A little over eighteen years ago, I used an anonymous sperm donor to conceive a child. In 1992, that was a relatively uncommon practice and one that most people kept to themselves. In fact, in those days the alphabet of assisted reproduction - IVF, GIFT, ART, ZIFT - was largely unknown. Today, there's a comedy starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore called The Kids Are All Right in which donor offspring locate their sperm donor. And of course the donor turns out to be hunky Mark Ruffalo who is a successful businessman and cool enough to ride a motorcycle. And they all live happily ever after.
Real life, of course, is far less neat. I chose to conceive with a donor because I was 34, a relationship had ended, and I yearned to be a mother. My finances were in order, I had a loving supportive family and I truly believed that the unconventional conception would yield a very conventional family. And it has. I kept a journal during that long-ago pregnancy, dreaming of a child who would be "smart and funny and curious." That's exactly what I got. My daughter, Hannah, has a 4.2 GPA, is fascinated by the events surrounding Pearl Harbor, has held the same job since she was 15, and is sunny and popular.
Of course there were bumps in the road. It hasn't always been easy for her to explain why her preschool Father's Day cards were for her beloved grandfather or why she had a donor and not a father. But she has grown up knowing the story of her creation, that she was wanted and loved from the moment I knew I was pregnant, that she is embraced by an extended family of people. Hannah also has met her half-brother - a New Yorker several years younger who shares her donor. And life in 2010 is vastly different than when she was born. She is friends with kids who were adopted, who have two moms, who have only a dad and others who were conceived as she was.
But the promise of uncloaking the anonymous donor is equally alluring in real life and in movie life. Hannah wants to know. She will write a letter to her donor sometime in the six months before she turns 18 and prayerfully send it to California Cryobank which has promised to send it to the donor. Then she will wait. It is doubtful that a Mark Ruffalo lookalike is on the other hand. By now, her donor is in his early 40s, a lawyer and may have a family of his own. Will he want to respond to the hopeful letter from a lovely young girl in Virginia who shares his DNA? There's no way to know. I am preparing Hannah for silence and the longing that may shadow her throughout her life. But I also know that neither of us has any regrets over the decision to use donor insemination to bring her into the world. She is a happy, gorgeous, confident girl about to apply to colleges across the country. I am a proud mother who has gone on to foster dozens of children and to enjoy loving relationships with several wonderful men.
And the best news? The kid is all right.
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