Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Donor vs. Dad

This past weekend BioMom and I were in Washington. Me for the IAFFE conference, her for a little r&r.

On the way home we got stuck in Chicago and I caught up on all the Washington Posts I had gathered along the way.

Sunday's Magazine contained an article for father's day called The Donor by Michael Leahy.

The article was interesting and strange, offensive and sweet all at the same time.

It focused on one particular family: a single woman whose weight is referred to no less than 4 times in the article, insinuating that she was not single by choice but because she was fat, and her two kids, conceived with Donor 929's sperm.

McGhee [the mother] didn't match Rubino's [the donor's] image of the donor-inseminated mother. She was neither married nor involved with a man experiencing a fertility problem, but rather was a 300-pound single woman who had decided in 1997, at age 36, to have a family on her own, finding a sperm donor through the cryobank.

McGhee was representative of a new wave -- a highly educated, unmarried professional able to afford donor sperm and related insemination costs that wouldultimately cost her about $6,000 for her two children. Single women and lesbian couples, most of whom bought the sperm online and had it shipped to them or to their doctors' offices, were on their way to becoming 60 percent of California Cryobank's sperm-buying clients.

Having been disappointed for years that no slim, attractive men wanted to date her, McGhee could, for the first time in her life, she says, choose from an abundance of fit, intelligent men. "Selecting a donor was empowering," she remembers. "Suddenly I had my pick of these incredible male specimens. I was the one with the power to accept or reject. I loved looking at those donor profiles; I mean, I could have any of these guys."

As BioMom said, when I read her that quote, it sounds like someone whose been dumped one too many times.

What was interesting, and strange, is that McGhee had dreams of meeting the donor. And, again it is insinuated, you get the feeling that she would like to have an intimate relationship with him (although she had never met him) and would like them to be a 'family'.

"Some women in my position wanted nothing to do with a man," McGhee remembers. "That was never me. After I had Aaron, I thought it would be important for a child to develop an important relationship with a male. More than ever, I wanted to meet [the donor]. I just didn't know how I was going to do it, and I had other things on my mind."

McGhee regularly reminded her children about their donor-father, recalling personal characteristics of Donor 929 as if he were an absent loved one. "Do you know your donor lives in California?" she would ask them when a television program mentioned something about the state. She would hold up a drawing and say brightly, "Hey, this is one of your donor's favorite colors: red."

On Father's Day, she made it a habit to gather her children and say: "Let's send lots of hugs and kisses to your donor. Let's think of your donor. Let's send our love."

Her children, as she recounts, happily chimed in: "Thank you, donor. We love you."

Through a Website, Donor Sibling Registry, she eventually got in contact with donor 929, Mike, "daddy". And they eventually met.

McGhee was reading Aaron a bedtime story, she recalls, when she noticed his eyes growing heavy, the boy falling into that state between dreams and consciousness, where people are at their most truthful, thought the psychotherapist, who sought an answer to a question nagging at her.

"Aaron, have you ever wished you had a dad?" she remembers asking him.

"I wish I had a dad to play with me," he murmured drowsily.

"How come you've never told me that?"

"I don't know," the boy said softly, his eyes closing.

The moment affirmed her conviction that she was doing the right thing in bringing her children to see Rubino. And, deep down, she did not rule out the possibility that maybe something miraculous would happen and she and Rubino would become a couple. "I'd be lying if I said that my mind didn't go to that fairy-tale ending, and that it ended with all of us living happily ever after," she says. "But, at the same time, as a responsible adult, you realize that such a [scenario] is a fairy tale, and unlikely."

Weirdly, the donor has similar fairy tale notions, albeit with the kids. Not the mom:

One night, as McGhee and Rubino remember, Rubino called to say that he had placed photos of Aaron and Leah in his home, asking whether she minded that he had referred to them as his "children" around a few of his friends. She was pleased, and then asked what he would like the children to call him when they arrived in L.A.

"If I could choose, I'd love it if the kids called me 'Dad,'" he said.

WTF? Remember, these kids have never even MET this guy.

During the visit:

Yet now, after just one full day together, Rubino is having a very conventional moment with his new family. Aaron again rests his head on Rubino's shoulder, watching another cartoon.

"Aaron, do you want something to eat?" his mother asks him.

The boy doesn't seem to hear.

"You're happy right there with your Daddy?"

The boy nods, burrowing into Rubino's shoulder. Rubino puts an arm around him, drops his chin on the top of the boy's head. For an hour, they don't move.

And in the end:

By then, Raechel McGhee will be taking early steps to uproot her psychotherapy practice and move with her children to Los Angeles, talking about it from Massachusetts to Rubino. With his support, she will have begun the process of redoing her will to give custody of her children to him should she die, and of changing her children's names to Aaron Rubino McGhee and Leah Rubino McGhee.


Anonymous said...

My partner and I have a child via annonomous donor. This article makes me VERY happy about that. Very strange. I think this mother should consider some psychotherapy herself. . . .can you say ISSUES??!

Kyla said...

Holy creepy! That woman has issues.

me said...