This post was originally a guest post over at Uppercase Woman.
When my partner, jb, and I set out to start a family we considered three options as a spermless couple. First, adoption, which we looked at seriously, but ultimately chose not to pursue since I wanted very much to experience pregnancy and childbirth.
Second, we considered buying sperm from a sperm bank. We actually did this. A lot. We tried to get pregnant using an anonymous donor for two years – which was emotionally and financially draining. After two years of infertility we had no more savings, no baby, and very little hope.
Finally, more out of desperation than a real belief that it would be a good option for us, we began to examine the possibility of using a known donor. I was always open to the idea of a known donor, but I felt I should leave that decision up to jb. Should it come to it, I knew legally she'd be more vulnerable than I would be - so if we were to put that kind of trust in someone I wanted her to choose that path and ultimately the person. There were definite pluses to this scenario: we’d have a much fuller picture of our donor’s background (beyond the sperm bank profile of eye color, hobbies and limited medical history); we’d have clearer answers to offer our offspring when he or she began to ask questions about the donor; and heck, fresh sperm is heartier and gives a longer window for conception than frozen.
Still, there are so many risks in opening that door to someone.
What if he changes his mind in five years and tries to sue us for custody? What if he never legally challenges us but he gets too involved or attached? It’s tricky enough that jb has to adopt her own child after birth without adding another person to the equation. It just seems to make things so…complicated.
Despite our fears, we ultimately decided that the benefits of a known donor outweighed all of the risks. After all, what about bringing a person into this world isn’t scary? Plus, we were lucky enough to have someone in our lives that we trusted enough to ask for this enormous favor. We ended up conceiving (with me carrying) using jb’s brother as our known donor, who gladly helped us out and signed a donor contract.
During the pregnancy we didn't tell many people about the known donor situation - in my experience, the people who have the audacity to outright ask are the people you least want to share details with, and those that you are willing to open up to tend to be really respectful of boundaries. So that left us not really talking about the subject.
Once our son was born, though, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that we had used a donor from jb's family. He is the spitting image of jb (and all her brothers). So we didn't really have to decide whether or not to share the information – it was written all over our baby’s face (and hands, and hair, and expressions).
Now our son is a year old and I'm so happy with the path we chose. It's really amazing to see so much of jb in our baby. Uncle D (our known donor) is a wonderful and doting Uncle - nothing more, nothing less. Likewise, our son adores his uncle. Uncle D is the first to clarify that jb is the one and only "Dad" in the picture should anyone ask (which happens VERY rarely). [I’ve written more about using “Dad” in our family here.]
We often get remarks about how much our son looks like jb and we answer any questions that are posed respectfully. We plan to answer any questions our son has about how he came to be as it is developmentally appropriate. So far, so good, and honestly, at this point I can’t imagine it any other way.
All that being said, using a known donor is not for everyone. I'd encourage anyone considering it to ask themselves if they would trust this person with their life. Ultimately that's what you are doing. We are fortunate to have someone that we trust implicitly. That is on the same page as us as to his role and our expectations. That routinely makes the right decisions about when to step forward and when to step back. That we are able to remain close with without any weirdness creeping in. I’d also recommend signing a donor contract. It may not hold up in court, but it’s a great way to make sure everyone is seeing eye to eye. And of course, to take the time to marvel at the little miracle you made from scratch (even if you did have to borrow a cup of sugar).