Category Archives: Anonymous Donor

Donor Stalking

We just moved to a smaller place. In an effort to downsize, we spent hours (if not days) combing through the huge stacks of papers that has followed each of us since graduate school. Drudged through that box of random crap that never got unpacked from the last time we moved. Through this process, S and I uncovered love letters from early in our courtship. We found copies of our marriage certificate that had been hiding for at least a few months. We found dog toys, baby toys, fancy paper clips, extra batteries and those special rocks I had picked up somewhere sometime ago that I just couldn’t part with. And then, S found the green folder. You see, the green folder is where we stored all of the information when we were donor shopping. Contained within the tattered covers is all that we know about M’s donor.

Obviously (if you have been reading this blog), I have thought a lot about his donor. Wondering if his donor is the cause of his blond curls or blue-gray eyes. Wondering if M will be musical, like his donor. But somehow, these thoughts always make his donor seem more like an enigma. Opening that folder, I remembered that he is a real person. Some faceless person in the crowd: maybe the guy who ordered his coffee right before you did yesterday morning. Maybe we will never know what he looks like. Maybe he will break his family’s heart and be killed in a car accident like another donor we know of, closing the door for my son to ever know him. Opening that folder, I remembered that M’s donor seems funny (on paper, that is) and young. So young. Too young to have made the decision he did.

And then, it happened. Unexpectedly and without premeditation, I took the information we have and…I…I…Googled him. I did! It was like I couldn’t stop myself! On track and determined to see his face with hopes he looks nothing like my son, I spent more than an hour entering different combinations of the information, with and without his birth month and year (1987, for those of you who care. 1987! That makes him now 25 years old.) Thinking some aspect of what he told the sperm bank would be unique parts of his personality that would make him stand out amongst the billions of people in the world. I got nothing. Not a thing. No pictures. No Facebook page. No magazine articles about how he is out trying to save the world. Nothing. And…I was relieved. I can continue to assume that M got his blond hair from my side of the family and this his blue-gray eyes come from S’s middle eastern heritage. All I had to do was close that green folder and he went back to being a faceless person in the crowd.

Of course, we want M to be able to connect with his donor when he is older and, of course, that will open a while new can of worms. But for now, S and I are the ones who made him, blond curls and blue-gray eyes and sly smile and cautious approach to most things. We did that.

-Betsy

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Excuse Me While I (rant for just a quick second)…

Earlier this week, I scanned my Facebook news feed to see an NBC news story that the FDA was slated to ban gay men from donating sperm to sperm banks.* Like many people I “shared” the story on my FB page outraged by the ignorance and bigotry in this imposed regulation. The reasoning behind it, as one spokesperson from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine was cited as saying in the article: “you can’t be too careful [in taking measures to reduce the spread of HIV].” As a former sex educator for a large reproductive and sexual health organization, I know full well that one’s sexual orientation is not the issue, but that certain sexual behaviors- unprotected anal sex in particular- are higher risk for spreading HIV and other STIs. Plenty of heterosexual couples engage in anal sex, but are straight men being cut off from entering cryogenics clinics (a related irk: the story referred to “homosexual sex”- there is no such thing people; there are different sexual acts that people of all sexual orientations engage in)?  Shouldn’t they just ask would-be donors about recent sexual practices if they’re concerned about higher risk behaviors and then screen the semen for infections (really the only way to know for sure)?

