By JR Silver
The Silver family (mummy, daddy and two children under the age of 4) went on holiday recently, our first proper family holiday: it went well, not just because we were frequent users of the “kids club” but the children, even when with us, were surprisingly well behaved.
Should we have been surprised? I was renowned during my early childhood for being quiet and obedient and my wife was also a relatively placid toddler. However, as previous readers of this blog will be aware, when it comes to our children, there is a third set of genes in the mix.
This is because our children came into this world via a combination of my wife’s eggs and the seeds of a sperm donor
I have previously described the experience of picking a sperm donor as being a bit like speed-dating, albeit without the chair-hopping and the awkward three-minute chats with potential suitors who may never pick you. On this occasion, Mrs Silver and I had total control as we stayed rooted together to the same chair pouring through donor profiles stocked with Xytex sperm bank.
I had one clear condition before we embarked: to pay the extra couple of hundred dollars to see pictures of the prospective donors. My wife took some persuading and I understand why, especially as, to this day and until the end of our lifetimes, we now have full access to our chosen donor’s profile, complete with photos that bear more than a passing resemblance to our children.
However, Mrs Silver will also readily concede that we made the right choice in opting to see pictures. One thing that was crucial to both of us was that we select a donor that was a close match to my wife’s and my shared physical characteristics. In particular, we are both of slender build (my burgeoning belly aside) with fair hair, so wanted a donor that would complement our (in my case alleged) six-packs and golden locks.
Even without picture access, the Xytex donor profile provides a detailed list of physical attributes, including hair and beard colour. However, out of the relatively limited number of “blonde” donors, most of them were not a good physical match for Mrs Silver and me and, of the few who were, at least two of them had hair that was a little too close to strawberry blonde for our liking!
At the same time, we also took advantage of the opportunity to potentially enhance the future Silver gene pool, ultimately electing a donor who has done some commercial modelling and is a whopping 6 foot 1 inches tall, meaning that there is a good prospect that at least one of our children will eventually tower over me by several inches!
And, on a more serious note, we have continued to take solace throughout the process by the thought that, by using a sperm donor, we are completely eliminating the risk of my passing on the wretched BRCA1 gene to our children.
So did we make the right donor selection?
Our answer is of course a resounding “yes”: we love our children so strongly and would not swap them for any others, even if I was miraculously able to produce two of my own in later years. And, from a practical perspective, we have lost count of the number of people (friends and strangers)”not in the know” who have commented that one or both of our children look just like their daddy.
A contact of mine who is currently looking into using a sperm donor recently asked me how it makes me feel when I receive such a “compliment”? My instinctive response is it makes me feel very proud, as I have always dreamt of fathering my own children in line with man’s primary purpose to pro-create (as explored in my last article.
But I don’t mind also admitting that, whilst ostensibly proud, something does still (and probably always will) niggle at me deep down inside when given this type of feedback, as it is a painful reminder of my damaged manhood.
So what else can I tell you about our special sperm donor?
He is from the USA and his primary occupation is as a woodworker but he also excels at music and sport, going on national music tours as the drummer with a major label artist, as well as being a part-time tennis instructor.
And this is the intriguing thing: the donor and I both share a love of sport and, whilst I confessed in my last article to only ever becoming a “semi-competent” athlete, the reality is I too was good enough at tennis to coach children back in the late 1990s. So you can imagine my immense pleasure (and slight lack of surprise, given both nature and nurture is arguably in play here) to see my 3-year old son consistently belting the tennis ball over the net during his first ever tennis lesson on our recent holiday.
Further, whilst our son may have derived from trans-Atlantic sporting stock, it also made me smile to see I appear to have nurtured my son into sharing my childhood fear of the swimming-pool: this is in contrast to his much younger sister who, whilst happily donning armbands, was only too happy to let nature take control and have a jolly good splash around!
On a related “nature v nurture” note, I would like to reference the 2018 documentary film “Three Identical Strangers”
This tells the both heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of three identical male triplets separated shortly after their birth in New York in the 1960s. The separation was orchestrated by a medical team looking to research the impact of nature v nurture on various sets of twins/triplets who were “adopted” into various New York homes, in contrasting working v middle class environments, around this time.
The occurrence and results of the study have been heavily criticised and are essentially inconclusive. However, what is patently clear when the three brothers in question were inadvertently reunited in the early 1980s is that both nature and nurture would appear to play a fundamental role in a child’s key developmental years.
Returning to the current day, our sperm donor and my wife have thankfully done their bits from a “nature” perspective and the nurturing is now very much in the hands of my wife and me. One thing is for sure though: if either of our children grows up to be an accomplished woodworker or musician, these are skills they will clearly have American nature to thank for, as Mr and Mrs Silver are neither handy at DIY or gifted musicians!
Take care, JR Silver
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