S1E17 - On Navigating Donor Sibling Relationships w/ Edrenna and Rosanna Hertz

Episode 17 May 17, 2023 00:53:16
S1E17 - On Navigating Donor Sibling Relationships w/ Edrenna and Rosanna Hertz
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S1E17 - On Navigating Donor Sibling Relationships w/ Edrenna and Rosanna Hertz

May 17 2023 | 00:53:16

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Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode, the Aisha addresses the topic of donor siblings for single mothers by choice. They discuss the challenges of navigating relationships with family members not actively chosen, emphasizing the importance of forming bonds between donor siblings. Two guests, Edrenna (a single mother by choice) and Rosanna Hertz (an author and Women and Gender Studies professor at Wellesley College), join the conversation. The episode explores the complexities and responsibilities involved in making decisions for the children and managing these connections.

 

If you are someone who has delayed parenthood and would like to be interviewed by Rosanna for her current research send Rosanna an email: [email protected]

 

Rosanna's books:

Random Families

Single by Chance, Mother by Choice

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi everybody. This conversation has been long incoming and I will tell you I am one of those people who had my heels dug in on this topic. I'm at one end of the spectrum. I suspect Edrenna's at the other end of the spectrum, they had to take me kicking and screaming. And alright, so let's go ahead and get into this. So as Single Mother by Choice, it's a blessing and a curse that we all get to make the decisions for our kids up until they've reached the age of being able to make informed decisions for [00:01:00] themselves. one of those decisions is what do we do with donor siblings, right? So let me put this all in context. As Single Mother by Choice, we decide individually that we want to become parents. We. Get a checklist. . We choose a donor, and then we get pregnant. then we're happy, and then everything else comes into it. There are best positive practices for how we navigate Single Mother by Choice. Now, we all do it individually, but there are some fundamental things that we do from a psychological perspective to set firm identity foundations for our kids. And one of those things that research says is that you should form bonds with donor siblings. Now, when we choose sperm, we are not necessarily choosing the adults who are attached to the sperm that they also choose. And so now that puts us into this quagmire of. Family that we didn't really choose. People that we're only on the fence about before the best [00:02:00] interest of our kids. We forge ahead and we build these bonds. And so as per usual, everything comes through mom. The parents, the adults in the situation are the gatekeepers. So the folks that we like, the folks that we don't like, who gets filtered in, who makes the cut, and that all sits on our shoulders. So it is sometimes a weighty decision topic of discussion for us each to have. So anyway, so let's go ahead and get into it. I have two friends to the show here. I have Edrenna, who is a Single, Mother by Choice. And then I have Rosanna who is a Wellesley professor, author altogether bed as in this gender studies this field of doing non-traditional parenthood. And so we are going to jump into the conversation, but first I'm going to ask my guests to introduce themselves. Okay. So as Aisha said, my name is Edrenna. I am a single mom by choice to an [00:03:00] eight-year-old boy. I work in leadership development for an association of cardiologists, and I've been doing that work for you know, over 20 years. And yeah, I'm just happy to, to be joining you today in this conversation. Thank you. Thank you. I'm looking forward to it. Hi, Rosanna. Hi Aisha. So I am Rosanna Hertz and I am a sociologist. And what I currently have been studying for, I don't know, like 25 years, is the complexities of contemporary reproduction. What I'm most interested in is really unconventional family creating and how donor use is expanding our understanding of kinship, whether it's Single, Mother by Choice or donor linked families, meeting people who purchase the same sperm donor and then voluntarily locate each other and with what brings with that is a whole new potential set of relatives. So that's what I've been focusing on and I'm [00:04:00] currently embarking on a new study about people who delayed parenthood until their late thirties into their forties. All right, so just sidebar, if you're one of those people who have delayed parenthood and are interested in sharing your stories with Rosanna, we will have contact information at the end of the show and in the show notes. Okay. So let's, let's dive in. Rosanna met me maybe four or five years ago. before my youngest was even born. Right. And you met me at a celebratory point in my life. I had, gone through this journey and I was just ready to be happy, open and sharing. And so what's being said currently from a sociological perspective about initiating and navigating meeting donors, siblings I said at the top of the hour that it's. Best positive practices from a psychological perspective that we, forge these bonds so that our children have these paths if they choose to pursue these paths. Well, so I think it's important for kids from the very beginning [00:05:00] to know that their donor conceived, and even if you rehearse that, Because this idea of donor is a really hollow concept. And so kids have no idea what that means to say you have a donor, not a father, you have a donor, you know, with in addition I carried you and you have an egg donor, or whatever it is, so that kids really need to understand something about how they were created. And most kids wanna have a birth, have a birth story that parents tell them. So in the field, the idea of disclosure is very much agreed upon. And I hope that people out there who's listening are disclosing donor use to their kids. And most recently people have discovered that they have the ability to connect with other families who also happen to share the same donor. One of the interesting things that I have talked to young, young kids who were donor conceived between the ages of 10 and 28, about was what it meant to reach out to those other families. What it meant to meet and connect with their donor siblings and also then how they in fact don't have the language to discuss this and how it is [00:06:00] that, it's possible or not to turn these donor sibling relationships into some kind of kin. Because basically these are genetic strangers. So, and they come as a