Now that I am almost certain of the identity of my biological father, the next question is “Why?” Ted was 58 years old when I was conceived. He was a well respected business and family man with a loving wife and grown up children. My mother was 32, married to a man ten years her senior who was running a successful business. Although I never suspected my parentage I did ask my mother when I was a teenager why I was born at that time, 15 years after she married my father. Her reply was that it was the happiest time of her life. The business was doing well, there were no money worries. The lack of stress, healthy climate and general feeling of well being resulted in a pregnancy. I presumed that the rest of her married life was so stressful she failed to become pregnant ever again. It was only when my father died I gave up hope of ever having a brother or sister.
I have a couple of theories. I don’t want to just assume that Ted and my mother had a relationship and I was the result. I think it could be more complex than that.
I have considered the possibility of Donor Insemination. Very little is written about this topic in Australia. In her blog, “A Brief History of Donor Conception” Wendy Kramer suggests that DI was carried out discreetly by private medical practitioners. Parents were told to never tell anyone, not even the child. By 1951 the number of children in the United States born as a result of artificial insemination was estimated to be 20,000. However the first successful human pregnancy using frozen spermatozoa wasn’t reported until 1953.
The Submission to the Senate Enquiry into “The past and present practices of donor conception in Australia” on behalf of the Fertility Society of Australia and its subcommittees states:
Because of the lack of available treatment for male infertility, donor insemination (DI) using fresh sperm, unscreened and unmatched, has been practised in Australia since the 1950s.
There is an Australian case reported in the Daily Telegraph March 12, 2007, of three children born as a result of sperm donation in the 1950s, before the advent of IVF. A woman wanted children but her husband was infertile. She asked an acquaintance to become a sperm donor for her three children. The children didn’t find out the truth until after their social father died but pursued a successful claim on their biological father’s estate.
This is a potential problem for donor fathers and establishes a worrying precedent. I haven’t gone into the full details of the case but imagine that the legal system will have to sort out the repercussions of donated sperm. With DNA tests so readily available the number of people likely to find their father isn’t their father will increase dramatically.
Margie Ripper’s paper on Australian Sperm Donors (Department of Gender, Work and Social Inquiry, The University of Adelaide) looks into the nature of parenthood. She says:
Sperm donation does not constitute ‘fatherhood’ in any meaningful sense because parenthood is a social relationship based on the act of parenting rather than on biological links per-se.
I agree wholeheartedly, so when I talk about my father I am talking about Linden. Ted may be my biological father but my interest in him is somewhat detached. However he led such an interesting life and left so many clues I feel I need to follow them.
It may be the case that my mother desperately wanted a child and had realised that it wasn’t going to happen with my father. This may have been confirmed by her doctor. She may have asked for help from a family friend and Ted obliged. As with DI maybe nothing was said to anyone, not even my father. I was never made to feel I wasn’t his. Surely I would sense something in his manner if he knew I wasn’t his biological child. As for my mother, her secret went with her to the grave. Never in her wildest dreams would she imagine that I would do a DNA test and find out my biological father.
Even if my mother and Ted were attracted to each other, the affair would have ended faster than anyone could imagine. In 1951, just months before I was born, Ted was diagnosed with cancer and the next year he was dead.