Monday, August 8, 2016

The Unsuspecting Thought: A DC person's hope for a father

Yesterday I experienced something, a thought, that other members of the donor conceived community have described but I had not.

“What if he is my father?”

Before today I always pushed the possibility of this thought out of my head. After all, there are probably well over a million men in the USA who fit the description of this mystical man (early to mid-40s, brown hair, green/hazel eyes, white, average height), so what would be the purpose of getting my hopes up every time I saw some man in public who remotely resembled that description, or me, for that matter?

I do not live in a Shakespeare play where my parentage can be as easily assigned as that of Hero to Leonato. I know that I resemble my mother strongly, or at least as strongly as anyone can who does not have another to compare themselves to, and make no illusions that I would ever be able to look at a picture of some random stranger and say with certainty, “That is my father”.

But still, how powerful a thought can be as it invades your mind and makes a fool of your emotions.
Or at least, how powerful this thought can be, even when you told yourself throughout your long life that it didn’t matter.

The truth is, of course it matters. It matters every time I write “N/A” on a medical form or draw a line through paternal medical history. It matters as I look in the mirror and wonder. Who wouldn’t agree that your father matters?

When I began my search all those years ago I always said, “I don’t want to meet my donor, I just want information… and maybe a picture.” But I have changed from who I was. I want to see him, even if just a picture. I want that contact with him, if at all possible. I want him to know me… know that I exist… know that I am out here… a piece of him existing in this world.

Who we are as people has long troubled me, the complex arrangement that makes us up, DNA and environment, nature and nurture, which matters more? Are we less who, while being whole people, are raised with only half our knowledge? Is knowledge of your parents really that important to life?
Before I probably would have said no, we carve our own lives. Now, I am not so sure. Yes, we carve our own lives, build our own futures, and make our own decisions, but there is more to it than that. We do not exist in isolation, our decisions and experiences are impacted by the choices of our predecessors and they are influenced by the choices of theirs. Being donor conceived is a part of who I am and influences who I am becoming and where I am going in my life. A part of this is my mother’s choice to use a sperm donor and my “father’s” choice to sell his sperm.

None of the retrospection or the foreknowledge will ever be enough, of course, in that instantaneous moment where the thought crosses my mind.

Even knowing that the times to come, much like this most recent event, will lead to nothing, will do nothing to crush that ounce of hope that beats in my chest as the thought comes in and betrays me.

I don’t know which would be worse, living a life where hope is crushed time and time again or one where I never have any hope at all.

1 comment:

  1. I am also LDS, and to the extent that I can understand, as a donor-sperm recipient and mother of two donor-conceived children, I understand how you feel, Breannen. Like your parents, I also chose to ignore the counsel of the Church to avoid the use of "stranger-donor-assisted medically therapeutic reproductive technology". (Wow, what a careful term for medically-assisted pimping). While I AM grateful to have had my two wonderful children, I am not at all thankful or happy about all that has happened to/for them because of my uninformed, immature, naive and baby-hungry mistake of thinking only about my need to be a mother instead of my children's needs. Too late, I now understand why the Church warns against utilizing this option. You very well know how family-centered and family-history focused Mormon culture is, and as I have watched my kids grow up, suffering - because they don't have the automatic, natural answers that everybody else has - I have blamed myself for their pain. My daughter had me, and yes, she looks like me. But my son? For my son, issues of his identity, especially his paternal identity, have been and continues to be a very personal torture; a very real hell. If I could go back and undo this, I would. But I can't. So I have tried to go forward. First step was joining Donor Sibling Registry, where each of my children found a half-sibling apiece. But we haven't gotten any new information there for over a decade. Second step was joining online Facebook groups. But our third step has been the best one so far. My oldest took the AncestryDNA test this May. It is now August and we have already found: another donor half-sibling, two very close relatives on the paternal side who are corresponding with us, the identity of biological father and his location, her FULL paternal family tree - at least 3 generations back, all filled in - with some lines going back 9 generations. We also have pictures, obituaries, social media pages, etc. My oldest will be flying out to visit her new half-sibling next week. I am hoping to give my next-oldest child the AncestryDNA test for Christmas and do the same work for him. Granted, our search for information using DNA information WAS assisted and perhaps hastened by my research skills, as I have been doing family history work for over 30 years... but... I tell you this because I want you to know that I am also willing to help you, if you would like me to. There is no way that your parents can fix this, or that I can fix this, but at least, in this effort, we can try to atone. And maybe somebody contemplating donor-insemination might be reading this and hopefully decide against it. Breannen, I am just an email away, when you are ready.