Saturday, August 09, 2008

Blood ties

How important is consanguinity to family?

A woman at the Sutton Park fete last weekend started talking to me about her IVF kids. She was straight, but they'd used donor sperm as her husband's swimmers didn't swim.

So now I'm thinking about the layers of closetedness available to us and the importance of blood ties. For her and her husband, no one will question that they are a family. Man, woman, two children; he's obviously involved, loves them all - they must be a family.

Although Lovergirl is in exactly the same position - involved in the conception and birth, totally there for the children, absolutely considers them hers - we don't have that layer of assumption open to us. People ask, 'Who gave birth to the children?' So far we usually tell people. Friends of ours have a standard response, 'We don't think that question is relevant to our family'! They say they would prefer people didn't know who the biological mother is, to avoid setting up a 'real mother/other mother' hierarchy. I haven't been game to try that one yet but I see the appeal. I've told L that next time someone asks, we need to say that she carried them, just so she can see whether it feels any different to be assumed the birth mother (and I can see what it's like to be assumed the non-birth mother). When she is out with the children by herself of course, people assume she is the birth mother - and it becomes less of an issue as they get older, maybe, as the birth story isn't so prominent.

We have to create a family that relies on neither blood nor legal ties. I feel our little family is very strong - maybe even because it is solely reliant on our commitment, rather than resting on implicit roles.

But it galls me that some people don't think of us as a 'real' family.


Suze said...

In some way, when people ask who gave birth, I take it as a recognition that it's not obvious to them that either one of us has a blood tie to the child.
My own 'blood' relationship to my son is important to me but it's just one component of my relationship to him. I see no need to deny it though, but that could be because my partner never aspired to give birth.

E, M, and the Little Man said...

We haven't had anyone ask who the birth mother is. Perhaps people are more candid in Australia? I don't know.

Yesterday evening we were at dinner and Teo was turning around and being social with women in other parts of the small restaurant. When one of them got up to leave, she felt it was important to come over and tell Maria (who was sitting closest to Teo) how much she enjoyed interacting with our son and how beautiful she thought he was. I felt a twinge. A twinge because this was the first time, in my presence, that someone saw Maria as Teo's mother and I was invisible. She didn't look my way, she was only speaking to Maria. If I had been a guy sitting next to Maria, I'm guessing she might have looked at both of us, and seen us as "The parents." The twinge bothered me. I'm sure Maria felt a twinge too - a twinge of pride that this woman saw Teo as her son even though she is not the birth mom and is not yet legally tied to Mateo.

aztec-rose said...

It is strange how hung up on 'blood ties' when it is who cares that counts. What about the parents who abandon children and yet always remain a 'father' or 'mother' to that child. I'm thinking of that little child Pumpkin who was unceremoneously dumped at a train station by her 'dad'...IVF is a great challenge to the whole debate. My daugher is a wonderful product of the IVF process, but if I was to go through it again, I would have to use donor eggs. I would carry the baby, and my partner and I would nurture it, but that uneccessary worry about blood ties would always your blog

Mikhela said...

I think it's true, Suze, that part of our sensitivity to this is that L also wanted to carry a child. It's less of an issue now that they're here. But it is a product of our groping around in the dark to create a family that we are sensitive to how it is reflected in the community. Maybe we'll develop thicker hides as we go along. Being actively involved in lobbying for change also means we are often hearing stories of when it doesn't work - when our own family identity isn't enough.