The Suleman octuplets are the product of Nadya Suleman and a sperm donor. They don't have a father.
It's tempting to put it that way, isn't it? But of course they have a father. Will it trouble them that they might never know him?
We often make casually inaccurate comments about the children of single mothers. "No, he doesn't have a father--his mother used a sperm donor." Or "Her mother adopted her."
That's wrong on two counts. First, on narrow biological grounds. As technically sophisticated as fertility treatments are, they still require sperm.
And that isn't as narrow a technical point as we might think. Each sperm carries with it a vast, twisted coil of DNA that makes up a huge part of a child's genetic inheritance.
But we know there is more to it than that. I cannot speak from experience, but we know adopted children often develop a burning interest in finding their biological parents. It's an important part of who we are, and not just because our fathers teach us how to handle money, or how to play ball, or any of the other things that, the stereotypes say, men contribute to their children.
They are a critically important part of us even if our connection is only through an anonymous sperm.