[Update 6/19/2009] Mike has moved his blog Donor 67 to his personal website:
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Donor 67 (aka Michael Galinsky) has started a new blog. Below is his first post from today....an op-ed he wrote about a film he is beginning to work on [he's a filmmaker]. About being a sperm donor, a father....both. He is one a growing number of former sperm donors who are starting to acknowledge the ramifications of their donations and want to become known to their children they created in a laboratory.
Are You My Father?
Stems cell research, in-vitro fertilization, egg and sperm donations, and the ethical implications that surround them have been all over the news recently. These are thorny issues and as a filmmaker I am compelled to throw myself and my story into the debate.
Before I made films I played bass guitar in a rock band. To support myself I worked as a messenger for a commercial production house, and a couple of times a week I donated sperm. While on my way uptown to deliver videotapes to the edit house I'd sometimes stop by the sperm bank to make a deposit. 50 bucks might not sound like a lot of money, but it was almost as much as I made for a full day of work as a messenger. My rent was only $150 a month, so between a few days of working as a messenger and 4-6 donations a month, I had enough money to live and enough time to focus on music, photography, and writing.
Despite the fact that I was a religious studies major in college I didn't think too deeply about the ethical or long term implications of my second job. I also didn't keep my work a secret. In fact when people asked me what I did for a living I'd say, "I'm a sperm donor". They either laughed or recoiled in horror. Invariably I would get along well with those who laughed or were intrigued; it was kind of a litmus test.
All humor aside, when I started donating I had the sense that the sperm donor was a pretty unimportant part of the equation. I'd read or seen many sob stories about adopted children searching for their birth mother, but I had never seen anything written about the search for a birth father, let alone a donor father. I donated on and off for probably a couple of years when I wasn't on tour with my band. When I started to date my future wife in a serious way I simply stopped going to the lab. I didn't think about it too much after that.
We got married and after several years my wife and I had a red haired, wild eyed, explosively charismatic daughter. I spent a lot of time with her and was fascinated by the reality of watching her become who she is. There were things about my daughter that simply couldn't have been formed or changed by my parenting style, skills, or lack of thereof. She was who she was when she was born, and she was a lot more me than her mom.
When my wife was 6 months pregnant with our second daughter my father was struck by a car and killed instantly. I was very close to my father which made it a gut-wrenchingly painful experience. While we had our conflicts we also had good communication and as such I didn't feel like we had unfinished business to deal with despite the fact that he was snatched from us so violently. I was pleased that my older daughter had gotten to know him because both of my grandfathers had passed away before I was born and I had the sense that I had missed out on something by never meeting them. Even though she was just shy of 4 years old when he passed away I believe that knowing him had a powerful effect on her life. I have a picture of her on his lap being read to that is, for lack of a better word, precious.
My father handled almost everything in my family and I fell into his leadership role in arranging the funeral. Although hastily put together, it brought many of my relatives together from all over the country. Some of my cousins came that I hadn't talked to in over a decade, yet I felt deeply connected to them. Over 100 people crowded into our house for an impromptu afternoon of remembrance. As I spoke to this group about my father I wore his shirt, which was too small and his watch that didn't work, because I needed to feel connected to him. The room was filled with people who had felt connected to him, and I in turn felt connected to them.
Three months after my father passed away we had our new baby girl. Within weeks I could tell that she took after my wife, and not just in the way that she looked, but in her calm and observant presence. My older daughter shares a hyper energy with myself and my mother, while our younger daughter has a quiet reserved nature like my wife and her maternal grandfather.
It is one thing to understand that there are parts of us that are shaped by nature and parts that are shaped by nurture. It is another thing completely to have two small children and witness how powerfully nature wields it's brush.
When our little one was a couple of months old I was showing her off at the hair salon on the corner. After cooing over her for a few minutes my friend Lois eyed me fiercely and harumphed, "Mike, now you gotta go for your boy."
"Hell no. I'm finished. I can't handle the two I have." I shot back.
"Mike you gotta have a boy." she drawled as she went back to washing her clients hair.
As I left the salon I was struck by the thought that I must have a boy somewhere, probably a lot of boys and a bunch more girls to boot. I stood holding my baby with one hand while trying to contain my older daughter's manic energy with the other and I was dumbfounded by the reality of the situation. Some of them might be 18 years old I realized, and they probably want, even need, to know who I am.