Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another Post About Children: A Lesbian Couple, Sperm Donation, and Me...

(Cross posted at feministe as part of my guest blogging)

I was reading this article from the Washington Post earlier today, and thinking about the situation that this guy is in. It makes me wonder how common these sorts of situations are. I think that most of us, by now, realize how uncommon the Nuclear Family is. We have families with step-children and half-brothers and extended families that live in the same house and same-sex families and even families like this, where it's a same-sex couple and a "daddy" who isn't in a romantic relationship with either mommy. I think it's great that he's able to have this kind of relationship with his friends' children. His children.

On the other hand, I want to ask him how he feels about the situation in general. He answers the question "do you have children" really well, and I get that he's really proud and happy to be a part of these children's lives, but this is a guy who wanted children of his own, and while it's great that he was able to do this, part of me wants to ask him what it's like on a day-to-day basis. How hard is it to not be able to be there for them? How difficult is it to be in a situation like that, where you're the father, but they're not your children?

But, an even bigger part of me wants to know what it would have been like if he didn't want children of his own. How would he handle his role in the lives of children if he'd never wanted children of his own? How would that feel to see a child that is biologically yours, but that you don't have any fatherly claim to?

Because, as it turns out, I might find out for myself, and I've got questions, and for every question I have, I worry that there are at least six others I'm missing.

When I went to visit my friends Jenny* and Beth** at their home yesterday, I wasn't expecting them to ask me if I'd help them start a family. I knew we'd be playing some games, and I figured we might watch some television or a movie. I knew that Jenny was planning on making me dinner, and I figured that there was a good possibility we'd spend a lot of time laughing. Jenny and Beth are great, and I love them dearly- I've known them since my first year away at college, and I count myself lucky to know them, and to be a part of their lives. I was there the first time they met, and I helped them move after they bought their first house. They're absolutely wonderful, and I was overjoyed to learn that they plan on starting a family soon. I know that they'll make absolutely wonderful parents, and that any child will be lucky to have them as mothers.

Like the article's auther, Jenny had joked with me before about the possibility of my donating the sperm for potential children, but that was years ago, and I'd mostly forgotten about it. When they started talking seriously about having children, it wasn't the first thing that popped into my head. Now that they've asked, I'm thrilled and terrified by the prospect.

We're still talking about all the details, and nothing is set in stone, yet. The first thing we'd do is get a legal agreement drawn up making the nature of the relationship clear: I'd relinquish any parental rights over the child, and Jenny and Beth would give up any rights to child support. Legally, my only role would be in supplying the genetic material. But, these aren't random people, and I'm not a stranger. I'd still be a part of this child's life- these are two very important people in my life, and I'm not going to stop seeing them.

Which leads to some of the tough questions around this. Is this a good idea? After all, at some point, the child is likely to wonder who hir father is. I don't think it's a good idea to lie to children. Children have a right to know who their parents are, I think, and Jenny and Beth agree. So, they child would know that I'm hir biological father. But, Jenny and Beth aren't looking for a co-parent. Which is great. I don't want children, and I don't really want to co-parent. They're hoping I'll play more of the role of uncle to the child. I'd be Uncle Roy- I'd be the man that helped them start the family, and I'd provide a male role-model, but I wouldn't be a father, I'd be hir mommys' friend, and hir uncle.

And I love being an uncle. My sister had a beautiful daughter 3 years ago, and I love my niece dearly. She's a great kid. I love that I'm her cool uncle, and I love that I've already started to get her interested in computers and video games. Being an uncle is fun. How is it going to feel to be the uncle to a child that is biologically mine, though? How will the child feel when sie finds out that I'm the biological father? And, of course, my parents think that being grandparents is great too. I hadn't really thought about this, but Jenny mentioned "and if your parents want to be involved in the child's life, that'd be okay too." I'm not even sure how I'd approach that. Tell them? Don't tell them? I'm not sure yet.

Now, like I said, nothing is set in stone. I'm still thinking about it, and while I'm leaning towards saying "yes" right now, we've still got more talking to do. After all, I feel okay about it right now, but how will I feel in 8 years when the child wants to know hir father? How will I feel in 18 years? Obviously, I won't know until I'm there, but I'm still coming up with questions and we're still talking about the process.

Which is where you come in, fellow feministe readers. Here's where I beg you for information.

Have any of you been through this or know someone that has? If you know someone who donated to a friend, what was the experience like for him? What was it like for the couple? For the child? Any questions that are must-ask that I may have missed? Any advice?
Cautionary tales?

