A few months ago, I wrote this post about discovering other families who have conceived using the same anonymous sperm donor we used to conceive Hank. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of Hank’s donor siblings (and there have been two new additions since then!) and a bit wary about whether and how deeply we wanted to get involved with this group of mamas. (Because, as I noted in my last post on the subject, we are all Mamas — either lesbian couples or single mothers by choice. This is true even of the two new families.)
I still have my worries about the number of kids/families, and part of me worries that perhaps it should have been Hank’s choice to seek out his donor siblings when the time came, and not mine, but now that the connection is made, I am finding myself growing more grateful for these women, this community, every day.
Our donor is Mormon–though not practicing, I presume, since I’m pretty sure the Mormon faith frowns on sperm donation–and Penelope and I jokingly call the other mamas our “sister-wives”, since, like the sister wives in a polygamous family, we all have babies by the same man. This is a surprisingly intimate connection, though we’ve never yet met in person. It is hard not to feel a sense of kinship with this group of women whose life paths and choices are so similar to our own, and who are raising children so similar to our own little guy. As a first-time parent, it is wonderfully reassuring to have a group of parents we can reach out to when Hank develops a new habit or enters a new developmental stage, to ask “Is this normal?” It is fascinating, as this cadre of half-siblings age out of infancy into toddlerhood and beyond, to spot new traits that must surely be inherited from the donor rather than the mamas, shared as they are between kids being raised in different states by different mothers in different circumstances. It is entertaining to share pictures and videos of our adorable offspring, as proud mamas are wont to do, and find such an appreciative audience. While I’m sure many of my Facebook friends from high school and college and the job I had for a year before law school must get dreadfully tired of the endless updates I share about Hank, the Sister-Wives respond with the enthusiasm of a score of proud aunties, because Hank’s adorableness reflects upon them and upon their adorable babies, too. Having a growing connection to these donor families helps to fill the void of all that we don’t know about the donor, about the other half of our son’s genetic history.
Lately, I am finding myself most grateful for this group of Sister-Wives because, like me, they have all been on the emotional roller coaster that is trying to conceive a child by artificial methods. There are tons of resources and communities online for families trying to conceive–millions of blogs, dozens of sites like Babycenter.com, sites with medical advice and information on various fertility treatments–but nothing connects as personally to my experience as the community I have found among the other donor mamas. Most people struggling with infertility are traditional heterosexual couples who are trying to get pregnant “the old fashioned way.” Maybe they need fertility drugs or treatment of various medical conditions, but mostly the medical interventions they need to conceive are nothing at all like the entirely clinical process by which my baby will be conceived. I don’t mean to minimize the struggles of these heterosexual couples in any way, because I’m sure they are just as significant as my own; I only mean that it is sometimes hard for me to relate to these people when our experiences are so different. -Not so with the Sister-Wives: they have stood in my shoes and fought the same battles. Several of them, like me, are trying to conceive a second baby, and so there is a sense that we are all in this together. They have advice and comfort and sympathy that resonates more deeply than the well-intentioned but occasionally-unhelpful support offered by even my dearest friends and closest relations.
In short, these women are wonderful, and I am so grateful to have found them.