surprise. So the thinking is that it's not essential to reach at, but at some point all kids wanna know something about their genetic heritage and their background. And one way of connecting is with donor siblings. So I'm gonna leave it at that. I have questions for you. I have questions for you, both of you, if you want. Oh, let's come back to that. I wanna, I wanna frame the scene for Adriana and myself. Now, Adriana, I do have some questions to ask you, but I don't know if your son is at the same place that my eight year old is, that now she's starting to be aware of genes and genetics and she's like, mommy, do you do this? Is this in our genes? Like, tell me more about my, my family, where I come from, you know, my heritage. So we're starting to have those conversations. Are you having those conversations with your son? Yeah. my eight year old, I think [00:07:00] it's because of science class and all of these conversations, and then even some of the, shows that he watches. He really is concerned that he, he has questions about how he came to be. And even though we've talked about it several times, he still wants to talk about that. And how did, how come I'm almost as tall as you but my Gigi was this tall and this and that. So he is starting to have those questions, not just about like the way that we look. He and I look very similar. I mean, everybody calls us twins but other things about him that he's good at tennis and I'm not, and that, those sort of things. So he is starting to ask. Those questions. He's at that age. Okay. So rapid fire for you, Did you list your son on the donor sibling registry for your sperm bank? Yes. And why did you list your child? Well, So I listed him right after he was born and I did that for a couple of reasons. But one was I wanted. to see that if he wanted to connect [00:08:00] that we could, find some folks that, at least shared half of his genetic makeup. But then also I started thinking about longer term medical things. You know, like if there were certain tendencies or something that were genetic, could I share those that maybe that's not part of, my genetics and my family heritage and background, but it could be the donors. So it was those two reasons. And I will say that I watched this show on M T V where all these donor siblings met and they were trying to find their donor and they hung out and did these vacations. And I thought, well, that would be cool, and I wanna do that. So you're one of those people I'm, but so Rosanna have at it. No, I was actually gonna ask the same question, but I was gonna ask you as well, which is, have you reached out to your donor siblings? And Aisha? I don't know if you want to answer, but I also wanna hear about what it, what, why you decided to reach out, which Edrenna just told us, but also what the experiences of meeting them have been like. So, so yeah, [00:09:00] we will come back to meeting in person, but I did, so once my daughter was born, my eldest, I did list her on the donor sibling registry for my sperm bank. And then I waited probably 18 months before I listed her. Like formally on the Donor Sibling registry. So I registered her birth, but I didn't put her on the donor sibling registry until about 18 months later. And I am just slow to the party. my, intimate friend circles are small, like, you know, very few people get to get in there. I have to vett you. I kind, so I'm one of those people, and especially when it comes to, to my children, I'm just like, I don't know. And so being in the Single Mother by Choice community, at that point, I was still in the forum, the National Forum that's run by Jane Mattes. And it was, it was the right thing to do, right? That's, that's what we do. You know, people talk about it, you get to lurk like a fly on the wall and hear people's other people's experiences. [00:10:00] And to some extent you have to throw caution to the wind and just trust in human nature. And that's not a, a far leap for me to do. So I'm just like, okay. It's, it's the best thing for my kids, so I'm going to, I'm gonna do it. And so I did get a, a match and so I, there are a few now, but I'm only in contact with one person. I'm like, one is enough? one is enough? And so that's where I'll leave it. So, so yes, I am, and I did it because it was in the best interest of my kid. So what, what have your experience has been with other families that you've met and and, and what do your kids have to say about this or do, or maybe they don't even know? Well, for me, my experience, so similar to Aisha, you know, once I put it up, put my son, registered, my son on the donor site, I immediately got an email, which I was a little bit shocked by. I mean like within hours I got an email from someone [00:11:00] that said, oh, we have this private Facebook group and all of this. And then I didn't respond right away because I was like, oh, that really happened fast. I thought this would, you know, take a long time. And so we started in this Facebook group and I, unlike Aisha, I was not involved in the Single Mother by Choice like community at all. Like I was just, Like solo doing my thing. I knew people did this, but I wasn't involved in the community. So it was nice to hear from people that had used donors. It turns out I was the only single mom in this, in my group. But yeah, so that's how I connected and we connected with the, the different families. So mine is just gonna be a series of folies. So I like to think of this, this foray into meeting these new people who are supposed to be relatives as kind of like, I stumbled upon it. And so I, I don't recall how long it took for a mom to reach [00:12:00] out to me, but I do know that my child is the oldest in the sibling group. And so when I did get an email from the mom that I am now still very close friends with, I was just like, who are you? So I didn't even respond immediately. I went to LinkedIn, looked her up, I tried to, to vet her as well as I could, like, does she seem normal? I did all of that research and then I was just like, Okay, I'm just gonna do it. then we started chatting through email and we exchanged some photos, and I think it was shortly, probably maybe six months after, kind of starting that initial conversation with that mom. Another mom reached out and this was, so Mom a is African American mom, B is Polish. And so there, there's a different dynamic between the two. The, the mom, a, the black mom reached out and it was just like, you know, Hey girl. Hey, you know, we're exchanging pictures, we're exchanging stories with the [00:13:00] white mom, it was a bit different because there wasn't, like, I'm always curious, I know why I chose my donor. So I'm like, well, why did you choose the