Donor FatigueMay 8, 2006 at 9:58 pm | Posted in First Comes Love - Then Comes... GonalF? | 9 Comments
That decision is one of the things that people are most curious about when they hear about our family-building plans.
Looking through the sperm donor catalogs on line forced us to think about a lot of uncomfortable topics.
Why is it important to me that at least part of my future child’s genetic heritage be ethnically Jewish? Should we defy our culture’s bias against short people and go for the donor who sounds great – except that he’s 5″6 – and no height is being passed on from either Pili or me. And how important is it that the donor says he’d be willing to meet the kid when s/he is 18? Do we owe our child at least that?
What is inherited anyway? Does it matter if he can speak six languages or hates math? Do academic achievement and SAT scores say more about the person or the socio-economic opportunities he’s had?
When we fall in love, we don’t get to cherry pick like this. I fell in love with Pili, the person. The smart, social, engaging, thoughtful person – who would also, I swear, forget her own name if it wasn’t on her driver’s license. She fell in love with me – g-d only knows why – and I came with a lovely medical pedigree of diabetes, depression, and a family history of obesity.
But we did get to pick. And without the context of a real person and a real personality, these small details took on lives of their own. This one was great – except he prefers dogs over cats. This one was great – except he had hazel eyes, not blue. And so on.
We made charts: +/-, mitigating factors. We bought audio interviews and long profiles and facial feature profiles. We debated the wisdom of including a unibrow in our future child’s genetic make-up. And finally, we made a decision. We bought six vials, so that (ha!) we’d have some for a future sibling.
Fast forward a few IUIs.
This wasn’t working. Perhaps it was his fault. Since we had to order more
liquid gold sperm anyway, and we were switching doctors, why not switch donors?
This time, we went through the process
in a few weeks a lot faster. No longer so certain that this was going to work, it seemed less crucial that we get every little detail right.
And it didn’t work.
When we moved onto IVF, our criteria changed. Instead of wanting a donor who looked sorta like me, we wanted a donor who looked more like Pili. Our options were pretty limited, and frankly, we just didn’t have that much confidence in it. And until very recently, it seemed like that lack of confidence was entirely justified.
A few days after the plus sign showed up on the pee stick, one of us asked the other, do you remember which donor we used?
And neither one of us could.
We had to go back and look at our tax files for 2005, since we spent enough money on this business for Pili to take the medical expenses deduction (!), in order to figure it out. And then we started looking for the long profile.
The long profile, it turns out, that we never bought.
I don’t think this was a conscious choice. I think we were both just so sick and tired of this whole business, that this choice felt inconsequential. The idea of actually getting a kid out of this seemed (seems?) like an hallucination. Would you like your soda with or without ice, the traveler stranded in the desert imagines the waiter asking him, as his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth from thirst. And what difference does it make, which he chooses? The obsequious waiter is just an illusion. Reality is the sand blowing into every crack of the traveller’s skin, the hot wind stealing what moisture remains from his eyes…
A tangential story: At one point in this journey, I was eating brunch with soul_brother and his family and talking I believe, about the ridiculously high cost of donor sperm. His dad asked a question, which coming from anyone other than him, would have been incredibly offensive. Coming from him, I almost wet myself laughing.
“You’re both good-looking girls,” he said. “Why don’t you just go out to a bar and find some handsome fella, and do this the old-fashioned way?” Surprised to find his son, his son’s friend, his two younger sons and his wife all displaying their half-chewed waffles, he persisted. “What’s the matter with that? Why are you all looking at me like that?” Once we’d all closed our mouths and stopped laughing, we managed to explain to him why, in the age of HIV, a) this might not be such a good idea, and that b) the whole reason we were in this situation to begin with was that neither one of us had any interest in “doing it the old-fashioned way.”
However, it seems like Papa Soul_Brother gets the last laugh after all. Because (minus the trivial questions of disease, custody, and infidelity) what have we done? Pretty much picked out a donor on the basis of the information that could be gleaned from a somewhat stilted bar conversation. If everything goes well on Wednesday, we will order the long profile. And hope that his family tree isn’t loaded with type I diabetes, depression, or anything even more unpleasant.