My husband was a sperm donor: perspective from the partner of a bio-dad

Guest post by hillary
Does it matter how these feet are all related? Photo by MyAngelG, used with Creative Commons license.
Does it matter how these feet are all related? Photo by MyAngelG, used with Creative Commons license.

When I met my partner, he already had a child. He is not her father, her dad, or her parent, but he is a part of her family. She has a biological Mama, and an adoptive Mommy, and he signed over his legal rights as parent.

My partner B’s mother has a good friend, Sarah, who was looking for a sperm donor so she and her wife Liz could start a family. B’s mom recommended B to them, and after much discussion and legal paperwork, they all agreed. And Bean was born. When I met B, he had a photo album of Bean that Sarah and Liz had put together for him, which he showed me on our first date. He’d been to visit them, and had photos of him holding Bean when she was very tiny. Being a liberal kind of woman, I thought it was a really cool and interesting relationship, and so wonderful that they are all in each other’s lives, and his mother has become the “other grandmother,” though she is called by her name.

Then I met Bean at her second birthday party, and realized soon after that I was sad that when we had a baby, it wouldn’t be his first, or his parent’s first grandchild. I didn’t expect this, and knew it was a silly thing to be sad about, but it was something I put some work into, and I got over it. I still have no idea where that sadness came from.

The month after Bean’s birthday, Liz and Sarah invited B over for dinner, and asked him if he would be willing to help them have another baby. He agreed, and when he came home he asked me how I felt about it. I felt fine, although when they called to have him come over not long after that, it felt really quick. I had thought I might be included in some conversation about it, but looking back, they had only met me once, and didn’t know how long I’d be around anyway.

Nine months later, B and I were living together and planning our wedding. Sarah called B to see if we could come over because the baby was on the way. Liz had driven herself to the hospital earlier that day, and was admitted. B stayed with Bean, while I drove Sarah to the hospital to be with Liz, and then drove back. B’s mom came over around 10 to stay with Bean through the night. And the next day, Bean had a sister, Sprout.

I don’t remember exactly how old Sprout was when we met her, but we were at B’s parent’s house, and she was tiny. I was hesitant to hold her at first. I think I wanted to show her moms that I knew who her parents were, but I didn’t know how to do that and hold her, too. B’s mom took care of that, and just thrust her into my arms. And when it was time for Sprout to be adopted by Sarah, we were there, with B’s parents and Sarah’s parents, at City Hall.

After I got pregnant, we started talking about how our kids would be related to each other, and how to define it to them. When Bean was learning about where babies come from, and specifically, the baby in Mama’s belly, she was told that it was a piece of Mama and a piece of B that came together, so she’s always known they are related in some way. We eventually decided on “sort-of” cousins. I figure it’s enough for now for them to know that they are family, and when they get older they can define their own relationships.

Our daughter Little Bear is now 19 months old, and our families get together when we can. Usually it’s a special occasion, but sometimes it’s for an impromptu bike ride to drop off a book we’re lending. Often the girls will play together at B’s parents’ house. In the summer, our two families, plus B’s parents and brother go out to B’s mom’s best friend’s house to spend a long weekend with her family. We lounge in the sun and eat good food, talk and laugh a lot. Recently, Bean, who is 6 now, spent an evening carrying Little Bear everywhere she went. Sprout, who is 3 and a half, and Little Bear are close enough in age that they are interested in some of the same toys, so they have some struggles over “mine” and sharing.

Anyone who has friends in same-sex relationships knows about the legal challenges, and how much weight is given to biological parents here in the US. We’ve heard the bad stories.

Sarah and Liz have been role models for B and me, because we don’t know many people with children, and we really respect their parenting styles. They’ve also been role models for our friends who are in same-sex relationships; they show that this kind of uniquely blended family can work.

Anyone who has friends in same-sex relationships knows about the legal challenges, and how much preference is given to biological parents here in the US. We’ve heard the bad stories. I don’t know exactly how this has worked out so well, but I think it’s partly because we have been really honest and have put some work into identifying and working through our issues. I think we’ve all been really open and willing to talk about uncomfortable things.

I know as our kids grow up and gain a more subtle understanding of biology, family, culture, and life, there will be many more conversations. I’m looking forward to the girls exploring what it means to be family, and I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to do the same. More than anything, I’m looking forward to spending time with my extended, blended family.

