The two biggies were California Cryobank and Fairfax Cryobank. Little did I know the California one was headquartered right across the street from my grocery store in Westwood near the UCLA campus. To my shopping list of eggs, milk, and bread, I could now add sperm—all from one parking spot. Both banks had “branches” at top-rated universities in the U.S.
Shopping for sperm wasn’t much unlike Internet dating, except the guy didn’t have to like me back. Raising the bar as high as it would go, I spent many late nights downloading profiles, medical histories, Kiersey temperament reports, audio interviews, and baby photos. To protect the anonymity of donors, most sperm banks offer baby photos rather than photos of donors as adults. A bank out of Atlanta has open donors (those willing to be contacted by the child at his or her choosing once the child is eighteen) that supply adult photos, but none there struck my fancy.
What isn’t advertised, but I learned at an SMC meeting, is that an attractiveness rating is given to each donor by sperm banks. The rating is on a scale of one to ten, but eight is the highest score given. Fairfax goes to ten as well and rates can climb to nine (not sure if the men are really better looking or if the raters are more generous). It’s certainly a subjective call, but just another factor when weighing whose DNA you want your child to have.
I had to pick some criteria to search by. So I started with height, plugging in the search menu, “5’11” or taller and Caucasian.” That netted about a hundred results. From there I looked at staff impressions—two or three sentences summing up the donor’s personality and overall impressions. They’d tell it like it is. The “shy, quiet, seems to be the brooding type” also “composes and performs his own music as an accomplished pianist”. Another “quick-witted, gregarious” type is also “a gentleman, seems to genuinely care about other people.”
Much of the information is free, such as: physical characteristics, blood type, ethnic origin, profession, or school of study (most donors are students). A short profile goes further to reveal favorite foods, hobbies, and GPA. My approach was to next download the baby photo for $20. For those that struck a chord or warmed my heart, I bought more detailed information such as medical history that went back three generations including immediate family as well as grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Also available were donors’ facial features and audio profiles. In the Kiersey temperament report (a psychological profile) I looked for two things—extrovertedness, as I can be a bit shy at times, and optimism as depression taints my genes. The medical history held a lot of weight for me. I dismissed anyone whose immediate family members had cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even asthma. These were certainly things that I wouldn’t dismiss if they were included in the family history of the man I fell in love with. I’d simply I’d cross my fingers and hope for the best. But if you can pick someone with a clean bill of health, why not?
In many respects I gathered more information than I ever knew about most of my past boyfriends, certainly from a medical standpoint. I quickly learned if I liked a donor, I should stock up as the more popular ones’ goods went fast. Fairfax had a waitlist so when a donor’s new sperm came to market, ten of us might be called to each have a shot at two vials rather than the top one on the list hording all he had to offer.
I’d narrow my selects to a half dozen and comb over every detail. Unlike Internet dating, this wasn’t like choosing someone to have coffee with. This would be my child’s DNA for life. I’d email friends the top pick photos to sound in. A few friends would come over and listen to the audio interviews I downloaded. For me, so much came through in someone’s voice.
I’d seen a TV show where a woman was reunited with her mother after being put up for adoption. They both had the same weird affected voice. More than voice, I wanted to hear if this person sounded nice. Whether or not that’s hereditary, I just wanted to feel good about telling my child, “This is who your DNA came from.” I wanted my donor to be kind and likeable.
When the interviewer asked the question “What motivated you to donate?” I didn’t want a guy saying it was money to party on but rather something along the lines of, “We had neighbors growing up who couldn’t conceive,” or “ It’s helping with med school costs but I also like the idea of helping those in need.” I wanted someone who grasped the magnitude of what this meant.
Both banks take less than five percent of those who apply, so the lot of donors is pretty good stock. They aim to take those who they know they can market. Every sperm shopper wants stellar medical history, good looks, and intelligence. I also wanted someone athletic and kind-sounding. I didn’t aim for the very best looking as single criteria or just the most intelligent, but an overall best, well-rounded and a feeling in my gut that this one is right.
Arriving at a donor I liked made all the difference in feeling good about moving forward. I had this other DNA half in mind with which to make this baby. The first one I picked was a med student.
My first RE, Dr. Chang started me on clomid, an oral medication to increase the number of follicles and eggs I’d release. I was like a jacked-up pinball machine. It felt like PMS times infinity. The hormones raged so we could get more pinballs to play this fertility game with—each ball/egg increasing my odds of fertilizing and implanting. Every few days, I’d come in for an ultrasound tracking my follicle growth. Four on one side, three on the other. Go follies!
I’d administer the trigger shot (which triggers the brain to release the eggs) at an exact hour the evening before I’d go in for my IUI or intrauterine insemination. I was so certain I’d get pregnant the first try, I even opted to have them spin the sperm to aim for a girl. I figured if it was as simple as “paper or plastic,” why not. My mom had two grandsons, let’s go for a girl. Only when the results came back negative did I learn that separating the sperm actually decreased my odds for getting pregnant as they inject only half the amount.
I had also ignored the fact that “Mr. Right donor” didn’t have a reported pregnancy yet—something my SMC cronies insisted was critical. Even though the sperm banks guarantee sperm count, motility, and morphology (quality) to a certain degree, some goods just thaw better than others.
Read Part Three
photo: Classic Kids Photography