DADI- Donor Against Donor Insemination

No, not a contradiction in terms. I am a former sperm donor who is now totally opposed to the practice of donor conception. This is my story....

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Friday, April 07, 2006

When I was the age my son was then...

I set off on a similar journey to a somewhat larger island.

I was just eighteen years old in August 1969
when I set sail from Melbourne on the Sitmar liner Fairstar
to England via the Panama Canal.

I was only six months out of high school
but already I had been arrested three times
and been technically convicted once
for daring in one way or another to protest
against the brutal war in Vietnam.

And now I was also a draft dodger
choosing exile over commitment
because really I was just a kid
with a passion for poetry.

On that early Spring evening
as my ship manoevred through the waters of the Bay
I watched the skyline of Melbourne recede into the distance
and knew with all the certainty of youth
that my life was only just beginning.

My father had seen me off at the docks
but would not stay to see the ship slowly
pull away festooned with streamers which one by one
would snap and sever that last link between the adventurer
and those they left behind.

For my birthday he had given me
a watch engraved with my name
and had also invited me to choose
from his collection of old wallets
one which would suit me
now that I had become a man.

Within that sheaf of leather I kept the folded photo
of my father and mother on their wedding day
which he had also just bequeathed to me
for what purpose I could not then quite fathom.

They stand there in a semi-formal pose:
my father in his best suit, the fingers of his right hand
at his side nervously clenched, those of his left completely surrounding
my mother's right hand which he holds stiffly
at a point just below his left rib cage.

My mother is petite and glowing.
Her high cheek bones shine above her smile.
She wears a wide bonnet framing her hair
which must have been permed for the occasion
into large thick curls which extend almost
to the collar of the tunic
embellished with a sea star-like pattern
which she wears atop her plain knee-length skirt.

Behind them in the photographer's studio
a set of floor to ceiling curtains have been slightly
pulled apart to reveal a bare white wall.

It is as if they are about to bid farewell
to turn around and step into that naked whiteness,
to begin to colour it, to animate it with shared experience.

But there is something troubling and tawdry
about the faded mock Persian rug on which
they stand, not least of which is the kink
which has been left to rise quite mountainously
between their two sets of feet.

On the back of the photo my mother had inscribed
in her flowery hand: With our Love ~ Betty & Arthur.
Beneath her dedication my father has now printed for me...


This is my mother's new surname and her address.

My father tells me he does not mind if I set out to find her
to return to her at last...

I watch the lights of the city
twinkling now on the dark horizon.

I have entered the dream of my future.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Father to My Son

At one end of the room my son sits in uncomfortable isolation.
At the other a man stands facing him, interrogating him,
in an increasingly aggressive manner.

I am standing to one side of his interrogator,
my wife and her son nearby me.

How long have I known him now: this young man
who is a part of me and I a part of him?

Only a year up to this point, perhaps,
but already he has become dear to me.

The man who raised him and pretended
to be his father has come to my home
not just ostensibly to discipline my son
but also to subtly establish his priority over me.

With every harsh word he stabs at my son
I wince with inner pain but yet I feel
I cannot protect him, I cannot intervene.

With his every word, however,
this man diminishes himself.
He shrinks in my estimation.
He no longer deserves my respect.
He is nothing to me.

Within a matter of weeks
my son will set out on a journey alone.

For many months he will live
an almost hermit-like existence
in an isolated part of Tasmania
caring for animals at a sanctuary there.

When he returns I can see that he has changed.

He knows now where he belongs.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


The few books remaining in my father's collection
which he had carried halfway around the world to Australia
were mostly novels about navies and the sea.

Some of the first adult books I read, therefore, were the works
of Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny) and C.S. Forester (Brown on Resolution),
and those of a man with the most intriguing of names,
Nicholas Monsarrat (HMS Marlborough Will Enter Harbour
and The Ship that Died of Shame).

I am not quite sure why but it was that latter title, itself,
that resonated most with me at the time.
Perhaps it was something to do with the incongruity
to my adolescent mind that a thing composed of metal and wood
and bristling with weaponry could actually be so anthropomorphised
as to feel the very human emotion of shame
and that it might actually die as a consequence.

I cannot now recall anything at all about the details of that tale
but what I do remember is that the endpaper of the book
was curiously somewhat thicker than any of the other pages.

I think I must have let that mystery lie for many months or so
but one day I could resist my curiosity no longer
and carefully prised the endpaper apart from the frontispiece
to which it had in fact been glued around the edges
and discovered my father's secret.

