<--Lovergirl in fishermen's pants
Before we met him, Donor Dan had already successfully donated to another couple, Alwyn & Yolande, who live in Japan but are moving to England as I write. Yolande is Australian, Alwyn is German. Their son, Armand, is 18 months old. Recently they came to Australia for a couple of weeks to so Armand could meet Danny & James for the first time. He is exceptionally cute and a very happy little boy.
I really liked Alwyn & Yolande, and I'm keen to stay in touch. I think it will become important to all the kids, as they get older, to be familiar with those biological connections. The four of us were talking about how we would explain the kids' relationships to each other. I had some garbled spiel in my head about being 'like cousins' - I suppose a bit like I see Donor Dan & James as being 'like uncles' - but Alwyn said, 'You know, they are half-brothers and sisters.' For some reason that pulled me up short. That's a very close relationship. Our kids will have half-siblings that will probably never even live in the same country. I take our nuclear family structure for granted - it's really not that different to your average suburban family (except apparently two women are better at equally dividing household & childrearing tasks than a woman and a man - hard to believe I know). But there are so many important members of our family that don't have names.
What do you call the non-biological mother? (well, at least that's easy - mummy)
How do you label your relationship to your donor?
What do you call the other kids sired by your donor, but not to your family?
What do I call the parents of the other kids sired by our donor?
I call Lovergirl's family 'my in-laws' (or when I'm being not-very-funny, 'my out-laws'), which is easy shorthand that everyone understands. No one really cares that we're not actually married, and the emotional content of my relationship with them is the same as if they really were legally my in-laws. If I was talking about our relationship to Alwyn & Yolande's family, what would I say? 'The women who are the parents of the other family our donor donated to'?
I remember small snippets from Dale Spender's Man Made Language, which I read about fifteen years ago. She talked about the importance of having words to describe experiences and how the possibilities and limitations of language shape one's ability to think. You know, like the Inuit have twenty-seven (or whatever) different words for snow, while we have one, plus a couple of descriptors (powdery, slushy). So we don't see all the different gradations of snow because we don't have the linguistic capacity to distinguish.
Calling Lovergirl's family my in-laws is legally untrue but emotionally true for me. Conversely, for me the label 'half-brothers and sisters' doesn't really work for the relationship between kids of the same donor. Biologically it's correct - they have half the same genetic material - but being a brother or sister, or even half a one, implies a particular sort of relationship in my mind. It's an emotional term not only a biological one. I know we'll end up using it, and we'll adopt it and it will no longer seem unwieldy and inappropriate. But it feels kind of clunky - uncomfortable - and as we move into parenthood I find more and more concepts for which I don't have the language to describe my world.