Sometimes, not often but sometimes, I think about the other man. I wonder about him, about his life. What prompted him to make that first meeting at the sperm bank? Did someone in his life have a child with donor gametes, an acquaintance which inspired him to donate? Unlikely. Did he need the extra money for something specific? Or just as a nice bonus? When was he there? In that very same clinic where my husband and I sat and picked him off of a list? Just a few days before us? Or years earlier? Was it a sunny day when he walked in? Or did he come in from the rain with boots and an umbrella? What was he thinking when he went into that “quiet room” for the first time? Who was he thinking about? A girlfriend? A celebrity? A woman or another man?
I don’t know if he’s old or young. If he is an only child, like my daughter, or has a lot of siblings. If he’s happy at work, or miserable at work, or unemployed. I don’t know where he lives or what he does for a living. I don’t even know if he’s still alive.
And when I think about all the things I don’t know about him, I find myself also thinking about all the things he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know about my daughter. Doesn’t know how she loves to read books. How bath time is her favorite time of the day. How her hair smells when she’s sleeping. How it feels when those chubby little hands stroke my face. How she insists “No Mommy! Me do it!” He doesn’t know when she was born, or where, or even that she was born at all.
When I mention that our daughter is the result of IVF with donor sperm, I often get questions about her father. What do I know about her father? Well, quite a bit! We’ve been married for almost 12 years. He was born in California. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. He is a kind, thoughtful, and good man. He cares. He loves her and he loves her mother. He is my husband and her father.
Oh, you meant the sperm donor? All we know about him is his height, weight, eye color, hair color, and blood type. And that something, a reason we don’t know, led him to masturbating into a cup in a clinic in Tel Aviv. And then there is the one thing I’m absolutely and completely certain I know about this man who is our anonymous sperm donor; he is not, nor will he ever be, our daughter’s father.
Will she have questions about him as she gets older? Probably. And we probably won’t have the answers she seeks. (Sperm donation is completely anonymous here in Israel. She won’t be able to find him, unless the law changes and the changes apply retroactively.) But we will be able to tell her that her mother and father love her more than the world, and that she is the light that brightens our every day.
So many people respond to gamete/embryo donation with, “I could never do that. I can’t imagine MY child out there, living life without me.” But that misses the point. She’s not his child. She’s our child.
The single microscopic cell that sparked her creation was an amazing gift. Without that gift, we wouldn’t have this amazing little girl. But that cell isn’t what makes a parent or a family.
You see, there are two men. The first is the man whose body generated that single cell. And then there is a second man. A man who held my hand for every ultrasound. Who talked to my pregnant belly. Who was in the room when my daughter was born. Who held her on that first day of her life and every day since. Who changes diapers and gives baths and pushes her on the swing. Who loves her and would do anything for her.