03/18/2013 05:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Splish-Splash My DNA: Artificial Insemination

2013-03-18-LeahRubinCadrain.jpgBy Leah Rubin-Cadrain

It is at the core of me and my generally sardonic outlook that the first moment of my creation happened by way of a stranger masturbating into a cup, and the second involved my mother and a glorified turkey baster. It's amazing how life can be both so stupid and so miraculous at the very same time.

Sometimes the image of my anonymous sperm-donor father, jerking off in a clinic bathroom for $100, floats through my head. I wonder what kind of porn he was watching, or what kinky stuff he was thinking about. I wonder what he did with the money. I wonder how the doctors chose his sperm over that of other men to match up with my mother. And then I wonder what we'd talk about if we got coffee.

My parents requested a dark-haired donor of medium height and Jewish ancestry, with no background of breast cancer in his family. Who knows if those requests were honored. My mirror tells me that they were not, but then perhaps Punnett squares tell some other story. (I tried so hard to listen in ninth-grade biology, knowing that someday I'd probably write this blog post and have to invoke basic genetics, but it was just too boring. "Punnett squares" is all I remember, and I pronounced it "pundit squares" until Leah, my editor, illustrator and best friend, corrected me.)

What I lack in knowledge of my genetic makeup I compensate for in total ownership of my personal history. My parents met at a party in the loft of a mutual friend in Soho, back in a time before time when Soho was affordable. Within that same circle they knew a lesbian couple that was pregnant. And with one role-model couple, the idea of gay parenthood seemed just a little less crazy. For me, the photos of my parents from that epoch -- slim, vivacious and totally in love -- seem to set the stage for their bad-assness to come.

There were a lot of questions, though. Both my moms grew up with strong, influential fathers, and it concerned them that if they had a baby, he or she wouldn't have a father. My mother M had so many memories of assembling intricate science projects with her dad, of going fishing with him and catching one fish the entire day, of his love of classical music and his pride in her good grades. To her it seemed irresponsible to have a child without a father.

But after eight years of deliberating and one reflective trip to Greece, my parents decided to make me happen.

So my moms joined forces with a stranger jizzing in a cup. It was not an act of gods, but then neither is vacation sex or a broken condom. In the end, all the forces that brought my donor there, to jizz in said cup, form a kind of fitting tension. For him it was $100 bucks for a few weeks of groceries, and for me it was the beginning of my whole, entire life, which I love so much that I take vitamins and memorize emergency-exit floor plans. I'm beloved above all things by my parents and entirely unknown by the guy who made it possible. The karma works.

When I think back on the number of closeted gays my family knew back then, I'm just really impressed and surprised by my parents. They are exceptional in plenty of ways, but they are also just regular people, with some greatness thrust upon them and a blazed trail in their wake.
Most of my peers feel pressure to excel and to make their family proud. The particular pressure that I feel is filtered through the admiration I feel toward my parents. I am the product of an act of love and bravery and some unknowable magic -- and a guy who just needed to buy some textbooks for med school. You can look at it either way, and I do.

Read more about growing up and being a grownup with two moms at