Thursday, January 28, 2010

Glad you asked

It is a really fascinating experience to share that we have just had a baby, because for many people, this news is wonderful, yet a bit confusing. I mean look at us. We are two women. How did we do this?

Our close friends and family of course know exactly what process we went through to have our sons, but others who are not so close, often ask the best questions. Not malicious questions, just curious.

For example, “who’s the father?” Once we explain that the boys have no father but two mothers, often we see the "blank look" so sometimes we share a bit more about how we used donor to conceive our children. Oh no. More wheels figuratively spinning around in people’s head trying to figure out what that really means. And I just know that there are those who end up thinking “well they must have just called up one of those cryobanks and said “hey, send us whatever you got there—any donor will do!” Well that or even more outlandish ideas. How can I say this? Um NO!

I can’t imagine what else goes on in their confused little heads so sometimes a little more information is in order.

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a friend last year who really truly wanted to understand how our family came to be. He encouraged me to share this with others as he found it fascinating, so I’ve decided that now is as good a time as any to share it. Enjoy!

“…Anyway, your questions about our donor are no problem at all. Someday I'll probably even do a post about it because I think it's interesting to others as well. When Su and I first talked about having children, we both were very much leaning towards adopting a child. We'd both worked in Latin America and knew others who'd adopted kids from Guatemala so that seemed sort of logical to us. We signed up for a class at a clinic here in DC called Whitman Walker. The class was called “Maybe Baby” and is for gay people who are trying to learn all about the many options to have a family.

It was one night a week for about 8 weeks and we learned about adoption, alternative insemination, known donor, unknown donors, legal stuff etc... It was fascinating and as a wonderful aside we made some great friends who we are still close to.

By the time we finished the course we both ended up agreeing that there was no reason we couldn't try to have a baby using a donor. Susanne had always figured she'd have children one day—I never did have the “biological clock” thing and also since I’m a lot older than Susanne, she was the logical one to carry any baby we’d try to have. So, we arranged for some medical screening of hormone levels etc... and she was deemed super healthy by the reproductive endrocronologist we went to.

So...then the big decision became whether we would ask someone we knew to donate semen or select an anonymous donor who we'd never know or meet. We both have some awesome male friends who we could have asked, but after much introspection, we feared that any known donor we could choose would, of course, feel connected to our baby. And that was something that was not okay with either of us. Any child she gave birth to would be our baby-no one elses. So we started exploring the various cryobanks around the US.

On those sites you basically can search for donors who fit whatever profile you want. Hair color, ethnicity etc. Then for free you can read a short profile of the person and read a short paragraph they wrote in response to a question like "why did you decide to become a donor." You get to see a lot of details about their age, eye color, blood type etc... on this short profile. It was very interesting how easy it was to kick potential donors out of the mix because they couldn't write well (not that I'm so great a writer but that's not the point.)

Anyway, we decided to select someone with qualities similar to me so our baby would sort of look like both of our sides of the family. We narrowed it down to two and then picked the one that we both agreed seemed "right". We only had a number to identify our donor by.

Then we paid about $15.00 for a long profile with not only his full medical history and school history including GPA and other standardized test scores (like GMAT.) It included his and his entire immediate family's medical history which was great and it turned out they were a very healthy bunch! We then had the option to buy a picture of our donor as a toddler. We didn't do that right away, but later did. He's adorable, and that mop of hair you see on Danny's head? It's the exact same hair except for the color. (You can’t get a picture of an anonymous donor as an adult. This prevents walking down the street and seeing some guy and going “Dude!”)

We also purchased an audio profile of our donor being interviewed. He sounds like a really nice happy person and our plan is to share with Danny everything we have on the donor.

It’s termed “anonymous” because the donor does not want to be found later. One of the best questions we get asked is “what if you kid grows up and dates someone who it turns out is a progeny of that donor?” (They don’t ask it quite like that, but that is what they mean.) Well, the odds of that seem pretty darn small, but I tell them that we purposely chose to use a cryobank from a different state to reduce that possibility. I’m guessing statistically that the odds of that “dating scenario” happening would actually be much higher in an insular small town than in our situation, but who knows? As a friend once told me “mama’s baby, daddy’s maybe. ;-)

We definitely know that we want our children (if we are blessed with another child) to be a full sibling to Danny so when Su was pregnant with Danny we purchased extra vials of "our donor" and put them on ice so to speak (in a facility designed for such a thing.)

There are several way to conceive. “In vitro” is what everyone thinks of which is when the egg and sperm get together in a dish and are then implanted in the woman’s body. This is a method most often used when there are severe fertility problems. We didn’t have a fertility problem. We had a lack of sperm problem until working with the cryobank. So with a doctor’s assistance, the semen we chose was inserted into Su’s uterus at the exact right time during her cycle. It took lots of timing and tracking, and it did not work every time we tried. But when it did work, wahoo!

I wrote all of this before Benjamin was even conceived. Wow! Now we have TWO gorgeous sons!

It's kind of funny that we sort of say we "adopted some sperm" to have Danny and Benji.We know that they have half siblings somewhere out there but are not interested in trying to meet other families on what are called voluntary sibling registries. Perhaps the boys will want to do that when they get older. Totally their call.

Alrighty then. Just felt in the mood to share. –Monica

P.S. I am very grateful to our donor for becoming a donor. Yes, they are paid to do so, but go through very rigorous testing and it can’t be that fun. I just can't imagine my life without my two amazing sons, so again, grateful is the word when I think of most when I think about this.


Xbox4NappyRash said...

I just think it's wonderful.

(incidentally, the donation bit, is fun, trust me ;-) )

Chris said...

Thank you for sharing, and I get asked some very similar questions.

I am a single mom by choice and also used an anonymous donor to conceive my daughter (now 5 yrs old). My daughter is bright, charming, funny, inquisitive, and so much more. Ppl ask how I explain to her that she doesn't have a father. I tell her that I wanted her so much, I was able to bend tradition. I tell her that I have enough love for both a mommy and a daddy, and that she opened my eyes to the world and let me see the wonder of it again.

Congrats on your two beautiful boys!

Casey said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this. I have friends who used donor sperm but they didn't go about it quite the same way you guys did. I think it's really cool that you got to see a picture of him as a toddler (and see the resemblance!) and also hear his voice. Also, your choice of not using someone you know would have been mine too. Those are your kids, dammit. And they're gorgeous.

Jenn said...

Thank you for sharing. Your story was an interesting education and although I know that you both put thought and faith into your children, it is just amazing to hear the story. Your boys are wonderful and they are so lucky to have two Moms who love them so very very much.