Comments on My husband was a sperm donor: perspective from the partner of a bio-dad

  1. I got stuck on the title of this post. I mean no disrespect, but the dad part of bio-“dad” is hard for me. Why not just call him a donor? As you say early on, he’s not their dad. Just a thought.

    • I chose to use the title for him that the mothers themselves use. I’ve never heard the moms refer to him as their “donor,” but they do call him the “biological father,” so that is the term I use.

    • because it seems like he does have some role in their life, the role of biological father. more similar to that of a birth mother than a sperm donor.

  2. Thanks so much for this. We’re facing a somewhat similar situation (but completely different at the same time!) – we’ve connected with 3 other families in our city who used the same (anonymous, through a sperm bank) donor that we did. We’re taking things slowly, and trying to just navigate the complexity of the relationships in an organic way, as the babies now are all small. We’re trying to figure out how this will all work in the future, if we do stay in contact with them (which I think we will…they are all pretty cool families anyway!).

    • That’s when it gets really interesting!

      We have a number of lesbian friends (all of whom know Sarah and Liz, and have seen a possible future for themselves in how they have created a family). We’re keeping an open mind…none of them are ready to start a family yet, though.

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this! It was wonderful to hear the full version of your story 🙂 I’m sending it to our donor-to-be and his wife – I think she’ll really love reading your perspective.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing! My partner and I are trying to conceive with the help of a known donor – I love hearing how this has worked out for all of you!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. My partner and I also conceived our two daughters with the help of an awesome known donor, a good friend of mine. I love that our kids (our donor and his wife also have two little ones) get to know each other and how they came into the world with love.

  6. Thanks for sharing! It’s an interesting perspective, and I admire that you handle it well — I’m not sure how I’d feel in your shoes. It sounds like you guys have a lovely family dynamic, and it’s heartwarming to hear how things can work out well. 😀

  7. This is pretty righteous. I’m all about offbeat extended families. I’m also all about acknowledging and living through your emotions rather than squashing them. Sounds like you figured it out pretty well.

  8. Wow. This is a situation I have never thought about! What an interesting experience. Thank you for sharing.

    It got my wheels spinning…as I get older of course I date people with more and more experiences in their lives. Some I like, some I don’t but people come as a package deal…all they have been through and done shape who they are and we have to decide if we can deal with those things and them.

    This just really got me thinking…what would I do in that situation.

    I think it is always good to think about yourself and your reactions and I truly appreciate you sharing your story and getting me thinking outside the box.

  9. Thanks for sharing this Hillary. I’ve recently become a to-be-known donor, and have been imagining how my future family will intergrate with the donor family down the road. Perspectives from partners of donors have been very difficult to find. I’m sure your story will be found and appreciated by many people in the same situation.

  10. Hi – we’re a lesbian couple with two kids conceived with a known donor. Our donor and his partner are involved with our kids and we all see each other about once a month. It’s been a wonderful experience. I can tell you from the other side that we are eternally grateful to the man who has given us our family. He is a wonderful guy and a great uncle to our children. One thing about being a queer parent is the chance to reinvent family. It’s awesome.

  11. Thank you for your post. My story’s a little different. I’m the partner of a potential sperm donor. He was approached recently by a lesbian couple that knows him well. They’ve said they would want him and me to be involved, but a number of the particulars are still unclear to me, such as what level of involvement they would want us to have. Your feelings of sadness resonate with me because, when I’m totally honest with myself and with D, I admit that I could feel jealous or somewhat separate from the group. I feel like it’s a pretty immature reaction on my part, but it also feels honest so I’m trying not to judge it.

    I appreciate your comment that you felt sad. You also wrote that you knew it was a silly reaction and you worked at it and got over it. Personally, I don’t want to call that feeling silly because it feels like it might be a normal stage for the partner of a sperm donor to go through. It made me very happy to read your comment–a sigh of relief that someone else admits to having felt a similar way. That said, I do want to get over it–especially if D decides he’s really into it and wants to be an involved donor.

    Do you have any advice for how you “got over it”?

  12. Thanks Hilary, my partner has become a donor to his close friends. Jen is three months pregnant which is exciting! this will be my partners first child and I’m curious about how you worked through your feelings of sadness. I’ve had some productive open discussions with everyone and i do feel better, but I’m a tad worried that I haven’t absolutely resolved my feelings. The mums have a lovely counsellor that we all have had a session with, she knows the whole story and is very supportive. Did you talk it through with a counsellor? Thanks so much for you blog! It’s lovely to hear a positive story.

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