Published on December 18th, 2013 | by Mutha Magazine6
Won’t You Help Me Get Pregnant? On Crowd-Sourcing For Sperm
I made the decision to get pregnant a year ago. I thought it would be easy. Tons of men donate sperm, known and anonymous. I know men! I made lists, wrote letters, talked to my partner.
In April, my best friend offered her then-partner. I went to visit her and we talked about it, all three of us, him and me, her and me. We sat at the picnic table. He wore a pink dress and rolled cigarettes and we hugged. The sun set. It seemed settled. This was in May; we would start trying in the summer. That week I read Taking Control of Your Fertility, that reproductive Bible. I carried my pink basal thermometer camping, dutifully recording 96.63 and 97.03 each morning in my journal.
On the Megabus home, I could feel a baby– my baby!– out there, one step closer to being real, to being mine. The bus pulled into Atlanta for a two hour layover. My phone rang. It was my best friend. She was crying. Please, please, please don’t, she sobbed. I don’t know how I would feel. She’d stayed up all night reading artificial insemination forums online. I got off the bus, crying too.
When I travel by Megabus, I get mistaken for a teenage runaway, but this time no well-intentioned fellow traveler asked me how old I was or offered me a muffin. I was a scary public crying person. A cop gave me a long look like he didn’t know if he should offer to help me. I cried through the Olympic Park, I cried past the Georgia Aquarium, I cried at that one coffee shop that I know how to find for Megabus layovers. I was so sad and so angry. Why does it have to be hard for me? This stupid, bourgeois problem is the major hurdle my gayness has presented. I brushed my teeth and took crying selfies in the bathroom. Eventually I got on another Megabus, where I ate an entire pound of peanut butter M&Ms, read the newest David Sedaris book, and came home to my partner, completely exhausted.
The search resumed. I asked a few other friends, men that I knew from my circle of college friends, over Facebook. They very politely and very gently turned me down: I don’t know how I would feel about it; I’m not stable enough in my life to think about something like that; I would want to be a parent. Another friend offered her husband, which I worried about — what if they break up? What if they fight, who will I feel loyal to, my donor or my friend?
I sat at my desk sobbing a little. I started researching sperm banks. For a ton of reasons I didn’t want that– ideas (albeit vague) about “community,” about friendship, having a sense of control and a person I could point to in the child’s life. I have a lot of “issues with men” and the thought just made me queasy, some stranger’s biological matter coming to me on dry ice in the mail. Also, I have a family history of mental illness and addiction, and I would at least want to know if I was giving my kid an increased risk of either of those challenges.
My partner suggested I “widen my search” so I drafted the following email, which I then sent to 18 friends from college, grad school, and my writing life:
this is a very strange email to write but i am turning to those i love and trust for help with something.
i am trying to have a baby. i have always imagined i would have children, but for a long time i figured i would just get married and then eventually become pregnant, as people do. later, after i was gay, i assumed i would figure it out one day, when i was a grownup, when i was stable. well, i am as grownup and stable as i think i can be, and i’m really, super ready and excited to have a baby, i’ve been waiting my whole life for this, etc. only it’s actually pretty hard to figure out.
i have personal and ethical objections to purchasing anonymous donor sperm from a bank. (it is also extremely expensive and requires a lot of medical surveillance)…. so i’m crowd-sourcing for sperm and trying to decide what is the best way to proceed.
i know a lot of smart, creative, and dear people (you!) who figure out how to work around, through, and between weird systems, so here i am asking for advice, input, and suggestions. do you know anyone who might be interested in being a sperm donor? (fresh semen can be transported pretty easily within the continental US, so location is not really a consideration.) the internet is a magic place of synapses. brain juice, and unexpected connections. this is the future. i am networking. please, won’t you help me get pregnant?
i don’t want to write a ton of details, but if you have questions i’m happy to answer them.
i appreciate your reading this email and hope you are well as summer approaches <3
sending love and light,
I felt really vulnerable and gross. Even the word “sperm” is gross to me. I imagined my own self squirting sperm into my vagina– then imagined those 18 people imagining it. What am I doing? I felt lightheaded, and tired, and angry: most people (most straight couples) don’t have to do this! They don’t have to involve outside parties. They just have sex! It seemed unfair that this was so much work, before even inseminating, before nine months of pregnancy, before the kid even exists. All this work to get a baby.
Over the next few days, I received a lot of supportive, kind emails: “I have no sperm but I wish you the best of luck.” “You’ll be a great mom!” I started to get the nebulous “community” feeling I wanted and told myself it would be okay if I used a sperm bank. Weird and expensive, but okay.
I read up on different cryobanks, costs based on how much information they gave you about the donor, washed or unwashed. I found one where the clinic staff wrote these weird narratives about the donors. “When Donor 1402 came into the clinic this morning, he was wearing a polo shirt and had great posture. His floppy hair fell into his eyes and he told me about his computer assisted design class at the community college. He seems like a motivated young man. He has nice handwriting and very good manners.”
Most importantly, I told myself that babies are never made in a vacuum by just one or two people, even straight people’s babies. (Consider that, according to Strong Families Movement , 80% of American families are not married heterosexuals with their biological children). As much as we (maybe especially American lesbians?) want to have control, to do things Our Way, to have Personal Choice, we are all vulnerable and enmeshed when we create our families. We bring new people in; others leave. I told myself that I have a community of people who will love my kid, which is what matters, really.
But the crowd-sourcing worked! A few days later, a friend, in his serious and formal manner, offered, in a Facebook message, to be my sperm donor. It was an unexpected blessing: more questions, more feelings, more work, more planning, more worrying, more anxiety, but closer. Hopeful.
The writer has asked to remain anonymous – Mutha