The child cheerfully shares his chocolate chip cookies. No way did he get that from me.
Requesting The New Yorker as his bedtime book, on the other hand…. That probably is my genes.
My mother has this idea that the sperm banks tell you all the wrong information about donors. Forget what a friend calls their “alleged personalities;” my mother argues the questions ought to be more like:
Were you born with teeth? And just how early DID you walk?
(We found the audio clips very useful for addressing the issue of “Nerdy or Spectral?” if you catch my meaning.)
Today, and every day, if you can even call these dark hours “day,” I am thinking they ought to be required by law to disclose if any first degree relatives habitually rise before dawn. Surely this is a more significant discordance than CMV status.
What’s on your list?
This post is part of the Love Makes A Family Blog Carnival. Check out this week’s other posts, including the next in line, from, um, Next In Line. (I did not do that on purpose. That was my brain, making a funny.)
As I write this, riding the train home after teaching a night class, breasts sore clear up to the collar bone (pumps work better when you bring all the parts), the Bean’s sperm donor feels like a very remote concept, hardly a person at all, and certainly not part of daily life in any real way. When we started TTC, I thought about him a lot, and when we got the fertilization reports, I felt glad my eggs liked his sperm so much, but now that the Bean is here, well, I admit wondering when he got his first teeth and whether he was an early walker (because The Bean is clearly not taking after my own, politely restrained model of first steps at 18 months), but he doesn’t have much to do with our immediate realities. Nothing in his profile tells me whether the Bean is crying out of hunger or tiredness or whether he’s just pining for the cats; his interview doesn’t cover what to do with my mixed feelings as my milk ceases to be enough to feed the Bean. In a theoretical way, I recognize that the Bean wouldn’t be the Bean if we’d chosen Mr. NMEBSI, but that doesn’t make the donor we did choose seem to me like a father. For me and for Sugar, the donor is only a set of characteristics loosely associated with a product we paid for and have found satisfactory. If he materialized in our living room, he wouldn’t know our son the way Sugar and I do, no matter how many genes they might share.
I realize, though, that someday he may seem very important, indeed, because the odds are good that the Bean isn’t going to believe he is the product of parthenogenesis. (My pesky father will probably tell him about Y chromosomes, for one thing.) We will tell the Bean that his donor is his donor, but ultimately, we don’t know who he will decide his donor is to him. The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own. We can’t know whether his donor will want to meet him (or whether the Bean will be interested in contact), whether he’ll actually not be the thoughtful man he seemed in his interview, whether he’ll even be alive. We just wanted to be able to say that we did the best we could.
This all sounded very good to me, very well-reasoned and mature and considerate, until I was actually pregnant, when donor concerns suddenly seemed a little more real. And then the Bean was born. “He has your nose,” Dr. Russian announced, while Sugar cradled him. “Really?” I said, craning to see across the room. Later, I looked up the donor’s baby picture. The Bean looks a lot like me, but he does not have my nose. Nor my ears. I looked at the picture and I looked at the Bean: it’s not just my genes in there.
I feel that we did do the best we could — for a variety of reasons, a known donor was not a good choice for us — and it’s possible that some of my concern is a product of internalized homophobia, a lingering belief that my gayness makes me an unfit parent. (I reject such ideas with my conscious mind, but you know how minds can be.) And yet, I can’t help worrying that the Bean won’t feel the same.
Donor Unknown, a documentary about the experiences of a group of donor-concieved teenagers who find each other on the Donor Sibling Registry and subsequently meet their (originally anonymous, from before the days of willing-to-be-known donors) donor after he reads about them in the New York Times, both fanned and allayed my fears. It’s a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it.
(Okay, I’m home now and it’s late, so this part has to be quick.)
The donor in the movie is a fascinating character. He is what you call a free spirit. I was pleased to see what a kindhearted man he was, not at all someone who was only into donating for the money. He seemed to feel a real spiritual connection to the idea of sperm donation, which had a beauty to it. On the other hand…he’s weird. He lives in a camper in a parking lot by the ocean. But he’s so nice! He recognized himself in the Times article and voluntarily reached out to these kids! My reactions to this aspect of the film were a classic Aww!/ACK! conflict. He loves animals. Aww…. He rescues pigeons! Ack!
