Dear Sperm Donor 14659:
You don’t know me, but I am the mother of your child. I’m a single, 42-year-old, African American woman with a successful public-policy career, a strong social network and a tightknit family. I always believed I would bring a child into this world, but by the time I entered the geriatric phase of fertility, I still had not found “the one.” So, a little more than two years ago, after lots of soul searching, research and a few conversations with people I trust, I selected your profile from hundreds of potential donors in the California Cryobank. With God’s abundant grace, and with your generous genetic contribution, I gave birth to a healthy, smart, beautiful and hilariously tenacious little angel who is curious about the world and is just learning to walk in it.
Happy Father’s Day, and thank you.
With your help, I have become a single mother by choice — a woman who decides to have a child knowing that, at least at the outset, she will be the sole parent. As a black woman, I realize you don’t hear about us often. Only about 1.4 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 15 to 44 have used artificial insemination — a figure that is something of a proxy for the number or women becoming choice moms — and it is even less common among African American women. The public face of choice motherhood is often that of a well-off white woman.
Choice should be an option for all women. Certainly, infertility is a common health problem that affects women regardless of race. Despite the stereotype of the hyperfertile black female, rooted in slavery, we have, in fact, the highest prevalence of infertility at 11.5 percent and are almost twice as likely to face infertility as our white or Hispanic counterparts. The precise reason for higher rates of infertility is unclear, but one factor may be the larger and more frequent challenges black women have with fibroids, benign tumors that take up space in the uterus.
Often, African American women do not explore becoming single mothers by choice because of a fear of social stigma surrounding poor, unwed black mothers, cultural beliefs that include strong family values, or because of a healthy suspicion of the introduction of science into an otherwise natural and God-ordained process. The choice may not be considered simply because of the relatively high cost of the process, which is still not covered by insurance in most states. However, artificial insemination provides an important option for black women who are financially stable, who have strong support systems, and who are increasingly unwilling to sit motherhood out, leave pregnancy to chance or place their bets on an unsuitable partner — be it because of values, temperament or chemistry.
This is where you come in. We need more high-achieving African American men like you to become sperm donors. After months of searching cryobank profiles, a process eerily similar to swiping for a date on an app such as Match or Tinder, I was overwhelmed with frustration. I remember complaining to very close friends about the lack of well-educated African American donors with personality traits I would hope to find in my child: compassion, grit, tenacity and sensitivity. It was not my goal to genetically engineer my child, but simply to choose a donor who reflected my love for black people, my own heritage, as well personality traits compatible with my own. As an African American male with a graduate degree, leadership experiences, athletic ability, and demonstrations of compassion in your profession as captured in the powerful essay you wrote, you were obviously the one.
Some will argue you are not a “real father.” Real fathers, so the argument goes, provide unconditional love, a consistent guiding presence, character and spiritual role modeling, emotional and financial support to a child. I agree.
I also believe all children need father figures — male members of our village eager to help teach our sons and daughters kindness, integrity, courage, decency. And, yes, we vertically challenged mothers need someone to help us reach the highest shelf every once in a while.
So, to your daughter’s Indian American godfather who bought her some of her first jazz and girl-power books, to one of my gay male friends who put together her Pack ’n Play bassinet and installed the car seat, to some of my black male father-figure friends who brought her toy blocks from South Africa, who went with us to church, who listened to me complain about sleep training, and countless other demonstrations of love and support: Happy Father’s Day to you, too.
Anonymous Sperm Donor, you are a special kind of father. I refer to you as a “purpose father” because you made the decision to give yourself, and in doing so, helped me live out my purpose.
Alaina Beverly is an attorney based in Washington, D.C.