Almost there

Right – in a bid to get the ‘what’s happened so far’ stuff out of the way I’m going to try and keep this shorter – I apologise for the length of some of my previous posts!  It would feel wrong to start this blog without some of the background context, but I realise none of you are that interested in my life story!  Besides, I have ttc to start obsessing over (first Doctors appointment in less than two weeks!) and a lot of more theoretical/political/arg-what-the-fuck-are-we-doing rambling that I really hope this blog can help me make sense of!

So, although we did continue to look at the previously mentioned “matching” sites, we also started to look in earnest at sperm banks.  I say we, I was more willing to let go of a known donor than L was at this point, but over several months of nothing much else cropping up on the websites, they were pretty much abandoned by us both and L was on the sperm-bank-train as well.  We had an agreement to keep looking at both options, and decided when something felt right (whichever method it was) it would just feel right  To start with, we were mostly window shopping, so didn’t pay for access to any of the extended profiles and just check out the few sites with a fair amount of info that was free both in the US and Europe (access was far more expensive than the matching sites, and we’d already let that lapse and paid again a couple of times on the sites over a couple of years – see my posts are far too long but this really is the abridged version!).

What were we looking for – healthy obviously, someone who seemed like someone we’d relate to, willing to be known non-negotiable (for ourselves as well as for UK law), over 5″11 ish, nice looking (we were never looking for movie star good looks but we didn’t want someone neither of us thought was even vaguely attractive).  Ethnicity wise we decided that it would be odd to throw something completely random into the mix that reflected neither L or myself so not someone Chinese or pale and blond (two examples among many)- perhaps strangely (or at least some of our friends think it’s strange) it was more looks than ethnic background though so dark complexion, dark hair (which is what I look like) was considered, be this south American, southern European or Indian.  One of L’s non-negotiable points was an adult photo – from reading other blogs I know some people have been horrified by this idea (if anyone can explain why in the comments I’d be very grateful – totally don’t get this!).  I might have been more prepared to accept a baby or child photo but this was never on the table for us so that was that.

This process again took forever (or it seemed like it, probably about a year) and it was yet again depressing going back to the same sites again and again to see the same 20 people (and that’s before we narrowed it down with our criteria).  Some of those profiles are now committed to memory and I swear for some of the sites I could now match the 20 baby photos with their adult job titles.  Most of the sites were in the US and the criteria for sperm in the UK is much stricter so some banks can’t export at all and for those who can it’s only for some of their donors.  UK sperm banks don’t allow photos so we have to import.  There’s an awful lot of Danish sperm around for some reason which 90% of the time meant very blond and pale and therefore out (the cast of The Killing obviously weren’t conceived using the nation’s stock of banked sperm).
Then when I called a fertility centre to start asking about prices, someone mentioned the name of the bank we settled on, and just like that there were about 60 profiles, with adult photos that shipped to the UK.  For someone who hasn’t spent years trawling the Internet for sperm (I can’t believe I typed that – but I also can’t believe I’ve spent years trawling the Internet for sperm, and I really have!) this may not seem significant, and I know in the US there are tons of banks you can use, but for us this was incredible. 60 PROFILES. ADULT PHOTOS. UK STANDARD.

We got the credit card our again, paid the $200 for unlimted access to profiles and we were off (coming to a blog near you soon – can we raise our child using only items found in bins after bankrupting ourselves in their conception)…

Meeting known donors…

So…we did actually narrow down the search and arrange to meet potential donors twice.

One guy was really nice, and will undoubtedly make a great father (and hopefully already has).  We just didn’t quite click, we clicked in a if I’d been introduced to him at some work thing, I’d think he was a nice guy, but we didn’t click in a “I can imagine you being in my life forever” kind of way…I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone for an hour and necessarily felt that, but I wanted a bit more chemistry (or something undefinable) and it wasn’t there.

The second couple were OK, but not really our sort of people (and this was clearly very mutual) – they were just far more small c conservative, and (although I didn’t ask) seemed like they’d probably vote tory (for Americans that’s republican). I can’t imagine a context in which I’d let tory sperm anywhere near my uterus.  I’m sorry if that’s vaguely offensive to anyone (well I’m not really sorry) but our politics are important to us…and that’s a line we wouldn’t cross!

