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
Eva and Michael Nichols says
Well done, Corin! Grandad and I are very proud of you and your sisters, as you know. We were most impressed to read your speech and the ideas that you shared. We are sure that there must be many mums and dads who will be able to use your advice about how to tell their children how they were made. most importantly, I liked the way you differentiated between DNA connections and family. Once a geneticist, always a geneticist, I guess! Nice to see you in the Roots Canada T shirt, recognizing your connections to your Canadian family. With much love from Oma and Grandad xx
Thanks Oma for the support. Especially the part ‘I liked the way you differentiated between DNA connections and family. Once a geneticist, always a geneticist.’ It made me feel extra special 🙂
Sharna Jarvis says
Wow – what a great speech by an impressive young man ! I hope our children turn out to be as articulate mature, caring and sensitive as you when they grow up and I shall be sure to show our 6 year old boy and 2 year old girl your story. I am sure they will find it very helpful as they navigate the World in a Rainbow family as donor conceived children. From your Mum’s Blog, both your Mum’s are clearly awesome as well !
Yep! My mums encouraged me to do this so massive thanks to them!
Ruth Evans says
I really liked your speech, Corin. Thanks for sharing. My twins are donor conceived and we have always talked about them having a donor dad. Unfortunately we had to use an unknown donor – we would have liked the donor to be someone they knew who would be like an uncle or a family friend. I wonder whether we should try to meet the donor? I know they can ask to meet him when they are older but by then he might have moved away or he might even be dead. But the twins are only 5 years old, so they might freak out. Maybe we will wait another year or two. What would you do?
Good question! I was about their age when I was told about donor Dave. Anytime about now is fine really. If I was in their position I would want to meet my donor.
Ruth Evans says
Thanks Corin. I will try to get in touch with the donor. We did send him a thank you letter when the twins were born. It is amazing to know that they have half siblings out there (8 of them!) Maybe one day they will meet. All the best!
Well done Corin. Very inspiring. You have certainly show that being honest and open is the best policy and we certainly try to do that with our children. Reading about your experiences and your reflections on this certainly helps us adults to know we are on the right track.
Jacki Ford says
Hey Corin, well done ! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am sure you are an inspiration to other donor conceived kids out there and that they will appreciate your insight and observations.
Lee FitzRoy says
Hey Corin, we loved your speech and really appreciated your courage to get up and talk about your experience, feelings and thoughts to lots of strangers! A brilliant effort and I know lots of other kids and parents will really appreciate your contribution. Love lee & mark
Thanks Lee. 🙂
Donor Dave says
Hi Corin (and Jacqui & Sarah and the girls too). It is totally awesome to read your commentary and how you handle things so well. I’m thrilled to read the way you handle things and feel about it all. I know you are being brought up in a great family with a lot of love and friendship being shared (and a fair bit of independence for you as kids too), and I knew that the first time I ever met your two mums.
Also, a message to Ruth Evans (comment above). Try finding the donor, and see what you think when you speak to him. He may be the kind of person who really wants to be “sort of connected” in a funny way. I know I do. I’m not part of Jacqui & Sarah’s family or regular life. I live a long way away and never met them until Corin & Cully were already born. But I appreciate they allowed me to meet their kids, including Scout in later years, and have watched their progress through the years in press releases, photos, and emails. A really HUGE thanks to Jacqui and Sarah for allowing that to happen. It means a lot to me. I’d suggest Ruth that you locate your donor, and once you get to know that person a little via email or phone, you can then decide how much to tell your twins.
Jacqui – you and Sarah have an amazing family, and it’s so brilliant to read their own words and see how well they are adjusting to life and growing into incredible people. WELL DONE, & thank you.
Ruth Evans says
Hi Donor Dave
Thanks for your message. You must be a very generous person to give the gift of life – thank you for being so kind.
My partner thinks it is getting close to the time we should try to get in contact with the donor. The girls have just started school so they are now much more aware of the fact that they are the only people there with two mums and no dad. This part of their identity was made very public at the start of the year when they had to do a unit on families. When asked “who lives at your house” Rose said “I have a mum and a dad and a sister.” I think she felt quite put on the spot, being asked to discuss her private life in front of a bunch of virtual strangers. Unfortunately for her, her twin corrected her straight away!
The only other “rainbow family” we know of at the school is a m to f transsexual mum who used to be a dad. I have befriended her and it helps me to know that there are other queer families at the school, but my kids can’t see how our family is similar to her family.Getting to know their donor could help the girls. It would also be nice to get to know some other families with two mums… it’s a pity there don’t seem to be many living in Bayside.
All the best,
Hey Donor Dave. It’s great that you commented, it made me feel really good!
Just came across this: http://www.everyday-law.org.au/events/legalities-donor-linking-bringing-recipients-sperm-donors-and-offspring-together
Cath Mok says
Wow! Where are they advertising this? It’d be good if they sent that stuff out to all families that have used donor gametes via clinics..
Yes it would. It looks really interesting. It came up in my news feed. I’ll repost to a few places.
Beate Sletten says
You are a very special young man. Your article is very interesting and so well written. We are proud to have met you. We are close friends with a Rainbow Family here in Norway and we will show them your article. Love from Beate and Selma
Penny Wyatt says
Well put, Corin! Enjoyed reading your thoughts. Hope you loved giving your speech? 100 people is pretty huge for your first audience!
One Mum says
What an insightful and mature view of it all. Thanks Corin, I’m going to use your advice with my 5year old especially the bit about bad language
*Love* this. Thank you Corin (and thank you to your Mums). We will be sure to share this with our daughter when she can understand more. She is going on five and she has known about her donor for a couple of years…has met a couple of her donor siblings already and has a loving relationship with them. It’s so fun… thank you, thank you, thank you! You have taught me something new and I appreciate it! (Trinity from Vancouver, Canada)