donor? Why did you choose the donor? And the, the black mom was just like, yeah, here's why I did it. I loved, you know, his recording, his, his self assessment, his essay. And when I asked the white mom, she wouldn't divulge that information. She shared like one picture of her son. And so there was that holding back and it's just like, well, I don't even know you, but you're coming to me wanting to establish a relationship. There's no. There's no attempt to build trust. So it feels like you just want to take information and, and that does happen, right? Some people will join the Facebook groups and they will lurk because they just want the information. They want to see what the kids look like. Are there any medical things that pop up and that's all they want. Now, for me, someone who was already on the fence about relationships, it's just like, yeah, I'm okay letting that one go, but I'm gonna keep this one. And it wasn't necessarily a race thing, even though with the [00:14:00] black mom, there was that level of comfort. But also probably the knowledge that if I want to build this relationship, that's important to me, I need to be willing to answer these questions, right? Because you recognize where it's coming from. And for the, the the Polish mom, the white mom, I'm not sure if there was that level of implicit understanding. It's just maybe what someone's used to doing. I'm just going to take what I need. And that's it. so that relationship, I kind of let go and then just went forward and forced a relationship with my black donor sibling mom. so to this day, so that was back in 2015, we have met our kids are, you know, great friends. She, I consider her a, a friend. I consider her, a sister. And so with siblings, With family that you don't choose, I think you have a sort of flexibility with them. And so with her, I've extended that to her because we don't see eye to eye on everything and we had to really negotiate what the kids were gonna [00:15:00] call themselves. We still negotiate how they communicate when they communicate. So there is a lot of negotiation in there, but there is kind of an implicit trust that, you know what? I'm just going to take you as my sister and think nothing else of it. And I navigate it the same way I would navigate my relationship with my sisters And see, my story is completely different from Aisha's in that I'm, I'm kind of one of these people that I am going to trust you until you give me a reason not to. And then I'm completely. You know, freezing you off. And so I really got involved in this Facebook group. Everybody was kind of involved and excited. All of our kids were right along the same age, like within four to five months of each other were all of the kids, even like our kids. And this was in 2014, were the oldest and still remain as the oldest. And so we, you know, reached out a lot. There was a lot of activity in this Facebook group. And then when it came to, and, and [00:16:00] we, that's just the way that we communicated everybody was, you know, being friends on Facebook, on their own and not just through this group. And I was like, wow, this is interesting. But also On the older side of, you know, and so I thought, well, this is what, 20 and 30 somethings do, so I'm just gonna, go with it because this is what they do. And you know, there was just more excitement of having these children and seeing how they were and trying to connect. And a few groups got together, but interestingly the group that I actually ended up meeting and ended up keeping more in contact with were a lesbian couple that were, Egyptian and yeah, I, I think she is she's Peruvian and then an Indian couple and then me and so I am the only African American that we know of. And also I'm the only single mom by choice. But you know, it just was, I, just so happened [00:17:00] that I clicked with this, these two families, and we had some similarities. And they all happened to live someplace where my hometown, they all lived there, which I thought was bizarre. And so that was, I was like, that's strange. They lived there. I just left there. and so that was one of the reasons why I kind of connected with them. And now, so that was in 2015 and now here we are in 2023 and I barely have contact with any of them which is, you know, it went from this, a lot of activity. And then I think life happened and like no activity, like even on the Facebook group. I think the last post was 50 weeks ago. And I was the only person that actually responded to that post. So yeah, for whatever reason, the interest that started kind of fizzled out a bit. I wonder if that's because of the pandemic. You know, I thought about it and part of it could be, but [00:18:00] I also think dynamics happened. You know? Okay. Like there's, you forged this bond and for me, I met these couples, our kids were playing, and it was all exciting. And then I still kept in touch. But then as divorces happened, as moves happened, as people who became friends kind of picked sides of one spouse to another you know, that kind of wore things apart when we found out that our donor was no longer donating, but there were other people that didn't have any, sperm left on ice and they wanted to have other kids. Then this race between like, , I was like, I'm not gonna sell it. You can just have it cuz I'm not having another one. But then it happened at these factions and so people kind of fell out over I think petty things. Right. But I think it also, It points to me as the nature of, well, this is what happens when you kind of make these connections online and don't really like vet [00:19:00] them out. and So I would've said pandemic if it hadn't been for all of these riffs and all of the stuff that was happening. Yeah, there was more drama than, I mean, it was kind of like a soap opera, but Interesting. But the, but the, can you just, but the drama I'm assuming was around their own lives. It wasn't around the, Stuff between, you and other parents. It was, yeah. It was around their lives, and then, as I said, whoever wants this can have it just. Contact me, and then it ended up being like, well, no, I want it. No, I want it. I was like, okay, easy. and so I think that me being so free flowing, I just yeah. So they all had drama with themselves and I just kind of, was there, that's interesting because my, all right, we're still meeting donor siblings and there are more families now. They're a Facebook group. I'm not there yet, but I did meet another family who is a black lesbian couple. And they have a son Noel is still the, the oldest. I still have the oldest [00:20:00] child, so that's my Trump card. People will want to meet me. Not, not that that feeds my ego or