Waiting is the hardest part

by Erin Maya

I finally found the email of the man who I think is my donor dad. It took me about three weeks to work up the nerve to email him. I finally did, last night. 

I feel absolutely sick. I feel insane anxiety, impending rejection and disappointment, total sadness…and I haven’t even gotten a response. I think my body is bracing itself for the worst-case scenario. But all I want is a happy ending: an acknowledgement, acceptance. Kindness. Answers.

This wait is absolute torture.

Because it’s not just “the wait” since I sent the email that is making me feel sick. It is an accumulation of the past 17 years of waiting, since I found out I was donor-conceived. It was freshman year of high school, three years after the dad who raised me passed away. He lost a battle with cancer that started before I was born.

The cancer battle ruined his ability to have children of his own, thus resulting in my parents’ need for a sperm donor—something that no one, not even family, could ever know about.  I wonder: Is inherited shame a thing? I believe it is.

I am now 32 years old. And maybe there is a huge part of me that wonders when do I get my happy ending?

I am trying this new thing where I empathize with “Little Erin”; my former child self whose thoughts and perspective bleed into my adult consciousness when coping with all of this. Little Erin is angry, desperate, scared, and confused. I have always judged those feelings. But why? Literally every human in the world wants a happy ending, and wonders when the hell it’s coming.

Maybe this man, my donor, will ask me to never contact him again. This is my worst nightmare.

What I try to tell myself throughout this intense heartache and anxiety is that humans are complicated. The choices they make are complicated. I am complicated. Life is complicated.  Therefore happy endings for humans are complicated too; because the happy ending you hope for is not necessarily the happy ending you get. 

Maybe this man, my donor, will ask me to never contact him again. This is my worst nightmare. Maybe he will never respond to me; never acknowledge my existence that resulted from what I assume was a financial transaction. It all makes me sick. Feelings of…not-enough-ness, sub-human-ness.

I think the worst part of “the wait” is that it triggers PTSD I would venture to say most donor-conceived people have—that feeling where you have a total lack of control in your life and of your life’s very narrative. Contacting one’s donor is trying to take back control of the narrative…and then, once again, feeling helpless as you await a response. No one has any control over how a donor reacts.

The other thing that makes my situation unique is the fact that the dad who raised me has passed, and I can’t get a “blessing” from him. I wish I knew that it would be okay with him that I am trying to contact my donor, but from what my mother and uncle say, he probably wouldn’t have been. So there is this layer of guilt lurking amongst all the other feelings. I like to hope that my dad would have evolved and understood my need to know about this person. Even just for the sake of knowing my medical history/background. It’s hard.

Recently I was having a conversation with my best friend, who is adopted and understands somewhat what I’m going through. He said these wise words: “Love is not a limited resource, it does not decrease when shared.” This is what I wish every parent who has a DC child would understand. Searching for/finding/connecting with one’s donor does not subtract the worth of the parent who raised you. In fact, if my dad were alive today and gave me his blessing and understanding, I would love him even more. If that’s even possible.

Best case scenario to come out of “the wait”: my donor responds and acknowledges that he did, indeed, donate sperm at that fertility clinic in the 80s. He would tell me that he understands my need to connect with him, and he would share with me some medical history and basic facts about himself. He would be open to keeping in touch. 

Over time, we would develop our own kind of relationship…definitely not that of a father and daughter, but an acknowledgement and interest in one another’s existence. It would be so wonderful to learn about the Cuban heritage I learned only two years ago makes up half of my genealogical makeup. It would be wonderful to know if I got any of his personality traits. It would be cool to be connected with his children, now adults, who are technically my half siblings. Love is not a limited resource—the more, the merrier.

There’s not much we donor-conceived people can do during “the wait” except distract ourselves. The most helpful thing has been simply knowing I am not alone in this unique situation; reading other donor-conceived people’s stories, getting their advice, meeting and connecting with them has been monumental for me. Donor-conceived people tend to feel alone in their pain, but realizing there is a community out there of other people who have been through “the wait” or are still waiting for their donors to respond to their messages is comforting. We are not alone. We’re in this together…and we deserve to be seen and acknowledged.

Erin Maya is the lead vocalist and songwriter for Erin Maya and The Reckoning. Their new single, “No More Waiting” is about Erin’s choice to discover her identity and roots.

Photo by Sorin Sîrbu on Unsplash