Sperm donor or parent? A Mother’s Day Message

This week I consulted with two women who have similar origin stories for their child — both used a known sperm donor — but very different concerns as a result. As a Mother’s Day message, to all who are Thinking, Trying and Being moms on their own, I share some words of wisdom from a Choice Mom about what it is to be a parent rather than a donor.

In the first case, the woman is newly conceived — and wasn’t sure it would happen, at 46. She is now figuring out how to prepare the next year or two of her life, which almost assuredly will involve relocating out of her expensive city to a place where healthcare, childcare and living expenses will be more affordable. She wanted to talk over the logistical and emotional issues involved, as any good mom and pending mom does.

In the other case, the Choice Mom of a four-year-old is now facing a lawsuit from her known donor, who is partly trying to prevent her from relocating back to her home state, where her father is ill. The donor has chosen to employ many questionable and downright unethical methods to get what he wants, including blackmail and taking her son for an extended day without permission.

They had been friends — not partners — for 10 years prior to what seems to be his discovery in his late 40s that his own opportunity to become a father was passing him by. Nearly two years after her son was born, he became interested in co-parenting. Though, to me, it sounds like he is less interested in being a loving parent and more interested in simply “having” something. As we tend to know so well, related genes, and a bank account, does not make a good parent. 

As a Mother’s Day message, I would like to share the viewpoint of one Choice Mom who wrote a letter of support, after I put out the call that this woman is fighting for her right to be a Choice Mom in the way that was originally intended. Is a donor who changes his mind a parent by virtue of being genetically related to the child?

Many of us build our families in different ways — with various birth “others.” I thought we could all relate to the sentiment this woman expressed beautifully about our Choice Mom journey. — Mikki


Why do some women choose to be single mothers, even though that role and term is [often] disparaged in our society? If your life hasn’t led you to that path, you won’t likely understand that there’s a difference between single motherhood, and single motherhood by choice.

If you do the research, you’ll find that most Choice Moms choose to parent on their own after they realize that they are ready to have children but haven’t found a compatible partner to share their lives with.

Choice Moms are what they are because they don’t want to compromise a good life for themselves or their children by committing their future to someone they don’t love and trust implicitly as a life partner and parent.

Asking a man to be a donor, whether it’s a woman or a cryobank advertisement doing the asking, is asking for his sperm. It’s asking for the other half of the chromosomes needed to create a much-wanted child. It is not asking a man to become a parent, a responsible party, or a permanent fixture in someone’s life. That would be asking a man to become a co-parent or a father.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]A donor and a parent are nowhere near the same thing. I never would have called my dad my mother’s “donor.” I would also never call my sons’ donor their “dad.”[/pullquote]

What Is a Sperm Donor? What is a Parent?

Agreeing to be a donor means you don’t have to support anyone through a pregnancy, pay for or attend medical appointments, suffer through the sleepless nights and diaper changes of babyhood, take time off work for a child’s illness or social events, or pay a thousand dollars for daycare each month until the child is old enough for public school. Those are things a partner and father do. I couldn’t find a suitable partner to be a father to my sons, but I manage parenthood myself, and do it well.

Boys Hugging 1I chose a willing-to-be-known donor from a cryobank to create my family. My donor agreed to release his identity if my sons want that information when they turn 18. My oldest son was almost the spitting image of the donor when he was three. My donor chose to be anonymous to anyone but my adult sons, but I know if he had seen pictures of my sons, played with them on a holiday, or otherwise witnessed their charm, intelligence and humor, he would be in love. As a human, it would break his heart and his mother’s heart to see his own image manifest in those pure, beautiful, brilliant boys — and never have a relationship with them. But he agreed to be my donor. He’s not a relative, and I don’t have to subject my sons to his views on religion, the ups and downs in his life, his quirks, or his family members.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I chose him as a donor, not a co-parent or a partner. I had different qualifications and requirements for those more important roles.[/pullquote]

On Making Choices as a Mother

Since I had my sons, I’ve had two marriage proposals. Choosing single motherhood once felt like the only option if I ever wanted to be a mother. Now I’ve lived it, and I have chosen it over again, even with other options before me.

A choice mom isn’t a single mother by force. She is a capable, deliberate person who takes on the responsibility of being the ultimate guide and protector of her children.

Social views need to shift to match the reality of the times — a  woman can choose motherhood on her own, and create a happy and secure family.

— contributed by Becky

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  3 comments for “Sperm donor or parent? A Mother’s Day Message

  1. Kimberly
    July 17, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    I wish this posting had addressed the legal issues in these women’s decision. Why is it that he’s able to sue (as in why would he think he has a leg to stand on in court)? Is it because they didn’t draw up legal documents? Is it because they conceived directly via sex? Is it because of particular laws in the state that she lives in? That would be so helpful.

    • July 18, 2016 at 8:30 am

      It is because if a case gets to a court of law, many judges — in the absence of laws otherwise — err on the side of “best interests of the child are to have two parents.” Most don’t recognize the “known donor” agreement as valid… if a “father” really wants to co-parent, the thinking is, they have the right to change their mind because it benefits the child, they believe. Have you seen the “known donor” package of articles on ChoiceMoms.org, such as: http://www.choicemoms.org/why_you_need_a_contract_with_a_known_donor/

  2. Nancy
    May 7, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I used a known donor. I wish I didn’t. Courts want to give half custody to the father no matter what. It is risky to use a known donor.

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