anything, but I find it interesting. The first two people that I met on the donor sibling registry were both SMCs, which is interesting. So this is my first time having to deal with. a couple and, trying to figure out, okay, who do I communicate with, who I send a text message, to coordinate the meeting I was communicating with one of the parents, and then the other parent got added. So now that just removes a lot of that dynamic, so now we're all in it together. And so, interesting. Rosanna, before we get too far, I, I do wanna talk about your book because that's where we kind of came together. We decided on a really interesting chapter of the book. And I'm curious how you came up with the title. So can you give us a little bit of background there? I'm happy to do that, but now I'm curious. maybe you could just say more about the, about why, because you have the oldest child, other people will stay in touch because it's it's actually really true in my research, so, right. [00:21:00] So I, Well, because For, for anything that is going to, happen. Anything that's going to show up, whether genetically or what have you, it will show up probably if it hasn't shown up with the, the kids that are younger. They will probably look to say, okay, we passed that milestone. You know, did that happen? Or, you know, so there is going to, to be that, that desire to reach out to the oldest kid and then also, the oldest kid is never gonna change. Right. But the youngest kids will. Right. We got a new one. We got a new one, but the oldest is just going to be 10. 11, 12, and she's just gonna continue to grow. So it is that what's going on with the oldest, is anybody in contact with the, the mom of the oldest, do we know who the oldest child is? Who's the first, right? And so there, there is going to be that dynamic, which is unfortunate that I'm the keeper of that because I'm just like I don't, don't start, and I won't be none. I don't, you know, I'm like, I want none of this, but I'm here [00:22:00] for, for the kid. And luckily my daughter is almost the polar opposite. I lean introvert, she leans extrovert, so she's going to be out there. She's going to be. Well, I, the reason I'm asking is because in Random Families, which is my book, in fact, we interviewed the donor conceived children who were teenagers. The first kid who got to meet the, sperm donor or had an opened ID donor, and they wrote a letter that kid told all, the other kids in the group about what the donor said, So everybody got some kind of like updated information and for some kids it encouraged them to feel like, okay, maybe I'll write him a letter, he'll write back, or gee, I now know that he did become a famous theater person or whatever it was. So, what was sort of interesting to me is that even when kids may not have been close, they were, they saw that posting because of the shared nature of Facebook. And they were waiting for that first kid to reach out. Well, you know, it's interesting, When you asked me that question, I said, nothing about the donor. It's all about my kid. And it's just like, [00:23:00] yeah, they're gonna wanna know my kid. She's awesome. She's great, Yes. Didn't even think about, oh, she'll probably be the first to turn 18 and, reach out to the donor. it just goes to show I do appreciate the gift. But to the extent that it's anything more, it's gonna be driven by my, kids saying, okay, will I get to, to meet him? And then it's just like, oh, yeah, that's a thing. Right? So that's a thing we pay premium for. your book, so the book really in the beginning of the book, I'm talking about how kids understand what it means to have a donor, which is sort of interesting. But then donor siblings come as a big surprise for Kids who were born before 2003, and then we have boom, the internet happens. We can connect in all kinds of ways. Like we can sit on Zoom and talk today, for example, which is really maddening and crazy to me. so here, kids come to discover the surprise of these donor siblings, which most parents neglected to tell them that somebody else might have purchased the donor. But even for me, I mean, I think I'm creative, but it's like hard to think outside the box that other people may have purchased that same donor. and I know even when you go on the sperm [00:24:00] banks and it says low number of vials left. It still doesn't mean anybody purchased that, even though you might know that, there were births that happened, so suddenly the possibility existed for kids to connect with one another and often, like the two of you were describing basically it was the moms who made the decision to try to locate other people and did exactly what both of you were describing, which is, is this person okay? Or, are they crazy or what are they like, or do we connect in any way, whether we're trusting them or how is, that relationship? What are these like as people regardless of both race, but also family type and form, and what is it they really want or not? And then the question becomes when you tell your kids of gee, and by the way you actually have donor siblings or whatever that means, Out there. So, and the term siblings is a really conflicting or problematic term for me. It always has been. I mean, what does it mean? Sibling hood is, has this particular connotation about kids who grow up in the same family. And it's also about squeezing yourself into [00:25:00] particular ways. We think about siblings, which is the oldest one is supposed to be like this, and the middle one is supposed to be like that. And the baby of course is, you know, like this and et cetera, et cetera. And so there's all kinds of parent-child dynamics that we think about in terms of both the children, but also the sibling good dynamics. And as we also know, you know, in certain cultures the expectations for the oldest girl are very different than for the oldest boy, et cetera, et cetera. And those are conventional families. So what happens now when we come to discover, gee, I may, I may be an only child. I hate that term. Also raised by, with only my mom or with two moms, or a mom and a dad even. But I have out there half siblings. What does that mean? So partially what the book is about is trying to figure out how is it possible that those relationships might work or don't work, or how kids then pick and choose between them, which is what you are describing among yourselves. Mm-hmm. And then the last chapter, which is actually not the voices of the, of the donor conceived children, [00:26:00] which is what we tried to feature the most, was the last chapter really as we call the social capitalists. And it's really interviews with only the mothers because their kids were five or under. Still