Mama at the Movies: Sperm Donor X

I’m working on a trilogy of related columns right now, covering three documentaries about different paths to motherhood and changing attitudes toward how we become mothers. The first, Adopted, looked closely at two families who adopted daughters from China. The third column, on the documentary Sunshine, will explore one family’s history of single motherhood. And the second column, on Deirdre Fishel’s film, Sperm Donor X, is up now at Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt:

I must have been in second grade when I first thought about how old I would be in the year 2000 — 32 — and what my life would be like by then. Basing my vision entirely on my mom’s life, I assumed I’d be married with four kids.

I didn’t spend the intervening years fretting about the gap between that vision and my reality — milestone birthdays came and went without a husband, and at some point I realized I didn’t really want four kids — but by the time the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, 1999, I was engaged and on the way to a more realistic vision for myself. These days, when I’m helping Eli find dress-up clothes for his stuffed dog’s wedding or discussing the rate for a night in Ben’s space hotel, I sometimes pause to marvel that this has become my life, a life I could never have imagined when I was the age my oldest is now.

I’m lucky that my childhood dream adjusted easily to my adult reality. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to give up one dream for another, or struggle to get the family I wanted. That struggle, and that difficult adjustment to an unanticipated reality, is the undercurrent of Deirdre Fishel’s documentary, Sperm Donor X (2002), which follows four women, including the filmmaker herself, who want to become mothers and find themselves unexpectedly doing it on their own, with anonymous sperm donors.

You can read the rest over at Literary Mama. The film hasn’t been released yet, as the filmmaker still needs to raise funds to license archival footage. If you’d like to help, consider making a donation at Kickstarter.

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