Our Donor Family.

One of the things that most of us don’t think about when we are selecting a sperm donor is the other women who have chosen that same donor before us.   We tend to focus on health history, appearance, CMV status and often we will look for a donor who has had successful pregnancies.  When you are searching through profiles, these attributes are often just a check box or one word answer.  The only face you look at is that of the donor.

I was one of the people who gave zero thought to the fact that my future child already had half siblings.  Once I was pregnant it hit me in a flash – my son had donor siblings (or diblings as some call them.)  I had this wonderful opportunity to see other children who were half of what my son would be.  Perhaps he would look similar to them?  It was too irresistible to not want to have a peek.

At 9 weeks pregnant I connected with other families who had used the same donor and found myself in a secret Facebook group with a bunch of women who had adorable little people – my sons half siblings.  It was pretty surreal and incredibly cool!

stock-photo-decisions-neon-sign-words-signage-motto-motivation-neon-light-quotes-and-sayings-wild-words-9d80fb9c-9a22-4f13-ac34-e74de28The decision on whether to connect with your donor group is, like everything else in this process very personal.

Some parentss feel that their families are enough and are very uncomfortable with the idea of connecting with their children’s half siblings.  They never look for them  and they never connect with them – they leave the decision 100% up to their child.

Some parents connect with the group but stay very much in the background.  Their main reason for being there is so that they can be aware of any health issues that might come up.  Maybe they also want to make it easier for their children to connect if they should want to in the future.

Then there are the male infertility recipients (heterosexual couples) and I’ve found that they are much less likely to connect and have a higher chance of not telling their children that they used a donor.  Some do tell their offspring but they stay away from the donor groups for the most part.  I know we have at least one couple that used our donor but they have not reached out to us.

choice-2692575_1920When I first connected it was mainly out of curiosity.  I wasn’t sure how much involvement that I wanted.  It was interesting but overwhelming.  We have some strong characters and I wondered whether or not I really needed this many new people in our lives.

Time went on and my son was born.  This group of women had become a cheerleading team of sorts – genuinely excited to welcome a new child into the group.  They were among the first to know that I had given birth and it was so fun to compare my baby’s picture to all of the other newborns!

I gave it some genuine thought.  I considered what I would want and what my future son might want.  I came to the same conclusion for us both:  Honesty and love.

I felt that hiding the donor family from my son could backfire.  He would feel lied to and could even resent me for the missed opportunity of getting to know others who were not only donor conceived – but by the same man who had helped gift life to him.  If I left my child out of gatherings and meet ups, other kids would form bonds and it would be much harder for my son to connect and form the kind of relationships that occur when you have been friends through all the awkward stages of life.

I decided that I would embrace the donor families and I can honestly say that it has been the best decision for us.  We have met multiple families and it has always been a very positive experience.  Some of these women have become very good friends – to the point that I now cannot imagine my life without them!  I am excited for our children to know one another and so glad that I have opened this door for my son so young.  I feel like he will never feel that it’s weird or uncomfortable – it will just be his life and another part of his amazing story.

footstepsAnd if my son decides that he doesn’t want to pursue friendships with these children when he is older, that’s fine.  It will still be his choice.  It will also be my choice to stay connected to the Mothers who have become friends.

We are going on vacation later this month.  It’s our second donor sibling meet up and this time we will have 10 children (7 families total.)  I’ve no doubt it will be absolute chaos but of the sweetest variety.

sea-1337565_1920We plan on doing a meetup for those who want to every year until the kids are old enough to do it on their own and then – who knows, maybe us Mums will just do it on our own.  We’ll pick somewhere exotic and enjoy our cocktails, kid free and full of stories.

How to choose a donor again, and again and again…

Once I had decided that I was going to try to have a baby on my own it was time to start thinking about who was going to Father said child.  I considered all the options, some more than others…

  • One Night Stand?  Totally out of the question.  Gross/diseases/timing and of course morality.
  • Known Donor?  I considered this briefly after a ‘close male friend’ offered.  It has its pros and works for some people but I didn’t want the danger of ever having to fight for full custody of my child.  I also didn’t want to be tied to this person for the rest of my life.
  • Sperm Bank?  Overwhelming as there are so many.  For me this was the most logical way even though it was the most expensive.

