Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sperm Options

Quick disclaimer on the photo: I'm no fan of Woody Allen. However, this post just needed a photo of him in a sperm costume as illustration. It's from the movie "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex...but Were Afraid to Ask." I often feel like my life should be sub-titled, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lesbian Conception..." get the idea.

I've been wanting to write about this latest update in our sperm-venture for some time. My job has been sucking the life out of me (and everyone else who dares work there) but here it is 9pm and I'm actually at home!! Wheeee!

"Option" #1:
This one's not a real option (yet, anyway). A friend "put a bug in the ear"* of someone she knows about the concept of donation. (That's different from directly asking.) She promised she'll tell me if she hears anything on that front. I don't know who she asked and I'm certain it's no one I know (she's an elementary/high school friend and we don't live in the same state); I only know that he fits our requirements. [Our requirements are that he has sperm and does not live in our neighborhood (and of course HIV testing and no Tay Sachs or CF carriers, though even that last part could go if Co turns up clean on that front).] Well, and obviously that he does not want to be a parent in any sense of the word. I am trying to be patient and act like I don't care and it doesn't matter to me that she opened that can of worms, and for the most part that's true...but also, I'm pretty sperm-obsessed right now.

*I once really did have a bug fly into my ear. It was horrible and traumatic and I have friends who still tease me about the intensity of my reaction, but really, Gentle Reader, think about how it would feel to have wings flapping in your ear. ;-)

Option #2: The second idea is realer. I have a cousin who I've thought of more than once. He's a 2nd cousin, for those who keep track of such things; that means we have the same great-grandparents and not the same grandparents, not that we ever met those shared great-grandparents. I only have one first cousin, and she's, well, a she. This PKD Cousin is the same gentleman my mom once suggested as a donor for both of us. She repeated this suggestion at our Passover visit, pointing out once again that he is only my second cousin. Little did she know I had already sent out an anxious email query, which after some consideration he and his wife answered with a "sure, we would do that for you if we could."

(NO, not as a donor for both of us, we would only use him for Co. On my father's side of the family, second cousins are considered dateable, but there have been (in my humble and scientifically informed opinion) some negative consequences. Diversity is healthy in every. single. way.

The serious catch is that he does not live in the United States. He does not live in Canada, either; I mean a serious plane ride away. However, he has plans to be in the States in both August and September. We could, essentially, try twice and see what happens. (Do I know if those dates coincide with an ovulation? No, I don't right now, but if we were going to try this, we'd just have to try it. With fresh sperm, it IS possible to get pregnant when you're not ovulating. Just ask those rhythm method people.)

The other serious catch is that I don't think it would be a great idea for the rest of our relatives to know (at first, that is) that the child was biologically related to him. That's the reason it took me so long to bring this up with him, more than his distance. He has parents and two grandmothers to have, well, feelings. However, they really wouldn't need to know in the beginning. We want to be honest with the child, of course. But by the time a theoretical child would be old enough to be talk/understand, either my cousin or his younger brother would have produced an heir, and that would change the family dynamic. (I'm having serious tense trouble here. If English has a proper subjunctive, I was never taught it well.)

My family is very spread out, so this child would exist only in photos for my cousin's close relatives (his parents and one grandma live in Canada, and not a part that is close to us, and the other grandma lives in Florida). If the kid turned out to look a bit like him, well, people say he and I look alike. (Because we are named for our shared great-grandparents, he for the great-grandfather and I for the great-grandmother, there has always been a desire to suggest that we have a connection. And, well, we do.)

So the input I'm seeking from the blogosphere is this: does that sound like a crazy and unhealthy idea? Does the idea of not disclosing the child's donor to the rest of the family (including, say, my mom) at first sound very unhealthy? My cousin said he is okay with it either way, so long as the child would know (which of course is a must for Co and myself as well).

