“You mean the sperm donor?” “Yes the biological dad.”

I am going to preface this blog post with the statement that I love my pediatrician group. They are very smart and very professional and I’ve met all of the doctors in the large group practice over the past two years. Twin boys in daycare catch just about everything and then we also have the physicals. We spend a lot of time at our pediatrician’s office. A lot.

At their two year physical we were asked for health history (and not for the first time) we were asked for information about their “biological dad” also stated as “bio father” throughout the dialogue. The first time it was asked my wife and I both kind of stopped and stared and then the dialogue went something like this….

I said, “You mean the sperm donor?”

“Yes, the bio father.”

“You mean the sperm donor?”

“Yes their biological dad.”

“You mean the sperm donor?”

“Yes, do you know any of the history of their biological father?”

“You mean the sperm donor?”

This all was said in less than thirty seconds. Then I said we don’t know much and we all moved on. I think by now you can see where I’m going with this.

Something about the term Dad or Father being placed into my children’s vocabulary when it really has no place there at all pissed me off. It also made me feel vulnerable and protective. Was this person messing with me? Were they being deliberately obtuse or worse deliberately hurtful? Or were they, as I suspect and my wife concurs, just not educated on caring for a two mom family?

My sons are two. They don’t know yet what a dad is. But at some point they will. I don’t want the anonymous sperm donor placed as a father figure in their lives. Because he’s not. We don’t know anything about him except his height, eye color, and age at the time that he donated the sperm. The boys have the option of contacting him when they turn eighteen. And that will be their choice. But I hope at that time it is not out of some longing for a father they never had.

When caring for a two-mom or two-dad or whatever kind of family is presenting in a healthcare provider’s office it would be polite if you ask how they refer to one another. Because there are some two-mom families who do know their sperm donor and do refer to him as the “biological Dad” or whatever. But that’s not my family.

Wherever we take the boys for healthcare we are going to face these vocabulary issues. We are going to have to answer potentially rude (intentionally or unintentionally) questions and we are going to have to do this all in front of our sons. We have to model behavior and vocabulary for them. Because I can’t freak out on every health care provider or secretary who makes assumptions. But I don’t want to sit back and not address the issue.

After that exchange in the pediatrician’s office I thought about my response. I was caught off guard, even though it’s happened there before, so I needed to think of my response next time. I need to overtly say, “We don’t refer to him as the dad or father, the sperm donor is our preferred term. Thanks.” Set the boundary in the moment instead of engaging in this back and forth with some one who thinks sperm donor is synonymous with biological dad. It’s not.

I also contacted their office and gave the feedback that perhaps with diverse families they could ask about preferred names and terms.

Entering a healthcare provider’s office is scary and vulnerable for any one. Add in that we are a minority with our young sons with our own narrative and it makes me instantly defensive mostly because I want my son’s protected and I want the people caring for them not to care for them differently because they have two mom’s.

Dad is a protected term to me. It depicts an individual who has a vested interest in a child’s development. I have a Dad. I know what it’s like. He was and is a good Dad. The boy’s don’t have a dad. They have a sperm donor. They also have two Mom’s. If I donated my eggs and never met the resulting child I would not expect to be referred to as the Mom. I would be the egg donor. The child would hopefully have either a Mom or Dad or two of each. But I would not have a vested interest in that egg’s development into a child, therefore would not presume to be named a parent.

The moral here is if you work in healthcare and care for diverse families, just ask how they want their roles to be referred to or defined as. It makes life for us much easier.