On being a donor kid: checking in with Marcel and Sam
Often a driving impetus for a blog post comes from the outside. The most recent query came in the form of an email from a reader who was seeking the experience of one who came before her, on the issue of having a biological child with the help of a donor, specifically chosen with the consideration that the biological offspring would then share certain traits with her first child, who happens to be adopted.
Translation: we are white, our kid is not. If we enlist the help of a donor who looks a lot more like our kid, what are the implications later on for the kid? More specifically how did I teach Marcel to celebrate his story, and how does he understand it? Does he or did he resent in anyway his being outside the normal understanding of how we get here?
I decided I would start by asking Marcel. His answers were really revealing, and not in ways I necessarily was prepared for:
Marcel: Well, it was very hard. It takes a long time to get used to it.
Me: Can you tell me, what is the hard part?
Marcel: What is a donor? It’s hard to figure out. A donor is like a parent. But he doesn’t want to be a parent- he just loves you enough to bring you into the world.
Me: That sounds like you have put a lot of thought into it. Is it hard to understand why Mommy chose to bring you into the world that way?
Marcel: A donor gives you all these good things, and you still get to have a dad. But if friends asked me to explain it? I’d be scared I wouldn’t get it all yet. Well, maybe I would. Would I?
Me: If you need help with it, we could talk it about some more.
Marcel: Sometimes it makes sense. But people don’t always ask when it makes sense.
Me: Hmmm. Maybe we should work on a script for when it isn’t as obvious?
Marcel: That helps if I remember the script.
Me: Do you feel like your donor loves you?
Marcel: More than anything. And I love him more than anything. When I see him we have to figure it out all over again. And we do. And so does my dad.
Me: Why do you think I decided to have a donor help me make a baby?
Marcel: Because you and Sammy wanted Sammy to have a brother that looked like him, and understood him, and loved him. So it worked out that way.
Me: Sammy, why do you think I used a donor to bring your brother into the world?
Sammy: Because you weren’t ready to be in a relationship.
Me: Did it have anything to do with you?
Me: What about the part where Marcel’s donor is brown skinned like you. Did that matter?
Sammy: It mattered to you. But I don’t care.
Me: You think if I had a white kid, and not a brown kid, it would be the same to you?
Sammy: Well, maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know yet. I want a sister. Probably a brown one. Then you can worry about her hair and not mine.
So clearly there is more work to do in the big picture part? Or maybe there isn’t. What we intend, and what they take from it, are so wildly unrelated despite all of our intentions. What I learned most from all of this? Clearly there are questions, and unknowns, and ways of constructing the world, that the boys are holding onto that I had no idea about, because I hadn’t asked. This is often the case. My best intentions, play out so differently than their experience as a result of my best intentions.
In terms of celebrating adoption and donor assisted conception equally? Differently? These are good questions. Marcel seems super confident that his coming into being was intentional and the result of a lot of love. What more is there? If anything I think I err on the side of making a bigger deal of the adoption story, because I want to make sure Sam always feels that his arrival into the family has the same core value as a biological entrance into the family. Marcel, is often trying to establish that he “knew Mama longer than Sam because I started in her belly..” We talk about how Sam was growing in my heart while growing in Tea’s belly (his birth mother). To that Sam usually just says; “Dude. I have been with mom for three more years than you.”
Additional resources: I found the following article of interest while considering my approach to this post.