We can also just buy the "popsicles" from Sperm Bank of California and we really are okay with that. But I will openly admit that I *like* the idea of having this cousin as a donor. I think he would be a really good Super Uncle. Also....Charlotte has written about the idea of donor as "surrogate self." I can't get Co pregnant, and while I am not heavily invested in picking someone like myself from the lists of sperm bank donors, I can't deny the attraction of this cousin who is somewhat like myself. He's a professional writer...deeply political...very musical....while we do not look alike, really, we were both little blond, blue-eyed kids with Semitic features and that made people say we looked alike. He's only six months younger than I am (though a grade behind in school as a result) and we had a pretty intense bond for parts of our childhood. The most charming example I can think of is playing Simon & Garfunkel duets (he on guitar, me on flute) when we were 10 or 11. I do not NEED to have my genetics represented in this child (and this isn't my brother by a long-shot; I don't have a brother or any male first cousins) but yes, there is something I like about having someone connected to me be number 3 in this project. He even fits my somewhat bratty self-hating requirement of not being 100% Ashkenazi Jew. (His mother converted before she met his father, and he was raised as Jewishly as I was, but that doesn't change the genetics. I do want to intentionally mix up the world, damn it.)

This is too long, I think, but I do want to share it all. So if you've read this far, thank you for your patience, and I politely request your commentary. (And if you know me in that foggy place we call "real life," please do not publish anything that would reveal PKD Cousin's identity. He's not world famous but I bet he'd like to stay that way.)


Clare said...

Hmm - yes I think it is fine to have someone you are related to. For myself if we go down the clinic path I have said to Gaye I would prefer someone who looks like her rather than me. This is largely because (with a seven year old who looks NOTHING like me and EVERYTHING like his Dad) I do think it is good to be able to say to a child ' don't you look like XXX' and know connection. Because it is ALWAYs commented on - by strangers and family and friends alike.

I do think it is adding to the complication 'not to tell' and you are assuming that if they have a kid of their own this will change their feelings - this is probably so you know them best. But most things are managable in most circumstances and I think as long as you don't end up saying to the child 'don't tell granny' it would be all ok - waiting awhile

Good luck with it

Lo said...

Thanks for commenting Clare! (and for giving me a new blog to read!)

Just to clarify, the situation we would NEVER allow would be the "don't tell Granny" scenario. For a child it would ALWAYS be open.

I don't think Cousin PKD's reaction would be affected by having a child or niece/nephew of his own. I think the reaction of the family at large would be different if Co's and my child was not, at the time they were hearing the news, the only grandchild/great-grandchild in that family.

Estelle said...


We were thinking of using my uncle as a donor. My genetic uncle, who is only a few years older than me, and who I lived with as a kid. So, as close to my brother as possible in terms of the relationship.
However I also gave him chicken pox in high school and, well, there are no babies for him.

I wanted to use him for a few reasons. Number one was the money. Yes, that was a huge consideration. Number two was having the child be related to me in some roundabout way. Number three was the legal clout it would give my family. IF Jean ever died and her parents tried to take Charlie from me, I could get him to step in as the child's father and keep custody of him. Hey, it's FL, we have to cover our bases.

We would not have told anyone. Likely ever. Certainly not while grandma was still alive. Though Grandma probably wouldn't give a hoot about it. But we would not have told anyone for quite some time, at least until the kid started asking.

However, we went anonymous. And what a nightmare that has turned into. BUT, our case is NOT typical. Not by a long shot. So don't think about that when making your decision.

I don't think there is anything wrong with using someone you are related to, IF everyone is cool with it. And I don't think there is anything wrong with not telling the family. It's NONE of their business. Actually, I don't think you should tell the family. That should be the child's choice down the line, if S/HE decides to disclose it.

But, for us, using an anonymous donor actually made me feel MORE like his other parent. There is no face in our mind of what his father looks like. No voice. If he does something totally unlike Jean, I can assume it's from the dark recesses of MY family tree, not immediately tie it to something the father does. For us, the sperm was a prenatal vitamin. Something necessary, with no real 'strings' involved. Just something we needed, a means to an end.

Go for it. If he is willing, give it a shot. If it doesn't work, you tried.

As far as the other option... I don't think I could use an unknown known donor. Make sense? I mean, I just could not trust someone like that. If I were to use a known donor, it would have to be someone I had a history with and really liked and trusted, not just some guy with sperm.

Trista said...

We almost used a member of my family to get Kristin pregnant. But that family member (who offered) wanted total anonymity. Even from the child. And we weren't happy with that. He had good reasons for his request, and we respected those reasons. But in the end decided that we weren't comfortable with the situation, so we turned him down. If he hadn't needed anonymity then we would have been thrilled. So I don't think it's weird at all. The only concern I have with your not telling anyone at first is how are you with your family? Are you the type of person who tells everything, and so keeping this on the down low is going to look suspicious or hurtful? Or are you and Co naturally reticent and so no one would expect you to share the info? We told everyone who our donor was right from the beginning because he's a big part of our life and we wanted people to work through their weirdnesses and issues before there was an impressionable child on the scene. We wanted to have the discussions about his not being a father, about referring to him as donor or uncle before there were little ears to listen and comprehend. And so far that seems to be working very very well. Our mutual friends don't slip up anymore and just treat it as a matter of fact. Nyles is Julia's uncle. No more, no less. All the murmurs and whispers and ripples and family/community disturbances are finished. This makes us happy, because we were worried that if we kept it quiet and then let the child know, and then the child started talking about it -- there would be surprised people and the whispers would get back in some way, shape, or form, to our child and she would be affected by that. But that's just us. You are the best judge of your family. I just wanted to give you our perspective and experience.

As for the unknown fresh sperm through an intermediary, that used to be a popular option, but it seems to have gone out of favor in recent years. One of the things I would wonder about would be the technicalities -- would you be introduced to him later so the sperm swap could be performed more efficiently? Would he just go make a deposit at a bank? If these two things don't happen, how long will it take your friend to deliver the goods to you?

Wow, lots to think about here. I'm curious about your job situation, too.

Calliope said...

I think using your 2nd cousin sounds like an ideal plan for you guys.

Lorem ipsum said...

Well, cousin isn't going to stay secret forever. All that attention on a baby will inevitably draw attention to himself... and then there's the resemblance issue... But he sounds perfect anyway, and a gradual introduction of the truth will be fine, I'm sure. Go for it!

Whimsy said...

I think the secret/sharing aspect is really tricky.

What do you mean that it would be open for the kids but the family couldn't know? I don't understand how that's going to play out.

Lo said...

More clarification: a) if my out of state friend actually comes up with a donor for us, we will MEET him...probably a lot of times....before we would do it. Because my friend is someone I trust so deeply, her vouching for this (currently unknown) person is kinda like the Sperm Bank of California doing so. But, we would definitely MEET him. and sign a contract and, you know, all that jazz.

b) If we were to use PKD Cousin, we would have to come up with A Plan. We will talk to my cousin more in person when he visits (he'll be here this month too, as I understand it). I also need to get some legal information. Because he is not in the country, I wonder how much freedom we might even have in terms of not writing his name on a birth know? (I asked him what he thinks about this and he does not care.) Then we could share the truth as soon as the second-parent adoption process was finished, which in our state could be when the child was still extremely young, and people could all have their reactions in their own states/countries.
My immediate family would probably just think it was cool. My more extended family would probably be weirded out, but they would be weirded out offstage (that's what they did when Co and I got married). Often, I complain about how spread out my family is. Right now, I'm kind of glad!!

Dyke One said...

ultimately, we decided to go anonymous, but I kind of left it up to my wife. I wanted a baby with HER, not a man, and since I was bringing the eggs, I told her to pick the sperm that felt like it was coming from her.

But, yeah, our boy looks like her and nothing like me. I guess that baby picture we saw that made us both do a double take with how much he looked like her was accurate.

I say if your gut says to use your cousin, use your cousin. This is a big decision, and one you will live with for the rest of your life, so go with the one that is what you see when you fantasize the perfect situation.

When we did that, we realized it was anonymous sperm...