Creating a Family provides a lot of resources on how to tell kids their conception story, especially when it involves donor egg, sperm, or
embryo. On a recent blog on how to tell older kids, tweens, and teens when you haven’t told them before (It’s Complicated; It’s Uncomfortable; It’s Doable; It’s Important—Talking With Older Kids About Donor Egg, Sperm, Or Embryo), in my tips for telling I said:
- Language matters. The generous person who gave their egg, sperm, or embryo is the donor, not the mom or dad.
Marilynn, one of our community, took me to task:
Dawn, you do good work here encouraging people to “tell” but your answer about not referring to their bio parents as bio parents is not a smart way to go. Terminology does not change physical reality. The rest of the world and every medical text book will tell them that you are uncomfortable with the truth and that they need to be uncomfortable with the truth around you as well.
In what other area of life do we get to say that we did not do something because we never intended for it to happen. When a woman reproduces and has offspring, as much as she may never have intended for that to happen, as much as she may never want to meet the people she reproduced to create, she is for all eternity their biological mother.
Calling her a donor describes
1) Who she is in relation to you maybe, but certainly not who she is in relation to them.
2) It describes something she was at a particular point in time prior to the birth of her offspring. When she was not a mother. She became a mother when her children were born just like any other woman with offspring. Her actions after they were born are the ones that prevented the bonding experience that we all think of when we think of the mother child relationship. Their social mother/ birth mother of record is the one they bond socially with.
I’d encourage those telling to remember to personalize it for themselves before talking to the kid. Genes come from people flesh and blood unique individuals. When you want to say “I understand that you’d be interested in your genetic history” the words genetic history are actually human beings their immediate fore bearers, (wince) their parents, their parent’s relatives, their maternal and paternal relatives. They did not raise them but they are their family as well. If you don’t think of them as their family and you diminish them by not referring to them in human familial terms, the kid is going to feel like this part of them is insignificant to you. Like your family is more important than theirs and theirs takes a back seat and you want to prevent them from ever bonding with them or thinking of them as ‘real family’.
If you are going to tell and you want the kid to have an open relationship with you don’t play with words too much. It does not matter if “you don’t think of them as family” they are in reality exactly that and saying that they are not just makes it look like you’re lying because you are embarrassed of who they are. Do you wish they were related to you? Do you wish they were your biological children? Do you not want others to know that they are someone else’s biological children? Are you more comfortable if people that don’t need to know don’t know? That is huge pressure on a kid that their truth who they actually are is a source of stress and embarrassment to the people raising them. So loud applause for telling the truth Dawn but think about using the commonly understood definitions of words when telling them and think about how comfortable you are with the truth as you tell them.
Hummm, food for thought. Some of what Marilynn says rings true to me, but I still stumble when thinking of an egg or sperm donor as a mother or father.
What do you think? Am I obscuring reality with carefully chosen words? Should we refer to the egg donor as a mother?
Image credit: boughtbooks