Friday, February 11, 2011

Making my Peace with Donor Sperm

In my last blog about signing up at the IVF clinic, I wrote that I came away with a list of blood tests to be done and the phone number of the Sperm Bank. I wrote that I loved my friend N's twins and there was no question mark hanging over their heads - they are N's children full-stop. Even so, I was still having trouble accepting the concept of donor sperm. I didn't mind being a single mother, but I wanted my child to know who her other parent is, where he comes from, who his family are.

One day I was out shopping and I saw L coming out of a shop with her baby boy. L is a journalist who had written in the local paper about her decision to have a child on her own with the help of an anonymous donor. I admired the baby and told her that I was considering taking the same route, except that I was still having difficulty coming to terms with the concept of donor sperm.

"It's not an issue," said L.
"But he doesn't have a family!" I blurted out. Even as I said it I wished I hadn't. I could have kicked myself for being so thoughtless and insensitive. It just came out - my real and basic instinct. Deep inside I was still repulsed by the idea.

L was gracious enough to smile and answer gently, "yes he has, he has my family."
"You're right," I mumbled and turned to make a hasty retreat. I was embarrassed by my outburst and ashamed of my rudeness.
"If you ever want to talk about it you can call me," offered L generously. I thanked her and walked away, humbled.

Over the next few weeks I asked some of the single men I knew if they would consider fathering a baby with me. Well it would be silly, I figured, to get pregnant with (or should that be without?) an anonymous donor, only to have one of my friends say, "why didn't you ask me? I would love to be a father."

Mostly they declined. Then one friend said that he would like to think about it. I let him go away and think about it. Meanwhile I went away and really thought about the consequences of having a baby with someone you respect and like, but were not planning on building a life with. Suddenly a whole slew of potential problems starting flashing before me.

What if we disagreed on how to raise the child? What if he wanted to be more religiously orthodox and encouraged the child to be more orthodox in a way that I did not want to live my life? What if I wanted to send my child to one type of school and he wanted a different type of education? What if he married a woman who tried to be a mother to my child? What if she didn't? What if I wanted to live in Australia for a couple of years but he wouldn't let his child leave the country?

I realised that I would have to confer with this man on every life decision for the next eighteen years. Don't get me wrong - I liked him. I liked him very much and I respected him. Otherwise I wouldn't have asked him to be the father of my baby. But, I admit, I had not thought it through properly.

We were not a couple and we did not necessarily share the same outlook on life or religious practices. I'd seen some divorced friends held to ransome (literally) every time they wanted to take their children abroad on holiday or to visit relations. My parents live in London and we live in Jerusalem. How could I risk that? It's true that my friend and I didn't have any of that emotional baggage created by the pain and resentment of divorce. But why was I willing to create a situation in which decisions about my family would be dependent on someone who was not a part of it?

I made my decision. I wanted an anonymous donor. I wanted a baby who could hope to have a childhood with as little complication as possible. Two parents who are not together is potentially more problematic than one family with one parent. And if there was one thing I knew for sure - this child would not be short on love.

P.S. A few weeks after bringing DD home (four years later), I wrote an apology to L. She did not remember the incident but she thanked me and, once more, offered me her friendship and assistance.


  1. I'm really enjoying reading your blog, and think it's brilliant that you decided to embark on motherhood on your own. Good on you! I'd definitely have done the same in your shoes. I'm so pleased that you joined my blog hop on Mummy's Little Monkey so that I could find you, and hope you get lots more lovely readers too. xx

  2. Thanks MLM - I'm enjoying writing it (and discovering all the widgets and gadgets, etc...). I also love reading your blog and all the other mums writng about such different circumstances and yet with so much in common.

  3. great post, very thought provoking, very true. Well done you for following your heart and embarking on this route alone. Also, I love meeting other 'older' mothers - we rock! Great to find you!

  4. Such a beautiful post -- it brought a tear to my eye. I have such admiration for your courage in doing what you have done, and I can tell you now, in my opinion at least, you made the right decision regarding the donor. Kol hakavod.


  5. Thank you PLT - maybe one day we'll meet at the penguins in Malcha Zoo. Have a good rest of chag -rachel

  6. I love what you've done and your open heart x

  7. Thanks Liska - having a baby makes it easy to open your heart.

  8. and here is the moment of realisation and acceptance that you could and would become a mummy on your own with donor sperm... i'm glad that i read this post x

  9. Everhopefumummy - we have exchanged enough comments that I feel an emotional attachment to your situation and the decisions you are making because of it. I look forward to hearing that you have found a solution that is good for you and all your fammily. Love Rachel xxx