Then I realized something important: the kids aren’t weird at all. They are, you might say, all right. They seem smart, kind, and sane. With the exception of the one whose parents lied to her about being donor conceived, they seem happy and well-adjusted. (If you ever needed a reason not to lie, imagine finding out that your daughter had talked to a NYT reporter about her donor siblings only when your voicemail filled up with friends calling about the article. Heh. Guess she got her own back, surprise-wise.) Many of them talked about traits they imagined they might have inherited from their donor, but none of them seemed, upon meeting him, to find that his eccentricities challenged their sense of themselves.
The most important idea I took away from the movie is that the donor belongs to the kids, not the parents. One of the moms of a boy in the movie talks about how she wants to go with him, to see him meet his donor, who she’s been curious about since before he was born. The boy ably deflects her; he goes on his own and meets up with other donor sibs (and the camera crew) for the meeting. Watching from the outside, it was so obvious that was the right choice, but I think I would have the same desires his mother did. Besides pure curiosity, it’s hard to imagine relinquishing control over that moment.
Yet at the same time, the thought of relinquishing some control over that relationship is a relief. It’s nice to think that Sugar and I aren’t messing everything up by not already being on the DSR, seeking out donor sibs and planning playdates. We may yet join, but having watched this movie, I feel easier with the idea of letting that be his decision, donor siblings his discovery. As long as we are honest with our children, then as with many parenting decisions, I think there is more than one right way to do this.
Hey, y’all. Just a quickie to let you know that the Tribeca Film Festival is streaming a documentary about donor siblings for free today. You have to register, but there’s no charge, and so far I’m finding it very interesting, well made, all that. If you catch it, let’s compare notes, eh?
Receptionist: Kips Bay Baby Factory, may I help you?
Me: May I please speak with Andrology?
Me: [pause] Sperm?
I mean really. Do they get a lot of calls about anything else?
I hate blog posts apologizing for not posting, so this won’t be one.
Nor do I have a proper post in me now.
But there are a couple of things I think you should know:
1. It’s CD1. Yeah.
Not sure what the next course of action will be, but at the very least we will probably switch donors, since we need to order more anyway. More on that later.
Also, I need to do my taxes so that we can see if we can even afford to order more.
2. Mrs. Spock made me cry. Practically everything’s been making me cry lately, so that’s not much of an accomplishment per se, but she made my cry in a good way. She sent me the …I’m looking for a word, and all I’m coming up with is “bestest”… BESTEST! sock-gram package! It arrived when I was really at the very bottom of feeling crappy about everything, and it was just the very thing. Pictures to come.
3. A toddler I hang out with has been read somewhere — I think in a Moomintroll book, but hers are in Danish, and I can only read the third-rate, adulterated Danish we call “English” — about creatures cheering one another up by kissing sad creatures on the nose. She has become a dutiful practitioner of this technique, which is predictably sloppy and surprisingly effective.
I should really put my insurance on speed dial. Not a day goes by, it seems, that I’m not talking to them.
This morning, I finally got resolution on the “will you pay for this genetic test” question I put to them in…June. That’s 2 months of their losing letters, requiring codes they hadn’t asked for in the first place, requiring still more codes, and so on. Every fax takes two days to process because they convert them to microfilm before reading them. This makes the bureaucratic aspects of my health care sound more like a James Bond movie, but also seems to negate the speediness of faxing.
Now I’m on hold to find with a different branch of the company. Rather than the Mozart the main line uses, the mental health section favors silence punctuated by a firm voice saying, “Please wait.” Repeatedly. I’m calling the mental health division because apparently, I’m cruising for a nervous breakdown by being gay. News to me, but hey, I’m no doctor.
The above is an oversimplification, but near enough to the truth. Sugar and I had been thinking we’d skip the Barry White and vanilla-scented candles portion of the TTC journey in favor of the favorable if florescent-lit odds of IUIs at the Kips Bay Baby Factory. Mr. NMEBSI* has more IUI than ICI vials available, and we have been starting to think that we should face the fact that we don’t have baby-making equipment in the house, rather than let sentiment stand in the way of a better chance of conception. In the aftermath of my HSG, I had been feeling reluctant to encourage any more catheter-on-cervix action, but now I’ve had two months of the least painful periods since high school. Some private investigation indicates that I’m bleeding almost exclusively out of the side that was — to quote my chart — “perforated” at the HSG, which makes me think that totally tubular experience left my cervix more open and that an IUI was therefore less likely to require overwhelming force. So today I called the clinic IUI nurse to find out the procedures. All fairly straight-forward, except, oh, had no one told me I’d have to meet with their psychologist first? Everyone using donor sperm does.
