Yesterday marked our first Father's Day with Benjamin. While he is far too young to have any idea how special his family is, we know that in the future, this day will trigger a wide range of questions and emotions.
In the simplest words, Benjamin was conceived through alternative insemination with the help of both infertility treatments and the generosity of a sperm donor. Reading it in black and white, it sounds very clinical. I often wonder if those who haven't experienced infertility and those who haven't needed the help of a sperm or egg donor can understand the depth of emotion wrapped around the clinical medical jargon.
I often think about the chain of individual moments that led us to where we are today. If anything had gone differently, we would not have our Benjamin. It's overwhelming to realize how important every step of our lives is.. every breath, every thought and every decision holds with it the weight of our future. I decided to write down a bit about how we came to find Benjamin's "donor-dad" in honor of Ben's first Father's Day. Maybe the words that I come up with now.. when Ben is just 6 months old.. will help answer some questions and put him at ease in the future.
We selected Ben's donor-dad in December of 2003 when we lived in Malden, MA. We had an appointment at the Fenway Community Health Center in Boston, where we had been participating in their AI (alternative insemination) program. There was a snow storm that weekend and Malden got almost 3 feet of snow. Because of the weather, we had to take the "T" downtown -- our truck wouldn't have made it there and back.
Here is a slideshow of pictures from our trip downtown and of our old neighborhood in Malden.
We sat in their upstairs meeting room and read through the long profiles for about two dozen donors that had made our short list. Our short list was made by filtering through the hundreds of cataloged available donors to select men that were similar in ancestry to both of us and based on a few simple characteristics -- brown hair, blue or green eyes, average height and build. One donor that made our short list that did not fit this description had strawberry blonde hair. There was something about this donor that caught our attention.
As we read through the long profile for each donor, we quickly brought our list from about two dozen down to two. It amazed me how "easy" it was.. we just knew. The other really interesting part of this is that both Shiela and I agreed every step of the way. There was never a point where one of us was trying to convince the other that one donor was preferable over another.
After about an hour, we had two charts on the table. The donor with the strawberry blonde hair was one of them. The final step was to check the donor's CMV status. CMV stands for Cytomegalovirus. If a mom becomes infected with this virus while she is pregnant, then there is a risk to the baby. If a donor has been exposed to the virus and the bio-mom has not, then there is a risk to the baby. I had been tested negative for CMV, so we needed to select a donor who was also CMV-negative. Of our two "finalists"... Mr. Strawberry-Blonde was negative and the other was not.
Selecting a donor was a very challenging and surreal experience, emotionally. We were selecting the biological father of our future child. This wasn't something that either of us took lightly. Overwhelming... yes! Surprisingly, the final decision did not end up feeling difficult. Something about our donor-dad clicked with us from the beginning and we never second-guessed our decision.
Ben was conceived in April of 2006. I remember some of my thoughts in the early days of my pregnancy. This man that was the biological father of my future child became very real to me. I wondered what he looked like. I wondered what his laugh sounded like. I suddenly had a hundred questions that could never be answered on paper. This was a person who gave me a child. I wanted to thank him.
Benjamin was born in December of 2006. I've thought long and hard about how to answer the question "Do I have a father?". Yes, Benjamin, you do. Your father is a wonderful, generous, man who we love. We do not know his name and he does not know ours, but there is not a day that goes by where we don't think about him and thank him for helping our family.
Yesterday was Benjamin's first Father's Day. We honored his biological father, his donor-dad, by making a donation to the March of Dimes. We thought long and hard trying to find a tangible way to thank Ben's donor-dad. Our experience with Benjamin being born prematurely gave us insight to this idea. The March of Dimes has made a difference for so many children and families from the days of helping children with Polio to their tireless fight to end prematurity. We plan to make a donation each year on Father's Day in honor of Ben's donor-dad. Thank you.