The year was 1952. I was in my grandparents apartment in New York City. We lived in Buffalo at the time and had come to NY so my father could go to a convention. On this particular evening my parents had gone into the city for a function. I had eaten dinner and was sitting in the spare guest room on the bed reading a book. I was about 9 years old. In the next room, the dining room, my grandparents were still sitting at the table after dinner with 2 other couples. I can remember this because the table seated 6 and I couldn’t wait to finish and get away from the talking and smoking. Although I can’t remember the entire conversation I heard, it went somewhat like this. They were discussing why my parents only had one child. Back in the early 50’s I guess only children were not the norm. My grandfather said that my mother had had to go to a doctor in Chicago in order to have me and that was because my father had had the mumps and could not have any more children. At the time this really piqued my interest because I wanted a little brother or sister like most of my friends. When I was born my parents lived in South Haven Michigan and it was true my mother had gone to a hospital in Chicago for my birth. I tucked this information away and over the years I thought about it and added to my storage of facts about my conception.
Because I was an only child I spent a lot of time around adults. I was quiet and a bit shy and sometimes they forgot I was there and listening. I heard a lot but didn’t ask questions. I really did wonder why my mother had to go to a special doctor in Chicago if my father was the one with the problem and could not have children.
With this in mind, I heard my father tell one of his friends, a doctor, that he did have the mumps before he met and married my mother. He told his friend how terrible it had been and painful because he had become very swollen. I figured out later what he was talking about.
I have brown eyes and my mother and father both have/had (she is alive in a nursing home in Maryland) very intense blue eyes. In high school I learned in biology class about genes and eye color and how it is almost impossible for 2 blue eyed parents to have a brown eyed child. The operative word here is almost.
My mother always kept a picture of the doctor who was her OB/GYN in Chicago. It was among the other pictures in the family album but it was there and if I came across it she would say oh, that was the doctor who delivered you - he was such a nice man. I later found letters he had written to both my parents during WWII when he was stationed in the Pacific asking about me and the family. Just a family friend??? I wasn’t sure.
My father was always reserved and formal and a bit cold. He was very religious and had been raised in Western Maryland the son of a farmer. He never disciplined me. If I did any thing that was in the least bit against what my parents considered proper, my mother would scold me with “You don’t know what a good father you have.” Later I wanted to ask why I didn’t know and why they didn’t tell me. I thought later that she was telling me that he was so good because he had allowed her to have me and that I was allowed to be born.
When I was 19, I got engaged to a young man who was studying premed at the University of Buffalo. We intended to wait until he finished medical school to get married but he got malignant melanoma and died in 1962, 6 months after we married. We knew he was terminal but we wanted to get married and so we did, big church wedding, the works. The point of this is that during that time, while he was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation I was informed that he could not have any children after this treatment. I spoke with my mother who then told me that I could have a child using donor sperm and that it was not difficult to do. And, I didn’t ask her how she knew this. I was distraught, young and didn’t want to question her.
I never thought about asking either my mother or my father about this. I knew it would hurt him and it would cause pain to them or so I believed. I just tried to forget about it but later when I married again and had children, I began to dwell on the sperm donor and the question of who he was. I came to the conclusion it was probably the doctor. Why had my mother kept his picture and letters from him for so many years. I was in my forties by then and over the years I would go through periods of questioning but I never asked them. Then too, I thought maybe she had had an affair with this doctor and my father knew about it and raised me as his own child even though I was the child of my mother’s illicit affair. If that was the case it would explain the eye color, and why she would say “you don’t know what a good father you have.” and the secrecy. And one big question I had was if they had used donor sperm why didn’t this beloved doctor know that thing about the eye color. You would think if he was picking the sperm donor he would have found one with blue eyes.
Again, I did not ask. Time passed and my parents aged. My mother developed dementia and was put in a nursing home. My father died at 96. It was time to investigate. I searched on line and found the doctor’s son. I wrote an email and he answered. His father had passed away but he was willing to meet with me and gave me information about his father. It was possible that his father and my mother had had an affair or that he was the sperm donor. And, he had had brown eyes. I was certain I had found the piece of my identity. I traveled to his home and met him and his wife. We went out to dinner and I looked at pictures of their family. There was a slight resemblance but nothing you could really pinpoint. I later asked if he would do a DNA test with me and he agreed but the test turned out negative. So I am where I was before and I am getting older.
When the internet was first conceived I began searching for information about anonymous sperm donors and artificial insemination in the US in the 1940’s. There was no information out there. I found no books, no groups, no blogs, nothing. I am writing with my story just to let anyone in this circumstance know that you are not alone and that there are many good people out there in the same situation. It is important to us and to our children. I want to know whose genes gave me my love of languages. Who gave me this adventurous spirit that took me to the Middle East and gave me 2 half Turkish children. Who’s blood lines are in me and my kids and my grandkids. Was he funny, was he a bit silly, did he love dogs, did he have some of the same medical problems I have. Do I have half siblings out there. Where are they. Could we laugh together.
I guess the point of all of this is don’t wait and do ask. It will hurt you much more not to know than it will hurt them to tell you. Others have made it a secret not you. I am 65 years old and even though I have little hope of finding any information at all, I have listed on sites for donor conceived children. I have recently paid to list on the DSR and found that they only go back to 1945. I was conceived in 1942 and born in 1943. I would like to find anyone who was born in Chicago in the 1940’s or 1950’s who is looking for information about sperm donor conceived during that same time period but I don’t think I will find anyone. I do hope that the rest of our group will have the benefit of time and technology and legally be able to trace their roots.