R., a three-week-old baby, will never get to meet her father, who died of cancer six years ago. Neither has her mother ever met the man – she underwent the first artificial insemination in Israel from a deceased man's sperm. The man's parents chose the woman to be the mother of their granddaughter.
Upon learning he had cancer, the man insisted on preserving his sperm before beginning chemotherapy treatments in case they render him sterile. However, the treatment failed to save his life and he died aged 30. His parents felt the right thing would be birthing a child that would keep their son's spirit alive and started looking for a woman who would agree to be the mother to their granddaughter, intent on giving her the greatest love and support.
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Their search brought them to A., a single thirtysomething who has dreamt of being a mother but was put off by the idea of a sperm bank. Four years ago the three arrived to the offices of Attorney Irit Rozenblum, the executive director of New Family, an NGO in biological wills. The parents of the deceased were not in possession of a written document stating his wish for his sperm to be used posthumously in insemination.
All they had was what he told them many times in person. "The parents, who are hopeful persons, knew it was possible for them to become grandparents and asked me to represent them in court. The connection between them and A., was very special, they told me not once that had their son brought a girl home it would be someone like her."
Irit Rosenblum, left, with the mother and daughter (Photo: Lee Rosenblum)
The court posed no objection to the arrangement and about 10 month ago A. informed the parents that she was pregnant. "The excitement was tremendous. These are people whose world collapsed six years ago, and now they get this ray of light into their lives. No psychologist could restore their lives in the way this baby did. This girl would not bear the onus of the family's past; she paves the path into the future," Rosenblum says.
A. keeps the photos of the dead father of her child in the living room. Combined with the physical presence of the parents, she says this is "as close as it gets to the real thing."
The legal struggle for the recognition of biological wills has been going on for over a decade. Two years ago a child was born through a surrogate mother to a man who lost his wife. During the last year some 100 terminal patients signed such documents. Two more women are currently pregnant from the sperm of persons who have been dead for years.
Rosenblum says this is good news to both women – for whom the procedure opens a new avenue of motherhood sans partner yet with grandparents, and a child who will grow up knowing his genetic origin – and for the bereaved parents who lost their children but could now gain grandchildren.
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