My Three Fathers
From as young as I can remember, I was told that I had come from a specimen cup; that my “father” had been anonymously selected and financially compensated by a fertility doctor to supply a “donation,” at the request of my mother.
Children are typically asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For kids who are adopted, a deeper question is frequently, “Do you want to meet your birth parents when you grow up?”
But for people like me, a more urgent question is, “Will you ever find out who is responsible for 50 percent of your biological make up?”
From as early as the 1700s, medical sciences have brought forth different fertility interventions. Today, many couples and individuals who never thought having a family would be possible for them, now have numerous options available to make their dream come true.
In comparison to many of my peers, growing up was distinctly different for me. For example, Father’s Day did not hold any real significance in my life. As far as I was concerned, it was just another Sunday, except for the fact that it came with the expectation that many of my neighborhood friends would be somewhere else enjoying their dads.
I knew exactly why I had no dad to give a handmade card, thanks to my mom. She was a real rebel in her day—an early “Murphy Brown” kind of woman. She had wanted to become a mother, even if it meant raising a child without the support of another parent. Her plan was clear; the donor would legally stay anonymous. Even before I was conceived, my right of ever having this information released to me was signed away.
As the years went by, I was plagued by the question, “Who made the rest of me?” I had to leave countless doctor’s application forms blank when it came to recalling my father’s health history. In fact, I left a blank for my father’s side and my maternal grandfather’s side of the family, as my mother had been a product of rape.
Being raised by my mother and my late grandmother, I was everything but girly. You could find me around the neighborhood with mostly friends who were boys. We built tree forts, played video games, and jumped our bikes off small homemade ramps.
I was awkward, heavy set, had short hair, was a late developer, and frequently dressed in boys’ attire. At times, I would sort of try to bond with my friends’ fathers while they tooled and tinkered on stuff in their garages. I wanted to call each one “dad,” but it always felt awkward to pretend. My heart ached for a fatherly relationship; I looked for it from whomever would give me any attention.
In my middle school years, I accepted Christ. However, the concept of what it meant to have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father wasn’t natural to me. In my personal walk, it was a struggle to feel His presence, love, and desire to be a part of my everyday life.
While in college, I realized the time had come for me to make a choice. I could keep chasing an imaginary love, with the hope that finding him would fulfill the ache I carried for so long, or I could finally embrace a father who had been there all along and who desperately wanted to be an everyday part of my life.
So, I chose my First Father. I grew to feel His presence in my life and the direction He was taking me as I studied to earn my bachelor’s degree. I was falling in love with my Abba. He accepted me with all my imperfections, struggles, and inner ugliness, which only I saw. My relationship with Him really made things more than a religious lifestyle; it was a real personal walk in faith with my Creator.
Married with children
I married a Godly man and we had our first child. At that point, I broke the cycle of single mothers in my family. We named our daughter Eliza, which means “God’s Promise.”
I also gained a precious father in law, who I called my “Father in Love.” I felt blessed. For the first time in my life, this sacred title flowed from my lips, free of even an ounce of awkwardness. He was also a Salvation Army officer who became my earthly father; I became the daughter he never had.
God heard all my cries and my desire to have a complete family; one where my children would know both their parents who also walked with Jesus. I thought, God is good, God is great!
He’s in my DNA
A few years later, God shook my world. My husband and I had recently moved into our first home and were kept pretty busy, raising three children. We also learned that my Father in Love had been diagnosed with cancer.
Thanks to a thoughtful Mother’s Day present from my husband, I had been eagerly awaiting the results from an ancestry DNA test. I hoped this would give me an opportunity to at least see what made up the other half of my genetics, which had to be in a database somewhere. Could I also find any half siblings? I wondered.
Other countries have strict laws governing the frequency a person can make a genetic material donation in a given geographical area. But the U.S. has fewer restrictions. This meant there was a greater likelihood of other successful pregnancies from a single donor.
Being an only child, I had always longed for a sibling. My husband, who is also an only child, had wished for the same. We always thought we’d marry someone with a large family, hoping to experience what we longed for. We soon learned that God has a real sense of humor.
When my DNA results arrived, I browsed through the geographical areas of my heritage and explored possible family matches.
Right off the bat, I discovered six matches and every one of them had 100 percent certainty of being from close family. Within 30 minutes after sending a general interest message, a response came. This woman knew exactly how we were related. We quickly moved our conversation to the phone where I learned I had 13 other half–siblings.
This was surely news enough. But then my half-sister dropped the biggest life–changing bomb. After having conducted further investigations and collecting general info on donor and birth locations, she had found our donor! He had donated where he grew up and later served in the Navy. In addition to donating, He also had seven naturally–born children, most of whom had accepted their recently–discovered half siblings.
A family reunion
Now, I was about to view his Facebook profile; about to stare at a portrait of my biological father. I had seen pictures of my mother as a child; I never looked much like her. But there was no doubt that this man was my other 50 percent.
The next morning, I got the courage to call him. I had come this far, so why not keep going? He accepted my call with open ears. He called me “daughter.” We shared our interest in power tools, home improvement, and ADHD connections. To each other, our personalities were open books.
In less than a month, I flew to a sibling’s reunion, thanks to the generosity of my new family who chipped in to pay my airfare. This was a trip I couldn’t miss. It was also a chance to meet my father and give him a hug for the first time in my life.
Through the modern marvels of technology and social media, I’ve been able to video chat with my new–found siblings. To date, the number is now up to 20. I’m learning just how much we share quirks, interests, and looks. Despite about half of us living apart from each other, there is something to be said for nature vs. nurture.
My Father in Love
At the same time that I discovered my new family, God was calling my Father in Love home. The man my children called “Grandpa,” a title I had never been privileged to say in my own childhood, was losing his battle with cancer.
The Lord knew my heart and blessed me to be present with Grandpa during his final hours in hospice care. How much he knew of my presence that night will remain a mystery, but I read Scripture to him and carefully rubbed his dry feet with lotion. In the morning, I watched Major Wesley Geddes pass from this life into the presence of his Creator.
I mourn the loss of my Father in Love. I also grieve having lived a life void of my biological father. These men are wonderful and have influenced my life greatly in different ways.
But God is my strongest Father. His arms have reached out and have comforted me in my darkest hours. He is so good and will always be there for me.
by Erin Geddes