When we talk about having a baby with people there are two main questions people have. First, who’s going to carry it? (I’ll come back to that) and second, where will you get the sperm from? Well, my initial responses to these questions are ‘mind your own’, but then I know that it’s an unusual situation that I guess most people don’t have experience of so I can understand why people ask.
So, to sperm. When we first started investigating getting pregnant before H got all ill and stuff the clinic just told us to get it from the London Sperm Bank, so we didn’t really think there was any choice. We did briefly think about the options around male friends who might want to donate, but the ramifications of that on all the relationships involved were too big for us to consider that as a serious option for us. We didn’t want there to be a third parent involved with our child, so it was our decision from very early on that we’d only be considering using donor sperm. So we talked about what characteristics we wanted to look for. As H is going to be genetically involved in the process anyway, we decided to try and go for characteristics that were closer to me. Dark hair, blue eyes, obviously super intelligent and GSOH. Ok, maybe not that much, but the level of education did matter to me, so we initially chose a donor who had a PhD in some kind of sciences. It took a lot of trawling through the profiles but we got there in the end, were excited and put the order in in advance of any treatment.
That weekend we were staying at my parents, and they asked how baby plans were going. We were excited so we told them we’d chosen the sperm and told them about it. Big mistake. “Sounds like he’s got Aspergers to me” said my ever-thoughtful Mum. “You don’t want that do you?!” Oh god, we thought. Could she be right? Now to be honest, it doesn’t really matter if our donor had that but it made us re-think everything. When you have a kid ‘normally’ with someone you know that person, you know what character traits they have, you know their family histories. And you are having a child with them because you want part of them in that child you’re creating together. With H and I we want that too, but we can’t have it. So we’re choosing to have part of our child be someone we have basically no knowledge of beyond the fact that he has dark hair, blue eyes and O-Positive blood type. Is he musical? Nice? Kind? Or is he a mass murderer? We have no idea. Anyway, fate took it out of our hands. H got ill, we cancelled the sperms of Mr Science and that was that. Plus we learnt an important lesson – the identity of the sperm donor from now on would not be discussed outside of H and I – once we’d decided no one else is going to know or have an opinion!
While H was recuperating from her stay in L’Hotel D’Hospital, we watched a doc on the BBC about the number of women getting pregnant from Danish sperm. While we were watching I was thinking ‘blimey that sperm is cheap!’ (menfolk, your sperm is gold dust in the UK, if you need to earn a few bucks, go and donate!) and ‘god you can know EVERYTHING about these men’. So when it came time to start thinking about trying again I suggested we try CRYOS, the Danish sperm bank. Quickly we got lost in this whole new world. It was like online dating but skipping to the part where you’re just solely focussing on what kind of baby they would give you. And in this world you can know SO much about them – you know what they do for a living, who their parents are and whether their grandparents are alive or dead (what they died of if they’re not here anymore), you can see baby photos of them and even hear a voice recording of them telling you why they wanted to donate their sperm (“I want to give you a gift” yeah right, we know it’s about the money and that’s fine). Choosing sperm suddenly became this huge deal. Every evening H was trawling through the men – do you like this one? Look at his picture! Our baby would be so cute! And I started to feel weird. Hold on, I don’t want to know you’re thinking about what your baby with someone else might look like… I wanted our baby to be part of the two of us and now all of a sudden it felt like H was having a baby with someone else. I didn’t want us to be able to look at our baby and see this other person in it.
Feeling like this threw a bit of a spanner in the works. As usual when I get upset I just went quiet about things and didn’t respond when H asked me who I preferred – this donor or that donor. And she started thinking I just was going off the idea of babies all together. But I really wasn’t. I just felt weird about the whole thing, until I came clean and said can we choose one without pictures and stuff. Turns out too much knowledge is a bad thing too. So, take two and we finally decided on a donor, once again ordered and waited for the right time to come. Anyway, this proved ANOTHER false start (for reasons which H will explain later) and so we cancelled them again.
Finally, we went to our new clinic and we were advised once again to go back to the London Sperm Bank. This time we knew what we were doing. We were pro’s. We plugged in the info we cared about: O-Postitive, brown hair, blue eyes and up came two options. Great we said, we chose between the two and that was it. Because after all, what is going to define our child is how we raise them, not what genes go into this medical procedure.