Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And Baby Makes More by Susan Goldberg

And Baby Makes More:
Known Donors, Queer Parents and Our Unexpected Families

Essay Excerpts

Chip was a natural choice for Jessie’s godfather and he stood at her baptism,resplendent in a purple shirt and lilac tie. Chip played the role of godparent-donor perfectly —present but not overly present. He hung back, perhaps to avoid the wail of five-alarm sirens blasting in my head. Sarah held Jesslyn at the font. Without Jessie in my arms, I felt unmoored, without a paddle, drifting. If Jesslyn were to identify Chip as her father, only one of us could be her mother, right? There was no precedent for a mommy and a mama and a daddy. In this three-minus-one equation, somebody had to lose. Who was going to get voted off the island? I didn’twant it to be Sarah. More importantly, I didn’t want it to be me.
Mary Bowers, “The D-Word”

“How old is your son?”
I look up from the floor of the pharmacy, where I am trying to prevent my nearlytwo- year-old son from stripping the shelves of their contents. I locate the asker, a burly, bearded young guy in a hunting jacket, and I’m about to answer him, when I realize that his question wasn’t directed towards me. Rather, it’s been lobbed over my head to Rob, who is waiting with us. Rob is not prepared for this. He fumbles the question, and misses. It hits him hard in the chest andthen shatters and begins to drip — warm, wet — down the front of his coat and puddle inhis shoes.
“Twenty-two months,” I tell the guy, who glances at me briefly and then beams at Rob in what I can only assume is a guy-to-guy — a dad-to-dad — bonding kind of way. Of course, I think to myself, this guy thinks that Rob’s the father. He thinks we’re the parents. And then I remember: Oh yeah, he is. We are.
Susan Goldberg, “Mamas’ Baby, Papa’s Maybe”

When I tell people that I’m going to be a sperm donor, I always get the most incredulous reactions. You see, those who don’t know me have no clue how a woman could donate sperm, and those who do know me know that I’m a trans woman who’s had an orchiectomy — the removal of the testes. Either way, what I’m suggesting appears to be impossible.
Tobi Hill-Meyer, “Donor Mom

When people find out I am a donor dad, then find out the moms and kids are in another city, the first thing they ask is, “How often do you see them?” It’s a simple but loaded question. I answer and then I avoid looking at their faces, seeing them calculate and deliberate and find a verdict: am I a parent or more like a UNICEF sponsor, getting smiley photos in the mail? I remember the threat I heard from so many moms when I was a kid: “Just you wait until your father gets home.” Our fathers then were defined by their absence. Am I any different?
Rob Gray, “Unexpecting

“I got a call from a lawyer today,” my mother told me. My brow furrowed, my arm mechanically pushing a spatula across the skillet as I sautéed mushrooms and onions for dinner. “Your father wants to meet you.”
I stopped sautéing the mushrooms, the word “father” hanging in the air with the scent of frying butter.
“You know you don’t have to meet him if you don’t want. It’s up to you, Aaron.”
Under normal circumstances, I’d find a statement like this irritating. Of course it was up to me, I wanted to shout. It was my father we were talking about. My father. No, not my father, the donor. I couldn’t call him my father without a lot of connotations that I didn’t want. “The donor” sounded more neutral, more sterile.
Aaron Sachs, “Father: Not stated”

By the time I met you I had revised my sperm donor criteria so many times, my list was becoming unmanageable. Somewhere along the way my simple desire — a man of colour that I like, respect, and admire — became not good enough. Suddenly I wanted someone who spoke Spanish, someone smart and creative, environmental, spiritual, aware. My gay male friends insisted I add good looking. Between the three candidates I had, the list was complete. But for all, there was one major piece missing — the feeling that a friend calls the “full body yes.” When I met you, my whole body said to me, “That’s him!” No list, no criteria — no information at all. It was not a decision I made with my head, it was a command from the core of my being.
Annemarie Shrouder, “After ‘Yes’“

