What is a parent and should we be using the word “father” when referring to a sperm donor? Bioethicist Veerle Provoost, who studies genetic and social parenthood in the context of donor conception attempts to define parenthood in this Ted Talk, which explores modern family narratives.
These questions have become all the more important in the context of modern families that come together through adoption, second marriages, surrogate mothers and sperm or egg donations. In a study that explored family themes, parents and children were asked to fill up the sketch of an apple tree, adding a paper apple for every family member, such as parents, siblings, even the family dog. They were then asked about their birth story. One child narrated how friendly men out there donated spare seeds so he could be born. “They bring them to the hospital, and they put them in a big jar. My mommy went there, and she took two from the jar, one for me and one for my sister. She put the seeds in her belly – somehow – and her belly grew really big, and there I was.”
Asked if he would put up an apple for him on the tree, he explained, “I won’t put this one up there with the others. He’s not part of my family. But I will not put him on the ground. That’s too cold and too hard. I think he should be in the trunk, because he made my family possible. If he would not have done this, that would really be sad because my family would not be here, and I would not be here.”
Provoost talks about individual families exploring DIY ways for their narrative, “finding ways, words and images to tell your family story to your child. And these stories were highly diverse, but they all had one thing in common: it was a tale of longing for a child and a quest for that child. It was about how special and how deeply loved their child was. And research so far shows that these children are doing fine. They do not have more problems than other kids.”
She concludes by saying, “Work with advice that works for your family. Remember, you’re the expert, because you live your family life. And finally, believe in your abilities and your creativity, because you can do it yourself.”
Watch the video here: