Other queer families are posting the stories of their decisions around donor conception, so I thought I’d post ours.
After lots of conversation, we decided that a willing-to-be-known donor from a bank was the right choice for our family. It was so hard to be making decisions based on what we imagined our as-yet-unconceived child would prefer in 18+ years. But we felt this option would give our kid the most choices. We didn’t have any men we felt comfortable asking to be a known donor. I was curious about Rainbow Sperm Bank in California (where the donor is known soon after the child’s birth). But they were closed at the time we began TTC. And, as Roo pointed out, going this route could be the worst of both worlds: we would be committed to having a relationships with the donor, but wouldn’t actually get to meet him ahead of time.
After a lot of internet research, we settled on The Sperm Bank of California. They are a non-proft bank, and explicitly serve a lot of single and lesbian moms. They also say they have a 10-family-per-donor limit. And they have been involved for years in research about donor-conceived kids and families. They were also among the first to offer willing-to-be known donors. (I know, this sounds like a testimonial for them, but we really were happy with our choice).
We started with looking at folks with similar ethnic heritage to our own (English/Irish/Scottish/German/etc). And then looked at family health history. After that, we read the profiles in detail, and agreed pretty quickly on the same one. He seemed articulate and thoughtful, and was closer to our age than some (something about using sperm from an 18-year-old weirded us out a little). He had put a lot of thought into writing down his family’s health history, and seemed proud to describe some of the eccentric folks on his family tree.
We were incredibly lucky, and got pregnant the second month we tried (doing two IUIs each cycle). Tadpole was born in December 2008.
We haven’t had explicit conversations with him yet about the donor. But we are starting to think about how to approach this. I don’t want Tadpole to remember having a conversation about this–I want it to be something he has always known. But up until now we have been focused on defining our family as Momma, Mommy and Tadpole. I think this time has been important for Tadpole, but also for Roo and me, as we really settle into our roles as Tadpole’s parents. We are lucky to have been able to do a second-parent adoption, so Roo is legally protected. We haven’t had any problems with anyone publicly questioning Roo’s right to parenthood, and she has certainly behaved like his mom since the start. But it has felt right to be sure we’re secure in our roles before trying to explain someone else’s connection to our family.
As a number of folks around us are having babies, I imagine there will be more questions about Tad’s own conception coming soon. Our next-door-neighbor had a baby recently, and Tad’s only question about the logistics was whether the baby came out of her mouth! As soon as I explained that she didn’t, he was ready to be done with the conversation.
We plan to use the same donor for our attempts to conceive Tadpole’s sibling. We’re pretty darn happy with how Tad is turning out, and would be thrilled to have another little one who has something in common with him. It feels like it also simplifies things as the kids apporach age 18 if they have the same donor. I imagine it being hard if one donor is more interested/involved than another. I know that kids come to families in a variety of ways (including families with a mix of bio, donor-conceived, and/or adopted kids, as well as families with multiple donors, etc). And I am sure there are ways to make this work. But for our family it felt simplest to use the same donor.
I also like the idea of our kids having a genetic link, even if it is not to both of us. It will be complicated to explain to our kids that being a family is about shared experiences and committment and not biology, while at the same time prioritizing their genetic link to each other. But I think (hope?) it will be possible to talk about the value of both kinds of connection.
While I’m doing testimonials, I highly reccommend Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates. It helped us to think through not only the logistics of explaining donor-assisted conception, but also the underlying issues that the topic can bring up for families.