There was also another part of me- for admittedly selfish reasons- that found myself having a moment of panic: our donor is a gay man. We have been hoping to use the same donor a few years from now so that I could try to get pregnant.  Although we inseminated at home, I suddenly found myself scanning my brain, wanting reassurance that there wasn’t going to be a roadblock to this plan. What if we need to call upon the medical establishment for a little help when that time comes… will we reach an impasse?  Some sperm banks, such as Rainbow Flag Health Services, actively recruit gay and bisexual donors.  Although Rainbow Flag’s plan is to continue doing so for the time being since the ban is not currently being seen as a law, but rather a strong recommendation (if I’m following this correctly), will  this affect their organization and scare some clients from using their services?  I know for us, and many other friends we know, we were particularly drawn to our donor because he is a gay man.  He seemed to understand and have increased sensitivity around the needs of our queer family-to-be.  I would be incredibly disappointed if we weren’t able to work with him again as a donor. Also, I have been overjoyed at the thought of being able to conceive with the same donor who my partner was able to create our daughter with. I know this is edging into controversial territory, but I love the thought of my daughter being biologically connected to her sibling.  I say that not because I think biology is the seminal part of what connects people together, but because my spouse and I are not able to create a baby together and I love the notion of my gestational child having some of the features of their big sister and her of them.  In my mind, it’s as close as my spouse and I can get to being able to actually create a baby together (although I feel like I was a part of my non-gestational daughter’s conception process and pregnancy for sure).

I guess for the time being we’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight and hope that the FDA will see the scientific error of their ways and remove this discriminatory regulation that doesn’t breed safety, but rather ignorance and bigotry.

– Charlotte

Sperm in Common

My son (M.) is the product of a more than 15-year courtship, a lot of love, determination and…an anonymous sperm donor.  We did not come t­o that decision easily.  In the end, it was what brought us our boy so I can’t question the decision.  When we were choosing a donor, it was important to us that M. might have the opportunity to meet him one day and that we might have the opportunity to at least know any other children born from the same donor.  After M. was born, we contacted the sperm bank to let them know and to ask them to pass along our information to any other families who used #4004 who were interested in hearing from us.  I was so excited to call the bank and let them know about our bundle.  I was also really excited about the possibility of meeting the other families…until that possibility became a reality.  Then I was terrified.  I never felt like my position as my child’s mother was in jeopardy, but the thought of a random stranger having biological ties to my baby FREAKED ME OUT.  It still does.  On the one hand, I really want M. to know this other child, if for nothing more than they will know they are related and shouldn’t procreate.  On the other hand, I want to run and hide in the woods with my boy and make believe he was born of my literal blood, too.

I am writing about this now because the time that M. will meet this other child is upon us.  We were supposed to meet up last summer, but due to a serious case of cold feet and other mitigating circumstances, we backed out at the last minute.  WHEW!  Dodged a bullet that I kind of wanted to take, which is odd to say.  In less than a month, we are supposed to meet up halfway between us and I am simultaneously excited and nauseated.  What if they look like each other?  What does that mean for me who shares no DNA with my boy?  What if their shared biology serves to instantly bond them?  What if we don’t like the other family?  What if they don’t like us?  What if we all love each other?

Sometimes, it is all too much for me to think about. If I ruminate too long on the subject, a dark hole grows and pulls in my gut and I feel like I can’t breathe.  I don’t think M.’s other mother really gets it.  She is supportive and says she understands how I could feel that way, but she doesn’t have a void inside her waiting to swallow her up.

I was talking to a good friend this week about how I feel like, due to a combination of sleep deprivation and stress, I have forgotten how to breathe to the bottom of my lungs.  I mean one of those down to the toes kind of breaths that fill one with renewal and possibility. I am going to focus on that for the next few weeks: Filling my lungs, legs, feet with possibility and breathing so deeply I just might float away.

