Friday, June 21, 2013

Sperm Donor Bonanza

Shopping for a sperm donor is fun! 

Sperm banks allow you to search for a babydaddy as if you are looking for a new home. Criteria you can checkmark to narrow your search include height (at least 6'2” of course!), eye color, hair color, hair texture, body type, educational level, ancestral origin (Belorussian only, please!), and which celebrity he kinda sorta resembles. I'll take a mix between George Clooney and Russel Crowe.

My first hour or so on the site, looking at the profiles of really tall, blond, blue-eyed, Ph.D candidates who like to do the Iron Man in their spare time, I wondered why I ever bothered to try to find a babydaddy any other way. If you're in the market for genetic material to create offspring, this little slice of sanctioned eugenics is a smorgasbord of dreamy babies.

The California Cryobank sells itself on the high quality of its available semen. This is from their website:

“First and foremost, we actively recruit donors from top US universities who must meet our basic requirements:
  • Must be at least 5'9" or taller
  • Between 19-38 years old
  • Attending a 4-year University or holding a Bachelor's or Advanced Degree
  • Must be in good health
  • Legally allowed to work in the US
But that's not all, they assure us. Their emphasis in bold:

“Again, these are only our basic requirements. Those who meet these requirements may then be considered to move onto the next step which is our qualification process; the standards of which see only 1% of applicants ultimately accepted into our donor sperm program. Our qualification process conforms to our unwavering benchmarks by which potential sperm donations are measured and includes everything from extensive medical testing to genetic screening that allow for the best insemination procedures further down the road.”

And you thought getting into Harvard was hard.

The Cryobank puts together an extensive profile of each donor as well. He must write an essay about himself, his likes, interests, and personality. There is also a “Facts and Figures” form that asks him his grade point average all the way back to high school, what kind of mechanical skills he has, mathematical abilities, what hobbies and sports he enjoys, his favorite food, favorite animal, special talents, where he wants to travel and how he expresses his creativity. Making stained glass stands was an interesting one.

In addition to the self-reporting part of the donor profile, the staff also submits their impressions. (What, do they not screen for liars in that harrowing qualification process?) Here's my favorite:

This donor might possibly be the happiest person on the planet! His cheerfulness is so
contagious; you just can’t help but smile when his beaming face comes through the door. This
donor’s personality is most definitely a rare find. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who is
so genuinely joyful and appreciative of what life has to offer. This donor is definitely cute. He
has flawless skin, bright blue eyes, and a big smile. His teeth are white and straight, with a
small gap between the front two teeth, which adds to his character. This donor is SO tall and
has a broad frame. He keeps his body in shape by skiing competitively and playing soccer
in his free time. Not only is this donor optimistic and fun to be around, he’s also extremely
intelligent. His thought processes are mathematically and scientifically driven, and he’s all
about the facts. He is a well-read and open-minded individual with a vast vocabulary that
never fails to impress. This donor seems to have it all: the personality, the looks, and the
brains. The best part about him is that despite all of these great qualities, he doesn’t think
that he is better than anyone else. Don’t hesitate if you’re considering this donor--he really
is as great as he sounds.”

I was immediately ready to impregnate! Give me my gorgeous-happy-superbaby now!

But after spending multiple hours imaging (stress on “imagining”) how these strangers might mix with my genes, I'm beginning to wonder about the things that aren't knowable from someone's stats or a biased staff member's quick first impressions. 
Weird ticks, oddly-shapen fingers, disproportionately skinny calves. What about all the stuff he wasn't sharing about himself? A compelling obsession with dead cats, his hatred of all things chocolate, an inability to feel the rhythm of the beat. 
I feel uncertain about trusting a for-profit sperm bank to tell me the full, unadulterated truth about their donors. Even if they did, that does not change the fact I can never really know what these men might impart to our child. 
Of course that's the case no matter how we breed. Babies are always a genetic crap shoot. Demon children are born to saints. Beautiful creatures spring from low-down dirty bastards. Some of the greatest people who ever lived would never have been born if their parents had been caught up in designing the perfect baby.

Part of falling in love and wanting to have a child with someone involves wanting to see the parts you love about each other live on in someone else. We valued these traits in each other, and we want our children to have them also. It's a big step in the mating practice of humans. Sperm donation skips that part. 
But I wish I could meet the sperm donors and get to know them a little bit. I want to interact with them, hear their voice, see the real shade of blue in their eyes, see what makes them laugh. I want to get a palpable sense of their personality, base level of happiness, their emotional depth and all sort intangibles that are only knowable by spending time with someone face-to-face.

Maybe I should try to find my babydaddy on an internet dating site. Perhaps I could meet someone who is also in a hurry to have a child. We won't have to go through the process of dating and deciding if we want to be a couple. Maybe we could just work out some sort of arrangement to co-parent the child.

But at what point do I pitch this wild and unusual idea to the prospective guy who's probably looking for a girlfriend or at least someone to hanky panky with? How would I ease a good potential father into the concept? Would someone report me to for abusing the system?

Then another writer and blogger,, who specializes in midlife motherhood, alerted me to a site that specifically brings together people who want a child but not the coupledom. 

Wow. A whole new option just opened up for me to explore... I love progress. 

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