WHEN I was 5, my mother revealed to me that I had been conceived through artificial insemination.
When that time came, I learned how my mother, closing in on her 40s, found herself unmarried and childless. She had finished graduate school and established a career, but regretted not having a family. And so she decided to take the business of having a baby into her own capable hands. Artificial insemination seemed like a smart idea, perhaps the only idea...
For my eighth grade project, I settled on fabricating the unknown side of my family tree, and not much has changed since then. I’m 18 now, today is Father’s Day, and I still hardly know anything about my biological father, just a few vague details that my mother remembers from reading his profile so many years ago. I know that he was a medical student at U.N.C. the year I was born. Iknow that he had olive skin and brown hair. I know that his mother was Italian and his father Irish.
I call myself an only child, but I could very well be one of many siblings. I could even be predisposed to some potentially devastating disease. Because I do not know what my father looks like, I could never recognize him in a crowd of people. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities, by the reality that my father could be anywhere: in the neighboring lane of traffic on a Friday during rush hour, behind me in line at the bank or the pharmacy, or even changing the oil in my car after many weeks of mechanical neglect...
I am sometimes at such a petrifying loss for words or emotions that make sense that I can only feel astonished by the fact that he could be anyone...
Sperm donors need to realize that they are fathers.
Our Brave New World of reproductive medicine is raising issues largely new to mankind. Not knowing your father is a tragic recurring human theme. But knowing that your mother doesn't know him either-- actually, never met him, doesn't know his name, and only had a fleeting acquaintance with his semen in a doctor's office-- is troubling on a much deeper level.
I'm a Catholic convert. One of the things that drew me to the Church is her uncompromising stand on love, sex, and human dignity. The Church has long taught that love and sex and marriage and family are inherently linked. In a sense, they are one thing, understood from different perspectives. The dissociation of sex from love from procreation from marriage from family is akin to the the dissociation of nutrition from eating.
Reproductive medicine of course brings joy to many, and helps bring many children into the world, which is good in itself. But it is a sort of bulimia, a rent in nature and in what God intends for man.
We need to pause and reflect on Father's Day. Fatherhood is a sacrament, or at least a part of the sacrament of marriage. A sacrament is a tangible manifestation of holiness in an unholy world.
The Church, in her deep wisdom, teaches that fatherhood is a donation of oneself, not of one's sperm.