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My Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor
A few days later, searching for an online message board for donor-conceived people, I came across a donor and offspring registry. Scanning past some entries for more recent donors, I spotted a donation date closer to what I was looking for. I e-mailed the man who had posted the entry. A few days later he sent a warm response and attached a picture of himself. I read through his pleasant words and scrolled down to look at the photo. My breath stopped. I called for my mother, who rushed in, thinking something was terribly wrong. "I think I've found my biological father," I gasped between sobs. "Look at the picture. . . .That's my face."
After a few weeks of e-mailing, this stranger and I took DNA tests. When the results arrived, I tore open the envelope, feeling like a character in a soap opera. Most of the scientific language went over my head, but I understood one fact more clearly than I have ever understood anything in my life: There was, the letter said, a 99.9902 percent chance that this man was my father. After 17 years, I let out a long sigh.
I had found the man who had given me blue eyes and blond hair. And it had taken me only a month.
My life has changed since then. Once the initial disbelief that I had found my father wore off, my thoughts turned to all the other donor-conceived kids out there who have been or will be holding their breath much longer than I. My search for my father had been unusually successful; most offspring will look for many, many years before they succeed, if they ever do.
My heart went out to those others, especially after I participated in a couple of online groups. When I read some of the mothers' thoughts about their choice for conception, it made me feel degraded to nothing more than a vial of frozen sperm. It seemed to me that most of the mothers and donors give little thought to the feelings of the children who would result from their actions. It's not so much that they're coldhearted as that they don't consider what the children might think once they grow up.
Those of us created with donated sperm won't stay bubbly babies forever. We're all going to grow into adults and form opinions about the decision to bring us into the world in a way that deprives us of the basic right to know where we came from, what our history is and who both our parents are.
Some countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, are beginning to move away from the practice of paying donors and granting them anonymity, and making it somewhat easier for offspring to find their biological fathers. I understand anonymity's appeal for so many donors: Even if their offspring were to find them one day -- which is becoming more and more probable -- they have no legal, social, financial or moral obligation to their children.
But perhaps if donors were not paid and anonymity were no longer guaranteed, those still willing to participate would seriously consider the repercussions of their actions. They would have to be prepared to someday meet the people whom they helped create, to answer questions and to deal with a range of erratic emotions from their offspring. I believe I've let go of any resentment about the way I was conceived. I'm playing the cards I've been dealt and trying to make the best of things. But not all donor-conceived people share this mindset.
As relief about my own situation has come to me, I've talked freely and regularly about being donor-conceived, in public and in private. In the beginning, I also talked about it a lot with my biological father. After a bit, though, I noticed that his enthusiasm for our developing relationship seemed to be waning. When I told him of my suspicion, he confirmed that he was tired of "this whole sperm-donor thing." The irony stings me more each time I think of him saying that. The very thing that brought us together was pushing us in opposite directions.
Even though I've only recently come into contact with him, I wouldn't be able to just suck it up if he stopped communicating with me. There's still so much I want to know. I want to know him. I want to know his family. I'm certain he has no idea how big a role he has played in my life despite his absence -- or because of his absence. If I can't be too attached to him as my father, I'll still always be attached to the feeling I now have of having a father.
I feel more whole now than I ever have. I love our conversations, even the most trivial ones. I don't love him, and I don't know if I ever will, but I care about him a lot.
Now that he knows I exist, I'm okay if he doesn't care for me in the same way. But I hope he at least thinks of me sometimes.
Katrina Clark is a student in the undergraduate hearing program at Gallaudet University.