younger than you know, your kids today. And so we wanted to understand how they understood what donor siblings were about and they had very different ideas. They didn't see them, their families or their children as squeezing themselves into older notions about what siblings are about. You know, that you have an obligation if you're older and younger and older and younger. And my study means, you know, you could be a month older, you could be two weeks older, you could be five weeks older, but that's still the oldest child. Right? And we, we do that as we talk about these groups. So we don't have a language and unconventional families are being formed and we put this overlay of this language onto on to what is in technically half siblings. And so part of it is that kids do wanna meet other donor siblings in the end because it gives them some sense of, of maybe [00:27:00] answering questions about who they resemble maybe. Be answering questions about never meeting other donor conceived kids and wanting to know and, and to having people to talk about who are donor conceived because neither of you are donor conceived, for example. So your kids wanna talk to other people like that, and it may be that you do belong to a group or you know, other people, but I was very, very surprised to see that among the teens that I interviewed, even in urban areas, you know, they didn't know other kids who were donor conceived. So this answered questions and it also gave them some information more about who that other half of the, their genetics might be. So I will say having been in community, a large community with other donor concede families in particular Single Mother by Choice has made having the conversation easier and more concrete for my, my daughter who the, the four-year-old doesn't know, she's just like mom, but my eight-year-old, like we, I said, she's coming of age and she's starting to ask questions. And so whenever I hit a roadblock, I'm like, like Edrenna's family, [00:28:00] they're a mom and kid family too. And so now I have families that I can point to so they know that they've got people who are in their peer group that they can go and talk to and share feelings and things like that. Because like you said, I'm never going to know what that feels like. So her experience is gonna be different. Her emotions are gonna be different. Your cha that chapter, I mean, it, it triggered me in such a way, and I don't know if it came across as I was preparing because I was just like the term social capitalist, right? In the context of Capitalist America. It gave me some preconceived notions that I was like, okay, I'm gonna set those aside. Let me give the benefit, the doubt to the chapter. And oh my gosh, the chapter ex it what it lined up with the preconceived notions. Like kids are not commodities, right? And I'm just like, I cringe when it's just like, what my kid is gonna benefit from these relationships. I'm like, they're kids. They're not. Commodities. They're not a Louis Vuitton bag, they're [00:29:00] not a Louis Vuitton shoe. It's not a Tiffany's diamond. They are kids. And you cannot look at those relationships, at least not my kids. And at least I would hesitate to say any relationship with a black family if you are not black. Like what can I get from you? Right. That has connotations. So, so here's what I wanna say. What's sort of interesting is in that chapter there are, there was a heterosexual couple that I interviewed, which was sort of interesting. And they signed up really early. And why did they sign it? Because they saw it as beneficial that not only would they get girl, girl siblings, cuz this was a they had twins, boy twins. But this was a straight couple. And they would meet, you know, single mothers. They would meet lesbian couples that their kids would grow up with much more diversity in quotes than they would have, you know, just being ordinary kids in a normalized family, in quotes, whatever normal means today that was just you know, this straight [00:30:00] white family living in a state. I won't say what state. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Edrenna what, so what did you think when you, when you read the, I was like, I'm not gonna tell you, I'm just gonna give you the book. Well, yeah. You know, I thought it was interesting because I think that some of the you know, looking at it was like, okay, there were some reasons that there were some similarities into why I joined there, but a lot of it was, I didn't think about the diversity and that sort of thing. And it was very interesting to me that the take that the, some of these families had on what would come of these relationships. And it did seem very much like what would, what it would be for them as the parents versus the children. And, and I, and I think it, of course it's because the parents are the ones that are being interviewed. So of course it felt more from their perspective, but less so what their children could get out of it. [00:31:00] And you know, I started thinking like, did I see. connecting with this group of people as something that was to an advantage or is there a privilege? And I just didn't see that. And maybe it's because of the, the dynamic of my group. Like my group is probably the least diverse of what I've heard from, which is, and of course I have all these thoughts. It's like, well, is that because I had a mixed race donor but not black? And so maybe that's why, or, you know that sort of thing. But my group is very, I mean, while there is, the, they're heterosexual and homosexual couples and all of that, there aren't that many from different races, different backgrounds educational backgrounds, like. I probably have the most having a master's degree, whereas you know, and so my group I do have one person that is a lawyer, so, okay. Yeah. So there was, I, but it was, I felt [00:32:00] as though there weren't as many benefits as I wanted to. As I read this group, I was like, oh, I, you know, as I read the chapter, I was like, I wish there were the benefits that they were thinking. Like, that never crossed my mind, and I haven't seen those benefits either in my experience. Right. But the benefits were imagined, benefits that someday my kids will have what we would think of as the equivalent of a Rolodex, whatever it is on your iPhone today. Yeah, yeah. People reach out to, in various countries who will offer them a bed, you know, to sleep on. For example, I, here's what I, here's what I'm gonna say in, in my family. And I'm, I come from Eastern European background of the Holocaust and people, well, whoever lived, lived. And so suddenly I have people showing up, knocking at my door saying I'm a long lost relative. You