Photo Credit: Anonymous Father’s Day, Center for Bioethics and Culture
Just a couple of weeks after my 32nd birthday, I found out that my parents used a sperm donor to conceive me.
That was 8 years ago.
As soon as my mother said the words, “your dad may not be your real dad,” several things happened at once: suddenly my nose, which was unlike anyone else’s in the family, made sense; the questions that I had about why I didn’t look like anyone in the family were finally answered; and oh yeah, I fell headlong into a dark pit of depression, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I felt as though every memory that I had of my dad – my mother’s husband – was tainted by the fact that he knew something about me that I didn’t know about myself.
Did he *really* love me? I was a “good” kid, but I knew that there were moments that I brought frustration into his life – did he chalk it up to me being someone else’s kid?
I realized that his family history no longer belonged to me. His dad, the cowboy, wasn’t mine. His mother, who eventually lived to be 100 years old, didn’t pass down her good genes. On the other hand, I didn’t inherit my dad’s genes, either, and since the time I found out the truth, he was several years into a terrible disease that eventually took his life, I was thankful for that one small positive thing.
I spent about six weeks mourning the loss of biological connection to my dad. I’m not sure how I survived that season, honestly. I couldn’t take care of our young children beyond the basic necessities, and I had to be reminded to take care of those things. My mind and heart were in a dark place, where nothing seemed to be true and stable. I felt as though the foundation of who I was had cracked and I no longer knew who I was. By the grace of God, those feelings passed, but there were days when it felt like it never would.
After the shock of “losing” my dad, I realized that there was a man out there who I did look like who fathered me. I then began to mourn the loss of a man who I never even knew existed until a few weeks earlier.
Do you know how odd that is?
Who was he? Did he ever think about me? How many times did he “donate”? Did he have children that he raised? Was he even still alive? Did I have other “donor” conceived siblings out there?
Just a couple of months into this new reality, I began to grapple with the ethics of “donor” conception. Was it right to father children and sign away all parental rights for $40? Was it right to create a person who would be intentionally cut off from their biological family? Do the intended parent’s desire for a child justify the upheaval of the child’s life? Is it possible that the incredible desire to have a baby could cloud judgment to the point that one cannot think about how their actions could negatively affect the very person they desire to have?
After months of studying and reading and praying and thinking through every aspect of what it means to create a family and how the fertility industry creates children for those who can pay for them, I came to the conclusion that the mere fact that the term “fertility industry” indicates that there is a product, and people are not products. Children are a gift from God to a married couple to raise and to provide for. Life doesn’t always work out that way, but to skew and warp that concept on purpose is to create chaos.
I’ve had many people tell me that I should just be thankful for my life and stop being ungrateful to my parents who wanted me so much. Calling my conception unethical in no way devalues the fact that I am glad to be alive. Children who are conceived in rape can be glad to be alive and still abhor rape. As for the idea that my parents “wanted me so much,” that isn’t quite accurate: my parents actually wanted a child that came from BOTH of them, hence the 14 years of trying. Using someone else’s gametes wasn’t part of the original plan, but that’s what worked.
I love the man who raised me. He will always be my dad. He provided for me, loved me, and sacrificed for me. Yet despite my sweet childhood, I am adamantly against “donor” conception.
We were faced with this as our only option for a child. Donor sperm; and we would not know who the donor was. I couldn’t do this. I would have gone crazy wondering who the father was. And I couldn’t imagine how my off-spring may feel if it was them. I yearned and ached for a family, for a baby. But this was not enough to risk someone having to live with my desires and the outcome of being a donor sperm baby. It would not have been a ‘win-win’ for me and my husband, not really. It would have been a ‘win-win’ for me, but my husband would have always been slightly on the outside, I felt.
And then there was my faith. If God had given me this man to be united with, and he couldn’t give me children, then I would have been forcing God’s hand and not trusting that this union was the best for me, despite the pain… which never really let up. And I had friends who just had babies to complete their lives, without any husband or father, by choice. And I felt that If I did this, it would have been not a lot different and a selfish direction. I may as well have just gone and picked some donor somewhere as one of them did and at least I would have known who he was. But since I had made my vow to my husband, this would have been a very wrong betrayal of him and my God.
Thank you for your story. It helps me to accept a little that my sacrifice of making the choice I did, may have been right and best. I don’t judge your parents because I know how much pain is there, trying year after year to have a family and how much we can desire to love and cherish a baby of our own. But for me, I can take courage from your story and others.
Thank you for doing the hard thing, sacrificing your own desires, so that a child was not forced to sacrifice their rights. You’re right, there’s so much pain in infertility. I hope that you have found outlets for the gifts of nurturing and love that you have to offer. No doubt there are so many children who would greatly benefit from it. Thank you for commenting.
May I ask why you feel it’s the responsibility of those unable to have kids to take care of kids that aren’t theirs?
Just because someone cannot have their own biological children doesn’t give them the right to “buy” a child. If raising children is what a person wants to experience adoption is suitable.
Again why is it the infertile couples responsibility to adopt the children fertile couples refuse too?
G, she may have meant tutoring, mentoring, being a friend to children in many other ways. It could be s blessing to her AND the children she elects to nurture.
Wow! I cannot say enough how much I admire you for this stance! I am not donor conceived, but my mom married a man not my father while pregnant with me and passed him off as my biological dad for the first 14 years of my life. I spent decades healing from this betrayal, and part of my return to wholeness has been establishing a relationship with my biological dad. Having had a mom who put her desires before my welfare, hearing sacrificial stories like yours makes my heart overflow with gratitude!
I am childless by choice. I considered IVF in my mid-late 30’s and rejected the idea for the reason that I would have been denying this child the natural right to its biological father. I did not have intense yearning for a child so the decision was easy for me. I met my now husband in my early 40’s. In my mid 50’s I felt an emptiness I simply cannot describe due to not having my own children. I have great stepchildren and grandchildren, and after a few months realised that I am grateful for what I have in front of me, and to accept what was behind me.