You know things aren’t going well when your life story turns into romantic comedies. I guess it beats tragedies, but still…
Two of this summer’s hottest films, “The Kids Are Alright” and “The Switch,” involve women who use donor insemination to become pregnant. In one case, it’s to help lesbians, played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, have children. In the other, it’s a single woman. Jennifer Aniston, who in real life is over 40, unmarried, childless, and subjected to endless tabloid fixation on both counts, stars in that one.
Eighteen years ago, I used an anonymous donor to become pregnant with my daughter.
Back in the early 1990s, this topic was hardly fodder for hit films. Sure, there was a brief exchange between then-Vice President Dan Quayle and a fictional TV character named Murphy Brown who gave birth (no mention of a father) as a single mom. He took the fictional character to task, but this was a man who famously spelled potato with an “e” on the end so it blew over pretty quickly.
Months later, I gave birth to a perfect baby girl who was destined to grow up without a father. It wasn’t Plan A, believe me. But a long-time relationship had ended and I thought that at 34 my chances of getting pregnant were quickly growing dimmer. “Baby first, husband later,” I recall thinking at the time.
It wasn’t out of lack of respect for the role of fathers. In fact, my 81-year-old dad is still a vital part of my daughter’s life and mine too. It wasn’t even that I particularly wanted to do it on my own. It was more about circumstances and timing. And I made sure that my child was surrounded by loving, caring friends and family including quite a few men. My child is now starting her senior year of high school.
How did it all work out? Well, she certainly isn’t a man-hating, truant, pregnant juvenile delinquent. In fact, she has a 4.3 GPA, is a member of the National Honor Society, has had a great boyfriend for the past year, and is popular and sunny. In fact, her fatherlessness may be the least remarkable thing about her.
But, the truth is there were many times over the years when she wished for a father. Once, when she was in grade school, I asked what she would do if she had one. “Call him Daddy,” she responded. I have had a long-term relationship and, though we’ve never married, he has stood in for a dad on several occasions. She has liked that. But she has also said that she wouldn’t be who she is today if she had a father. And she likes who she is today. So do I.
Bill O’Reilly was clearly cruising for a fight when he recently slammed Jennifer Aniston for appearing in a movie that he claims tells “12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that, ‘Hey you don’t need a guy. You don’t need a dad.'”
Luckily, she’s smart enough to deliver a message that might just shut him up. “Of course, the ideal scenario for parenting is obviously two parents of a mature age,” Aniston told People. “Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth. And, of course, many women dream of finding Prince Charming (with fatherly instincts), but for those who’ve not yet found their Bill O’Reilly, I’m just glad science has provided a few other options.”
Thank you, Jennifer. The truth is that families come in all types of formations these days–single moms, single dads, step-parents, two moms, two dads, grandparents raising their grandchildren…The configuration that prevailed when O’Reilly was growing up is still around, even though married mothers are more likely to work outside the home. But the ideal setting for raising young people hasn’t changed: Every child should grow up loved and nurtured.
I’m OK with moviegoers laughing about sperm donors. All I know is that a decision that I made 18 years ago has produced an amazing, resilient, and gorgeous child on the brink of womanhood who is surely going to make the world a better place. You’re welcome.