-Betsy

Car Musings

When my son was born, the midwives remarked in awe how much he looks like me.  Same hair and skin color.  Same cheeks.  Same nose.  It was a bit of a shock as my partner, who is Middle Eastern (olive skinned, black hair), gave birth to him.  We share no biology, yet he truly favors me.  He has started to tan, which is not like me at all, and I fear he will stop looking like me as he grows.  There is comfort in our similarities.  It is not like I look for my father’s eyes in my son’s face, but other people do.  I am not closeted.  I openly talk about my life with most people (unless I feel unsafe).  So, when someone says that my son looks just like me, my most common response is, “Isn’t it funny?  I didn’t give birth to him.” But I did.  He was not born of my body but was born of my soul, that which is uniquely me.  As I write this, we are driving home from a beach vacation and he is asleep next to me with his tiny hand on my forearm like it belongs there, because it does.  I realized that while I do not hide who I am, there are certain situations where I don’t trust other people not to say hurtful things, so I might play along with their assumptions of my son’s heredity to avoid having to explain.  The fact that he looks like me makes this possible.  If he looked like his other mother, his eyes would be dark like the night, his hair the color of crows and his fair skin, brown.  Then, I would have to answer, “Does he look like his dad?”  “Where did he get those eyes?”  I don’t mind answering and, in fact, think that I have to for my son, to show him that there is nothing to hide about how he came to us.  But sometimes, I don’t want to answer.  I want the store clerk to assume he came from my body.  I want the waitress to ask only me if my boy wants water.  Somehow, the assumptions of strangers make me a visible parent.  I remember the first pediatrician appointment when my son was two weeks old.  The doctor hardly looked me in the face. She addressed all questions about how well he was nursing or how long has it been since he pooped to his other mother.  She asked her about his sleep patterns and whether or not we were ready to vaccinate.  As I sat there in that stark room, a heat began to fill me up, from my toes to my belly where my son did not grow, all the way to the top of my head.  Inside, I was screaming, “WE MADE HIM TOGETHER!  I AM HIS MOTHER, TOO!” and maybe not so loudly, “See me.”  I was worried about whether or not I would bond with my son the same way his other mother would.  I worried that he would come out and only want her.  I planned about how I would react to this situation if it happened.  I talked to fathers and other non-gestational mothers about their experiences.  I journaled to my son for months before he was born about what I want for our relationship and what I want for him.  All that planning, and then he was born.  A gentle spirit who loves me as deeply as I love him.  In the first spring of his life, we spent many hours bound in a Moby wrap, wandering the streets of our town.  I would kiss his head as we avoided the as-yet-melted mounds of snow piled on the sidewalks.  We explored the dormant gardens and watched as the geese returned to the pond.  He grew and smiled for the first time and we kept walking.  His other mother went back to work and my son and I kept walking.  Then he got hurt for the first time.  He fell and bumped his face and the tiny tooth on the bottom cut his gums and there was blood.  I scooped him up and held him tight as he worked through the newness of pain. After a couple of minutes, he stopped crying and just immersed himself in my gaze.  In that moment, I really knew he was mine.  When my son was six months old, we moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina.  Like I prepared for my son’s birth, I prepared for this move, working through the various scenarios as our departure drew near: “Two mothers? That is an abomination!” “You are going to hell!” “That poor boy.  What is going to do without a father?”  But none of that has happened.  Sure, there are people who believe those things, but we have been met only with kindness since we arrived.  When a woman at the farmer’s market asked, “Who’s baby is that?” when my son was on my back and his other mother at my side, I (without a moment’s thought) replied, “Both of ours.”  As I braced my self for her response, she launched into a diatribe about the lesbians who used to live next door (“Do you know them?” she asked.) who “got their son from some California stuff” and weren’t they just the best parents you have ever seen.  While the my-best-friend-is-gay routine gets old, I appreciated her ability to surprise me with her type of kindness.  I don’t know what is said behind closed doors.  I only know that since we have moved back to the South, people have been nothing but warm and welcoming of our family.  In Massachusetts, it was expected that we, as a family, would be visible.  But here, I have been constantly surprised by how many people actually see us, the unit.  I like to be surprised by people in this way.  I expect that my son won’t always favor me and that people won’t always be nice to our family.  I am trying to plan for the day when someone, in front of my boy, says something mean or ignorant.  But these days, I am not spending too much time on that pursuit.  Instead, I play ‘boo’ with my boy and have whole family dance parties daily.  If my son gets a dark tan, we will still be a unit.  He will still be my boy if he looks nothing like me and people ask if he has his father’s eyes.  My son, who has no father, has two mothers who love him more than chocolate, which is saying something coming from me.

-Betsy