, we chose him. Without him, we would not have our daughter and twin boys.
A feature about the cryobank we used, which is common with many, is the ability to join a sibling registry. On a voluntary basis, families who purchased sperm from the same donor are able to share information with each other. The donor is not privy to any of the information, and families can choose the level of detail they are comfortable volunteering.
We knew our donor produced other pregnancies, but the idea of opening my guarded home, mind, and heart to another family just because of circumstances was tough. I was still resistant, but Amy convinced me to join the cryobank’s sibling registry. Like all love affairs, it started innocently and out of curiosity.
We learned two other families had children using the same donor we used. One family did not leave their contact information. Another couple did and noted they had twin daughters who were four months younger than our daughter. After a few initial emails and videos, we were in love.
We shared a path to parenthood only other recipients of frozen sperm can understand. And we share the challenges and frustrations of living lives as “nontraditional” families. I am not outing them here—this couple needed a sperm donor because Dad is a transgender man. Their story is one more example of the many we respect and want our kids to understand as important. Dad mentioned to me that while Amy and I may appear to be a nontraditional family with traditional stories, they can pass as a traditional family, achieved through very nontraditional ways. I fully expect that we will be guides and sources of strength to one another when we begin to explain our family roots to our children.
Since the first nervous email three years ago, I have learned that our relationship is not just because of circumstances, but serendipitous. We were brought together because of our desire to start a family; however, the bursting affection I have for my children’s donor siblings and their parents seems to have been pre-determined by something bigger than me and my defense mechanisms.
Instead of feeling insecure or territorial, I feel attached to their family. They are family. Our kids share a biological donor, but more importantly, we also share with them an understanding of our journey to parenthood. I have learned that sharing this bond does not take away from what I have, but has strengthened my connection to my own family.
We live too far from each other to visit on a regular basis, but we have been able to get together a couple of times. The oddest part about the first time we met was that nothing seemed odd or awkward. Meeting Mom and Dad was like meeting up with old friends. Our girls were only about 18 months old when they met for the first time—our second round of kids were not born yet—but they blended together like friends and siblings do.
When I looked at the photos we had taken of the group of us, it was like our family photos had finally merged into one. And when our kids play peek-a-boo on Skype, flip through books given to each other, or hold photos of one another and repeat their names, it’s like they know too. Granted, they are all still young and we have fostered their knowledge of each other, but I wonder how much our kids feel connected to each other.
Amy and I have added twin boys to the mix since our first meeting. And our donor family has added a boy. He is their third child and the sixth donor sibling. Three girls, three boys, two sets of twins. We have lots to share and many memories to make.
I will never be biologically connected to my daughter and sons, but my partner is and I have benefited more from our donor family than I can describe. Eva, Ben, and Ryan’s donor siblings are biologically connected, and I have benefited from this connection too, in both personal growth and new friendships.
Opening my mind to my children’s donor siblings was tough, but wrapping my heart around them has been easy. I have surprised myself with how happy I am that our guy became someone else’s guy.