I googled “sperm banks California” and got a tons of results. I noticed that one of the banks was located about 6 miles from me. It was a non-profit, queer and single mom friendly operation located in Berkeley. “Perfect~!,” I thought.
I immediately pulled up the “donor catalog” and began scanning all of the available specimen. Some banks give you baby photos along with the descriptions but this operation was more bare bones-which was fine by me. The main information they usually give you is the donor’s health history, staff impressions of the person after an interview, and the donor’s answers to a few basic questions.
At first, I found myself looking at the profiles like I look at potential dates on Ok Cupid. Then I reminded myself that I was looking for a sperm donor. I decided prioritize someone with a good health history who came across as reasonably well-adjusted but not too “normal.” The most important factor was that I choose someone that was an “open donor.” This means that if my kid decides they want to find their dad when they are an adult the person is open to meeting them. This narrowed down my options by about 50%.
After about 25 minutes, I had already narrowed it down to a few people. I kept going back to a donor that self described as a nerd, who goes to comic-cons and who paints tiny figurines for fun. Probably based on my own inherent nerdiness and my concern for having a baby daddy that was a “Bro” I decided this was the one. I just knew.
It was weird because I had expected to be toiling over this decision for weeks but i felt completely settled in my decision and I decided to take the leap and figure out how to buy his stuff.
I called the number on the website and the phone rang and rang but no-one picked up. Disappointed, I hung up and called right back. A very unhappy person answered and every time i would ask a question she would just tell me to look on the website. Undeterred, I immediately downloaded and filled out the forms and sent them off.
I was sent an email a few days later welcoming me to the world of feminist sperm. My IUI was likely going to be the following week, so I called to make an appointment to pick up my spunk for the following Tuesday. I was given a 3:45 P.M. time slot. “Not 3:30, not 3:35, not 3:50, 3:45!,” she cautioned.
On my appointment day I left super early because I was terrified of not making it at my assigned time. I work about one hour and fifteen minutes from the clinic but I had left 2.5 hours to get there due to their stern warnings. Unfortunately, there was a series of accidents on both possible highways to the bank. I called them and they coldly told me the last possible time I could be there was 4. I started crying due to the stress of messing up my first IUI, the money I would lose, and the huge dose of hormones pulsing through my body. The tears did little to melt her cold heart but I got a “maybe we can wait a few extra minutes.”
I hung up picturing the bank as the feminist bookstore (Women and Women First!) on the show Portlandia. I imagined running over the clerks from that skit as I sped through traffic. I made it with one minute to spare.
I immediately the building as the location of two businesses that my friends and acquaintances worked at. Awesome. I took the elevator upstairs and was immediately rushed into a private room. I was asked if I had remained scent free as described in the numerous rules they had emailed me. I lied and replied “yes.”
Another women came in with my tank. She was actually very nice and she pulled the vial out so she could confirm that it was from my donor. She also explained how to use the tank, had me sign my forms, and sent me on my way.
I lugged the gigantic tank to the car crossing my fingers that I didn’t run into anyone I knew. How would I explain what I was carrying? I put the tank in the car and a huge feeling of dread and fear washed over me. It all started to seem very, very real. Like I could be pregnant, as a single mom, in the next couple of weeks.
When I got home the kitties immediately freaked out and started sniffing and rubbing up on the tank. I decided it was a good sign.
My health plan doesn’t cover anything even remotely infertility related. (Although, the second a baby is growing in my uterus it will be 100% covered). I met with the “reproductive endocrinologist (RE)” ( $245 for a half hour) who had previously diagnosed me with a “mild” case of polycystic ovarian syndrome. I got the diagnosis two years ago when my now ex-husband and I had met with him because I wasn’t getting pregnant.
When I made this appointment, I was careful to tell them that I was no longer married and that I would be doing this on my own. Unfortunately, this didn’t make it into my chart, and the doctor immediately asked me why my husband wasn’t there. This was an honest mistake, and instead of changing the subject gracefully after I informed him we were now divorced, he stammered, turned red, and blurted out: “that’s a picture of my daughter and she just got a Fullbright scholarship!.” Umm what?? I wasn’t sure how to respond so I just faked excitement and exclaimed “wow, that’s great!” After an awkward pause Dr. Awkward began going over my treatment plan.
I am 38, which is considered “old” in the world of reproduction, but the blood tests he had ordered showed that my lady parts may still have some life left in them. Dr. Awkward said that the best way to determine my chances of conception are to test my “ovarian reserve.” The main predictors are a blood test that tests the amount of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and an ultrasound where they county your follicles. My FSH level was a “reassuring” 4.1 (they never say good in the world of infertility. My follicle count was also “reassuring” but they never told me how many they found.
We made a plan that I would take a drug called Femera, which stimulates ovulation and would begin Intrauterine Inseminations (IUI’s) with donor sperm . I was then given the homework of choosing a sperm donor ASAP.
Despite my sweet but very conservative mother’s best efforts, I don’t think women at any age (especially those of us in our 30’s and 40’s) should have a prescribed set of milestones and events that mark us being “adults” and getting our shit together like marriage, kids, etc. Hell, I’ve been struggling against the patriarchy my whole life. I hate admitting this (especially my 20 year old, bell hooks reading, women’s studies majoring self) but I still had some of these expectations for myself. Namely, I pictured myself having kid(s) with a long term partner (preferably bearded, chubby, and a radical feminist). And then my marriage fell apart and I found myself divorced at 38 (a divorcee hehe).
About a year after I split with my ex-husband I went on a frantic search for a new partner and it was…rough, including a date with a guy who divulged the following things in the first 10 minutes of our date: 1) that his friends had murdered someone 2) that he could build a flamethrower if he “needed to.” 3) that he is extremely “militant” about martial arts. He was also missing an eye and had misspelled finger tattoos.
One of the other reasons I don’t think I found my new life partner on Ok Cupid is that i wasn’t actually looking for a life partner, I was looking for a sperm donor because I was scared that my eggs in my ovaries would implode if I didn’t get them fertilized NOW. After a ton of therapy and Zoloft I came to the conclusion that I would be a kick-ass single mom. My decision was significantly helped along by a friend (who I will refer to as my fertility sugar mama) who was in a position to give me some money to pay for it. I mean this is one of the few options women have that men don’t so I should take advantage of it, right?
This wasn’t by any means an easy decision to come to. I’ve actually found myself mourning the loss of my hypothetical kid’s hypothetical father. But when I pulled the trigger and made my first doctor’s appointment I actually felt a sense of calm. Not that I am not scared to death of the idea of bringing a new human into the world, but I feel like I finally have some control of what my future might look like AND no more internet dating (for now). So here I am taking the plunge..