Wednesday, June 17, 2020

An Updated Fathers Day Letter to Our Donor

In 2007, I wrote a letter to my children's sperm donor on Father's Day which I periodically have reposted on subsequent Father's Days.  This year my letter concludes with an update to that letter while keeping its original text. 


With Father's Day on the horizon my thoughts stray to the man whose gift allowed my children to come into being. This man is not the doctor or mid wife that delivered them. This man is their sperm donor. My children were conceived via Donor Insemination.

Without this man's gift, these children would never have come into being and into my and my wife's life. I am occasionally asked if I resent that this man could do what I could not. I can comfortably say I do not. On the contrary I want to thank him.

When I was diagnosed with non-obstructive azoospermia 12 years ago I was told that I should expect to never have children of my own. The fact that my children are not biologically linked to me has never lessened my love for them nor my belief that they are indeed my children. At the same time I am cognizant that there is another man whose role cannot be nor should be minimized.

To me he is and is not simply their donor. For now to my children he is in effect non-existent as they don't fully understand the concept of donor insemination. They have been told of their conception story and that a donor was used but this is still too much for them to truly comprehend as they are both less than six years old. Someday soon this will change and I wonder how that will play out. For now the knowledge of his existence rests with my wife and me and as I see it I have a responsibility to not let the truth of him fade away.

The lives of my children are as much connected to him as they are to me. I do not pretend to argue nurture is greater than nature but rather together play a role in these children's lives. I have his bios, medical, social, and educational. I have a toddler picture of him and a recording of his voice. All of this info is being saved for them as it is part of who they are.

Every day I see articles addressing infertility and the use of donor conception from the side of the couples going through infertility, women choosing single motherhood, or lesbian or gay couples looking to start families. There are court cases around the country redefining what is family and who has the right to be legally defined as a parent or not. Under New York State law I am considered the legal father to my children. But despite that fact I know that someday my children will wonder about the man that is one half of their genetic make up.

Most heterosexual families of donor conceived children choose to never tell their children of the conception story fearing the child will turn against the social parent or for fear or shame of the perceived stigmas of using another person's sperm or eggs to create their children. In my opinion these parents do so for their own reasons and not for the benefit of the children who have a right to the truth. I recently contributed an essay to a book series titled "Voices of Donor Conception" and have been increasingly involved in the discussions of these topics on the Internet.

The central issues surrounding donor conception, including donor anonymity, regulation and reform, have been or are being addressed in several countries around the world including Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada among others. The United States has not yet entered that discussion and currently there are no federal laws directly regulating the sale of gametes [i] nor are there any regulations imposed on the administration of the various cryobanks and clinics that solicit gamete donations and sell these gametes to the public. I am in favor of reforming the practices of this industry but I am not here today for that purpose.

I no longer fear the donor's shadow but rather acknowledge his presence and if my children ask that his contribution be honored this or on a future Father's Day I must honor their wishes if I am half the father I believe myself to be to them. So on their behalf I wish him a Happy Father's Day and I say to him thank you for allowing me to do the same.

[i] "Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies" The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, D.C., March 2004, Chapter 


My children are now 18 and almost 16 years old.  In these intervening years they have come to fully understand the role their donor plays in their creation. One has intermittently sought to take steps to find their donor, with both registered on Ancestry and 23 and Me.  The Ancestry listing has resulted in finding a new half sibling bringing their known sibling group up to a total of five.   I expect it is only a matter of time that technology and such services will result in their finding the donor intentionally or just passively in this manner. 

The children's mother and I divorced several years ago with us each involved now in long term relationships and my soon to be young adults interacting with these new adults in their lives. The donor if found would only add to this list of parental figures. I am confident they would at a minimum show the donor the respect he deserves if he came into their lives. 

I can't say they will buy him a Father's Day card as my two are typical teens in that they don't send me a card without nudging them. I admit I would be jealous if they organically sent him a card.  

The United States is no further along then it was in 2007 with regards to regulation of the donor conception industry. The Internet has brought since a host of groups and individuals that will allow my children to explore their conception story and their feelings about their story in ways I could not imagine when they were born.  

I am forever their dad. The donor will forever be their biological father.  The fears I once had of him faded years ago. I wonder this Father's Day what his thoughts are each year on this day. Does he wonder about the children that he helped bring into this world. Is he fearful of their shadow as I once was of his. Would he welcome them into his life if that is their desire or at least would he answer any questions they may have. 

I continue to endeavor to raise them to be good humans.  They each have their own foibles. They each struggle with normal rites of passage as we all did and do. As they step closer to the edges of adulthood I hope I have helped them understand a bit more of their story. I hope he would be proud of who they are as I am. 

If by some chance you are reading this, I again wish you on their behalf a happy Father's Day and thank you for bringing them into my life. 

Sent from my iPhone

No comments: