I read a blog post over at Olivia’s View titled “Relative Strangers: what grandparents think about donor conception” and it prompted me to finally write a post myself about the role Grandparents of Donor Conceived Children play in their lives. I have thought about this many times. To be honest most of the time I see my kids with my husbands parents as they are the non-bio side of the equation, my mind wanders to these thoughts, and I am always in awe and amazement. His parents have been nothing but supportive, loving and extremely present in the lives of our children. One would think nothing out of the ‘ordinary’ if they were to see the kids interacting with them.
Growing up I had a cousin who was adopted and I always remember my Grandmother treating him differently. I never once saw her show him any affection, as a matter of fact I am not sure I ever even saw her address him directly, and he knew it! I suppose I had a bit of a fear of something similar happening to my kids. But to my relief it has not turned out that way. Perhaps it is the difference in generations and the difference in what makes up a family these days. Our family makeup is a very eclectic one. There is divorce on both sides, remarriages, step-sisters, step-moms, step-grandmoms, step cousins, aunties and uncles who are all non-bio….and on and on. So our kids have already been born into a family that has a varied past in blended families and members of the family who are not biologically linked but very much a part of our everyday lives.
A while ago I stumbled across an article that spoke about parents of those who chose to donate sperm or eggs. I never thought how they may be affected by the notion that there were going to be an undisclosed amount of biological grandchildren born to strangers. Their DNA, their Grandbabies and they would never get the chance to know them. To even know if they existed or not. I sat with this thought for quite sometime, trying to figure out how I felt about it. How do I feel that my kids not only had the grandparents they see but that they have an entire family they will never know, not just a biological dad or half-siblings they will never know. They have aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. Then I shut it all off, it was all very overwhelming, and if I felt that emotionally entrenched by it all, I can only imagine how my kids are going to feel as they get older and start to realize the extent of their DNA and the lack of information they will be able to know about it.
On another note, and one that caught me pleasantly off guard, there is yet another category of Grandparent in the mix. I have been in contact with two of our children’s half-siblings. One of the moms is a Single mom and she contacted me so that she would have the information to be able to give to her son if and when he wanted it. She stated that she was not particularly interested in extensive contact, however, she did facebook friend me and through that avenue we are able to share pictures of the children and keep tabs on daily life. A short while after she friend requested me I got a request from her mother, the Grandmother. She also was very polite and not wanting to be intrusive, but she asked if she might be able to be a facebook friend so that she could also see her grandsons half-siblings growing up. It struck me that in creating these children using a sperm donor we have thrown a monkey wrench into so many different family scenarios. I will admit that in making our decision to use a donor I never once thought about the extended families on any level, in my mind it was all about us.
Along my travels through the interwebs I bumped into the term ‘epigenetics’. Now I am not going to even pretend I am scientific enough to dissect the actual studies behind this term, but I will say that I know on the surface it is about the old argument of nature vs nurture. For the past 7 years I have closely watched my children and tried to figure out if the traits and mannerisms they are demonstrating are coming from me – nature or my husband – nurture? As of this day I cannot tell and a lot of the time I wonder if it really matters. Does it matter why they laugh a certain way, or stand a certain way? I could wonder forever, because they have family they will never know, and maybe it is the Mother of their sperm donor who stands like that or laughs like that, a Grandmother they will never know! Donor Conceived Children will forever have questions that may never have answers, but hopefully with the love of the Grandparents and other family they do have in their lives they will not feel as much of a longing to fit in.