know, our grandmothers were first cousins and this one went to Australia, and that one went to the United States. And so I found your name and you know, I'm knocking at your door and I say, oh, come on in. I'll give you a bed. We'll have a meal. We'll share. I [00:33:00] don't have no genetic testing even to who these people are, but because they say I'm a long lost relative, we have to, we have some connection. So, and, and I'm willing to like host them. So what I'm saying is that to me is what the benefit is that people are talking about. It's not immediate. In some ways, it's not saying, now I have a sister because I didn't have one before. But it's like this imagined idea of ex of expanding kinship to genetically related strangers, which is what my cousin, it was who showed up at my door, 35 years later after the family dispersed. So it's the same kind of thing, but the way in which you all came to have created donor linked families is very different. So do I think there will be benefits down the road for your children? I don't know. Do I think that the way people are beginning to filter and think about that may in fact be different. Clearly, some of the women that I families that I interviewed, both single mothers as well as lesbian couples and that le for the last chapter also [00:34:00] said things like they filtered according to race or they filtered according to religion. So therefore they expected that they would immediately have more in common with those people who also share the same donor. Now, not everybody did that. So in some ways I think people are becoming more and more savvy to this idea of. How you use that filtering system may in fact be able to extend kinship in all kinds of ways. Though the problem, with that is that when you are looking for a donor, the reality is that if you are of color, they're very hard to find donors of color. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. This makes this set of relationships not as immediate or within a purview of thinking you're, you, you in, in a way that if you have, a hundred white donors, you can in fact say, gee, well how else do I, am I gonna connect with the people who are there? So similarly you picked a donor, I'm presuming based upon stuff that you could share with your kid. You know, it's [00:35:00] interesting that you mentioned that. Story about your cousin and I kind of wonder if it's cultural differences, right? Because now in the black community, we will take children and we have play cousins and things of that nature, but I don't really think an adult showing up, knocking at my door, I would say, yeah, sure, come in, have a meal with me. You know, so I, I, I, I wonder if that's cultural differences, you know, based on experiences of just being trusting. Like, if it was somebody in my neighborhood, right, and I knew them, I might say, yeah, sure come, but I'm not sure a random stranger that was out of context that just said, Hey, I'm, I'm family you know, but that could be my innate protective sense. But it's, it's, interesting. It's fascinating. Well, this cousin came with a long profile, I mean, a long lineage. Oh, they came, they came with bearing papers. They have receipts, they, [00:36:00] your kids, your kids can, you know, they all, they all share. They have the donor profiles. Mm-hmm. So in some ways, I mean, I, I, I don't mean to equate it totally, but I think that in fact we extend family, both fictive and non fictive work choice and non-choice in all kinds of ways so that donor linked families become another way. And all of us are busy, busy in, in quotes trying to figure out a community that we live in. Mm-hmm. And so families become another network for our children, for ourselves to find a affinity. Mm-hmm. And I did, you know, I, think Aisha, you know this story, and I think I have told Roseanne this before, that I did welcome into my house. One of my son's donor sibling's, mom she needed a place to stay while she was in this area and gonna be getting some medical treatment. And she, she called and said, can I, stay at your house and, that sort of thing. And I, I said, sure. [00:37:00] Without even really, you know, another thought. And then when she got here, you know, as it kinda trickled out to my friend group, they were like, you. For some reason use the same donor. And I've met her before and I've been in her house before, so I felt fine doing that even though it was one time. And so I, you know, I, I think that, you know, there's Roseanne, you were saying something about this connection and I do think that in different places and in different, spaces in my life that I was kind of craving that connection. And I think this was another way to kind of say, okay, I do want that connection not just from Evan, but for my, myself as well. So, I'm a little bit wishy-washy with it cuz it feels like, yes, I do want this. And then sometimes it feels like, eh, well it's not exactly what I pictured and cause it doesn't fit in the box that I pictured about this. Which is bizarre that [00:38:00] I had this, I had a clear picture of what I thought. Connecting with these, these people that, just happen to randomly pick the same donor as I did. But I had this picture and that I wanted, and clear focus, but it hasn't lived up to that picture. So, Edrenna, before we get too, far away, I have two questions for you that I think are going to be important for our listing audience. What language do you use to speak about the, the donor offspring? Like do you use brother, sister, donor, sibling? That's one question. The second question is, how do you navigate the relationship with the other adults? Yeah, so I tell my son, I, refer to them as donor siblings, although I will say after this conversation I'm gonna think a little bit more about it because, I have siblings and I know what that's like. But I, you know, and so there is this so I'm gonna think on that this has been thought provoking for me too. But I do refer to them as donor siblings. And then in terms of [00:39:00] navigating the relationships with the parents, I do refer to them as you know, my son's donor, sibling parents. And that's how I see them is I see them as parents, just like any parents of other, you know, friends of my son in school and that sort of thing. And so with that, I think I treat them as like the ones that I've become closer to feel like close friends, right? Mm-hmm. Whereas the others feel more like acquaintances or people that I'm deciding, like at school, you know, at, when you're at a school function, like, is that a mom that I wanna be friends with? Like, can they be, is this person my people like that? I kind of keep, I'm doing that a little bit, you