Buns in the Oven Part 3: Like Online Dating but Weirder
May 19, 2016
To draw out the baking metaphor much farther than I should – we are still kneading the dough for the buns going in the oven. Maybe that is even too far into the process. We are still preheating the oven. We got a little distracted by buying a house, which I suppose merits its own blog post. We did, however, manage to choose the flour for the buns. Is that too far into the metaphor? Perhaps. In any case, this installment of Buns in the Oven will be exploring choosing a sperm donor. The first thing you should know is this: it’s weird as hell.
Choosing a sperm donor is basically online dating. You find a website you like, you check off your criteria, then you sift through the filtered results and find the best one on the list. The big difference is that you never actually meet the person you choose, and once you pick out the guy you want, you can never dump him. Also each date costs $750. The stakes are high. There’s no DTF. You’re in it to win it.
The first thing we did was choose a sperm bank. This is more difficult than it sounds. Or maybe it sounds difficult to you, I don’t know. The banks all have different perks and costs, but they are not 100% transparent about what those perks and costs are. There are two big ones: California Cryobank and Fairfax Cryobank. They have sperm for days! You can buy baby pictures of the donor, sometimes adult photos, Myers-Briggs tests, and extended profiles. They will tell you celebrity look-a-likes (which is funny because if you spend enough time on a donor’s page it really starts to feels like you are looking at Chad Michael Murray’s sperm). You can even have your facial structure compared to their facial structure. They offer a lot of perks (most of which you pay for), but the greatest perk is that there is a huge diversity of donors.
As a side note, I suppose the facial structure comparison is very helpful for those straight couples who are not intending on telling their progeny that they are donor-conceived. Did you know that approximately 95% of French parents with donor-conceived children do not tell their kids that they are donor-conceived? I assume the percentage is similar in the US. That datum was revealed when the French were fighting for gay marriage, adoption, and artificial insemination rights. Artificial insemination for lesbians got dropped from the law because it was too controversial – “it is lying to the children about where they come from,” opponents argued. I’m going to go ahead and say this is not a valid argument since no one is lying to a dyke’s kid about how they were conceived, but if you are going to hang on to this argument, you are going to have to take the right to artificial insemination away from the 95% of parents who are straight up pretending it never happened to their family, you know what I mean? Ok, rant over.
There are some cons to the big banks, though. Word on the street is that these banks do not do a stellar job of following up with families who get pregnant with their sperm, and thus never retire sperm. This leads to one donor being used in literally hundreds of births, which is vaguely Genghis Khan-y and totally weird to me. Not weird to everyone though, and that’s cool. I was also feeling super overwhelmed by the options at the big sperm banks. We don’t have a lot of criteria. We were sifting through pages of potential sperm, and it was super stressful! How are you supposed to pick the best one off list of 100?
The one criterion that Rachel and I both feel strongly about is that we want an open-identity donor. This means that the child has the option to find out who their donor is when they turn 18. We believe this is important. There are fewer open-ID donors, however, and it significantly reduced the number of people we could choose. The only thing that I am demanding is green/hazel eyes. The only thing that Rachel is asking for is “not tall.”
Our desire for open-identity and lack of specifications led us to the Sperm Bank of California (which is different from the California Cryobank). It has a small selection of sperm – fewer than 100 donors. It also doesn’t offer facial structure analysis, Myers-Briggs, artwork done by the donor, etc. What is does offer is a 10-family cap for all the donors. Once 10 families have successfully used the sperm, the donor is no longer available. This was very attractive to us. They are also the only non-profit sperm bank in the US. They do research on donor-conceived children and their families, and they provide support for the families through the non-profit. They highly encourage their customers and their donors to go the open-ID route. They sounded great, and we chose to register with them.
Despite the fact that the pool of potential donors was reduced to about 12 after we put in our specifications, it was still super hard to choose! Listen – when you are dating, you are not thinking about the other person purely as a baby-machine. You aren’t asking them questions about their family medical history or how good they are at math. You simply judge them on their looks and their personality, and you only start to worry about the family medical history when you are in love and it is too late. Most of the time the good you see in a person outweighs the bad and you make babies with them despite the fact that there is rampant alcoholism is their family. Not so with sperm donors! You look through these profiles and the mother’s childhood Eczema suddenly overshadows the green eyes, grad school degree, and fluency in 5 languages. It feels a little like receiving a home inspection. You only end up seeing the part of the house that are falling apart.
You know that there is no perfect person. You know that every human being has difficult medical history when you look back through three generations. You know that when you mix up genes, there is no predicting who you will meet nine months later. None of that knowledge comforts you, though, when you are choosing the sperm donor. You just feel the weight of what is at stake. You just feel the irreversibility.
And then you turn a corner. Then you start thinking about all the good-looking people you know who produced funny-looking kids. And you think about all the funny-looking people you know who produced good-looking kids. And you think about the healthy people with sick children and the nice people with mean children and the dumb people with smart children. You think about the fact that nature and nurture are so intertwined and there are so many, many ways to fuck your kids up so why get all worked up about it before they are even conceived?
We ended up settling on a guy who – according to the sperm bank staff – looks like Gerald Way. I did not know who that was before reading his profile. This guy is not tall, he has green eyes, and we really liked his answer to why he was donating sperm (“For the money, but I’m glad it can help someone.” We liked his honesty.). And once we made that decision, his family’s medical history seemed less daunting.
That said, we haven’t bought the sperm yet (see house buying, above), and I haven’t transitioned from calling him, “the sperm donor we think we’re going with” to “our sperm donor” yet. It still feels like quite the commitment. We also haven’t decided how many vials we are going to buy during this first round. It’s such a crap shoot estimating how many cycles it will take to get pregnant.
When those decisions are made, you’ll be updated! In the meantime, we’ll keep preheating that oven.