The search for my biological father has entailed writing some extremely awkward notes to potential matches. Via DNA testing, I recently discovered the best potential match I’ve come across to date. Since e-mailing him yesterday I realize that while I often contemplate my initial contact, I rarely think about his response. This time around, however, I find myself asking, “What do I WANT him to say?”
I'm expecting the worse case scenario: no response. Imagining total rejection is relatively easy but envisioning a correspondence with him is more complicated. What am I expecting from this person? Will I be disappointed? What if rather than silence he returns anger or aggression? To distract my attention from an empty inbox I decided to have a go at the "best case scenario." His note would read:
In response to your question yes, I did donate sperm in 1980 at Lenox Hill Hospital. Perhaps we should talk about what steps are involved in confirming our relation.
If we are related I am very glad to hear from you and see your picture. After donating all those years ago I’ve often wondered if you were out there and what you looked like. It’s a delight to find out you are a beautiful and successful women.
I was young and inexperienced when I donated and in retrospect I may not have made the best decision. My thinking was that I was helping some great couple have a family at a time when having my own children was far off.
I now have a family and my wife is aware I donated sperm when I was young. If we confirm our relation I’d like very much for you to meet my family down the road after I have explained this a bit to my children.
All the Best,
Your Sperm Donor
Of course, the chances of receiving such a positive response are slim. I was surprised I was comforted by the idea he had thought of me and wondered what I looked like. One of the most troubling aspects of anonymous sperm donation is that it’s possible he may not know I exist. On the bright side, even if he chooses not to respond I will know he is at least aware that I am out there.
Also, while I don’t feel that I am personally “a mistake“ I would be moved if he admitted he had not made the best decision. This is not because I am looking for someone to blame, its because hearing him take some accountability for the effect his decision had on my life would be validating. Half of the tumult of being the product of an anonymous donor is that its somewhat socially-unacceptable to mourn or be angry. As a result, we are awash in emotions for which we feel great shame .
I think wanting an apology is not about being ungrateful for the gift of life but having your loss and pain acknowledged. Sometimes I think my mother feels that if she admitted her choice to be inseminated by an anonymous donor wasn’t the best idea, it means she was directly responsible for her child’s pain. I can’t speak for all donor-conceived adults out there but at least for me this isn’t how I would perceive an apology. I would feel relieved and acknowledged if she told me “while I have no regrets on having you, it might not have been the best idea to use an anonymous donor. I didn’t realize at the time you would want to know him.”
Finally knowing that his family is aware and comfortable with his donation would be heartening. Based on the donors I have come to know and have read about, it is not likely the donor will have shared the truth with his family. I wouldn’t expect him to have told his children unless they were my age but I would hope his wife was aware. I often wonder how a donor rationalizes anonymous donation as ok if it’s not something they are comfortable sharing with their family. If an act is so troubling and or shameful, you can't share it with your spouse or parents it’s likely not the best plan of action.
My inbox is still empty, which is troubling. I'll keep my fingers crossed for the best case scenario....or close to it.