With same sex marriage now becoming legal in many states, the focus has turned to the emotional health of the children of these relationships. The majority of the studies indicate that children raised in same sex relationships do just as well as children raised in heterosexual relationships. In 1991, when I first considered egg donation for my friend, IVF had been around for slightly more than 10 years and egg donation was fairly new. See My Mothering Story for details about my family make-up. How and when to inform children about their origins was still being debated. We both agreed that we would not keep the biologic origins of the child secret, but were unsure of the best time to divulge that information. Once the triplets were born, survival mode set in for both of us, what with parenting and jobs, and further thought about when to have the “talk” disappeared into the future. As the children became school age and their relationships with each other deepened, even though they only saw each other once a year, the adults started to talk more seriously about informing the children before adolescence became an issue. We had a trip planned together the summer my oldest was finishing 5th grade and the triplets were entering 5th grade. We decided to separately inform the oldest 4 immediately after this vacation. The talk with my oldest son was very anti-climatic (as most talks with boys concerning sex education often are). He thought it was “cool” that one of his best friends was his half-brother and wanted to know how soon he could tell all of his friends. Consequently, more of our talk focused on privacy and how others may not be as enthusiastic about the story. Additionally, many close relatives had still not been informed and we wanted all of our children to understand before the general public was aware. Each year when the two younger boys entered 5th grade, we would have the same discussion and get the same brief response. The discussion with our daughters was a bit more emotional and complex, given their adoption story and the “girl” issues. More on that in another post.
The triplets are now 22 years old and finishing college. We were able to visit with one of the girls last week and while visiting her, skyped with her sister. I am very proud of the young adults they are becoming, and see parts of their personalities reflected in my children. I have asked each of the 8 children (biologic, egg donor and adoption) to reflect on their knowledge of “family” and how it has influenced their lives. Following is the letter I received from the oldest triplet regarding her memory of the “talk” and her current feelings about how her family was formed.
I can remember when my parents sat the three of us down around the firepit as we sat outside the cabin we had rented for the week in Steamboat. The flames flickered purple and ash floated into the air as if they were shooting stars. My mother and father told the three of us that night, as the fire danced in front of our eyes, how Leslee had given my mother the eggs in order to conceive us. Leslee, she explained, was our biological mother. So, my mother was not my mother at all, I thought at the time. I had been living with someone, cared for by someone, who was not really my mother.
I had a much harder time than my other sibling of coming to accept the fact that I was not biologically my mother’s child. Even after my mother sat me down weeks later and explained to me that she was the one to raise me and love me and therefore, she was more my mother than Leslee could ever be, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Leslee could somehow be more apart of me than my own mom.
I think being able to visit the Jaegers during the holidays, going to their lake house in the summer, and sledding in the icy Minnesota terrain in the winter, allowed me to see how our families were meshed together in the most beautiful way possible. Those few weeks in summer and winter made me realize how I shared something so special with Leslee that most girls and boys don’t get to experience in their lifetime.
I began to see how I had not only one biological mother, or one mother who took care of me. I had two mothers. It didn’t matter which one gave me my genes and which one raised me. They are equally apart of me. I was loved and raised by two strong, beautiful women and I could not have asked for two better role models in my life.
As I grow older I begin to see how I have become a woman representative of the two women who have shaped my life the most. Like my mother I am resilient, tough, and determined. But she has also given me her soft, spiritual glow, imbuing in me a love for God and the things that surround me each and every day. My similarities to Leslee I see more through my interests and the path that my life is beginning to take. Like Leslee, I love to read. I find myself constantly talking with her about the latest books we have found and fallen in love with. Also similar to Leslee, I have a spirit for adventure and want to explore every nook and cranny of the world, not just to see the wonders it holds, but to help the people who inhabit it. I find myself starting to begin a career in healthcare. I’m still not sure how this will take shape. But already through my experiences I have surprised myself with finding a passion for maternal healthcare—something that Leslee is obviously passionate about as well.
Although I struggled as a child to come to accept the unique and interesting way I was brought into this world, I have come to appreciate the beauty in my conception. How many people can say that they have two moms who love and care for them so deeply that they would do anything for them? How many people can say they have two families and no matter what, each of those siblings and parent figures are there for one another? I am extremely blessed. Not only was my siblings and I a gift to my mother, but Leslee and her family are a gift to us all.