Our Donor Family.

One of the things that most of us don’t think about when we are selecting a sperm donor is the other women who have chosen that same donor before us.   We tend to focus on health history, appearance, CMV status and often we will look for a donor who has had successful pregnancies.  When you are searching through profiles, these attributes are often just a check box or one word answer.  The only face you look at is that of the donor.

I was one of the people who gave zero thought to the fact that my future child already had half siblings.  Once I was pregnant it hit me in a flash – my son had donor siblings (or diblings as some call them.)  I had this wonderful opportunity to see other children who were half of what my son would be.  Perhaps he would look similar to them?  It was too irresistible to not want to have a peek.

At 9 weeks pregnant I connected with other families who had used the same donor and found myself in a secret Facebook group with a bunch of women who had adorable little people – my sons half siblings.  It was pretty surreal and incredibly cool!

stock-photo-decisions-neon-sign-words-signage-motto-motivation-neon-light-quotes-and-sayings-wild-words-9d80fb9c-9a22-4f13-ac34-e74de28The decision on whether to connect with your donor group is, like everything else in this process very personal.

Some parentss feel that their families are enough and are very uncomfortable with the idea of connecting with their children’s half siblings.  They never look for them  and they never connect with them – they leave the decision 100% up to their child.

Some parents connect with the group but stay very much in the background.  Their main reason for being there is so that they can be aware of any health issues that might come up.  Maybe they also want to make it easier for their children to connect if they should want to in the future.

Then there are the male infertility recipients (heterosexual couples) and I’ve found that they are much less likely to connect and have a higher chance of not telling their children that they used a donor.  Some do tell their offspring but they stay away from the donor groups for the most part.  I know we have at least one couple that used our donor but they have not reached out to us.

choice-2692575_1920When I first connected it was mainly out of curiosity.  I wasn’t sure how much involvement that I wanted.  It was interesting but overwhelming.  We have some strong characters and I wondered whether or not I really needed this many new people in our lives.

Time went on and my son was born.  This group of women had become a cheerleading team of sorts – genuinely excited to welcome a new child into the group.  They were among the first to know that I had given birth and it was so fun to compare my baby’s picture to all of the other newborns!

I gave it some genuine thought.  I considered what I would want and what my future son might want.  I came to the same conclusion for us both:  Honesty and love.

I felt that hiding the donor family from my son could backfire.  He would feel lied to and could even resent me for the missed opportunity of getting to know others who were not only donor conceived – but by the same man who had helped gift life to him.  If I left my child out of gatherings and meet ups, other kids would form bonds and it would be much harder for my son to connect and form the kind of relationships that occur when you have been friends through all the awkward stages of life.

I decided that I would embrace the donor families and I can honestly say that it has been the best decision for us.  We have met multiple families and it has always been a very positive experience.  Some of these women have become very good friends – to the point that I now cannot imagine my life without them!  I am excited for our children to know one another and so glad that I have opened this door for my son so young.  I feel like he will never feel that it’s weird or uncomfortable – it will just be his life and another part of his amazing story.

footstepsAnd if my son decides that he doesn’t want to pursue friendships with these children when he is older, that’s fine.  It will still be his choice.  It will also be my choice to stay connected to the Mothers who have become friends.

We are going on vacation later this month.  It’s our second donor sibling meet up and this time we will have 10 children (7 families total.)  I’ve no doubt it will be absolute chaos but of the sweetest variety.

sea-1337565_1920We plan on doing a meetup for those who want to every year until the kids are old enough to do it on their own and then – who knows, maybe us Mums will just do it on our own.  We’ll pick somewhere exotic and enjoy our cocktails, kid free and full of stories.

Why I don’t read parenting books.

PSA

As always the opinions are my own and I’m not telling you NOT to read parenting books… just that I didn’t for my own little reasons.  I’m just opinionated as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.  I’m happy to be your friend no matter what books you use as your guide.  Now on with the show.

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When I was 4 years old I was sat on the couch looking at a book.  My Mother asked me what I was doing and I told her:

“I’m reading”

“You can’t read!” my Mother joked

“Yes I can!” said 4 year old me

“Go on then” my Mother urged.  So I did.

I read her the book I was looking at.  She assumed I had memorized it so she got another book and I read that one too.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t reading with intonation or speed but I had learned to read.  My Mother couldn’t believe it!

And there began my love of books.  I started with Dr Seuss then Enid Blyton.  I went on to Judy Blume, Nancy Drew, Anne Rice and more.  I devoured books.  I was frequently at the library (particularly as an early teen) and was always the one who my friends came to with their puberty questions.  (Silly in hindsight because I was a late bloomer in that department and most of my knowledge came from teen magazines.)

adult-1867751_1920As I grew older I had less time to read.  However, whenever I went on vacation  I’d buy 2 books to take with me and come home with 6.  I found it hard to part with a loved book when I had someone else in mind who might enjoy it.  I resented the weight of my backpack but still couldn’t part with the books.  Nobody was happier than me when the Kindle was invented.  Finally I could travel as heavy as I liked and add no extra weight to my luggage!

You’d think with this love of reading, I would have been devouring parenting books since the day I decided to have a child on my own.  That has not been the case.

For some reason I’ve always thought parenting books were patronizing.  I don’t believe that one size fits all and I don’t think anyone knows my child better than me.  I have spent enough time on forums to see how much added stress women put on themselves by worrying what their babies should or shouldn’t be doing based upon some book they have read. The one bug bear topic is of course infant sleep.  If you read enough parenting books on this they will eventually all contradict themselves.  Read this article if you want a laugh and you’ll see my point.

Most parenting books are not even slightly scientifically researched.  They are the product of one person or small group of peoples combined observations of children.  And lets face it, they’re going to be using their methods in order to prove them without much care for the personalities of the babies involved.  I would much rather be reading a new Moms blog. 🙂

So I decided that other than a quick glance at the Wonder Weeks app every now and then, I would just wing it.

Instead of reading parenting books I joined a group run by a doula for new Mothers.  There were only 6 of us in the group and if you hadn’t shown up by the second class then the doors were closed and nobody else was allowed to join.  I remember thinking this seemed very strict but then I saw her wisdom.  In keeping this group small and recognizable, trust was built very quickly.  Our group couldn’t have been more different but we had strange similarities too (for instance, we are all dorky crafters!)  By the third session we had set up a private Facebook group and became each others go to for conversations and advice at 3am.  20 months later and our group is still active.  We check in on one another with questions, concerns, funny kid videos and milestones.  There is no greater source of support than women who are going through the same stage of parenting at the same time.  Some of us devour the parenting books and some of us – not so much!

I really feel that having no expectations of my sons behavior was a huge plus.  His sleep has never followed what babies ‘should’ do and nor have his eating habits.  So long as he’s growing and thriving and meeting his milestones and I’m getting enough rest, I’m happy.

Becoming a parent is a huge change and all these books just add pressure to make us feel that there is a normal when it comes to infants/babies/kids.   You just do your best and follow the cues of your baby.  You read a book if you need some suggestions but bear in mind that they might not work.   Some things they tell you to do are just plain mean.

I am sure that as my son becomes more of a toddler and has tantrums about what he wears and which color cup he drinks out of I may well be googling the kindest way to handle his overabundance of emotion but until then we are happy flying by the seat of our pants and embracing the moments – no matter what they bring.