Reconstructing Fathers: Undeniable Imprints of Anonymous Donors
Kerry did not receive unqualified support for her decision to have a child using an anonymous donor:
There were people who came to me and said, “Don’t do this. My father deserted my mother and it’s always been a lifelong thing for me that I never knew him.”
And I thought, “Well, the mitigating factor is I’m not deserted, I’m not unhappy,
I’m not bereft, it’s not a tragedy.” . . . And in thinking about it, I said, “But
I’m not any of those things. And if the choice is between not having a child at all and having a child who’s maybe going to have to deal with some of these issues,
I choose to have the child.” Selfish, but I felt like I would be a good mother, and I think lam.
Although Kerry’s acquaintances’ opinions gave her momentary pause about having a child without a dad to raise him, she followed her desire to be a mom by using an anonymous donor. She had the foresight to know that having a child with an anonymous donor, who would most likely be forever unknown, is fraught with complexities. Her future, however, was vague and distant. Becoming pregnant, planning for the child’s arrival, and giving birth are more likely to preoccupy these women than existential questions of the meaning of gametes and their relationship to an unknown man. Once children arrive, however, women try to understand what it means to raise a child with only a paper profile of a father.
The women reconstruct the father once their children are born. Birth narratives—the stories parents tell children about their histories from conception on—include the anonymous donor. As the child grows, some of his or her traits— from physical attributes to character, behavior, and interests—become attributed to tbe anonymous donor. Tbe mother crafts a man out of the limited information she has from the donor profile at the sperm bank and those of her child’s traits that she believes are unexplained by the maternal side of the family. That is, the father may be the source of the child’s unexplained traits. In this way, the anonymous donor takes on a persona of his own—though it may be more fiction than fact. But through such creation the mother and child take comfort in giving this role of a father meaning in their lives. Once the donor is acknowledged as being unlike other children’s fathers, the mother and child begin to create an imagined man who is a positive yet invisible presence. The “nice man” who helped them to become a family is a worthy human being, if an idealized one.7