There is a bright side to only seeing half the picture of who you are. You can always imagine and define the other half. Whenever I’m challenged with something I imagine that my biological father had some great gift with which I too have been endowed. I think of this very industrious and anonymous sperm making a very long journey with an amazing gift just for me.
I can “fill in the blanks” with whatever gift would be most useful at the moment. If I’m nervous about a big presentation or speech at work, I fantasize a little to myself that aside from being a cardiac surgeon my sperm donor was a talented speaker..... and he gives amazing medical presentations all the time...the talent is in my blood! Or sometimes when I get writer’s block I tell myself the donor was a great writer and I too must have those skills deep inside.
To be honest, I do a lot of fantasizing about the identity of the donor. Not all of it is a self-serving motivational tool. A greater part of it is a futile attempt to quench an insatiable thirst for knowledge that I do not have. I say “thirst” because the urge to know feels that instinctual, carnal, like an itch that my mind relentlessly and unsuccessfully tries to scratch. it's this sense that I need to lay my eyes on him, see him, so I can be whole. Imagining him is the only way to put my mind at peace.
I suspect my mother does a lot of fantasizing as well, though I’ve never really discussed it with her. I mean, if you haven’t seen the face of the man that is fathering your child, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t naturally fill it in.
I sense she is quite proud that the donor was a medical intern. It also leads her to believe I’ve been endowed with some type of heightened intelligence or knack for the scientific. While there is an element of this that really, really bothers me there is another piece of it that can pump up my self esteem when I need it.
As with any psychological construct, the donor doesn’t have to be realistic or multi-dimensional, his total identity can exist only to serve whatever emotion needs to be fed.
It makes me wonder if there isn’t an element of this at play for mother’s who undergo artificial insemination. The anonymity provides a “blank slate” or a “tabla rasa” of sorts on which you can project all kinds of thoughts and desires. Mates in reality are so much more disappointing. All men have flaws, many go bald, some drink...all seem to have a greater aptitude for flatulence than females :)
Blogs of single women attempting to conceive via AI or raising children already conceived via AI are full of stories about men from prior relationships that just “weren’t right“ or “didn’t make the cut.” Yet, many (dare I say most) deny that fantasy plays a role in the choice for AI.
Lori Gottlieb, a single mother via AI and author of the controversial essay, “Marry Him” got lambasted by women across the internet for making the argument single woman who want a family should settle for “Mr. Good Enough.” She wasn’t commenting on AI, but on the link between some struggles of single motherhood and her previous unwillingness “to settle” for a less than perfect mate earlier in her life (she later expanded this argument in her book "Marry Him".) I bring it up because she highlights the “fantasy” so many women have a the perfect mate. Gottlieb writes:
“A female friend who broke up with a guy because he “didn’t like to read” and who is now, too, a single mom (with, ironically, no time to read herself) similarly felt no regrets—at first. At the time, she couldn’t imagine settling, but here’s the Catch-22: “If I’d settled at 39,” she said, “I always would have had the fantasy that something better exists out there. Now I know better. Either way, I was screwed.”
When AI is the chosen course of action for single mothers, anonymous donation leaves room to make the donor the “something better” that “exists out there.” While I’m not contending this element of "sperm fantasy" is always conscious...it’s pretty hard to argue that it plays no part in the the AI experience.
All this fantasy however is a slippery slope. For me, it’s a constant struggle to figure out exactly which part is “the other.” I compare myself, my mother and my brother all the time to sort out what is the same and what is different. Beyond basic physical traits it’s the difference in personality and intellect that are most interesting but so much harder to figure it out. Personality and intellect are so complex they don’t easily offer themselves to deconstruction - letting you put your sense of humor in the “mom” basket and knack for math in the “dad” basket.