An Open Letter To My Son’s Sperm Donor

I am so grateful for your help in creating my son, but ejaculating into a cup doesn’t make you his father.

To the sperm donor who supplied half my son’s DNA:

Father’s Day is approaching and I always like to send a little burst of positive energy your way this time of year. I am so grateful for your help in creating my son.

It’s been almost eight years since your “contribution” was delivered to our house via overnight mail. We had great hopes for your swimmers. My partner, who was the one being inseminated, had gotten frustrated with two failed attempts from our first choice of donors. She decided that the problem was his age—at 29, she feared his sperm were already starting to slow. So she went back to the registry to look for the youngest donor possible who had a reasonably clean family medical history. That, dear donor, was you.

So your sperm donation represented a fresh start. It didn’t matter that we were both old enough to be your mother, what mattered was the fact that the insemination nurse told us that your sperm was much more active than the old donations. And sure enough, we had success in the first go-around.

Besides your youth and family medical history, we did have one more requirement for our chosen donor. We wanted a donor who would agree in advance to have at least one contact with our child once they reached adulthood. We assumed our child would be curious about his biological father and wanted to keep the process as open to him as possible.

But you’ll notice that while all those years ago you were known as the “biological father,” today you are the “sperm donor.” My thinking about your place in our family has changed considerably over the years.

My first pause happened very early on, when Bobby was born with Down syndrome. I feared that you might be an asshole if he reached out to you some day. The protective bubble I wrap around him is much further reaching than it would be for a typical kid. And, fair or not, you’re outside the bubble.

Bobby was also born with a serious heart defect. He had three open heart surgeries before the age of 3 and was in and out of the hospital countless times during that time frame. That’s when you were demoted from “bio dad” to “sperm donor.” I realized then that being a parent means sleeping on a pull-out cot in the hospital next to your son for weeks on end. Ejaculating in a cup doesn’t make the cut.

Now 7, Bobby has shown no concern about the gender of his parents. He is most happy when he is out and about with his Mama A and Mama V. Before Bobby was born, I assumed that any future child would eventually ask why they do not have a father. Bobby, however, is extremely grounded in what is before him, not in what he might be lacking. If he asks about a father some day we will give an open and honest answer about what we know of his sperm donor. But I’m not convinced he’ll ever ask.

My wish is for all of society to take this view. We would all be happier and more centered if we lived our lives being thankful and cultivating the relationships we have instead of focusing on relationships we’re missing. Bobby is a boy with two mothers. He is the progeny of a sperm donor. I don’t feel the need for you to ever be any more than that in our family. So as things stand now, I am guessing you shouldn’t wait by your phone for a call.

But you can still expect my good energy.

Anne Penniston Grunsted is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on her experience with disability (her son has Down syndrome and she lives with mental illness) and parenting. She has published in Brain, Child, Quartz, and Chicago Parent and won the 2014 Nonfiction prize from Beecher’s Magazine. She lives with her partner and son in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.

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