Written there in a beautifully curling and obviously feminine script
was a dedication to my father on the occasion of his birthday
and that this present was a gift of love from Betty.

How I used to linger over every line and every word
of that lovingly inscribed message from the past.

For a long time it was my only concrete link to my mother.
Her presence was palpable there.

For one short space in time, she had concentrated her energy
transforming that empty page into what had now become her memorial.

Friday, February 24, 2006

November 21, 2001

Dear M-------

I have only just received your letter today.
I don't understand why, but for some reason
the hospital has delayed more than a week
in passing it on to me.

I am writing you this necessarily hasty reply
so I can mail it tonight as I am leaving
for Sydney in the morning.

First, I must say how thrilled and honoured
I felt in finding out quite by chance
that you were seeking me.

So I, too, must therefore thank you in return
for the diligence and persistence you have shown
in your quest such that I now have the welcome opportunity
of connecting with yourself and your brother.

For, I must stress, I have no qualms at all
about meeting you - if you so wish -
if only that you might satisfy your curiosity
about what I look like!

However, I can tell you right now
that when I saw your photograph in the paper
I had no doubt at all that you were my daughter:
you look very much like I did at your age -
my hair was even the same length as yours.

Since time is running very short
I think I will quickly parallel
what you have written to me.

So, a brief biography:
I was born in 1951 (28th June)
in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England,
into an upwardly mobile working class family
(well, my mother, at least, had higher aspirations).

I have one brother, John, who is two years older
than me. In 1958 my parents divorced and my father
emigrated to Australia with myself and my brother
in 1959 (although we came separately via a child
migrant scheme).

I never saw my mother again until Easter this year.
My father never re-married and raised us completely
on his own in Melbourne in the 1960s.

At high school I matriculated in Science
but narrowly saved myself from doing
a BSc at Monash University in 1969.

In the end it didn't seem right for me,
besides the 60s was a pretty exciting time
and I decided instead to go back to England
on my own and take a look at 'swinging London'.

A year later I returned to Melbourne
and shortly afterwards met, and later married,
the mother of my three daughters.

From '74 to '78 I studied for an honours degree
in English Language and Literature
at Melbourne University, during which time
my first two daughters were born
and I became a sperm donor.

Subsequently, I have also completed in 1997
a post-graduate honours degree in Linguistics
and English Language Studies.

Now, however, I am self-employed as a baker
in the vegan bakery I operate with my new partner,
Lia, and her son, Liam.

To answer your questions:
Yes, I too am left-handed and the only one
in my immediate family.

As for the artistic streak:
Well, I belong to that endangered species
known as 'Poet' although, like yourself,
I have also had more than a passing interest
in photography and architecture.
Not surprisingly, all three of my daughters
have a similar bent.

To tell you the truth
I can't recall whether I was offered
the choice of anonymity.

I am certain, however, that I was not availed
of any formal nor even informal discussion
of my rights or responsibilities as a donor.

In fact I was never completely sure, subsequently,
whether the sperm was used purely for research
or for donor insemination itself.

I entered the donor program because a friend of mine
was already in it and I guess it seemed
like a socially useful thing to do.

Although, I must admit, I never seriously considered
the ramifications of what I was involving myself in
at the time. But now here I am are you.

I hope this hasn't been too perfunctory.
It is now five to six and I must print this out
and dash to the mail box.

I really hope you receive this letter
without any further delay.

Please feel free to bypass the hospital
and write to me directly if you wish
or, even better, phone.

My best wishes,


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

November 12, 2001

Dear Michael,

There's a lot I would like to say to you
but the first word I think should be thankyou.
Thankyou for the gift of life but thankyou also
for coming forward.

I honestly did not expect to receive a response to my article.
I had come to terms with the fact
that I might never know your name.

My only wish is to know a little more about myself.
Please understand that you do not have to meet me
or correspond further than letters if you don't feel comfortable.
Though I am very curious to know what you look like.

I guess that you might like to know a bit about me.
I was born in 1981 at the Royal Women's Hospital.

I have been very lucky.
I grew up in West Gippsland on a 20 acre property
overlooking the Toomuc Valley, where I still live.

From the age of two I had my own horse
and rode competitively until I was 17.
I dreamed of going to the Olympics
like every little pony clubber.

I went to the local primary school
and then a private school nearby.
I completed my VCE in 1998.

I have always been very artistic.
I did ballet and then children's theatre for a while.

