Where is Octodad? Surely Ms. Suleman's babies have a father. Yet his role in the baby-palooza is barely mentioned. Not that this should surprise anyone. The reaction to Ms. Suleman and her brood typifies our cultural ambivalence about fathers, an ambivalence fed in no small measure by the fertility industry.
On first thought, Americans seem really keen on fathers. We fret about the emotional impact of father absence and insist "that responsibility does not end at conception," as then-candidate Barack Obama put it in a memorable speech last Father's Day. We excoriate "deadbeat dads" who fail to pay their share of their children's upbringing; in fact, the stimulus bill adds $1 billion to child-support enforcement. Married fathers who don't step up and share the burdens of diapers and pediatrician appointments are condemned, in the words of one much-discussed book of essays, as "bastards on the couch." After all, the argument goes, a father is just as much a parent as a mother.
Except when we decide he's not, as did Ms. Suleman and her medical enablers. According to media reports, the male friend who provided the sperm for all of Suleman's 14 children had begged her to stop after the first six -- to no avail.
I had an idea this must be the case: if there were an actual dad, making babies in the good old-fashioned natural way, by having an actual relationship with the mother, there wouldn't be a set-of-octuplets-born-to-a-single-mother-on-welfare story to talk about.
Having consented to the use of his sperm, he would have been expected to give up control over the future children created with them....
In recent years, medical science has also raised doubts about our frequent desire to wish fathers away. Every week, it seems, science confirms just how much genes matter. Everything from eye color, to propensity to high cholesterol, to a rotten disposition, to talent at math or tennis is encoded, to some degree, in the genetic material passed on from our two biological parents.
In Canada, donor children have brought a class-action suit demanding the same right to know their parentage that adoptive children there already have. For the same reason, Norway, the Netherlands and New Zealand have all banned donor anonymity, and Britain now requires donors to agree to be contacted when their children reach 18; unsurprisingly the country's sperm banks are now as depressed as its financial institutions. In the U.S., some sperm banks have begun to ask donors to volunteer to be identified to their children when they reach adulthood. Some agree; most do not.
And why would they agree? They know that even if fathers make good politics, they make dispensable parents.
read it all here.