Elephants and Worms: Donor Stories

June 3, 2010

So, first we asked this friend. He wasnt really a friend. He was a former coworker, my coworker, but the kind of coworker — or person, really — for whom you have an instant and deep affinity. I knew him well for maybe 6 months, we carpooled for goodness sake, during the first six months of my relationship with Wifebian, no less! He would pick me up at 7 in the morning, with my clothes barely on straight, giving me that sly smile you give when nookie is the elephant in the room. Except we loved to feed the elephant peanuts. I would buy us coffee at the shop beneath my apartment, hop into his white pick up truck and start shoveling peanuts into that there beloved elephant. The friend was straight, 6 foot, 300 pounds, half black and bawdy as all hell. Just maybe the queerest straight man I ever met, not counting my first boyfriend.

So I knew him for six months, and then, two years later, I called him up and me and Wifebian went over to his house, drank wine and talked about babies. This is before Wifebian and I even got married. He had cashed in on the whole defense contractor schtick and moved out of his DC group house and into some condo hovering among the clouds of Northern Virginia. He showed us his wine refrigerator, his entertainment system, and this thing from which he hung upside down to fix his back.

In the end, he declined our offer. We met at a diner two weeks or maybe a month after our talk and he broke the news to us. He had a difficult upbringing on account of his absent, heroine-addicted father and, in the end, he couldnt separate being a “sperm donor” for us from being an “absent father” to the offspring.

I was surprised by how hard my heart felt in response. How ironic was it that the thing that pushed me toward asking a friend — the absence of my biological mother — was the thing that kept him from saying yes — the absence of his biolgical father? I didnt talk to him for some time. The rejection wasnt conspicuous because we hadnt maintained a friendship in the first place, but was still ever-present in my choices when it come to interacting with him. I didnt try to help the way I felt and he never asked.

Our conflict, mine and Wifebian’s, as of two years ago, anyway, was that I wanted a donor who will be like an uncle to the child. This idea makes Wifebian’s skin crawl and stomach turn. At least, it did two years ago. So, once our only acceptable known donor said no, we turned to the the sperm shop that we are dealing with now. They offer open donation, which can be likened to open adoption. The bank doesnt provide photos of the donor, but once you have a baby, everybody knows everybody’s name, address, and phone number within the year. Wifebian liked it that the donor was in the his 50’s and lived 2,000 miles away. He would either be too old or too broke to play much of a part in our family life.

But now that our relationship with the gay sperm shop is coming to a close, we have three choices presenting themselves to us. First, The Sperm Bank of California. Second, a friend of a friend. And third, this other friend.  TSBC is more expensive than we can really afford, but it seems like they have values and ethics we can work with. The friend of a friend is a random long shot and, if it were to work out, reminds me of Nicole’s story over at Lesbo Parents To Be.

And the other friend is one half of an interracial couple. We have drunkenly dropped jokes over the years with this couple and if we were all to create a family together, complete with sperm donation and surrogacy, it would open up a very big can of worms — a can of perfect and squirmy questions — about race and family. A can of questions that I sometimes feel capable of answering and sometimes not. But the couple is young and our jokes have never blossomed into something more serious. Well, Wifebian thinks they have and I think they havent. Hence, the drunken caveat.

In my cursory searches of how fresh sperm insemination with a known donor over a long distance might work, I discovered surrogacy through clinics in India. It’s reminding me of Almanac of the Dead and Dirty Pretty Things and in this judgmental, post-apocalyptic way. Maybe it’s just the wine. I’m wondering what we are doing and lengths we are going to make families and what it all means and if everyone is going to end up being OK.

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3 Responses to “Elephants and Worms: Donor Stories”

  1. Meg said

    Ok, I was going to say something else but you distracted me with the India Surrogacy Clinics. AHHH!!! I saw an Oprah show on that, and the clinic they showed was hands down the creepiest most 1984 thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There were all these pregnant women lined up on beds. They were not allowed to stand up during their third trimester, only bed rest, and were basically treated like livestock. And the worst part was that the Americans on the show were like, “I love it! It’s so cheap!” I was like, “LADY, that woman is growing your kid, and she’s so poor she’s barely surviving. Maybe you don’t want to brag about underpaying her, mmmmkay?” Anyway. I’m sure, like anything, it can be done well or done poorly, but what I saw was done BEYOND poorly.

    Ok FOCUS.

    What I was going to say is that we offered D up as a donor for friends of ours. They ended up deciding to use an anonymous donor, and I think in many ways that is less complicated emotionally. That said, from a political and just-plain-friendship standpoint, if they ever did decide to take us up on it, I would feel very strongly about it being the right thing to do. Though, we’d need to have a lot of conversations about what role they wanted us to play in the kids life, and what role they wanted our kids to play in the kids life, and make sure everyone was clear about it, and we could all work with it emotionally.

    • mrsbasement said

      Yeah. The India thing was rough. Capitalism, colonialism, classism. It’s just that surrogacy in the US is only for the mega-rich . . . and an Indian woman can make up to ten years of wages with one pregnancy. A couple of teachers head over to India to get a baby. Sounds like a match made in heaven to me.

      Re-focus.

      So what youre saying is, if me and Wifebian get desperate, I should just put out a blog-call to be heard round the world of progressive, newly married blog couples, like the batman symbol?

      ;}

  2. Nicole said

    Well clearly I’m an advocate of the friend-of-a-friend thing, and still very much hoping it works out for us. But yes, the whole thing really is incredibly complicated. I actually had two other (straight, married) friends offer to be donors for us. One of them would have been perfect from a genetic standpoint (tall, dark, handsome AND smart as hell) but even if his wife had said yes (a BIG if) ultimately I likely would have said no because he wouldn’t have wanted to be involved with the kid (he has two of his own and that’s plenty for him) and we actually really wanted someone who was. But I realize Col and I are a bit of an anomaly in that regard. I’m glad you’re thinking about options at least. Options are good.

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