I dreamed of being an architect
and then an interior designer
but I excelled in illustration and design
and this is what I went on to study.

I graduated this year as a graphic designer
and in between my two jobs as a bartender
and child care worker I am looking
for a full time job.

As you would know from the article
I also have a full brother.
He will be 18 in December.

He has blond hair and blue eyes like me
but is a little taller and skinnier, like a rake.

He has ADHD.
He has a lot of trouble reading and writing
and dealing with complex issues such as DI.
You may have got the impression from the article
that we don't know where he inherited this from.
But we know for sure that he got it from mum.

He loves his motorbike(his freedom machine)
and is naturally athletic unlike me.
He left school in year nine and now works
as a blacksmith.

He knows how he was conceived
but does not yet know that I have your name.
Mum will tell him tonight perhaps.

You may be interested to know
that his name is Michael.

I have just a few questions for you to start with.
Please don't feel pressured to answer them.

Is anyone in your family left-handed?
(I'm a leftie but my brother, my mum and all her family
are righthanded)

Are you, or is anyone in your family artistic?

What did you study?

Where you given a choice as to whether
you wanted to be an anonymous donor?

Why did you donate?

Where are your family from?

I hope this is not too hard for you.
I only found out in March how I was conceived
so I too am still coming to terms with the fact
that you exist.

Please know that I am not looking for another father
only information. But I think of you now as a friend.

From my brother and I:
thankyou again for coming forward.

I hope to hear from you soon.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

To say goodbye

I turned away from the window...

A tree which stood by the front fence
became an image

Of the very last time I saw my mother
in tears

The same tears I wore as a garment
for thirty-three years

Its leaves silently falling...

And I could not be certain
if my mother had no more autumns to give

Or if winter that year
would lay more than enough snow

On the long-dead bird
at the bottom of the garden


By the time I was ten years old
the memory of my mother

had been almost obliterated.
Apart from the indisputable fact
that both my brother and myself
walked upon this world
and therefore must once have been born
it was if the woman who had given us life
had never existed.

My father ran his own Ministry of Propaganda:
any reference to our mother was expunged
from our past and present lives.
No photographs or documents existed
which might serve to remind us
that once we had enjoyed
the comfort of a mother's love.
And implicitly we knew
that we must not mention her
in any way.

At the end of 1959, my brother and I
embarked from the port of Tilbury in Kent
to sail for Australia aboard the SS Strathaird
of the Peninsular and Oriental Line.

Within the space of less than two years
our feeling of family had been whittled away
until finally we had become child migrants:
ostensibly orphans under the temporary
care and protection of the Fairbridge Society.

Just before Christmas the small group
of children with whom we were travelling
arrived in Melbourne and were then
transported overland to the Fairbridge Farm School
near Molong in New South Wales.

We only spent six months there
but for two young boys aged ten and eight
it might as well have been six years.

Decades later when the tragedy of child migration
had been rightly exposed for the abuse that it was
I was informed by a social worker assigned to
the task of counselling former child migrants
that my my brother's and my own case
did not qualify for assistance because unlike
others less fortunate we had only spent
a short period of time in the hell that was Fairbridge.

I wanted to tell her that after the first month of
systematic neglect, exploitation and endemic bullying
it no longer mattered how long it persisted
for by then the damage was already done
after which it became merely a matter of endurance
and the counting off of the months and years remaining
before the long-term inmates could legally claim the right to leave.

And I also wanted to tell her that although
I wasn't quite certain what damage the experience
had wrought on me, I knew that within two years
of our departure from that wretched place
my brother began exhibiting the first symptoms
of the mental illness that would see him
spend the rest of his life in institutions suffering
the ravages of ECT and chronic medication.

I am sure they would all say they were only doing
their job: the well-remunerated professionals,
the middle-class men and women who counselled my father
that he was doing right by us in giving us a better life
than we could ever hope to have if we were to stay in England:
they who would make decisions on our behalf that would affect us
for the rest of our lives.

And my father who likewise convinced himself
he was doing the best for us but who also
somewhere unacknowledged inside himself
saw our migration as a way of punishing my mother
for her transgressions and her crime

By the time I was ten years old
the memory of my mother
had been almost obliterated.

But I still remembered the day in 1957
when they took my brother and I
to say goodbye.

Monday, February 06, 2006


The weight of my father lies heavy in my bones

My father my father so heavy in my bones

When will he come to me to give me what he owes

My father my father to give me what he owes