Audrey has so kindly given her permission for me to reproduce her article here, saying ” I hope it resonates with other children of artificial insemination and their experiences growing up without a dad.”
Artificial Insemination Yields Real Family
Blazer reflects on being raised by mom and on the reality that she may never meet her real dad.
by Audrey Tornblom
Like most girls, I often fantasize about what my wedding day will be like. The ceremony will be held in a small chapel, and all my family and close friends will be in attendance. An organ will play as I enter the sanctuary wearing a flowing white gown. Then, slowly, I’ll march down the center aisle towards the altar all alone. I’m going to have to escort myself to the front of the church, because I don’t have a dad to fill the traditional role.
No, my dad didn’t abandon me, and no, he didn’t die; my situation is much more unusual. In August 1985, my mother, Claudia Tornblom, had artificial insemination by an anonymous donor. According to the National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA), 60,000 children are conceived annually through artificial insemination in the U.S.
A Nameless Man
Like many women in their late 30s, my mom felt her time to have a baby was running out, and she wasn’t in a long-term relationship with a man. She explains, “I felt like I couldn’t wait any longer.”
She went to the doctor’s office and filled out a survey with her own physical characteristics and the characteristics she desired in the donor: a healthy, intelligent, athletic white male who wasn’t allergic to cats. The profiles were anonymous, and there was no name, address, phone number or photo of the man.
All we know is that he had donated sperm to four other women in the past. Three had girls, and one had a boy. In addition, he was married and had two daughters with his wife. So, technically, I have five half-sisters and one half-brother.
Who Am I?
I’ve always felt that because of my situation, I have permanently lost a huge chunk of my identity. According to psychiatric social worker Sue Goldstein, such feelings are normal for children who grow up fatherless. It’s not at all unusual to feel you’re missing a piece of you,” she says. “There is more of a vacuum there, a feeling of being empty, of not being able to attach a person to a situation.”
Goldstein also warns that children of single-parent families are often skeptical about the institution of marriage. Many of these children often expect any romantic relationship to end. “Girls, especially, wonder, ‘When’s he going to leave?'” she says.
Like many children growing up without a dad, I have often felt resentment towards my mother’s decision. When I was younger, I would yell at my mom that I hated her because she hadn’t gotten married, though I didn’t mean it. My mom always reassured me that my birth was not an accident. “I wanted to make sure that even though you weren’t born with a father in your life, you knew you were born because I loved you and wanted you,” she tells me.
When I was four, my mom explained to me she had gone to the doctor to find a “nice man” to be my dad. I was, she joked, “the only four year old in the preschool who knew the word ‘sperm’.”
But her explanations still didn’t help me understand why I didn’t have a dad. I became obsessed with finding a father. When I was four or five, I’d look out the car window as we drove through Washington, D.C., trying to find a nice man to come live with us. I also remember many lonely Father’s Day parties at my daycare center when my godmother’s boyfriend would have to act as my surrogate father. And in third grade, one boy used to tease me and call me an orphan.
As a preteen, I was still very insecure about my family situation. I worried about everything, especially about losing my mom. Although I have overcome my worrying habit, I am still scared that if I ever lose my mom, I will lose the little understanding I have of myself and my heritage.
Every Family Is Different
Growing up fatherless has its drawbacks, but there have been some benefits to having only a mom. Because we’ve had to depend on one another, my mom and I have a stronger and closer relationship than the average mother and daughter.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to embrace my family’s uniqueness. So what if my family isn’t the ideal one typified on television and in magazines? A child with two parents doesn’t necessarily receive more love than a child with just one.
My mom says she has never for a second regretted her decision to have me. “Overriding any difficulties is the fact that I have you in my life. Besides,” she adds, smiling at me, “Christmas was a lot more fun with a kid around!”
In many ways, I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive. I have a family, albeit a small one, and friends who love me. And hey, given that my family has never been a traditional one, perhaps I’ll bend one more custom and have my mom escort me down the wedding aisle.