Many sperm donors were promised anonymity. But the internet and home genetic testing now make this promise hollow. What does it feel like to be found?
Several years back, I wrote a story about intended parents who had found their anonymous donor and how they felt about it. It was called "The anonymous donor dilemma: to google or not to google." As part of the research into that story, I also interviewed a few donors who'd been found. Unfortunately, that material didn't make it into the story.
All this time later, I still think about one of the sperm donors I interviewed and what he told me. He did not want to be named or identified, but he wanted people to know about his experience. Below is an excerpt from our communication. I am calling the child Lisa.
On being found
I didn't volunteer to have this emotional connection, but now I do have it. Now that I am suddenly a biological father, I want to know more about my child.
Of course I understand that she is not "my child," and that she may even decide she never wants to contact me or know about me. But her mother did contact me. I feel that until Lisa turns 18, there needs to be some reciprocal understanding that I am now a biological father. Since I've been contacted, I cannot choose to be ignorant.
The mother searched for me for years. She found me, but I don't think she appreciates that she activated in me the same kind of biological connection that caused her to search for me in the first place.
I want to put my biological child's interests first, and I am taking the mother's word for it that she is a wonderful and happy child who is not ready yet to meet me or learn more about me. It is up to Lisa when she wants to open that envelope, and I am going to stay completely out of her life.
But I opened up to Lisa's mom and told her a lot about myself and my family. I sent Lisa's mom pictures of myself, as well as pictures of and information about all of my close relatives. I gave her a family tree, with the understanding between us that she would not contact other relatives of mine. I feel self-conscious that I've told Lisa's mom so much about myself, enough that Lisa's mom would surely recognize me in the supermarket. Yet I know practically nothing about what Lisa's family or Lisa's mother look like. We live in the same metropolitan area and we are all Jewish.
At the moment, she hasn't sent me a picture of Lisa since Rosh Hashanah. I've been holding my breath this week wondering if Lisa's mom would send me a few pictures and some kind of greetings for Passover. She has never told me when Lisa's birthday is. Will she send me some pictures of Lisa's birthday when that takes place?
I'd be very happy if Lisa's mom would send me a digital postcard once a month. I can't really force myself on her. I don't expect to be treated like a new-found member of the family. I just want to receive a few pictures and a bit of news from time to time.
To put it succinctly, if you find your donor on the Internet, consider what obligations you have to the donor once you have contacted him. Biological connections go in both directions.
Have you ever donated sperm? I am interested in interviewing you. Please contact me at email@example.com. I do not need to use your name.
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