I’m excited for my first post in the “What No One Tells You” series! To begin, I thought it made the most sense to start at the beginning (now there is some logic for you!) As a same-sex couple, when Jess and I decided we were ready to start our family we set up an appointment with a local fertility clinic that came highly recommended from friends. We used Duke Fertility and were overall happy with the experience. To begin, we went in for a consultation and then I returned to have blood work and testing done. Duke recommended only a handful of sperm banks. As part of the process, we also had to attend a counseling session specifically for lesbian parents. At first the thought of this made me mad, I immediately thought, “Do they counsel straight couples?” The counseling ended up being REALLY helpful and informative, primarily about sperm banks, their policies and procedures, and talking to your kids about donors.
Sperm Banks: Not a One-Stop Shop
I think when people think about sperm banks they picture a young college kid, hard-pressed for money, dropping in for a one-time visit for some cash to buy a 6-pack. Maybe people don’t really think that, but I know I didn’t realize how regimented the process was until we began this journey. What I learned was that sperm donors make a long-term commitment to make deposits either 3 times a week over a 9-month span, or twice a week over a 12-month span. Donors go through extensive questionnaires, family histories, and testing of their semen as part of the process. With our bank (we used Fairfax Cryobank) we were able to obtain a lifetime portfolio of photos of the donor, an essay written by the donor, a 15-minute recorded interview with the donor, and family medical history of the donor. Different banks have different requirements and limitations in place for donors which is why it is so important to do your research on your sperm bank. Sperm banks will limit the number of family units per donor- this means that once there are a certain number of successful pregnancies the donor’s sperm will no longer be sold unless to an existing family unit. For some banks that limit is 10, while with others it could be 25 or more. Sperm banks also are beginning to do psychological evaluations on donors- this is relatively new and it may be difficult to find a donor who has been evaluated but California Cryobank seems to be leading the way in this regard. I’d recommend researching your sperm bank and making a choice on which you’d like to move forward with before you ever take a look at the donor profiles. Once you’ve chosen a sperm bank, it kind of becomes like Match.com.
Ordering the Goods
We waited to place our order until about a month prior to our anticipated IUI. Sperm banks, much like any business, offer discounts when you opt to purchase multiple vials. Keep in mind that you will have to pay storage fees for the vials and be sure to check the return policy. Most banks will not accept returns from any sperm shipped out of their facility but will accept vials if you choose to pay to store your purchase at the bank. Most fertility clinics will offer you the option to store at their location as well- be aware that you likely will not be able to return any of those vials. We decided that rather than paying storage fees or purchasing more vials than we needed (these things are about $1100 a pop once you purchase the actual vial and special shipping) we would just purchase one at time and hope for the best!
How to Explain that a Donor isn’t “Dad”
Nothing is worse than being asked this question as a same-sex couple: “How did you choose the dad?” In our counseling, we were able to talk about strategies to always make that boundary clear- the sperm we received was from a donor, not “dad.” We were given some great resources to start covering this topic with our little one when the time is right. I think the best thing you can do with kids is to be honest and open with them from the start. All families are different and there are many ways to emphasize that with your child from an early age. Here are some books we have for Logan’s library (thanks to my lifelong friend Jackie aka Chase):
- The Pea That Was Me: A Two Moms/Sperm Donation Story
- Heather Has Two Mommies
- Mommy, Mama, and Me
- All Families Are Special
I’ve read each of these books and they are great! Can’t recommend them enough for same-sex couples.
I hope you’ve found this informative! Next up: What No One Tells You: IUI with Donor Sperm