News to me at 22.
I am 22 years old and I just found out that I was conceived through sperm donation.
This information was withheld from me for my entire life until now.
I was born into a loving, happy family. My parents have had a strong admirable marriage for nearly 25 years. I never would have imagined that my father was not the biological male who contributed to my existence.
I was and still am very understanding of the circumstances. They so desperately wished to have a child that they used an unconventional method to achieve it. Initially, the hardest part was understanding that the reason they withheld this from me was because my dad was afraid of the way it would affect our relationship, or my love for him. I could not assure him enough that my love for him was something that could not be swayed by something like this, and that he was in fact my father regardless of my genetic makeup. I did not want him to feel ashamed for making a decision that gave me life.
I quickly found myself trying to protect my parents from feeling badly about this decision they made. After all, if they had not made this decision, I wouldn’t be here today. I was so careful to make sure they knew that I understand why they did it and that I am overwhelmingly proud of them to make such a choice and having to keep such a daunting secret, even at the times when I would stare at my dad’s face and ponder aloud which features I had received from him.
However, I have since felt a shameful sadness about this news. In a single day, I went from looking at my appearance without second thought, to looking at a stranger. I feel uncomfortable in my skin. I caught myself looking at my hand and thinking about why it looks the way it does. My hands don’t really resemble my mother’s hands, so now I am left wondering if someone out there has these same hands.
I have never looked like my family, but wasn’t all too concerned with it. I would pry at my parents about whether or not I could have been adopted or mixed up in the hospital room. My parents would joke back, saying they found me in a log on the beach. I now felt like this was more true than ever.
Even my connection to my mother felt weak. Although it doesn’t make any sense, I feel as though I am a complete stranger to myself and to the family I have always known and loved. I feel like an outsider, regardless of the logistics.
I know about the 5 stages of grief. First comes denial and isolation, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. I see myself muddling through these stages, but the order is completely messed up. At some moments I feel normal and completely accepting. Other times I feel angry, not even at anyone or anything in particular. I feel sad, alone, confused, and lost at times, while other times I feel nothing at all. I am on a roller coaster of emotions and I am not even sure why. I don’t like that I am suddenly grieving a person that I do not know or care to ever know. More importantly, I feel as though I am grieving myself.
Half of what I had thought to be a fundamental part of who I am, has been taken from me. Everything I knew is wrong. Am I genetically likely to be fat? Tall? A fast runner? Do I potentially carry diseases or ailments I can otherwise pass onto my children? Did a complete stranger pass on a genetic disease to me that I will have to endure? These questions are abundant and fill my mind.
I consider myself to be insecure at times and fragile emotionally. I do not exude confidence, even though I have an extroverted personality. I regularly second guess myself. However, I have always felt as though I strongly know who I am. I am unapologetically myself, and I take pride in my roots. I do understand that my genetic roots do not technically contribute to who I claim to be, but I am still shaken. I feel as though suddenly “myself” has been compromised and I have to re-learn a complete stranger in my body.
I am so confused over this feeling. I am able to confidently determine how I feel, but I am split because half of me feels this way and understands it, and the other half of me tells me I am being dramatic and unreasonable.
In addition to not completely understanding why I feel this way, I feel guilty for feeling anything at all. I am afraid to tell my parents how this makes me feel out of the fear that they will misunderstand my confusion and curiosity for something that it isn’t. I don’t want my parents to feel like I am hurt by this decision or that I wish to find this mysterious person and form a relationship with them. I have no desire to find my “biological father” – if that is something he can even be considered to be. I view him as merely a contributor to my DNA – my donor. However this label doesn’t feel quite right either. I am uncomfortable knowing that this person exists out there (or doesn’t, I don’t know if he has died). I am equally uncomfortable knowing that this person out there knows that he might have genetic offspring in the world that he will never get to meet. I feel weirdly betrayed by this person. It makes me sick to admit that.
I am not sure what to make of all of this. I know the end result: I will feel the same as I always have, comfortably loving my father and knowing that he is the man who raised me to be the woman I am today. But the journey I have to endure to get to that closure seems long and exhausting. I am confused and emotional and not sure where to begin.