know? Mm-hmm. So in navigating those relationships, and even when my son met the mom of one of his donor siblings that stayed here, that I was mentioning that's how I referred to her as, I was like, oh, remember how you, you know, a donor helped mommy get pregnant with you? This the same thing. And he [00:40:00] was like, oh, and he was like, so are we related? And like, you're not to her, But you know, and so it was an interesting conversation to have. But you know, I called them friends, the ones that I'm closer to. So for me, the donor sibling mom that I'm friends with, she's just like, yeah, they're siblings. And I'm like, oh, did we decide on that? And I was just like, oh, I'm not sure. So I still kept it kind of amorphous, like, we're going to visit friends, right? They're, they're kind of like family, but they're friends. You know, we use the same donor. So for me, in my head where, what I call them as a two step process, they're friends and we use the same donor. they kind of go together Now for my daughter, since she's becoming older and more aware, and since the donor brother that we were closest to is younger, significantly younger, two years, I would just be like, oh, you know, Here they are. Go play. Right? I never had to define the relationship. And so I asked my daughter recently, like, so we're going to see them. What do [00:41:00] you wanna call them? And she was just like, I was like, you know, we use the same donor. Do you wanna call them donor siblings? Do you wanna call them brother? She's just like, oh, donor friend. And I was just like, okay, because she has a sibling, And so sibling means something different to her. So similar to what you said, Edrenna, it means something different. And so she's not going, it's not the same relationship. She knows that. So it's just like a friend, right? That's, that's the loosely form way of the relationship. But it's closer than that. So she just inserts donor. I have a feeling that she's going to, to work with that over the years until she finds what works, but she knows it's not a sibling. And then in terms of navigating the relationships with the adults, Similar to you. I'm like, if I consider you a friend, we're just friends, right? I don't have to delineate who you are. The donor sibling mom. Now I do it on the podcast and I do it in, you know, mixed company. But when we're together and we're with the kids are together, I'm just like, yeah, whatever. I don't even have to define it. You're my friend, [00:42:00] you're my sister. we're just doing this now for the, the, the lesbian couple. I think I still just call them so-and-so's mom. Right. And it's just like, you know, we're just going to, as if he were one of her friends, this is so-and-so's mom and you know, she hasn't asked deeper questions than that. But I think that we're going to start getting into that newer territory where we're starting to have the puberty talks, which weird her out. But that's my opportunity to say, you know, we talk about egg and we talk about sperm and where they come from. Well, the doctor took the egg and the sperm and she loves to hear about her conception story. So does, you know, Camille and Camille will run and be like, mommy, the doctor took the egg and the sperm and put me in your belly. And then I just grew, grew, grew, and my big head was poking. I was just like, yeah, you got that spot on. But you know, there, there's something special. But I think the terminology we use and how the relationship evolves is just going to change over time as she gets bigger, more comfortable and more settled in her identity. And it's the [00:43:00] situation, right? Like you said, she has a sibling, whereas Evan does not. Right? And so then that becomes, another layer on top of like, what do you call them? And if this is a relationship that he's wanting that's more than a friend and you know, it, it feels like it will get more complicated and there'll be more discussion and there'll have to be more thought around the language. You know, once you, you know, they get older and start asking even more questions than they do now. I did wanna say that in my research, it turns out that kids who don't have siblings, that they're being raised with, Actually find the donor siblings have more possibilities for having some kind of intimacy with them or establishing a closer relationship as they grow older. So it's sort of interesting that you have you, one of you as two children, one of you as one child, and you react differently. But I, I do wanna throw one more thing out there because I do think that donor siblings offer [00:44:00] our kids a number of things. And one of them is, you know, in thinking about my cousins and how my relationship with my cousins has changed over time, I don't know about you but for me, you know, when I was younger I was friendly with this one, and then I hated that one. And then I was friendly with this one. But I knew those people from a very early age. And so I have memories with them and over time, you know, I, I don't, some of these relationships are dormant and then I, you know, reinvigorate them. So what I'm saying is, and I wonder sometimes if we know the donor siblings over time, if the possibility exists to call upon that network mm-hmm. Which is what the social capitalists were talking about. Mm-hmm. That our kids will have the ability, cuz they know that these kids exist. That if they want those relationships, they can call upon them on the basis that we all share the same donor in some ways, but that will never be the basis for becoming socially connected or to develop a tie. I will say that I do think that that will be an [00:45:00] added bonus, I came from a large family, I'm one of eight, and at any given time, I'm not speaking to four of them. But then I have the other four, so it's just like, yeah, no, no loss there. And so I, I do anticipate that being an added bonus, and it's something that they will totally forge on their own, right? But we create the space so that they know Each other exists. Before we start to, wrap things up, I do wanna do a round robin of dos and don'ts. Now I'm going to sit this one out and let Rosanna and Edrenna talk about dos and don'ts of meeting donor siblings, like, you know, so, 1 don't, is don't assume that you wanna call them brother or sister, So, best practices, Rosanna. Edrenna, from your experience, I will say, I guess best practices is and I'm learning from my own lessons, is really taking the opportunity to understand as much as you possibly can around the, the, the adult, these [00:46:00] adults, right? That are, you know, that use the same donor. and I think that kind of having, not having big expectations, that's