*Not her real name.
**Not her real name, either.


"Jenny" said...

A tag of "bodily fluids?!!"
How many posts about bodily fluids do you HAVE?!!

Sovawanea said...

I think that's the first time I have ever heard you use sie and hir. I've always had mixed feelings about it, but you make it sound pretty natural.

But, back to the original topic, the only lesbian couples I know that have had children have used anonymous donors. I know when I was dating my ex, he had agreed previously to be a sperm donor for his lesbian friend. It didn't bother me at all, but I can definitely see it bothering some women. Even women like me who don't want to have children and have no designs on our partner's sperm of our own. So, that's something that does need to be taken into consideration.

Also, who will raise the children if something happens to your friends? I know no one likes to think about these things, but if you have signed away your parental rights and have only an informal agreement with them then the person who becomes their legal gaurdian may have no legal obligation to allow you to continue any visits with the child or children.

You might want to consult a lawyer of your own before doing this, even just to have someone look over anything they have drawn up for you to sign if you decide to go through with it.

Nique said...

I say go for it. You all sound mature enough to handle it.
I know it's a cliche but it's the things we don't do in life that we regret, not the things we do. This sounds like the perfect situation for someone like you, someone who doesn't want kids, but who kinda, sorta does. It will be emotionally harrowing but also fulfilling. So just take care of all the legal stuff beforehand and then jump in!

Natalie said...

Like sovawanea, I noticed your use of 'hir'. Interesting and agreeable.

Anyway, I agree with sovawanea about the legality issues that you may want to consider. But like nique said, take care of that and go for it (if you decide you're ready of course). I think that you would be a great male role model and that you are capable of maintaining the type of distance and respect that would be needed in this type of situation.

Moody said...

I was asked this question and I said no immediatly. It would be too painful for me to not be in the childs life as a father.
My partner thought it would be a good idea, but I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it.
Although, I already have a daughter and I love being a father.

Roy said...

Thanks for the comments, all!

Jenny: This is the only one for now... but you just never know. What happens if I write about saliva next week? =P

Mostly, I like to have a little fun with the tags. And you really don't ever know when you might want that weird tag you made as a joke, right?

Sov: I'm still deciding how I feel about sie and hir, too. I think they're handy in cases like this, where I can't possibly know, but it's something I have to do conciously. That I managed to make it sound natural is pretty awesome, though.

Good points, all, though. It's these kinds of questions that make me really glad I decided to post about it. I'd already considered the "what about your partner" questions, but the "what if something happens to J and B questions had never even occured to me.

Thanks nique and Natalie, for the votes of confidence. Natalie from BN by any chance? If so, I'm so glad you're here! (Not that I'm not glad, even if you're not the Natalie I know from BN!)

inanutshell said...

I really think it's great how you've posted on this. It seems a brilliant oppurtunity for you (given your circumstances/what you've said). I think the best thing to do, if you decide to go ahead with it, is to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I'm just wondering what kind of time scale you/your friends have given yourself/themselves for thinking about this and coming to a decision. I don't think I saw anything mentioned about it, but there was a lot to read over at feministe.

Like, you may decide at the end of this month that you'll go ahead with it (once everythings been discussed & made airtight, obviously). But given more time & chance to do more 'reading up' you might end up feeling differently? I guess it'll take a while for a decision like this to really sink in.

Anyway, I wish you and your friends all the best, whatever the decision.

Natalie said...

yep, that's the one ;)

"Jenny" said...

I can't wait for the post on spit. =)

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good idea to tell grandparents;not something that needs to done immediately, perhaps after6mths.when you've established a small bond with child.I feel they need to know 'cause a child might ask a difficult question&in time connect with them,which might lead to resentment if they've been out of loop too long.Suffice to supply pictures of child initially?I feel best thing for children's to allow all who'll love/support "family" time alone with them,where you can!Once child reaches Grade2they're "worldly",so everything needs to be laid out, if not before!A suitable time to tell child may present itself,or you might've to make a time!

atempo said...

It seems so sad and wrong to me that there is a fantasy in our society that genetic material makes us more bonded than the simple fact that we are all here together on this planet and need eachother and breathe the same air and need the same water and food for survival. That said, I myself am having an incredibly difficult time accepting my partners child as my own because I was not involved in the reproductive process in any way. I think that the idea of parental ownership is so strong and I wonder if you would be able to overcome it psychically, even if you could politically. It's hard to know who to consult. maybe a therapist.
best of luck to you. you seem like a lovely person.