Now, I kind of expected to stand by on the sidelines and cheer, and perhaps send a congratulatory card when the Spawn (as we so elegantly nicknamed the unborn child) finally popped out to greet the world. But somewhere in there, Marcie and Erin began to involve me in the process. It was subtle at first — the occasional dinner date, the warm conversations, the hugs. I’m not really sure when I started to feel like I was actually a part of the story line rather than an occasional reader, but I do remember feeling a dawning sense of tenderness and gratitude towards the whole process and everyone involved. When Marcie’s brother Geoff coined the term “spuncle” to explain Torsten’s avuncular role in the sperm-donation process, and happily crowned me “spaunty,” I just about cried. I’ve always valued family, the intentional kind all the more so, but I never expected to be adopted into such a beautiful one by virtue of simply being there to watch it. The birth of Eli happened on January 31, 2005, but over the year prior to that, a whole family gestated and was quietly born too.
Andrea Zanin, “The Spawn, the Spawnlet and the Birth of a Queer Family,” by Torsten
Bernhardt, Marcie Gibson, Erin Sandilands, Jake Szamosi and Andrea

We all started out casually. We had the ingredients, and a recipe. I would be the oven. What’s not to work? Love is accidental. It just happens, like pregnancies. As we all went along, love came too. Maybe it’s in the gesture of passing body fluids in jars to each other. Years of protecting something microscopic and imbued with possibility, that needs to be kept warm. Maybe the very idea of this child created an invisible web between us our families. We all hoped for him or her, making all four of us the child’s parent of a kind. We are held together bygrief for someone who didn’t make it here. We each carved out space within ourselves to make room for this child — offered ourselves, our bodies as bridges, but some things don’t turn out the way you think. Bread that took all day to make burns, the cookies were made with salt instead of sugar, the cake never rises. All he or she had to do was get here — make it from the heat of our bodies, the tangle of our hope and love to the noise and mess that was waiting here. –Shira Spector, “Enough”

One evening, the topic came up and Leslie finally asked outright, “Molly, have you everwondered where we got the sperm to create you?”
“I know where you got it,” she said. “You went to a special doctor, asked for the
sperm and the doctor got it for you from somebody you didn’t know.” Molly had heard that story about Heather and her two mommies and she was sticking to it. We finally asked her outright if she wanted the information. When we said it was her uncle, she looked surprised. “Someone I know,” she said with a tone of wonder.
There it was: the moment I had dreaded.
Susan Cole, “Spermbro”

There’s power in owning the language that describes your life, a sort of magic of normalcy for even the most alternative of families. I grew up with terms like “donor dad” to explain where the sperm came from to make me, “out-of-the-box” to explain my mom’s sexuality, “parenting partner” to explain who was cooking dinner every Sunday. I didn’t question where the terms came from; they were just always part of my “intimacy constellation.”
In some ways, I was able to use words as my foot soldiers. I knew that not everyone had the sort of family that I did, but I had words for my family, and I could put them forth and explain the relationships on my own turf. Then, if the person I was talking to didn’t understand, it must have just been the words.
Rosi Greenberg, “Intimacy Constellation”

IWhen my mother first heard that I was going to become a sperm donor to a lesbian
couple, she asked to know more about “the ladies,” in order that she could perhaps “know
of her grandchild in the world.”
I think I took her by surprise when I reminded her gently that she already had two
grandchildren: the boys I foster with my now ex-partner. I also explained that, although I
would be a donor to the “ladies,” the three of us had no plans for me to be a “father” —
or her a “grandmother” — to their children. Biology, I explained — again and again, over
the next few months — did not necessarily equal kinship, equal family.
–Damien Riggs, “Not Playing by the Rules”

I’d asked only three men. One thought the world too horrible a place to bring children into. One wanted a child too much himself to do it. Then there was Eric. He never wanted children. A fact I still worry might be a result of my convincing him to work at a camp with me the summer following our sophomore year at college. How was I supposed to know he’d be assigned the eight-year-old boys?
–Sara Levine, “Conceiving”

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