Diblings.

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
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

‘yes’ is a world
& in this world of
‘yes’ live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

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.

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6 thoughts on “Diblings.

  1. I love your comment about how not making a choice is a choice itself. We make choices about how our families are composed every single day, but particularly when we build our families using a donor. I agree with you on this one. Choosing not to connect with dibling families is simply one way to be. I see no harm coming from the connection, beyond the typical potential for personality conflicts any time you meet new people. What a neat set up you’ve found!

  2. I’m one of those people who prefers to live in my little bubble as far as donor siblings are concerned. I’ve never been able to put my finger on why it makes me feel so vulnerable. Neither of us has any interest in pursuing the registry for now. We will honor C’s wishes on the subject when she’s older, but it’s entirely her choice.

  3. We have just begun our journey of creating a family and so much leading up to it is focused on the goal of having a child. Trying to finalize our donor selection made us realize that our future child could have diblings and made us question how we will handle it all. We are still having discussions about how we will handle it but your experience gives me a peek of what it all can be. I appreciate you sharing!!

  4. This is very insightful. I am very conscious of how active a choice my choice not to connect with shared donor families is. I agree with you–there is no such thing as neutral here.

    One comment I read on another queer parenting group has stuck with me–the mom posting compared her kids’ reactions to meeting diblings to their meeting distant cousins at a family reunion. I thought it was an interesting perspective.

    In any case, I’m glad this decision has worked well for you and appreciate your sharing your experience.

  5. New follower here (i’ll be catching up!) and this whole Diblings things has been a huge thing at our house. My wife has a completely different perspective than I do about this situation. She never cared (and still doesn’t) about connecting with donor siblings, where I think and feel the complete opposite. That said, our upbringing is very different. I never knew my biological father and had no idea I had a biological sibling until I was 25. My mother knew. She never told me. This “no neutral” thing rings so true for us, for me. That said, I connected with about 5 different dibling families in the past 2 years. My wife? Not so enthused. I brought it up to my therapist because I don’t understand how my wife wouldn’t WANT to make those connection for our kids. It was explained to me that, those connections aren’t really for the kids, it’s for us. For me. For some need to not have my kids feel what I felt. In truth, it makes plenty of sense, but I just want to be prepared for when my 4 kids ask a million questions about their donor and potential additional family. Right now, those connections are there, some stronger (or stranger) than others, but there none the less! Looking forward to catching up!

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