My most popular blog last year was an interview with my twelve year old son, Corin, about his experience of having two mums. His story resonated with lots of parents and many of them showed it to their kids who loved it too. I think that voice – of kids and teenagers growing up in a rainbow family – is still quite rare and that’s one of the reasons why people love to hear it. And it’s a really important voice too, especially at a time when our families constantly draw negative comment from the conservative and religious right. Importantly for me, it was a very positive experience for Corin.
This weekend Corin had his first public speaking engagement. He was asked to share his experience of being donor conceived to an audience of about one hundred people who attended the Time To Tell seminar run by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA). He aced it – if I do say so myself – and was seriously chuffed afterwards.
Later, Corin asked if we might post his speech on my blog. One of the issues discussed at the seminar was the fact that once you tell your kids their story it belongs to them and you have no control over who they tell, or how they tell it. And that can be a bit scary, or not. So, here’s Corin’s speech – unedited – about donors, dads and half-siblings.
I remember when I first learnt about ‘Donor Dave’. It was about the time I was learning how babies are made – I was like about four maybe. You need a man and a woman; you need a sperm and an egg. That’s pretty much all I knew. So I was curious and I asked one day: ‘How was I made?’
My mum (Jacqui) told me to sit down and she explained how I had a donor, David, and that he gave us the sperm and Sarah (my other mum) provided the egg. It was sort of like a lecture, a mini lecture, an info talk. And I was cool with it. I didn’t react badly. I was just: ‘Okay, that’s cool.’
As I’ve grown up I’ve started to understand the other issues. At the beginning I didn’t know how it worked, but I’m twelve now so I understand more. Legally, he’s not my dad, but biologically he is, but that’s only biologically; really he’s not. And I’m completely cool with that.
I think it was a good way to hear about it. I think it’s bad to leave it until kids are about my age now. I think it’s easier to tell earlier, but not when kids are really little so about four or five is fine. And don’t just say: ‘You have a donor’. You should sit down with them and explain how they were made – you need to explain about how babies are made first so they are not completely confused – and then just let it out gently.
If other people ask I usually say: ‘It’s none of your business’, or I say: ‘I have a donor and that’s all you need to know.’ My very close friends know the whole story. I’ve told them there’s a man named David who provided sperm and Sarah provided the egg.
It gets very annoying when people keep asking. Last year one kid just wanted to know everything and I’m, like, you don’t need to know this information. In the end, I said I would tell the teacher and he gave up after that. But it gets very old, very quickly.
So, how do I see my relationship with David? Well, I don’t think of him as my dad. I think of him as a biologically related person. He’s not my dad, but he’s someone in my family. As far as I’m concerned he’s just a family friend connected to me by DNA.
Not long after I was told I met him for the first time and I was like: ‘Are you Donor Dave?’ And he was, like: ‘Yes I am’. I’ve met him a couple of times now. I’ve got some presents from him that I still have, surprisingly, because I got them when I was little. We’ve chatted and he’s a really nice man.
Also there’s another part of this story I’d like to share.
So a couple of years back we were at a rainbow family picnic and I was playing with these two kids, Maisie and Dougal. We hit it off straight away. They had just started Minecraft Pocket Edition (Minecraft on the iPad/iPhone) and I gave them some building tips. I told them how to build an okay house and things picked up from there. Now we see them a lot.
A little while after that I was sitting at the counter in the morning and Jacqui told me that we all had the same donor. And I was completely cool with it. I said ‘freaky!’ a few times. ‘Freaky, but good’. It was weird finding it out, because until that picnic we didn’t know who their donor was and they didn’t know who’s ours was. It’s not every day you find out you have a half-brother or half-sister.
Dougal was overjoyed when he heard. He just gave me a hug straight away and said ‘Yay!’ I think they loved it. Maisie knew what it was like to have an older brother, though I didn’t torment her because I’m a good person. Dougal’s very annoying and I do torment him, but it’s not really tormenting; it’s just like brotherly love. They loved the news. They were so happy. Maisie was like: ‘Yay give me a hug as well,’ and I hugged her back.
It’s just like an extended family really. I don’t think you should take it as: Gosh, no I don’t want to be related. Think of it as a good thing. My good friends know. Adriaan has met them a couple of times. Everyone was like: Aah that’s cool or, that’s really nice dude.
I know there could be, like, ten other kids out there who have the same donor and I wouldn’t think of them as family. I think of Maisie and Dougal as family because I know them. If I don’t know them I’m not going to consider them as family.
To finish off I would like to give some advice to parents. Some people might be nasty to your son or daughter about the fact that they have a donor and say that that means you are not their real parents. Tell your kids this: ‘We are your parents no matter what anyone says. If other kids say we are not your parents just because you have a donor then they are idiots.’ Say: ‘We are your parents. We love you.’ (But maybe if the kids are very little, don’t use the word ‘idiot’ because it is a bit rude. Also I don’t want to be responsible for your kids learning bad language).
Corin Nichols Tomlins