One of NZ’s well-known singers and TV personalities recently announced with delight she is expecting a girl. (All good, you would think.)She has twin boys from a previous relationship, and another boy with her current partner. (Mmm, that sounds a bit complicated.)
Then you find that she resorted to a donor for a father for this pregnancy, the same donor who ‘donated’ for a previous pregnancy for her partner.(The singer’s relationships have all been with other women but she didn’t give birth to any of the other children).
So, two of the children will share a father, but the twins were carried by her ex-partner. (Very complicated!)
As long as they are loved, that’s all that matters, people say – but is it?
The trauma of finding out
The development of IVF and AID has led many years later to a growing number of people wanting to know who their fathers are. Semen donorsusually don’t want to be contacted, and aren’t interested in being involved with any offspring that may have been sired through a quick visit to a clinic.
What is it like for the resulting offspring to be fathered in such a way?
If their live-in parents have given such children a loving childhood, and have been open about how they were conceived, then it’s possible for them to navigate their way through adolescence and an acceptance of their lack of biological identity with their live-in father(and possibly mother too.) Adopted children have had to face that – and many have found it very difficult.
For donor babies there was originally no opportunity to find out. But DNA testing now gives some of these offspsring the opportunity to find their bio-dads and their half-siblings. For others there isstill the angst of anonymity about their donor dads. A website Anonymous Us, tells some of the stories (anonymously obviously) of people’s issues with being conceived through AID.
Yet at the same time there’s a call for more sperm donors in NZ - the demand is much greater than the supply.
Having a mother and a father is a basic right
It’s stating the obvious. Every child has only one chance at growing up. The best environment for those growing up years for any child is to have a mother and a father totally committed to each other and to their children. Yes, some children have less than ideal families with both parents; yes, single parents can do a good job; yes, individual parents in any kind of relationships may love and care for their children – all of those things are undeniable.
But to deprive a child deliberately from the very outset of the opportunity to grow up with its biological parents is to put an adult’s desires before the best interests of a child. Having a mother and father is a basic right for any child. That’s how God designed us to be.
The big question is: Should the right of a child to have a mother and a father come before the natural desire of any potential parent to want to have a child?
Knowing who we are is fundamental to our identity
My mother was adopted, and has no idea who her birth father was. We have no idea of the genetic, medical or family history from her father’s side. Although she had the experience of having a live-in and loving adoptive father, with whom she had a good relationship, there is still that gap in knowing where she came from and what her father was like.
When she found out who her birth mother was, even though her mother had already died, she commented that she felt as if she was ‘more of a person,’ even though the knowledge of her parentage is still incomplete.
Navigating alternative family set-ups
Yesterday I read an account of how a 61 year old grandmother carried to term her grand-child and gave birth to a healthy girl. This was to enable her son to become a father. He had provided the sperm, the sister of his male partner had provided the egg, and the grandmother had been the surrogate. All very cosy, as it’s within the family. This child will at least grow up knowing where she came from, and who her biological parents are.
But how will this little girl navigate such a situation? What will it be like for her at kindergarten and school when children play mummies and daddies? Or when she is a little older and tries to talk to her peers about what is ‘normal’ for her?
‘Your grandmother was your mother giving birth to you, but she’s actually your grandmother?’ and ‘Your aunty is actually your mother, but she’s not ‘cos she’s your aunty?’ and ‘You have two Dads, but only one of them is really your Dad?’ and‘So, you don’t actually have a mother after all?’ And so on.
What about a Christian response?
Any child is made in the image of God. No child asked to be born into any particular family set-up. In a previous era, an illegitimate child was commonly called a bastard – this was a terrible response, because the shame of having a child out of marriage was visited by the community on the child, who was totally innocent of any wrong-doing.
It would be terrible if children coming from alternative family situations were similarly victimised. That is unlikely to be the official position in child-care centres or schools, but there is still the potential for bullying of the child by other children, in the way that any child that is seen to be ‘different’ may be bullied.
Every child is made in the image of God – whether conceived through donor(s), carried by a surrogate, born into an alternative family set up, whether adopted, fostered or has no family at all and is being raised by a grandparent.
What will such children (and their families) find if they come into a church or a Christian group? Acceptance or ostracism?A cold shoulder or a warm welcome?
Will the children have the chance to find out about a heavenly Father who cares for them?
Liz Hay has seven grandchildren and is delighted with their unique emerging personalities. She is also very thankful that each one is growing up in a stable home with committed parents, and with loving extended families that include able and active grandparents. She is very aware that not every child has that opportunity, and is very glad when church families welcoming those without.