Let me be frank: I’d rather we didn’t have to use donor sperm. I’d rather bring home a bottle of cheap champagne, line a roasting pan for Ray’s lucky Beer Can Chicken, and end up with a kidlet who looks half like me and half like Sugar. I’d also like a magical flying pony who lives in the apartment and doesn’t poop. I suppose I can see recommending a sit-down with the counselor for het couples using donor sperm, who perhaps haven’t spent more than a decade considering the ramifications of having a child who isn’t genetically related to both of them, but come on. We’ve been over this, trust me.
I find this requirement annoying if not discriminatory, but I also remember my grandmother telling me not to cut off my nose to spite my face, so I called the office psychologist and made an appointment for next week. Sugar must have been able to tell over gChat how pissed I was, because she didn’t say boo about having to miss more work. At the end of the conversation, the receptionist says, “By the way, the fee for the consultation is $450 and we don’t work with any insurance companies.”
EXCUSE ME? $450 because you’re worried that I might not have thought about being gay? $450 so Sugar and I can put on our Happy, Well-Adjusted Couple Show for you? No matter what anyone who’s known us for more than an hour might think of our parenting ambitions; clearly what you think matters most.
Since I started writing this post, I talked to a very nice woman at my insurance company, who tells me that they’ll reimburse for 80% of the fee, less my deductible, which is $363. So it would only cost me $380.40 to be gay. Bargain prices! Everyone will want to be gay now!
I say “would” because this pisses me off way too much, even if we had $380.40 we couldn’t figure out how to use (answer: sperm). I have a call in to the doctor. If he won’t waive this, we’ll go elsewhere or just crank up the Barry White after all.
*I love this name, by the way. Mr. Nmebsi sounds like he would get his oil changed by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and perhaps respectfully consult Mma Ramotswe about his suspicion that his neighbor was pilfering from his garden.
Baby Mama and I are trying to pick a donor. Somehow I thought this would involve a lot of choice – huge numbers of profiles and audio clips to go through, baby pictures to order, etc. In reality, we have only a few donors on our list, since we are restricting to ID consent and also trying to find someone with my ethnic background. (In the WTF category – how come no one is eastern European up in here? I’m kind of from Chicago, so this just seems unthinkable to me . . . )
So we found this guy who is, in fact, partly of my ethnic background and even seems to have my interests – studying art, introverted. But his audio clip is intensely boring. It sounds like a high school essay on ‘Doing the Right Thing.’ Every time I hear it I’m like, really, that was your best answer?
Behind door number 2, we have Mr. Not-My-Ethnic-Background-Silly-Interests. There isn’t as much to recommend Mr. NMEBSI, except that his audio clip makes him sounds like a sweet guy. What he talks about in his 30 seconds isn’t very profound, but it’s funny, and it sounds honest. I would rather go with him.
I have no idea if this is a good way to choose a donor. In fact, it’s probably not. There’s less chance that a child from Mr. NMEBSI will look like me and less chance that this child will want to major in the humanities (although, wait, maybe that’s a plus . . .). The only logical thing I’ve thought of so far is that since we are looking for ID consent, there is less likelyhood that Mr. NMEBSI will be a tool when, 18 years from now, our child might be cold-calling him.
I just don’t want to stick the sperm of some doofus who has learned how to give the right answers to pass the test (Morals and ethics my butt, you’re like what, 20 years old?) into Baby Mama. Yuck. That’s what we avoided by being lesbians right? We had coming-out anxiety and bizarre interactions with old friends, but not the sorrow of sleeping with some surface-y guy who later turns out to be arrogant and a little dumb.
The whole choice of donor thing feels so random. I wish it didn’t have to happen at all. It seems both important and impossible. (I mentioned to Baby Mama my wish that we could just have Sperm Tuesday every month or so, when sperm would fall from the sky, but she said that would be gross . . . .) So Mr. NMEBSI here we come, I think.