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The Stress of Picking the Perfect Donor

Both my wife and I have histories of not always making the best decisions. In fact, there are a few down-right terrible decisions littered throughout the years, all before we met, of course. And while it’s been a really long time since either of us have made the wrong choice, we know that old habits die hard so, needless to say, choosing a sperm donor is proving to be way more difficult than either of us imagined.


It always gets me riled up when people say that being gay is a “choice.” As if anyone in their right mind would intentionally choose a lifestyle that is more difficult, one that lacks basic civil rights and recognition, one that separates families and divides politics, one that can be all-out dangerous in some parts of this country and illegal in other countries, and one that requires a lifetime of coming-out moments. (And, no, that statement can’t be used to defend the cockamamie notion that LGBTQ people suffer from mental disorders. I can see the haters now: Gay woman admits homosexuals aren’t in their right mind. Gimme a break.)

But back to my point. Sara and I recently discovered yet another difficulty of being gay: How to start a family. And after much discussion, we decided to use a sperm donor. Easy, right? Get some sperm from a cryobank and put it where it needs to go. Little by little, we learned just how not simple this process is. From the hidden fees of buying sperm, to the differences in types, we quickly realized we had our work cut out for us. And we hadn’t even started the personal search for a donor. It took weeks of doing preliminary research, but we were ready to begin checking out donor profiles. Also seemingly easy, right?

Dear Jesus, no.

Imagine going shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. Fun, yes. And also a little difficult, because let’s face it they don’t make 900 varieties of your perfect pair of shoes. But what if they did? What if you could choose from hundreds of pairs that were all perfect fits? Wouldn’t this make your decision that much more difficult? And we’re only talking about a pair of shoes, for crying out loud. Imagine if you were looking for the sperm that was going to be responsible for creating the other half of your future child and hundreds of donors fit your criteria!

Oh, the stress!

And the system doesn’t make it any less stressful with its fee for this and its extra charge for that. Want to see a picture of your donor? $65, please. Care to read an extended profile and learn a little more about the donor? $120, please. So before we even get to the pictures and essays, we have to sift through all the basic details height, eye color, blood type, race, etc. and then re-sift for the first elimination round. What was it about that guy we even liked in the first place?

And then you finally get down to, say, 25 potential donors. You begin to feel like you’ve really made some great progress, but feelings of angst slowly rise. 25?! We only need one! And we still want to see photos, because as much as I’d like to be that person who can pick a donor from his paperwork alone, I’m not. I want to see what he looks like. But 25 donors times roughly $100 each for the extras brings us to $2,500 pretty much just to look at pictures!

We take a stab at buying a photo, and immediately realize just how careful we need to be in the selection process. We overlooked this guy’s birth year. Tragic mistake. Not only was he born in 1991, but he looked like every quintessential tool on Facebook who thinks posting photos of himself wasted on Saturday night is a good idea. And we just paid 65 bucks for it.

So begins the second round of eliminations. And the stress increases. What if we ax the wrong donor? What if Mr. RightSperm is one click away and we delete him from the list? Can’t these sperm banks set these databases up like digital yearbooks? We already know their sperm is “clean” (aka disease free), can’t we flip through photos and go from there? The second round of eliminations include donors whose major in college we didn’t care for, whose birth year made him under 25, whose eyes were brown, and whose randomly assigned number we didn’t like which, by the way, the donor has absolutely nothing to do with (hell, ya gotta make cuts somewhere!).

Is it time to phone a friend yet? Ask the audience? This is too much for two people to decide on their own. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Can’t we use that philosophy to pick a donor? The next singing sensation is cast by America’s vote. Why not our baby-donor?

Of course, I mostly kid. As tempting as it is to open our search up to the public for input and it is very tempting we’re not going to. Sara and I know this is our decision to make, and that we’re blessed to be making such a decision. And at the end of our sperm-donor search, we will have found the right one. It’s like her brother told us: There are no wrong decisions; only future love.

But in the meantime, and while I still can, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine.

Photo: 123RF Stock Photos

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More of Aela on Babble!
‘Twas the Night Before the Fertility Center
KIDS? Heck No!
Mom Throws Food in Trash to Teach Kid a Lesson

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