Innovations in reproductive technology have created new family relationships. We still haven't found language to describe who we are to each other.
What do you call the mother of your child's half-sibling by a sperm donor? She is definitely somebody to you: she's raising your child's half-sibling. One group of mothers I interviewed called themselves the match moms. But how would they describe each other to a friend?
What about your child's half-sibling-via-sperm-donation — who is that child to you? What words can capture that special relationship?
What is the whole extended donor-conceived family called? Your donor sibling family? Your DCXF?
For that matter, who is the donor to you? Who is he to your child? Donor, biological father, bio-dad? Many years in, still no consensus. Are the other people created through his sperm called donor-siblings, half-siblings, or just siblings? All of the aforementioned? Diblings is not a favourite.
Do other kinds of shared origins have meaning? People born from the same retrieval of eggs, for instance, are you batchmates? Retrievaltons? People born from the same IVF cycle — aren't you multiples of a sort? What if proto-you and your sibling started out as embryos together, were frozen together, but gestated at different times — or in different people? Are you cryo-mates as well as siblings? Is it only the gestational journey that counts, or does the time before that matter somehow too?
And speaking of gestational journeys, who are your surrogate's own children to you? Who is your child to her children? They're not siblings, but they are something. But what? And the other children born through surrogacy to your surrogate, before or after your child? They inhabited the same womb, for a time, were nurtured by the same woman. Is there a name for that connection? Should there be?
The family tree is dead. Long live the family garden.
“Words” is an occasional feature where I explore the language around reproductive technology.
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