As you all know from avidly reading my blog, Bingo was conceived with the aid of an anonymous donor: the same one we used to conceive the still-cooking Powerball. The donor is identity release– when Bingo is eighteen she can choose (or not) to find out his name and last known contact information– but for now he’s a man of mystery.
What I haven’t mentioned before is that we do know a small something about the other side of Bingo’s genetics.One night, when Bingo was a few months old, I Googled her donor’s ID number: three letters and four numbers used to distinguish him from the hundreds of other sperm producers employed by the bank. I Googled on a whim: it was late, I was messing around on my phone while a hangry Bingo nursed for a short eternity, and I had crushed all of the candies I could. I didn’t expect anything to come up. But there, below the search result leading to his sperm bank profile, was a link to a donor sibling registry. And two of the families that had registered on that site had used the same donor that we had.
Not having actually planned to look for or find this information, I didn’t know what to do when it was suddenly in front of me. I woke up Sea: “I Googled our donor! Bingo has donor siblings! What should we do? Should we contact them?” In hindsight, this might not be the best way to introduce a conversation about donor sibling contact. Luckily, Sea was enthusiastic, and certain that we should contact them. We joined the donor sibling registry, messaged the other two families registered, and sat waiting for a reply. As we waited, we looked at the few photos posted of our daughter’s donor siblings. We marveled at the slope of their eyebrows, their wrinkle-nosed smiles, and the sense of familiarity we felt looking at the faces of strangers’ babies. By morning we had been added to a private Facebook group: 1234 Diblings.
Diblings. Donor siblings. Not quite siblings, but something.
In the two years since then, many more families have joined: mostly queer couples and single mothers by choice. Our babies have grown into children, and more babies have been born. We still marvel over the slope of their eyebrows, their wrinkle-nosed smiles, and the sense of familiarity we feel looking at the faces of other people’s children. But they’re no longer strangers. We ask each other questions about health, development, personality: learning more about our own children from others. In photos and videos, those children wish each other happy birthdays. Some of us post effusively, others are more cautious. Some families have joined the group then left. Some families have chosen to meet in person.
Sea and I first met another local dibling family accidentally, in the (relatively) secluded schoolyard designated for families at our local Pride. Our babies were still babies then, both under a year. They were wearing matching outfits. I don’t remember much of the meeting, honestly: just the awe of seeing my own kid’s features on somebody else. We’ve met that family several more times since then, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by chance. Even though our city is fairly large, being part of the same community of queer families turns it into a small village. We’ve met other families, too: one from a few hours away, one from the other side of the Atlantic. We’ve sat and made small talk in parks while Bingo has played with her diblings, oblivious to the genetic connection shared with her new friends.
In early July, we upped the ante on these dibling meetups, traveling to New England for a weekend getaway with six other families. (Though no trip involving eight small children should be called a getaway.) We were staying in a large house in the country: an odd sprawling building with seven bedrooms. As each family arrived at the house we exchanged awkward waves and hugs, then turned to look at our children– suddenly transformed from pictures in a Facebook group into eight real little people with some uncanny resemblances. There were the things we had seen in photos: the identical parts in their hair, their way of wrinkling their noses when they smile, those eyebrows. There were also new things to see: a particular pout, the matching tilt of two small chins, a similar intonation.
I noticed more and more of these similarities during our three days together, caught in an almost constant state of déjà vu. As well as the similarities we saw in our children, there were also ones we saw in the adults: things that we discovered over wine (or water, in my case) as the children slept: fields of work, political inclinations, values. Our reasons for choosing the same donor were different, but we all agreed that he seemed nice. As we noticed similarities in our children and families, we also noticed more and more of the things that make our children distinct. In each child there’s evidence of another genetic half, of course: Bingo, for instance, has my eyes. But there are also all of those nurture pieces: accents and attitudes, mannerisms and ways of moving through the world that have nothing to do with the donor. Bingo is, very clearly, Sea’s child.
In our broader community of queer parents, there’s a lot of debate and discussion about donors. Anonymous versus known, closed versus identity release, to seek out donor siblings or not. In talking about meeting donor siblings, another queer parent tells me that donor sibling contact should be the child’s choice. That it isn’t fair to make choices for them. I disagree. There are no neutral choices. If I hadn’t Googled the donor number, if Sea and I hadn’t joined the Facebook group, if we hadn’t traveled by plane, train, and automobile (actually) to meet, those would all have been choices too. The other queer parent insists that she wouldn’t: that her children belong to her and her spouse alone. Fair. But, for me, meeting Bingo’s diblings hasn’t made her feel less like mine and Sea’s. Instead, seeing my child’s face in others has made me feel like I know her better.
After we meet, a dibling parent e-mails us a poem:
“Love is a Place”
love is a place
& through this place of
(with brightness of peace)
‘yes’ is a world
& in this world of
As Bingo gets older, she’ll have to choose who her diblings are to her. Friends? Family? Acquaintances? Strangers? That will be for her to decide. For now they’re the familiar faces on a Facebook group, a gaggle of shrieking voices in a rented New England house, families built on the same three letters and four numbers, a decision to say yes.