another, like, don't have big expectations cuz I had this grand expectation of, you know, this big network and, going on vacations together and stuff. Cause I'd heard other folks do this. And so I think, keeping your expectations in check and understanding that other people are at different levels and different places in making these connections and kind of. going at it in a slow way. You know, and I, and another do I think is really talking to your child and just kind of keeping the fact that there are these folks that they're genetically connected to. You know, keeping that at least as a conversation so that when they have the opportunity and want the opportunity, they already know about it. It's not like a surprise. There's, you know, 14 other kids [00:47:00] that are half genetically like you. So that, that type of thing. so I think, and I love your response, Edrenna you should become the expert here. So I, you know, in some ways I think that we need to prepare parents and children for the fact that not all donor sibling. Donor siblings, in quotes, or their parents are gonna become close to one another, that at this point it's possible that there's gonna be 25, 30, 40 people families involved or kids, which is huge and you can't possibly become friendly with everyone. And these relationships also, as Aisha was talking about, are pretty the groups themselves are not stable. You know, on this year there's like 10, and next year there's 20. And so kids come forward and as they become teenagers, more of them will be doing, will, maybe searching on their own. But overall it's the parents or the mothers who made those first attempts to try to find out who the others were. Both outta curiosity more so than anything else. And then some of them have formed connections. But I think that the critical issue [00:48:00] there is that whether or not everyone. On bonds with one another becomes problematic or not necessary. And I also think it depends upon what age donor conceived kids meet one another. So I also think that that matters because teenagers, if they meet for the first time as teenagers, you know how teenagers are you know, they really, they have other interests than, family and that kind of stuff. So when they meet younger, they meet older that, that, that have different relationships. I do think for some of the kids that I've interviewed who are donor conceived, they did view these relationships in the end of saying, I really would like to, I imagine myself being an aunt to some of these kids going forward. Mm-hmm. So I think, telling donor conceived kids that their donor conceived and disclosing that means, I think also disclosing at some point early on the fact that there could be other kids out there. That we could know at some point who happened to also share that donor. So when a kid goes to kindergarten and says, so how many kids are you in? Are in your family? Don't be surprised if your kid [00:49:00] turns around and says, well, I have 10 siblings. They're not all my moms, but you know, there are, 10 siblings in my network, whatever that means. And then you have to explain it to the teacher. Yes. Okay. So y'all, y'all were, y'all are further ahead than I am. My little list of dos and don'ts, don't expect other families to lie for you. So if you did not disclose that your kid is donor conceived, my kid is not gonna help. Keep your secret, neither will I. So that is an opportunity for you to opt out of the relationship. Don't imply a traditional sibling relationship unless discussed ahead of time. Don't get in front of my kid and be like, this is your brother. We need to agree on the language, do remain flexible in the logistics and dynamics of setting up that first meeting, right? Because a lot of us are in different countries and different states. Where are we meeting and is it going to be like, you know, equitable, you know, for, for folks to get there? Are we taking that stuff into account? Do agree on who can be present for that [00:50:00] first meeting? And I got this from your book Rosanna, where it's just like, no, we're not bringing grandma and grandpa and auntie em and them. No, it's just going to be us and the immediate family, right? Do ask before photographing someone else's kid. Yes, it's cute to see the similarities, but please don't take pictures of my child without my permission. Still my child, right? Same sperm, but still my child. And then do ask before sharing photos of donor siblings, I think this is kind of, you know an unspoken rule across social media with parents in general. Mm-hmm. But I think in particular, like, oh my gosh, they look so much alike. They could be twins. And it's just like, look at this picture. And it's just like, I don't want, that's going to be a real violation of my trust if I were to ever see my kid's face circulating on your page without my knowledge. And so that's kind of where I am. I'm still at the very early stages, like, here are the playground rules. This is what we're not going to do. Right. Can we play hopscotch? But y'all are far more ahead than I am. [00:51:00] Well, Rosanna, Edrenna any final closing words? Anything we wanna leave the audience with before we go? You know, I think it's, I, I think the audience after listening will understand that, all of us, as single mothers are in different places and different stages with this. Whereas I'm on one spectrum that's, free, flowing, welcoming this you know, piece of the puzzle into my life. Whereas you're like a bit more stepping cautiously and all of that is mm-hmm. Okay. Right. Yeah. So yeah. And then Rosana, I just wanna say that it's been great to see you both again, and I really enjoyed our conversation. And it really gets me thinking about how unconventional families continue to be unconventional mm-hmm. And all the exciting ways and in all the exciting journeys and twists and turns that, come with, parenthood. All right. Well, Rosana, where can people find you? Where can people find you in particular, if they have delayed parenthood and have used [00:52:00] donor gametes where can they find you? Where can they reach out to you? So they can reach out to me at r hertz wellesley.edu. R h e r t z wellesley.edu. It's Rosanna Hertz at Wellesley College and, looking for people to interview always. And I would be honored to include you in my current research, but I hope to see you both again. You will. You will. And then what's the name of your book again? It's called Random Families, genetic Strangers, sperm Donors, siblings, and The Creation of New Kin. All right, y'all. Well, thank you for this conversation, and until next time, bye now. Thank you. Bye. [00:53:00]

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