[I wrote this post for Philadelphia's Listen To Your Mother Show this past May. Participating in the show was an awesome experience and I was honored to share the stage with the stellar cast. Auditions are happening all over the country and if there is a show near you, I strongly encourage you to submit something.]
We created our family in a fairly unconventional way. Well, not that unconventionally – we met, fell in love, built a home and life together and made each other so happy we thought it would be great to share our love with another person – so we came to the decision to have a baby in a pretty normal way. But once the decision was made to expand our family – that’s where we hit a snag. You see, we didn’t have any sperm. Not an insurmountable obstacle, but definitely something that required a little planning.
My partner Jessica and I researched all our options. Initially we went the bank route – we purchased an insanely expensive, tiny vial of frozen sperm each month that arrived in a space-age nitrogen tank time-bomb that would sit in the corner of our living room slowly defrosting while we waited for my ovaries to release that magic egg. Months and months passed with no luck. We sought the help of a doctor who used a catheter to get these pricey swimmers as close to the action as possible. More months – still no plus line on the pee stick. We tried fertility drugs, acupuncture, eating pineapple… My reproductive system just wouldn’t cooperate.
After two years our emotional reserves were as low as our bank account balance. We had to re-evaluate if and how we could move forward. Adoption? Fostering? Accept life as a childless couple? Or…an option that we’d written off in the beginning: using a known donor – someone we knew, loved, and trusted to help us build our family.
We’d quickly dismissed the possibility before – it could get so sticky legally and emotionally. But suddenly we found ourselves thinking about all the positives of this arrangement. When our child had questions about how he was created we could tell him about his donor in more concrete terms than an anonymous profile on paper would allow. We could always ask about medical history if something unexpected should come up. Not to mention the likelihood that it would be free.
The benefit that would ultimately become the most dear to us though, was somewhat unique to our situation. You see, the person that we were considering asking was Jessica’s brother. There is no doubt these two are related. Their facial features mirror each other, they share the same expressions, laughs, mannerisms… I didn’t think much of it at the time – after all, there was no guarantee this would work. Plus, all the other options we’d been looking into did not have a genetic link to both (or even one) of us and I would not have loved those theoretical children any less than one that smiled at me with Jessica’s sheepish smile.
Next thing we knew we were welcoming our son Leo – and he is a little bit of both Jessica and me; something we never thought we’d share. It felt so right. I know some people might find the way we came about making our family a little strange. And honestly, if I think about it, I guess it is a little weird – but living it – it seems so natural.
People ask, “Isn’t it complicated that your brother-in-law is your son’s father?” – but it’s not, because he’s not his father. He’s our son’s Uncle. An Uncle that was generous enough to supply the ingredient we were missing to make our beautiful son. A freaking fantastic Uncle, who adores his nephew – but is very comfortable and happy enjoying the perks of Uncle-hood (like handing the kid back to us when he’s throwing a tantrum or has a dirty diaper). It works for us.
Now, two years after the birth of our son we are awaiting the birth of our second child (also created with the help of Jessica’s brother). And as Leo slips his miniature version of Jessica’s hand in mine, looking back at me through my own eyes that are sparkling with excitement as he tells me all the things he wants to do with his new brother/sister – I can’t imagine our family any other way.