After we realized that we would miss our July insemination, my wife and I took a deep breath and looked toward August. In reality, we needed this time. It was too hectic, coming home from our trip to Paris, dealing with the prolactin issue, and we hadn’t really had time to process what we were getting into and how we were feeling about all of it. Over the last two weekends, we have spent a lot of time talking about the emotional and logistical issues that we needed to work through before we could get pregnant. We talked about what it meant to bring a baby into a family with three older kids. We talked about how we would handle work and family pressures with a baby to care for. We cried a little, fought a little, and talked even more. It took us two weeks to do the emotional and logistical work that we needed to get to the point where, Sunday morning, we sat down to pick our donor.
A few months ago (is it months already!?) we sat down with a couple bottles of beer and an iPad and narrowed the field. Let me start by saying that the sperm bank has 3 different subscription levels, which each cost a different amount. The cheapest plan gets you the most basic information, and the most expensive gets you the most comprehensive information. On the weekend that we did the narrowing of the field, we had just bought a picnic table. Picnic tables are shockingly expensive — the table that we had to spend 11 hours assembling (that is a slight exaggeration, but only slight) was like $300. And they go up from there. Anyway, through a glitch of ordering, we wound up with two picnic tables being delivered. After some deliberations, we decided to keep both of them, because we have a big deck and didn’t have room for anyone but our family if we only had one. My wife likes to have room for company so we can constantly invite people over, so we just spent the extra $300 and kept them both. We’re sitting there, after putting together one of our extra picnic tables, trying to decide what subscription to get. I vote for the middle-of-the-road subscription, which is about $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line subscription.
(not our actual picnic table, but the actual picnic table we bought. and finished. and assembled. for hours.)
“Okay, good idea,” my wife says. “It’s just HALF THE GENETIC MATERIAL FOR OUR KID. You’re right, let’s save a hundred bucks. Maybe we can go buy some more picnic tables with it.” We got the most expensive subscription. This included, for the record, some kind of cool things (like baby or childhood pictures of the donors) and some kind of creepy things (like audio of them answering questions, which made my skin crawl so I made my wife turn it off after 2 seconds).
We used all of our most idiosyncratic criteria, indulged all of our whims and gut-feelings (“That guy looks like he would be mean to the other kids on his baseball team! Delete!”), and got ourselves down to 4 potential donors. We tried to choose someone built like my wife (long and lanky) who was good at sports and had Irish ancestry. I wanted freckles, because one of the things I love about my wife are her millions of freckles. She even has freckles on her earlobes. (No donors have freckles. They should find some donors with freckles.) We liked donors who were described as neatly dressed. We liked donors who were articulate on their personal essays. All of these things mattered, but none was controlling. They were just sort of guides as we navigated through the thousands of profiles, random reasons to say yes to this one and no to those five.
And. We preferred an anonymous donor. Donors can be either anonymous or open, meaning that they agree to a one-time meeting with their potential future offspring when said offspring turns 18. Maybe it’s because we watched The Kids Are All Right. Maybe its because it undermines our sense that we (WE) are the parents, not the donor. Maybe it’s because just last week we had to deal with yet another person asking us “But whose kids are they REALLY?” Maybe we will regret this one day, but we did not want to choose an open donor. The donor is a donor, not a dad. And so, he will remain anonymous — to us, to our kid — forever.
I must admit, we have a teeny bit of ambivalence about this choice, because we have a good friend who was adopted, and went to great lengths to track down her birth-mother when she was 18. She felt it was really, really important to her to find and make peace with the woman who gave birth to her, and firmly supports adoptees’ access to this information. But we believe that there’s a difference. We know this isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it’s the right choice for us.
Anyway, when we sat down to look at our six potential donors (I had added in two more that met our criteria as I checked back with the sperm bank website over the weeks between initial review and decision time) with our coffee on Sunday morning, we quickly ruled out four of them. We were down to one Hot Donor and one Smart Donor. Let me just say, I don’t know where they find these guys, because basically they are ALL hot and ALL smart. But one was hotter than usual, and one was smarter than usual. Smart Donor had a kid already, of his own, so he knew he could get someone pregnant. But something about Hot Donor just felt better. Maybe we are shallower than we thought, but he also seemed articulate, and the “staff impression” was that he was well-dressed in professional clothes. I like someone who takes their shit seriously, and puts on some goddamn khakis before he goes for a sperm-donor interview. For all of these reasons and none of these reasons, we chose Hot Donor.
In the end, my wife is right, it’s a super important decision (more important than, say, a spare picnic table). But also, it’s not. There’s no way to know the really important stuff, or how much the really important stuff is even passed down through genes. Sometimes, two hot people have funny-looking kids. Not that being hot is the most important thing, but it’s not the LEAST important thing either. Sometimes, two smart people have a kid who’s kind of…. not as smart. Sometimes, two totally average people produce spectacular offspring. Whatever.
What really matters is that we finally picked our donor. It actually felt great to take our time, talk through our shit, and be in a really good place when we finally sat down to choose. Maybe, just MAYBE, it was a good thing that we had this extra month, because now we are both CRAZY EXCITED. Today, I’m going to call the bank and order up some premium IUI sperm from our Hot Donor.