By: Amber Leventry
I could easily make this a political piece. But I’m not going to. This is about teaching my daughter about the love and biology that made her. Synthetics—fuck you very much D&G—imply that my children were made from something fake. And family’s story, just like many others, is very real. The Hello Kitty glasses my daughter is wearing in this picture? Those are fake. But pretty cute.
Sperm gets dropped on the daily at our house. Not actual sperm, just the word. And I agree. I probably can’t pull off Urban Dictionary lingo. But since our family trip to Florida to spend time with our kids’ donor siblings, sperm has been the topic of several conversations. The last few months have felt like the how, what, where, when, and why of sperm story telling. And it seems like I am going to use the word sperm as much as possible here because it’s just not a big deal anymore and it’s just another word we use every day. No, we don’t need milk. The dog already ate. And, yes, that’s correct: you came from a sperm donor. And so did your brothers. Now put on your jacket.
My partner, Amy, and I have three children, a four year old daughter and 21 month old twin sons. As the non-biological mom of my three kids, and as the over-thinking, over-planning parent in the house, I have been more eager than Amy to talk to our daughter about how she was made. Amy has never been resistant to talking about the subject once it came up, just resistant to starting the conversation. She was fine with waiting for our daughter to ask questions. I, on the other hand, prefer to provide information before questions are asked.
We used our time spent last Christmas with our children’s donor siblings and their parents as a springboard to talk to Eva about how she was made and about her biological connection to her donor siblings. We also used books. I highly recommend What Makes a Baby and Zak’s Safari. Both are great children’s books written to make these conversations kid-friendly, easy to understand, and visually fun—seriously, the sperm and eggs and in each book are cute in their cartoonish ways. And the books have detailed and helpful information for parents too.
One night I pulled What Makes a Baby off of Eva’s book shelf and asked her if I could read it to her before bed. It had been a long time since we had read it, and I never went into detail about how it relates to her. I read the book again, but this time I explained to her that it was Mama’s egg and sperm from a special man called a sperm donor who made her. Using the book as a guide, I emphasized that I helped pick the special man and it was me, Mama, and all of our family and friends who were and are so happy she was born.
After I read the book I asked her if she had any questions. She paused and after a few thoughtful moments asked, “Is that how unicorns are made?”
Unlike the reality of talking about conception and biology, it seemed harder and almost cruel to explain the truth behind the mythological creatures. “Yes Eva. Unicorns are made with an egg and sperm,” I told her.
Zak’s Safari compliments What Makes a Baby well because it is told from a child’s point of view, one that is proud and happy to have been made out of love and with the help of a sperm donor. And the brief genetics lesson in the book seems to have made sense to Eva.
One day I picked her up from school and her teacher told me she asked Eva why her favorite color is purple. Eva’s answer: “Because I came from an egg and a sperm.” Technically she is right. All of who she is stems from somewhere and that somewhere started with reproductive cells. I may be giving her too much credit, but I am proud of the matter of fact way she has accepted this piece of who she is.
I’m not going to lie, the first few times I heard a barely four year old say the word sperm were jarring. The conversation with her teacher was interesting and made me wonder what she has told her friends. And confirming that unicorns are made from a sperm and an egg was probably a lie, but all par for our course.
I wanted to start conversations about Eva’s sperm donor early because I want her narrative to be something that just is and not something that shifted or changed at a specific place and time in her memory. I want her knowledge of how she was made to be as familiar and comfortable to her as the color of her hair or the color of her eyes. I want the story of her sperm donor and the donor siblings that go along with him to be an important detail in her family history, but just one of many important details and not a life changing realization. Our sperm donor changed our life, not hers.
Though her artwork seems to have been effected. Her words say one thing; her drawing seems to say we have been talking a lot about her sperm donor.