OK, so it might not seem like a long time for all those who have been following our journey, but it’s been the longest month of my life! After spending hours a day and close to $800 on photographs and extended profiles of potential donors in dozens of sperm-bank databases (bet ya didn’t know sperm cost so much!), my wife and I have finally found our sperm donor. It hasn’t been an easy process, and we both kept having to remind each other that this needn’t be stressful. But wow! it was stressful. Thanks to my wife’s incredibly high standards and our true team effort, we were led to Mr. RightSperm.
It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself when you’re faced with such a decision. For instance, I’m apparently a sperm-bank snob. I didn’t like one of the bank’s websites, and even though we found a couple of possible contenders there, I was uncomfortable using the company because their website was out-right obnoxious. There were far too many popups trying to sell me any given number of subscriptions, and from the one time I bought an “extended profile” of a donor there, the sperm bank emailed me seven times that same day. What pet stores are to puppy mills, I felt this sperm bank was to its donors, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the best interests of the families it helps create and the donors it uses were the last things on its list of priorities. So we skipped it.
I also learned that I have no conceptual understanding of what six feet tall looks like, and I even asked numerous male coworkers how tall they are just to get an idea. I didn’t know if 180 pounds is a lot or a little, and asked my brother how much he weighs in an effort to gauge it. And I certainly didn’t know how embarrassingly terrible I am in geography. I couldn’t remember where Croatia was and actually had to Google it. Why did I need to know where Croatia was when I was searching for sperm? One of the donors listed his father’s heritage as Irish and Croatian, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me where the country was located. Pitiful, I know.
I began to obsess over every little thing about these donors.
I began to obsess over every little thing about these donors. And normally, when my type-A tendencies start to overtake me, my wife is there to reel me in and balance me out. But not when we’re shopping for sperm, she doesn’t! Her standards were outrageously high and she kept saying things like, “Since we get to choose our BabyDonor (said like ‘baby daddy’), why not pick the BEST?” She was right, of course. But finding “the best” meant we had to sift through some of the… well… not best. Living a strongly non-judgmental life, my wife and I found it difficult to suddenly pick these donors apart, and essentially “judge” them.
But we did anyway.
It was the only way. Trying to find a balance between how these donors appeared on paper and how they actually appeared was tough. It oftentimes felt like we were essentially interviewing these candidates for the sought-after and highly desirable position of giving two very loving women the child they so much want. Why not make sure they were uber worthy?
I was surprised to learn how much the donor’s appearance mattered to me. My wife easily admitted it meant a lot to her, but I had a hard time not feeling shallow by the fact that a solid donor “on paper” (meaning, what was revealed about him on the standard questionnaire) was quickly dismissed when he turned out to look like this guy (OK, that might be a dramatic comparison, but you get the idea). I’ve long thought or at least thought I thought that looks don’t really matter. But when it suddenly came to choosing the other half of our child’s DNA, it weighed in. Sara and I had our “no budging musts”: no family history of cancer, negative for all genetic disorders, 5’10” or taller, and the like, so any donor we were considering met these basics. But we compromised, say, familial education level (like that of a sister or father) for looks. Or his terrible choice in favorite author for looks. It was a matter of finding a balance we were comfortable with.
Perhaps the greatest thing, though, that I learned with my wife is to always, always trust our guts. The donor we chose is a perfect fit for us. And we both knew it right away. There was no, “Well, let’s just keep looking.” Or, “Do you like him better than that other guy?” Or, “Let’s put him on the list.” It was, “Oh my gosh. He’s it.” And, “Oh my gosh, babe! He’s IT!” All the stress and anxiety of the past month of worrying we’d never find the right donor, the tense disagreements that went along with that (few as they were), and the occasional questioning of whether discounting the “puppy mill” sperm bank was foolish, immediately dissipated and were forgotten about when we found our donor and became one step closer to motherhood.
Today marks the end of the first month of our journey, the end of my first month writing for Babble, the beginning of the next phase — the hormones have arrived and I start injections soon! — and as the universe would have it, it also marks the day we found our donor. Or, as my wife posted on her Facebook page, today we’re now: FULL SPERM AHEAD!
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right