Surprise! You’re a Donor Baby- guest author Teresa Schneider


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At age seven, eight, ten—well, most
of my childhood—I wished my parents had adopted me.  I was a selfish, shy child raised by
helicopter parents before helicopter parents were “cool”.  My parents fought almost constantly, with
loud, booming voices that could be heard in every room of the house.  During most of these arguments, I just went
about my day as usual, ignoring everyone and watching Rocko’s Modern Life and Star
Trek: Next Generation
Rarely, when the arguing got bad enough for long enough, I would hide
under my daybed with a pillow earmuffing my head.  While there, I hoped and wished and prayed
that I was adopted, that I was not like them.
But I looked exactly like my
mother.  The same nondescript brown hair,
brown eyes, olive skin, and full cheeks. 
I was her Mini-Me in every aspect, except perhaps temperament, and I
despaired every time I looked in the mirror. 
I feared I would grow up to be the same grudge holding, overweight
hypochondriac in a loveless marriage. 
Needless to say, I entered the melodramatic adolescent stage early and
didn’t climb out of it until my late teens. 
Whenever my parents felt guilty
about arguing in front of us kids, they bought my brother another video game
and me another guinea pig.  I wondered
when the city would bust us for animal code violations.  With Crackers, guinea pig number 4? Brown
Nose, guinea pig number 9? Poke, guinea pig number 11?
At age 14, I worked up the courage
to ask my mother why she and my father didn’t divorce.
“You’re not in love with each
other.  Why don’t you just get a
She was driving, so it felt natural
when she didn’t make eye contact with me.
“I’d like to think that I always
consider all of my options,” she said.
Things got better when my brother
left for college, even better when I moved out. 
I limited interaction with my parents to bimonthly meals out, where
there was a 10% chance that my mother or the waitress or both would end up
crying because of my mother’s inappropriate foodie behavior.  My father would always apologize to my
husband and me while she was in the bathroom, but then he’d nag us each
following weekend until we agreed to go out to eat with them again.
So when my mom stopped by at
lunchtime on a random day, I assumed the visit was related to her recent
retirement or my new house.
“Can we talk? I have something
serious to tell you.”
I invited her in, barely refraining
from rolling my eyes.  She sweated the
small stuff.  Would this be another
lecture about how aspartame and sucralose were responsible for migraines, mood
changes, weight gain, and I should stop drinking diet pop right now? How my
husband, not I, would be the executor of their will?  How my brother and his girlfriend in New
Mexico broke up, and why didn’t I seem to care more?
“I have to teach in two hours.  What is it?”
She sat on the couch and started
crying.  She didn’t say anything. 
“This could still be about
aspartame,” I thought.  When she didn’t
say anything for another moment, I thought, “Oh, god. Someone has cancer.”
            “You know
your father isn’t your biological father, right?”
            No, I
didn’t know.  I’d had no inkling.  There’d been no warning signs.
            “You and
your brother.  Your father couldn’t have
children, and I desperately wanted children.”
            “I—but we
don’t look unlike him.”
brother doesn’t look like him at all.  He
doesn’t even have one of our eye colors for God’s sake!”
            I knew that
didn’t necessarily matter with the tendency of recessive genes, but she was
firm in her declaration.  They had gone
to a doctor in the Cities twice, before sperm donation had truly been
regulated, and my “half”-brother and I were the result.  Two medical students with brown hair had
donated anonymously.  No information was
recorded other than the date and time of the procedures and the doctor’s name.   No one else knew—not my grandparents, not my
extended family, not my family doctor, not my half-brother, and not me.
please say something.”
            What could
I say?  “I’m glad I exist.”
            I had many
questions and half formed thoughts, but I had to leave and teach my class like
everything was normal.  My mom told me
she was glad that I was handling it so well and that I shouldn’t tell anyone.  But I wasn’t handling it well; I felt a
little betrayed that they hadn’t shared this information with me at some point
during the past 27 years, like when I turned 18 or graduated from college. 
            I called my
husband, and he said the knowledge changed nothing.  Then I called my closest friend, and she said
this didn’t change anything.  But it did.  I wasn’t feeling better with comforting
            I made it
through class without crying or accidentally blurting my new secret to a bunch
of apathetic 18 year olds.  My chest felt
tight; I needed to talk to someone, someone who would react without trying to
downplay the situation.  My friends and
coworkers at the hospital where I worked part time seemed like a natural
choice: they were used to handling emergencies.
            I found
them in the ER, and finally the tears came.
“My mother just told me that my dad
isn’t my biological father.” They offered hugs and let me talk out my surprise,
sharing their own surprise at the news.
            “Would you
ever want to meet him,” one asked.
            “No,” I
said.  “I don’t think I’d be able to find
out who he is even if I wanted to.  I’m
sure he doesn’t want to meet me.  I mean,
I was just a $50 transaction to a broke med student.”
            One of the
doctors glanced up, probably only catching the last sentence.
maybe only $25—it was the 80s,” I said. “No, I don’t want to meet him.”
            “What about
your dad?  Are you going to treat him any
No.  This man had given me everything except his
genetic material.  He loved me like his
own offspring, spent thousands and thousands of dollars raising me, and never
once, even in frustration, hinted that I was not his biological child.
Everything and nothing had changed.

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Teresa Schneider is an English instructor at Minnesota State
University and Hennepin Technical College. She graduated with her MFA in
creative writing from MSU and is pursuing a doctorate in higher education
administration at St. Cloud State University. Her work has been published in Teaching English in the Two-Year College,
Firethorne, and local newspapers.

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