By: Amber Leventry
When I wrote Sperm Banks, Sibling Registries, and Donor Siblings: The Insemination of Family, I introduced you to a very important piece of my journey. As the non-biological mother to my three children, I shared my apprehension of choosing a sperm donor and my hesitation to use the sperm bank’s sibling registry to connect with another couple who used the same donor we did. I also explained to you that the connections with this couple and my children’s donor siblings are now ones I hold close to my heart. I may be a skeptic, but I know something incredible when I experience it.
A month ago, my partner, Amy, and I and our three kids traveled from Vermont to Florida to spend Christmas with this couple and their three kids. Their family of five and our family of five lived together for nine days under one roof. The plan was to make memories and to build on the relationships our three oldest girls have made over the last three and a half years; our daughter is almost four and their twin girls are a few months younger. One day trip together, email, Skype, and a whole lot of photo and video sharing has been the foundation of their love for one another.
The three boys, our 18 month old twins and their six month old son roam in and out of the girls’ relationships and will soon form bonds of their own.
When you have four sleep-deprived parents navigating a day with six children—five toddlers assaulting you with questions, tantrums, negotiations, and rapid-fire needs that feel like the constant drip of Chinese water torture—you make memories.
I have wanted to write about these memories since we arrived home, but all at once there is too much and nothing to say.
When Ethan and Molly, the couple who used the same donor as Amy and I, asked us to join them at Ethan’s parents’ house in Florida for Christmas, we were honored, excited, and nervous. What if these people who we love through every social media and long distance outlet didn’t love us in person? What if we didn’t live up to their standards of friendship or parenting? What if we over-stayed our welcome?
Other than the initial weirdness of finally interacting with them and their children in person instead of through a computer screen, it couldn’t have been easier. I should have saved my anxiety for the plane ride down, because traveling with toddlers never meets high expectations.
Maybe it’s because we shared sperm and something magical happened when our sperm decision-making process intertwined; maybe we would have ended up as friends in any situation; or maybe it was the snarky and whispered complaints about our kids that united us. But our respect and feelings for one another were mutual.
Our kids, the donor siblings and half-brothers and sisters, fought and loved like siblings. There were no walls or hesitation between them or any of us. At all times a mixed combination of adults and children were interacting—for better or for worse. Our two families were one. What else can be said?
How do I put into words the trust I felt when Ethan offered to keep an eye on my children at the beach? Or the affection I had as I watched him read to my daughter?
How do I thank Ethan’s family for their generosity and open arms?
How do I express my gratitude to Molly for showing up with Starbucks to get us through another afternoon of parenting? Or her willingness to be behind a camera, capturing the intimate and everyday moments that make up all of the unique and special things found between family members?
I can’t. And I suspect I don’t need to. Ethan matched my trust with his own trust in me. His parents insisted that our kids call them Granny and Grandaddy. Molly will treasure those captured moments just as much as I will.
Too much can be said about the way our families met. About how strangers united and friendships were made because they wanted to start families. How those families became biologically connected and emotionally invested while thousands of miles apart. And how when those two families got together it was just the way it was always supposed to be.
Yet, why say anything? Families spend Christmas together every year. Siblings fight and giggle every day. Parents commiserate and count the hours until bedtime. And then share stories of their lives before kids turned them into caffeine seeking, always exhausted yet happy moms and dads.
Moments stand out, like the photo shoots with the kids in matching outfits and the effort to get all six kids to stay still for at least three seconds. Or Christmas Eve when the four adults stood in the garage watching Ethan’s mother help his father put on his Santa costume so three wide-eyed little girls could catch him leaving presents.
And words and conversations will always linger in my mind, especially the ones that told the stories of us and how we became who we are. The conversations that over analyzed the way we will explain to our children their biological connection were invaluable. The language and feelings of having used a sperm donor to create our families didn’t need to be explained. In time, I will write about them.
But the mundane moments, the mix of siblings in the bathtub or sharing a bed, the hours spent in the backyard, and the chatter of kids at the dinner table are the ones that solidify our time in Florida. Those moments that carry too many words, yet go unspoken, are the ones that I miss the most and the ones that speak volumes about our family. I might not have the words, but I know something incredible when I experience it.
All photos taken by and credited to Molly O. Photography