The Corner

Searching for a Father


This essay by a British young woman who was conceived by a single mother through donor insemination raises many of the themes we are seeing emerge in both single mothers and couples who use IVF: The longing for a father. this longing creates loyalty conflicts within the family of choice because it feels (sometimes to the child and often to the mother) like a betrayal of the mother. ’

At only five I was unable to process my mother’s struggle to beat the odds against her uncooperative ovaries and the social stigma of wanting to become a single parent. Instead, what upset me most was that after numerous operations, she was unable to pick me up and swing me round like the dads who collected their daughters from school. . . . During most of my primary years, I was unfazed by my lack of a father. But at 12, when I started secondary school, the issue came into sharper focus. Suddenly I had to deal with stronger, deeper emotions I had been too young to appreciate. What had made me special now brought me pain and sadness. My longing for a father-daughter relationship grew. . . . I constantly imagined meeting my father and fantasised that he must be searching his long-lost daughter. I also envied friends’ relationships with their dads. . . . I longed to know who he was, to find out more now that I had something to build on. But Mum put her foot down. She felt I was too young to try to find him; we would do it when I was older. These years were difficult for us both. I resented her for holding me back. I knew she was trying to protect me but from my adolescent perspective it felt like Mum was deliberately hurting me. I felt utterly alone.

Robert Oscar Lopez recently testified before the Minnesota legislature on his own experience growing up without a father (after his parents divorced) and being raised by two women. You can hear echoes of the similar themes: the scars of not knowing a father’s love, compounded by the need to be loyal to a beloved mother, which leaves little space for the child’s own point of view.

Of course, not all children feel this way. But clearly many more do than our culture is acknowledging.


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