Speaking of sperm (I told you it’s a great way to start a sentence), the next step was to acquire some. There are few life events emotionally wrought enough to be preyed upon by opportunists as a way to make money. Right behind weddings and funerals are babies. And the process of making the child is no exception.
We decided early on that a donor would have to be a lovely person who we didn’t have a pre-existing, close relationship with. This stuff gets complicated and we didn’t want to strain any relationships. We also didn’t want someone who wanted to be a dad, at least not through the avenue of lesbian surrogacy. As much as we wanted our children to have the opportunity to meet their father later in life, we wanted to be able to raise the child without a third wheel.
Then there were the very generous, younger donor offers, who I couldn’t help but picture years down the road with “the one” asking them about previous relationships and him having to disclose that he was already a baby daddy. With two lesbians. I didn’t want a young decision to haunt any of our donors down the road who might not understand the full implications of their generous act and the capacity of a woman’s jealousy when she finds out she can’t be the mother of a man’s first child. I know it’s done all of the time and there are many women who would find this act amazingly benevolent, but my head still spun when I thought about the complications and I didn’t want to walk any sweet, naïve man into that web. We would be shopping online for our daddy.
The online sperm banks are thoroughly informative, making sure not to leave out one detail that someone might feel is pertinent, from hair color and height all the way to heavier decisions like race and religion. It’s like a social networking site, but instead of making new friends or “poking” a love interest, you’re choosing the father of your child. The choices are staggering and we were left staring at the hundreds of options not knowing where to start. All we really knew is that we wanted a baby. None of this criteria mattered; we’d take any of them.
But it doesn’t work like that. You have to choose. There’s no getting around the choosing. And that’s when the flood of liberal guilt starts as you decide what criteria you’ll limit it down to.
We started with donors who were “open” to meeting the child down the road, instead of “anonymous” and this narrowed down the pool considerably. Even with that choice, something we both wanted to leave as an option for our children, it came with a certain amount of choosers’ remorse. What if our perfect donor just happened to be cautious and private? Is it really worth limiting ourselves to wishes a child might never have? We tried not to think about it too much and forged on. After all, once you buy a subscription, you can start as many searches as you like and we could start over with different criteria next time. This search would be titled “Search 1”.
If you cocked your head at the phrase “buy a subscription” then you’re right on board. I mean, I didn’t expect this process to be free, but aren’t you already going to be spending a lot of money on the sperm itself? The banks are like a SAMs Club where you have to buy the membership just to shop there, complete with different tiers of subscription level. The more money you spend, the more you get to know about your potential father. We stopped short of the level that provided a full Kiersey personality test and a facial feature profile. I didn’t know if I could predict what I would get on a personality test, let alone judge a stranger by it. We’d have to go with the extended profile, child pictures and personal essay for now. If you’re proud of us for drawing the line, don’t be. There was an option to buy any of these reports “a la carte” per donor. It was an option we mindfully kept in our back pocket.
“Search 1” turned up a lot of great donors and we were able to star ones that jumped out at us immediately. Now the question was: “does race matter?” Like I said, we would have been happy with any child, and we certainly didn’t have anything against donors who weren’t white. But as two white women it seemed odd that we were leaving the race door open when these things weren’t left up to chance like they would be in an adoption. Could we choose a non-white donor? Or was there some kind of race etiquette that you’re supposed to stay within yours? Sure, mixed race kids are some of the most gorgeous human beings on the planet, but it felt wrong to genetically create a child merely based on making them look beautiful. We finally decided the way to go was to pick traits that look like the two of us, so both this child and the one that I would later carry would resemble us. We knew we’d already be having the “two moms” conversation, better to avoid one about race appropriation.
We continued sorting through the donors, scrutinizing their many details, coming down to a final 15, 3, and finally 1. We watched the vial counts of each donor, making sure not to fall in love with someone who didn’t have many left. After weeks of analyzing every profile, we felt closer to making our Choice.
The hard part was over, or so we thought. While we had spent the last 2 months signing onto this site to look at the options, peruse any new ones, and reconfirm the choice we had made, suddenly it looked like we weren’t the only ones in the game. Vials that had been steadily full for the past 2 months were staring to dwindle and even disappear. It was lesbian mating season and people were making decisions.
With the competition bearing down we decided to take the leap. We went to bed with intentions of buying our vials, and the next morning we saw that our donor was running low. We weren’t too nervous; he still had plenty left. But when we got home to make our purchase, he had run out completely. All the images we had of our child were gone. It feels silly to say, but we were devastated.
Things might happen for a reason, but it’s hard to think that when you’ve just endured a long process to make sure you made the “right” decision about the other half of your child’s DNA. It’s not that far away from the intentions of mating and finding someone with whom you’re compatible with the intention to procreate. We were doing that on hyper speed and from an online profile. It was just another reminder how distant the process can feel for something that’s so important.
We let ourselves be sad for another day before jumping back in with more searches. We had missed our chance with one, but we wouldn’t with another. Besides, there were plenty of eligible vials out there. The one we ended up with was an original finalist and neither of us could remember why we hadn’t considered him more the first time. His personality and medical history checked out and without replicating our hesitancy, we purchased the vials.
The only issue now was to figure out how many to buy…. Spoiler alert: there’s a deal if you buy 10.