My DNA, but not my child.
Recently, a child with my DNA was born.
It’s weird to put it this way, but for all intents and purposes it’s the best way. I am not a father, in any sense of the word — I’m a biological donor. I will be a lot of things to this child but father will not be one of them. This is what I told myself when my friends asked me to help them conceive a child. The reality is a bit different.
Rewind a while back: my friend asked me to meet up for coffee — which from a lot of my friends wouldn’t be a big deal, but this friend and I don’t hang out on the regular so it was a bit out of the blue — my spidey sense was tingling. Something was up. She gave me a lift home from my friend’s place, and we chatted the whole ride home, but nothing was amiss, until I went to get out of the car and then it came:
Sam: “Mark… wait. I have something I want to talk to you about.”
here we go, I thought.
Sam: “You know Chris and I have been trying to have a baby”
Sam: “So there are complications and Chris can’t go through with it, so it’s up to me now. And I need a donor. And I was hoping you’d help us out.”
“ok, this is roughly what I was expecting. HOLY FUCKING SHIT”, I thought, trying not to betray any emotion
Sam: “So I know this is a lot to drop on you, and you can have time to think about it, but you’re our first choice”
Me: “Uh. Ok. I’m pretty sure I’ll say yes but I need to think it over. I will get back to you soon.”
This is the conversation verbatim, there was a lot more stumbling on both our parts. I got out of the car kinda floored, then spent the next two days talking this over with my friends. I already knew my answer was going to be yes, but I wanted to hear people out. I had no plans to actively have a child of my own, so this was a good chance to see what my spawn would look like.
What followed was a lot of back and forth with Chris and Sam about logistics — with a lot of questions:
“What obligation do I have? Legal/Financial?”
“Will the child know who I am?”
“Under what circumstances would you have an abortion?”
“What do I need to do to prep?”
“What happens if something happens to the birth mother?”
“What happens if something happens to both of you?”
“What happens if something happens to me after conception?”
“Am I responsible for ANYTHING?”
Now, they had their own answers for these questions — if this is something that happens to you, you should be asking these questions yourself. Basically, the short form was that I was not responsible or legally bound to anything with the child, or I wouldn’t be once papers were signed off at the lawyers which they would pay for (altho w/the new law in Canada that’s not necessary anymore) If anything happened to any of us, the child would go to their grandmother.
I disclosed any genetic/mental disorders I knew about in my family — cancer, mental health issues, a retinal disease I have, etc.
There was also a bit of handwringing on both our parts of making sure we trusted each other because so many cases of this kind of thing go south — the donor decides they can’t part ways, or the birth parent decides they want money. It’s kind of a contract of mutually assured destruction, but we decided on trusting each other. There are people you might not be the best friends with, but you inexorably trust and know they’re good people, despite evidence to the contrary. This is Sam and me.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking — no, this did not involve me having sex with Sam, although we joked about that.
We went with the home solution — me doing my business in the bathroom while they either went out or huddled in the bedroom listening to loud music/tv, then essentially using a turkey baster to inseminate Sam. (This is as much as I know, I got out of there as soon as I was done)
So, we tried to make things as normal as possible as we tried — we did dinner before the deed, talked, then when we felt it was time, got down to it. They’d sequester themselves in their bedroom, I would go to the washroom, get out my tablet… and well… do what every teenage boy wishes he was encouraged to do more of.
We tried a total of 8 or 9 times over the course of 5 months. Two of those were a result of Sam misreading her temperature. (A woman can measure her temperatures during ovulation and find out when she’s best likely to conceive through that method — if this is wrong, don’t come after me, I only know the most basic of basics)
Now, a few things about this:
You would think after 48 hours of not masturbating, that finally being able to would be instant go time — unfortunately when you have two women outside waiting for you to finish, in a tiny bathroom, with your porn on a tablet, it makes things a lot more difficult. (intentional lack of the term “harder)
It is very awkward to try and find a convincing lie to tell your friends when they say “oh so I had the timing wrong, can you come back tonight”, and the reason you can’t is cause you literally just zipped up and need 24 hours. (Usually they can wait till the next morning, thank God)
The first few times are very meh. After a few months, when things aren’t working, it gets increasingly weird to go to your friend’s place to jack off. It also gets a bit humiliating. Which does not help things work.
I got the message from Sam one day “Alright Mark, so this is going to be our last attempt, then we’re going to see if there’s something else we can do, we don’t want to put you through any more” — I’m not gonna lie, I know this wasn’t meant as a slight against me, but I suddenly had a feeling of what it was like for all those guys that wanted to be fathers but things weren’t working — it’s a huge blow to your ego.
However — THINGS WORKED. Sam was pregnant! We were all very excited, we had dinner to celebrate! And all of a sudden, the distance I had put between myself and this whole situation closed up real quick — I felt something. I was excited to meet this kid, to hold them. I knew I’d have to put some more distance. I kept asking questions, to see how things were going, but I kept my distance.
Then, after months, finally came the call — Sam was in labour. It was all I could do not to grab an Uber and go to the hospital at 2AM. Or 5AM. Or 9AM. The baby was born in mid-morning, so I decided I’d given them enough time and went over at 11, unable to contain myself anymore — I had to meet this kid, I wanted to hold them, tell them that Uncle Mark would always be around for them. To see what a kid born of my DNA would look like. I knew I’d love them either way, but I really hoped they’d be beautiful.
Holding a child that is yours, but not yours is a FUCKING WEIRD FEELING. I was crying — I knew I’d love this kid like my own, forever. The parents gave me a very long time to hold Alex, once I finally felt up to holding them. Holding a baby is one thing. Holding a baby you helped create is another. I’m sure holding a child that will be your own is a whole different thing as well. But for those of you entering in to this, do not discount the attachment you might feel.
I do not regret my choices for a minute, and I hold no illusions about my place in this family — I am not any kind of parent to this child, they are not mine any more than my nieces or nephews, or my close friend’s kids are. But there is an unmistakable attachment and love there.
If someone ever gives you the chance to do this, if you know you can be a good person and keep yourself properly removed, I would definitely recommend it — but it’s a fucking rollercoaster, be prepared.
** Names have been changed for the sake of the parents and the child.