There was a time when I was more interested in the person producing the sperm, than the junk he produced. Then life happened and now, as they say, that’s history. Since deciding to go down this path, undoubtedly the biggest decision I’ve had to make is choosing a sperm donor.
Once I had decided I wanted to do this thing I started searching. And searching. And searching. It was like a whole new world out there. I had a basic understanding of how the process worked, but no real understanding of how the hell one goes about choosing a sperm donor. The first sperm bank I came across online was a European one. You don’t see too much detail on the donors until you join (which costs money and I wasn’t ready for that just yet). The only thing I can compare it to is online dating. Only easier. You don’t have to impress them, you don’t have to arrange a babysitter to meet them, and – crucially – you can let the dream of them stay alive because you never actually have to meet them and find out what a douche bag they really are – or at least not for a long time to come (and that’s only if your child decides to trace them). It’s exciting and scary as fuck all in one. But mainly exciting. The moment you spot a guy who you think looks nice you start imagining him as your child’s donor, only this isn’t some wishful dream as you flick through tinder, this is very possible. And oh my god, if that guy could be my kids donor, then that means I could have a kid! Something which for the last couple of years has seemed so far out of reach, is now well and truly in plucking distance.
At first the more detailed profiles (aka the American ones) overwhelmed me. The level of details you could find out on each individual was unreal – they had personality tests and medical histories of all their relatives (I’d question how accurate they actually are though – there’s no way I’d know that level of information about my aunts and uncles). My British sensibilities meant I couldn’t help but feel there was something a little cheap and cheesy with the heavy marketing approach of the American sites. I didn’t want to feel like I was reading a sales blurb, even if in fact that’s exactly what I was doing. Funky Fruit and Cheeky Cheetah might be great for a night of fun, but I’m searching for my child’s genepool, this is serious stuff y’all, choosing a sperm donor is not something to be taken lightly.
There was another way to choose a sperm donor – through a matching site that links you with real people in real time so you can meet up. I joined one such site. It probably would have been OK if I’d put some serious effort in, but I only seemed to come across men who wanted to co-parent the old fashioned way – unprotected sex. I wasn’t up for that. Even if I could find a ‘decent’ guy it didn’t feel right for me – after things had gone so wrong with my ex it felt too close for comfort, without being close enough. I’ve been so let down by my ex-husband that the thought of trusting a virtual stranger is a step too far. It’s great this option exists and it will no doubt be right for many people, but personally I wanted the reassurance and protection a sperm bank and a clinic could provide me with. And so it was I went off into the night to continue my online search.
There’s been funny moments, insightful moments and downright stressful moments throughout this choosing a sperm donor process. Like, did you know that the higher motility sperm has, the better it is (stronger swimmers I think). It also tends to make them more expensive unfortunately. Did you also know that listening to the intimate hopes and dreams of a man who may end up being the donor of your child despite you never recognising him if he bumped into you in the street, is actually quite emotional as it goes.
Then I found him. Donor number X123* – I knew he was the one. He ticked all the boxes. He was a UK donor and the sparse level of detail helped; there was less to dislike about him. I kept going back online to see him over the coming days. Suddenly he wasn’t there anymore. Did I search wrong? I contacted the bank to see what was going on. It turns out Mister Perfect was someone else’s perfect too, and someone else’s and someone else’s. In fact he was so many people’s mister perfect that he was all sold out. I was gutted.
It took weeks and weeks of searching, writing lists, deciding who was my favourite, which bank was my top choice, what were the key attributes I was looking for in a sperm donor. Round and round in circles I went trying to find another suitable sperm donor. There were things which to begin with felt incredibly complex, I needed to select a donor who was compatible with my CMV status – what the hell was a CMV status?** My head was spinning from the choice of it all. Initially, the huge amount of information on the non-UK sperm banks was overwhelming. After Mister Perfect mark one, I found a couple of other Mister Perfects who also turned out not to be appropriate for various reasons. Everytime I thought I’d found a donor something seemed to go wrong. Each time it happened my heart plummeted a little. It’s a big thing to get your head round – that
this stranger, this one here, no this one, no this one – is the right seed for your child. You can only make this decision by convincing yourself that this is the guy. Then when he can no longer be the guy you have to get out of that mindset and move on to the next one. Sometimes in a matter of days, other times just in a few hours.
But slowly, like with the decision to have this child in the first place, everything started to slot into place. In the end, the information was no longer overwhelming but just right. I found a sperm donor who I felt fitted our family. I won’t say he was perfect, by this long of looking I had come to realise that there is no perfect. For some people, like me, when you start this process it’s hard to get your head around the idea you’re choosing a sperm donor not a dad. Eventually though you realise that the most important factor in this child’s life is you. YOU will raise them, YOU will care for them, YOU will be their everything. All I really wanted was someone who sounded nice (for if and when the child ever meets him), thoughtful (so they appreciate what they are doing) and relatively healthy (for obvious reasons). Looks, personality, talents, intelligence were of secondary importance too, but eventually I realised that if he felt right and there wasn’t anything major to put me off then that was more than good enough.
When I finally found the sperm donor I wanted and I was sure there were no ‘issues’ with him (he had lots in stock!) I allowed the idea of him to mellow in my brain. After a couple of months of searching and thinking and pondering on the different donors available, I realised that the best thing is to not get too excited about any one person. I tried him on for size without letting myself get too attached incase another hurdle came up. In the end he was the right one and after overcoming some paperwork issues I finally managed to place my order with just hours to spare to ensure it was there in time for my upcoming cycle. Now I could sit back safe in the knowledge that the seeds for my baby were flying their way to a clinic near me and in a mere two weeks time I would be giving this a go. A few days later I received confirmation that the delivery had arrived. I was sitting in work and a huge smile spread across my face.
As I write this, piecing together notes that I’ve been scribbling over the past few months I’m smiling. I’ve been feeling pretty stressed lately and I worried that I was getting ill again. It’s only as I write this that I realise what a HUGE thing I’ve managed to do and I’ve done it alone. Choosing a sperm donor is no easy task. There have been times when my head has been spinning from it all, but given that a year ago I could go into extreme panic over deciding what to have for tea, the fact that I even managed to make this decision is amazing. More than that, I’ve got through the first few hurdles mainly unscathed and I’m sitting here feeling hopeful and positive about the coming months. Putting down on paper what has been involved in the decisions I’ve been making over the past few months has made me realise that it’s no surprise that I’ve had some wobbles, the most important thing though is that I’ve managed to get through.
*Not his actual donor ID number!
**Although I was actually told in the end that it didn’t matter but for a while there it seemed like a big consideration.
If you are interested in this story of contemplating becoming a single mum by choice then you can follow my blog on facebook. Just go to my page here and give me a like to stay up to date with my latest blogs. And follow me on twitter @EllamentalMama I’ll be writing more about this in the coming months
This is part of my single mum by choice series. You can read all about it here: