Sorry, but a sperm donor is not the same as a dad

August 2, 2011

In tonight’s Standard there’s a story about a mother who is fighting to identify the father of her son.

Her six-year-old boy was conceived using sperm from an anonymous British donor at a clinic in Marbella. Because the clinic is in Spain, none of the donor’s details could be placed on the HFEA’s database.

OK. That’s the science bit.

What I find a bit depressing about all this is that the woman said in a statement she hopes ‘with all my heart’ that the father of her child would want to meet him.

The woman conceived her son using sperm from an anonymous donor, presumably because she it was more important to her to have a child than wait for Mr Right/Whatever/Also Ran (or Mrs) to come along, and I’m certainly not judging her for that.

But what I don’t understand is why it’s so important to her that her child should know who his ‘father’ is, or why she is romanticising the situation by using emotive language. Because donating sperm does not make a man a dad.

A father is someone who does his best for his children, to the best of his ability; who tries his hardest to protect his kids, and loves them with all his heart, always, no matter how far he is from them, no matter what.

And of course a man doesn’t have to be a child’s natural father to love, care for and nurture them.

This is not the same situation as a child who has been adopted or fostered wanting to track down their biological parents, although of course I get that kids are curious about their backgrounds. Of course it’s complicated, but in my opinion this mum would be better off concentrating on providing the most loving stable background for her son that she possibly can.

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  • Spencer August 3, 2011 at 7:32 am

    If she wants her child to have a dad she should get about finding a man she can get on with who would be a good dad. She made her choice, don’t now complain.

  • geekmummy August 3, 2011 at 7:09 am

    The world of donating sperm, eggs and embryos is still very new. We’re only just getting the first generation of young adults born from donated sperm, and there are no young adults born from donated embryos yet. We’re going through the process of donating our remaining embryos to another infertile couple, and we’ve had compulsory counselling to ensure that we don’t consider any child born from our embryos as our child (although at the same time, we have had to consider what we would do and how we would feel if we did get a knock at the door in 18 years time). I would hope any receiving woman or couple would get similar counselling.

    Now this woman chose to have her procedure carried out abroad, so who knows if the same processes put in place by the HFEA were used by her clinic. But I think this illustrates that there are all sorts of emotions that will come out during parenting, and it’s really important to consider all of this before you do anything with donated eggs/sperm/whatever.

    Did you see the programme on Channel 4 a few weeks ago called “Sperm Donor Unknown”? It was about a database that’s been set up in the USA to allow donor siblings to trace each other from their sperm donor’s ID number, and followed one particular group of siblings that had managed to trace their biological father. Interesting and thought-provoking.

    I think this will prompt a blog post of my own, thanks Liz 🙂

  • Cecilia @ Parenting Controversy August 3, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Oh what a can of worms this topic is!

    I agree, a wank in a cup does not a daddy make.

    PS: now I have that “All I want to do is make love to you” song by Heart playing in my head.

  • Karen August 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    I would willingly donate my eggs, if I knew that there was no possible chance the children that came of the donation would be able to trace me. I wouldn’t be donating becuase I wanted some day to have someone turn up wanting to call me “Mum”, but to give another woman/family the chance of a baby. Donating sperm/eggs does not make you parental material,nor should it be forced apon the donar. If this guy donated annonymously then he should have the right to remain that way. I agree, she’s after money or some other motive.

  • Sara August 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    What worries me is if they allow his details to be disclosed then the amount of men who become sperm donors will drop. Then the woman who generally just want a child without the need for the father will lose out.

    The woman made a decision when she went through this process. I think that if they want to allow a contact box for those sperm donors who are wondering about their off spring but then again. You could open up a mass of issues. Egg donors deciding that they are actually the mothers of children conceived from their eggs

    As you also stated a sperm donor is not a father nor did he sign up to be one.

  • Ellen Arnison August 2, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    You might be interested in a guest post I carried a while back from a sperm donor caught up in the Fertility 1st fiasco.

  • Crystal Jigsaw August 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Doesn’t a sperm donor get paid for his part in this process? I also find this story bizarre because let’s face it, all he wanted was a was of cash, not a child. Sounds to me like she wants some maintenance payments and is hoping this invisible donor will suddenly bond with a child he does know, let alone want, and cough up some readies. Is her child healthy? Some people just don’t know how lucky they are. There are so many women who can’t conceive and are desperate for a family. Beggars belief.

    CJ xx

  • Ellen Arnison August 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I agree. It’s hard to understand what this woman’s motives are. Surely she wouldn’t have chosen an anonymous donor in the first place if she wanted her child to have a relationship with its father.

    It’s also very unfair on the donor who most likely had very altrustic reasons for wanting to help childless women. Actions like hers put other men off.