To be far to nice guy number one, and honest with ourselves…I think it would never have worked.  Ultimately these guys wanted to be parents and so did we, in an exclusive “back away from our child” kind of way.  Neither of us could get our head around the biological father of our child being someone we hadn’t even seen a photo of, and we were trying to convince ourselves that we were OK with some sort of shared parenting when we definitely weren’t.  I think I always either felt this more strongly than L, or just realised it sooner.

I think the problem for us was that the profiles that appealed to us most were gay men who were on those websites for the same reasons as us – they wanted kids – why they appealed to us was because they were far more “normal” (not a word I love but unsure how else to put it) and easy to relate to.  It felt like a slightly dishonest negotiation though – we needed sperm (and weren’t yet willing to let go of the notion that it was ‘fairest’ for our child to have some contact with their biological father) so were willing to consider a relationship with the child in return, they because it’s far far more difficult for gay men to have biological children were being forced to negotiate away residency and the level of contact they wanted in return for some womb space.  There was also the sense (though perhaps this was entirely in my head – I have an awful tendency to over analise) that for now we were in the position of “strength” as wombs were harder to come by than sperm is, but that could all change when the baby was born and with the current system in the UK there’s no way to have legal certainty before a child is born over levels of contact or residency.  In that way not only did the prospect make me feel really insecure about our family (as in me, L and the as yet imaginary child) but it also made me feel a bit like we were taking advantage…

I realise that last paragraph (or probably the whole post!) may not paint me in a particularly favourable light, but that’s honestly how I felt.  Oddly, I felt all that along with some sort of weird guilt that I was depriving these guys of the chance to have a child when their options were so much more limited than ours. Phew.

Although we halfheartedly emailed a couple more people after that, and still checked the sites on a semi-regular basis, I think it made us both realise that a co-parenting/known donor scenario just wasn’t for us.  Who knows, we might have met someone and created a fantastic family, but I’m far more inclined to believe it wouldn’t have been great for either party…

As I said in the comments on my last post, we do know (vaguely – not nearly well enough to talk that authoritatively about the details) a lesbian couple who ‘used’ a straight guy from one of those websites who did the job over about a year and has now vanished back to his life, and they have a wonderful 3 year old son.   I’m certainly not saying it’s not something that doesn’t work out for people all the time, and I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m being judgemental towards people who have chosen this route.  Whatever works for you. For us, this wouldn’t work!

Internet donor dating

So, the exploration of the internet sperm dating began. We found 3 different websites that looked like they had enough members to make it even slightly worth the membership fees and signed up.

I’m sure there are some lovely men who with purely altruistic reasons wish to give their sperm to childless couples, and for perfectly logical reasons have chosen to do so via an unregulated website rather than a sperm bank. We couldn’t find these men.

I’m not sure if the fact that we weren’t entirely sure what were looking for and therefore didn’t have completely fixed criteria meant we were more or less likely to find someone.  We wrote ourselves a fairly vague profile specifying that we were open to contact but ‘saw ourselves as the primary parents’ (or some similar line) and started trawling the profiles. 

So what was our criteria? Around our age, similar outlook on life, similar politics, would get on over a cup of coffee, reasonably intelligent, not hideous looking and healthy. With the exception of the interest in familial health probably more or less who we would have been looking for if we were internet dating (and were one straight woman rather than two lesbians!). 

It was immediately apparent that there was a split between the gay male equivalent to ourselves who wished to have a child the straight men who had rather more varied and sometimes dubious motives.  Our seemingly reasonable criteria (to me anyway, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always entirely reasonable) immediately ruled out more or less all of the straight men. The few men who passed the alright looking, healthy and reasonably intelligent test would have failed the ‘cup of coffee test’ on the basis that men who use websites because they think they’ll get to have sex with some lesbians and men who think they’re so fantastic the world should be full of their offspring and boast of ‘super sperm’ wouldn’t be my drinking companions of choice.

My favorite of these profiles, was simply his age and heigh with the descirption “I am not a fatty”.  Now the bar was pretty low, but really? Really?  You think someone is going to log on with the hopes and dreams of starting a family with the though “I’ll pretty much take anyone, I just hope he’s not a fatty”.  At least profiles like his provided some light relief in what was overall a pretty depressing process.

We did however filter, filter and filter some more, email, filter and then arrange to meet two prospective known donors…