A new vocabulary…

The other day, I saw B, one of my dearest friends, and I was telling her about finding my donor. And, in passing, she called him “the father” — and I realised that’s not what I’m calling him. And I could have just not said anything, but a) I’m not very good at that, and b) for some reason it felt important to tell her that I was calling him “the donor” not “the father.”

And I realised that this is just the start. That not only do I have to work all this out as I go along — the nomenclature of things — but that I also have to work out how I tell other people about it all. (Although let’s be honest, telling people what’s OK and what isn’t isn’t really going to be an issue, because I’ve never been backwards about coming forward.)

Because — within my group of friends anyway — this is different from the way other people do things and while I don’t have to worry about it right now (only a handful of friends know what I’m doing), if things go the way I’d like them to, I will have to. And not just my friends, anyone else who asks “Does s/he look like you or Daddy?” and all those other nosy-yet-somehow-legitimate questions people ask people with children.

I spoke to one solo mother (see, I don’t even know if that’s a term I’m OK with, conversely I know without a shadow of a doubt I’m totally NOT OK with “choice mom”) who told me that she’d been very private about doing IVF, but then when she was pregnant she never wanted her daughter to feel like a dirty little secret so she wanted to tell everyone. And that made perfect sense to me.

What doesn’t make perfect sense to me is what I’m OK with and what I’m not. For example, until I thought about it I couldn’t have told you why, instinctively, I decided I want to call him “the donor” rather than “the father.”

Part of it is undoubtedly to do with the fact that, as my donor pointed out in his profile, being a mother, or a father, or a parent, is about more than gametes, it’s about years of love and support. But I suppose if I’m honest it’s also because I hope my hypothetical child would one day have a father in that sense. And maybe it’s easier to separate those things by calling the donor a donor, rather than a “biological father” or something.

Anyway, this is all stuff I need to figure out. But maybe just not yet. One day at a time and all that…


7 thoughts on “A new vocabulary…

  1. I use the word donor. or donor lady. (for the egg donor) I am her mother/mummy/mama But at the same time I want to leave room for my daughter to (yes, to what?) feel a connection to a part of her that came from the donor. I know your and my situation are not the same. Gah, harder to put into words than I thought. I guess i do not want to be a parent who says that DNA is not important, just because it happens to come from a donor.
    And I guess we simply do not yet have a word that indicates a genetic connection that is not the same as family. something like fa-nor / mo-nor? don-ther?

    (and yes, inwardly I am prepping for the day where she tells me I am not her real mother. My only answer is she is my real daughter)

    • Totally agree with all you’re saying (although I have to say I bristle at made-up words like fa-nor — someone the other day was talking about do-sies aka donor siblings and it made my hackles rise!) – gametes do not a parent make!

    • You said we simply don’t have a word for genetic connection not from the same family but we absolutely do! Webster’s dictionary contains official definitions of words and the primary definitions are the commonly understood meanings of words that people default to when speaking or listening. If a person wAnts to apply lesser used official definitions they need to qualify their statement or They will mislead the listener into believing something that is not true.
      Parent is defined as someone with offspring; male with offspring father or dad female with offspring mother or mom. The primary definition does not require any caregiving at all. Medical and biology text books also simply define mother and father as female and male with offspring. Male and female caregiver is not a primary definition of parent mother or father. If we don’t all agree to the meanings of words we are not speaking the same language. If you are rearing children your own offspring or that of another person, you’ll teach them the proper spelling and meaning of words yourself. If you don’t teach them the common definition they will learn it in school. They will learn the person you call donor is their father according to the English language and medical forms. The will figure out that they have a father and paternal relatives according to words as officially defined but their father just is not raising them. You don’t need intention or hugs or any of that child care stuff to qualify for the title of father, although it helps if you want to be a good father.
      I’m pretty sure you know all that you sound like an intelligent person. Do you feel the secondary caregiving definition has become more prevalent as a definition of father than just a man with offspring? Are you worried referring to him by his proper title will give people the impression he’s actively involved? You could just say his father is not involved in raising him and that would be a truthful statement that respects people’s intelligence. Answering that he does not have a father will prompt the same understanding in the listener that his father is not raising him only with such a response the listener will know you would prefer others pretend that he has no father. Referring to his father as a donor might be true legally but it does not stop him from becoming a father once his offspring is born…that common definition of father still applies.
      I have a friend who goes by the screen name “ my mothers donor is my father” she’s reunited with her siblings but sadly never met him. He’s still her father and her kids grandfather. She’s still a sister to her paternal siblings and is an aunt to their children. It’s really ok to use the word father. Most people would prefer that others not diminish the importance of their relatives by refusing to refer to them by commonly used relational terms. She refers to her mothers father as her step father for clarity and truthfulness when talking about him but addresses him as dad because that’s what she was taught to call him from birth. She loves him very much but knows that people believe he is her father because her mother and him don’t qualify their use of that title by saying they are applying the secondary caregiving definition and the result is that they are lying and forcing her to as well.

  2. I completely agree that donor is the appropriate word. The term father is earned. As a woman going through donor egg IVF, there’s no goddamn way the donor who gave me her eggs for $5,000 is in any way the mother! She is special to us because she donated her eggs but her eggs mixed with my husband’s sperm and they go into my body and if one of these Cycles ever works, I sure as hell am the mother 🙂

    • Except if you give birth to her offspring she will be a woman who has offspring which is the primary definition of mother in the dictionary. She and her family are the maternal relatives of her offspring. You will be officially recorded as mother on their birt record and you will raise them but you can’t buy another woman’s eggs or offspring they always belong to her . When forms ask for their mothers medical history they will meAn her not you. People seem to attach all this emotional meaning to the words mother and father that are not actually in the commonly understood primary definition. If you say your donor is not the mother of the person you give birth to they will realize she meets the definition of mother in the dictionary not you. She will understand that you meet the secondary caregiving definition but just did not qualify your use of the word mother to specify caregiving only but not related. It’s ok but it’s confusing. I know more donor offspring than most people. I reunite their families for free thru dna matching.

  3. Pingback: Doing things differently… | Egged On

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