Published on September 13th, 2016 | by Allison Carr0
A SPERM DONOR LOVE STORY: Allison Carr on Asking for Seconds
He hands me the jar and shows me to his bedroom. I shut the door behind me, survey the single bed in the corner, slip off my jeans and underwear, lie down and draw the contents of the jar into a syringe. I spread a towel down underneath me, and have to chuckle at this gesture: the only thing likely to get on the bed is his own semen, and I highly doubt it will be the first time.
I’m at my sperm donor’s house, trying for a second child. Downstairs he plays with my son, who calls him Uncle. I hear their voices echo up the stairs and marvel at the strangeness of how we have managed to turn this act, one of the most intimate human exchanges, into a transaction that feels like a drug deal.
When my wife and I tried for our son, Adrian was nearly a stranger. He had once dated an acquaintance of mine. I enjoyed chatting with him every time I saw him, which was only about once a year, but I knew next to nothing about him.
While we were searching for donors, he was the one person multiple people suggested. So I finally wrote him a message (via Facebook no less) and asked if he was interested in having a conversation about it. From there, a series of only slightly awkward discussions ensued.
Lawyers were consulted, contracts signed, and body fluids were tested and finally we were ready to try and knock me up.
The very first time felt like a Laurel and Hardy act. We showed him to our tiny bathroom and went all the way outside to the back yard to give him privacy, because closing the door just wasn’t enough. When he reappeared, in order to give us the specimen jar with his “donation, our dog jumped all over him, my overly excited wife slapped him a little too hard on the back, and then the dog got his paw stuck in his shirt and started yelping liked he was dying. Fortunately, no one dropped the sperm. After we embarrassingly ushered him to the door, my wife and I headed for the bedroom like a bunch of teenagers who had just scored LSD for the first time.
After that, things became routine, he would show up monthly for a few days in a row on his way back from work, or on his way to a camping trip, but the conversations were short and mostly focused on the business at hand. I could never quite escape the feeling that we were burdening him. Every month that I didn’t get pregnant, I felt like I owed him an apology. I lived in fear that before I could get pregnant, he would call it off, deciding that it was too much trouble. But he always showed up faithfully, and usually cheerfully.
When our son was born he brought us a meal and we all shared it out in the back yard. He came by a few times after that, and even brought his mom to visit.
A few months later, we all scattered to the winds. We moved to California and he moved to Nova Scotia to work in a Buddhist monastery.
We get plenty of questions about whether our relationship with him is “weird.” (These usually come from older heterosexual relatives.) And sure, there has been some new territory to navigate, but I’m amazed by how un-strange the whole trip has been. We decided early on that we wanted to be open with our son the whole way through. We have a book we read to him that talks about reproduction in terms even a small child could understand, at one part of the book it asks “Where did the egg and sperm that made you come from?” Which opens the door for a discussion. Right now I just say, “your mommy had the egg, Uncle Adrian gave us the sperm and your Papi helped me put them together.”
As he ages, I’m sure more questions will come up, and I’m honestly not sure if we’ll be prepared to answer them—but we are both committed to letting our kid (or kids) take the lead on this one.
When relatives or friends ask us these questions, I like to talk about how my feelings for this man changed after my son was born. I see expressions on my child’s face that I recognize from him. I marvel at the small ways my son is not like me (there are plenty of ways that he is very much like me) and these things only serve to reinforce my love for this man, who before I became a mother, was a stranger. I can’t help but loop him into the immense and encompassing love I have for my son, and I can’t feel anything but deep gratitude towards him for helping to make our son possible. (He also happens to be an incredible person, we chose well in that respect).
We knew when we met him that there was another couple to whom he had promised to donate. A couple in Hawaii, who were his long-time good friends. We didn’t even think twice about it, accepting it as part of the bargain for getting his sperm.
When our son was 9 months old, and their son 4 months old, we met them while on a family vacation. We have since become good friends, getting together on a yearly basis. Since those early days, we have actually gotten to know this other couple better than we know Adrian. When we get together we always like to play “find Adrian’s features” in our kids: Does our son have his mouth? Who’s toe nails are those? (They sure aren’t mine).
About a year ago, we decided to seriously think about having a second child. I knew the minute my son was born that I wanted to do it all again; my partner, on the other hand, thought I was insane.
Deciding to try for a second is such a strange process. Of course there is the biological longing etched into my body from one pregnancy to do it again. But underneath that, something else was also growing. On one hand there are no delusions about what you are getting yourself into. I think back to those sleepless months at the beginning, and feel ill just thinking about it. How do parents do that when there is another kid to care for? Yet, the more I found my footing as a mom, the more I found myself longing to expand the culture of our family to include another child.
My partner and I both have sisters, and.both of our sisters were at the birth of our son. It’s hard to imagine him not ever having a sibling.
But what if our children never get along, and become those kinds of siblings that are bitter rivals? What if introducing another individual makes our family less stable? What if the stress wrecks our marriage?
And then there is my age. I was 38 when I got pregnant with our son. That technically meant I had a ‘geriatric pregnancy’ (such a stupid term) already. We honestly just felt so relieved to get him, we didn’t even think about number two. But after a healthy pregnancy and home birth, I am hoping the odds are in my favor. Maybe I’m just one of those women whose eggs aged well.
This time around the stakes are much lower. This pregnancy, if it happens, won’t decide our fate as parents. The first time I got my period this second time around, I found myself to be strangely at ease. I found it so much easier to feel that “if it is meant to be, it will happen,” with this one. I’m acutely aware that that has everything to do with already having a kid.
For many months, we sat firmly undecided. There was the problem of distance. Could we convince Adrian to come visit? If we did, what if it didn’t happen in one try?
We even explored using another donor. But, then we learned that we were all going to be back in our hometown of Portland for a few months this year… and Adrian agreed.
We were staying with my parents, so it seemed much more convenient to go to his house, rather than having him come to us. After giving birth in front of 5 people and nursing a child in public for nearly 2 years, not much embarrasses me anymore, certainly not trying to inseminate in a stranger’s bedroom.
We also have a 2 year old now, so that meant we came as a family package.
On our way back from a family dinner, while our son watched cartoons in the other room, my wife helped me get the sperm inside my body. Trust me, the surreal nature of that juxtaposition was not lost on me. After all the private stuff was over, she opened the door and we all hung out on the bed, where I had to stay lying down for 30 minutes.
We’ve kept trying since then, and what was tense and fraught the first time around, has turned into social visits. “If nothing else come of this,” I said to my partner, “at least we got to spend more time with Adrian, and really get to know him.”
The last time we tried for number two, Adrian and my son played downstairs while I maneuvered this whole transfer on my own. (My wife is biologist and is away on a boat in Alaska). When I finished, I joined them outside, visiting the chickens and goats that his community house keeps.
My son did one of the ten thousand incredibly cute things that he does all day, and Adrian and I shared a look as he ran off. “I hope it worked” he said, nodding towards my son. “I hope you get to have another one of those.”
“Me too” I say, “me too.”