Once the decision had been made there were a barrage of decisions behind it.  I decided against an anonymous donor immediately.  I am a very honest person and intended to be open with my child about how they came to be.  Choosing someone who had opted out of contact with their offspring seemed wrong to me.  I’d spent time reading up on donor offspring and felt that my child would be a lot less likely to resent me if I had at least afforded them the opportunity to speak to, or meet their donor one day.

So I decided I would choose an ID release or Open Donor, which means that the donor is anonymous until his offspring reach 18 years old.  They are then entitled to at least one contact with him.  This costs more, but in the great scheme of things is a paltry sum to perhaps offset a lifetime of genetic curiosity.

The Sperm Bank and actually choosing the donor.  It took me weeks to stop being overwhelmed by this and to settle on a sperm bank.  I went with one where you could see adult photos.. lets face it, you can be a cute baby but a creepy looking adult.  The bank I chose happened to also be the most expensive one but I reasoned with myself… ‘who wants cheap sperm?’  It didn’t feel like an area I should be saving money.

Choosing a donor is a lot like internet dating… you just have to delve a lot deeper before you can swipe left or right.  The bonus is that you get to read family health history and you know he doesn’t have a drug problem or any STD’s right off the bat.

Donor Number One

I agonized for days over more profiles that I can count.  I took notes.  I had a short-list.  I pored over family histories, interviews, profile pics.  I paid attention to their star sign.  I wondered if we met (and I were younger,) would I date this person?  When my child finally speaks to or meets this man will he understand my choice.  After days and days I finally had my future baby Daddy paid for and winging his way to my clinic.  I was so nervous but so relieved.  I bought Donor One in bulk so I would have enough for 2 kids… but even a bulk buy wouldn’t see me to the end of my journey and after 6 treatments I’d run out of stock.

Donor Number Two

It was when I was 5 days into belly injections for my second round of IVF that I received a call from my clinic to ask when my specimen would arrive.  I was, at that time picking flowers to sell at a local farmers market.  I was gob smacked to discover that they had used up my last two vials during my previous round of IVF but had failed to let me know.

I couldn’t get home fast enough.  I made a call to the sperm bank who informed me that my original donor was sold out.  They kindly let me look at full profiles for free for 3 days.  Of course I didn’t have 3 days.  I had 3 hours to choose my potential kids potential biological other half.  I hurriedly absorbed as many as I could and favorited a handful as I narrowed them down.  At the end of the 3 hours I had picked a donor who seemed even more wonderful than Number One.  I figured maybe it was a sign.  Maybe Number One and I just weren’t compatible but Number Two… now he really seemed like he would have what it took.

Donor Number Three

I was jaded.  Another failed round of IVF behind me.  I had spent more money than I make in a year chasing my dream.  I had had a miscarriage.  I had decided to give it one last try.  I didn’t believe it would work.  I called the sperm bank and tried to get a free trial again to no avail.  I didn’t have money to spend looking at multiple donors.  Then I remembered my favorites.  Fifteen minutes later I had picked the most handsome one.  He had an amazing jawline and good family health history.  That’s all that I cared about.  Besides it was never going to work anyways.

And that is how I picked the best donor.  The donor who would (with a lot of help from Science) make me a mother.  And I couldn’t believe that after all the agonizing he was the one I had spent the least time worrying about.

I have since heard it a lot from women who fight infertility.  That the donor selection becomes less and less important as you go on.  As your hope wanes.  You just want a baby, any baby and it really doesn’t matter where that baby comes from in the end.  You’ve already fallen in love with a couple (or a few) donors along the way and the only person you have energy left to be disappointed with is yourself.

I’m also happy to report that I have now read up on Donor Don (affectionate nickname.) I now know more than his family health history and exquisite jawline.  I even know his star sign.  And if my younger self were to meet him in a bar she would most definitely try to talk to him.