Like most couples, my husband and I spent our first couple of dates getting to know one another, our likes and dislikes, our dreams, and if we wanted children.
We both did, although he wanted one or two, and I was thinking more like five or six. If I remember correctly, we decided three or four seemed like a great number.
The years would pass, and two little boys would be born into our family, making us a family of four. In those years we also suffered multiple miscarriages, each one breaking our heart a little bit more. Finally we decided our family was complete with our two boys. For a year it was happily just us four, a little family, yet my heart was constantly yearning for more, a desire that just became louder when I was told I had a clotting disorder—a simple medication would make pregnancy a viable option again.
My heart soared. I was ready for one more, yet there was a speed bump in our desire for another baby. After so many miscarriages, and my pregnancy with my last son being less then ideal, we had said that was it, and my husband got a vasectomy.
Now we wanted to try again, but knew it wouldn’t be easy. We spoke of adoption and while it was something we were interested in and still may do someday, our hearts led us down a different path. We chose IVF and using a sperm donor to achieve our child. It was a private choice, between my husband and I.
Three attempts later I was pregnant, and in August of 2013 our daughter was born—10 weeks early, she made her grand entrance into this world.
Of course best laid plans rarely go off without a hitch, and our private choice was soon discovered by family, and some were less than accepting. They made our choice seem wrong, they said my husband wasn’t her father, they said hurtful and damaging things.
DNA doesn’t make a family and DNA doesn’t make a father. My husband is my daughter’s father. It was my husband who cuddled her on his chest when she was barely three pounds, who called the NICU nightly to check on his baby girl. It was my husband who stood with me to give her first bath there in the NICU, and my husband who helped with the night diaper changes and cranky nighttime walks.
Now two years after her birth, my daughter is a daddy’s girl and he’s who she will call for at night, the person who makes her smile the biggest, and still the one she would rather cuddle with.
My husband will be the man she looks up to, the one who teaches her what a great father looks like, who attends the daddy-daughter dances and who plays dress up with her. One day she will roll her eyes when her father says her dress is too short, or demands to meet and interrogate her boyfriend. And even-though his DNA may not run through her veins, she is so much like her father—she shares his looks, his attitude and mannerisms. She is completely my husband’s daughter.
One day we will explain to her how she was conceived. We will talk about the IVF process, the donor we chose and answer any questions she may have. We will always be thankful to the anonymous donor, for although he isn’t her father, he is part of the puzzle, part of what made my daughter, part of what made it possible for us to be parents again.
When anyone tries to discount what our family is, I will always defend it.
It may not be conventional or perceived as normal, but we are a family. Our love is what makes us a family, the way I watch my husband look at his daughter is what makes us a family and the sense of completeness we feel as a family of five is what makes us a family. DNA isn’t what makes a father, that is what makes a sperm donor. DNA is what biology does, a father is the man who is there for his family, a man who holds his children in his heart every single day. A father is the man who rocks his daughter to sleep, and reads princess Sophia to her over and over again.
My husband may not be biologically tied to his daughter, but he is tied to her with his entire heart and soul, and for me that means a heck of a lot more than DNA.
Author: Michele Genzardi
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own