I am still in Paris, and I have a passel of mediocre pictures to share with you, but those will have to wait for the time being, as they are stuck on my camera. Any post without them would be boring and dull (and GOD KNOWS, I NEVER write anything boring and dull), so I will save the trip post for when I am actually post-trip (see what I did there?).
In the meantime, I will share with you more of the weirdness that is choosing half of your eventual child’s genetic material from the internet, as opposed to the time-honored tradition of meeting him or her in a bar.
Aside: for those of you keeping track of at home, I am 11 days post-insemination, and have been instructed to wait until day 14 to perform a home pregnancy test. I would have done this anyways, as I want J to be there when I take it, although there are any number of early-detection tests that PROMISE to be the one that tells you you’re pregnant six weeks before your next period (meaning I could take one as soon as tomorrow, but who knows if the French know what they’re doing when it comes to science).
Aside, last one, I promise: Do you people have ANY IDEA how hard it is to be in PARIS, of all places, and not be able to consume espresso and wine at every sidewalk cafe I encounter? I feel like I mentioned this in my last post as well, but it bears repeating- it’s fucking hard. It is even harder when you factor in that if I were a straight person, who just happened to have had sex 11 days ago, I wouldn’t be thinking about whether or not I was pregnant, but rather how many croissants slathered in unpasteurized cheese I could shove in my pie-hole while drinking a giant coffee and waiting for my bottle of wine to arrive. Life, it turns out, is NOT FAIR.
Back to the story at hand: I am too lazy to look it up, but it appears that in recent times there has been a shift in how sperm banks approach donation vis-a-vis (I am in France, after all) the donation end result, namely the child, and whether or not she (I am, here, using the “universal” she) has the chance to know anything about her donor, other than what her parents choose to tell her.
Now there are banks who ONLY deal in what is called “Willing to be Known” donors, meaning that once the child turns 18, she will have the chance, if she so desires, to contact her donor, and he is contractually obligated to one “significant” contact with her. Significant means different things to different people- but the banks list it as an email exchange, a phone call, an in-person meeting, or a hand-written letter. After this ONE exchange, both parties, but, in my mind, most significantly, the donor has the option to cease all contact with the child. He has fulfilled the obligation of his Willing to be Known status, and is free to ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again. The other option is the more traditional, completely anonymous donor, who is known to the child as a medical history, if her parents choose to share.
Lest the last paragraph give away my feelings on the topic, let me just say that I am deeply conflicted about the issues surrounding known donors. There is a reason J and I chose to use sperm from a bank, and not a male friend (not that there was one in the running, but that is one of the most frequently asked questions we get in regards to this topic), namely that I am not convinced that, should said male friend have a come-to-Jesus moment with regards to parenting, that he wouldn’t have any legal standing at all, no matter what current law says. The current law does say that a gamete donor is not a parent, but I am not taking my kid to court to try and find out, and besides, it won’t be the first time the state of California changed its mind about topics of special interest to me.
So, we picked a sperm donor from a far away bank, but we still wrestled with picking one who was willing to be known or not. On the one hand, I FIRMLY believe that two women can successfully raise a child, and the medical history I can provide my child in regards to her donor is just as, if not more, complete than one any adult child of a heterosexual union can provide. On the other hand, what if my child does want to know more about her donor than what I can provide (and let’s not kid ourselves for ONE MINUTE that our child will not know her “special” status. While I am firm believer in the power of science, I do not believe I will be seeing a live birth from the union of two eggs in my lifetime, and that is not because it cannot be done, but because the scientists in charge are still men, and we still live in a patriarchy. In case you were still wondering, I did, indeed, attend a Seven Sisters college.)? What if she is interested in meeting him, and I have to tell her it’s simply not possible?
The thing that bugs me about the Willing to be Known contract is, of course, the devil in the details. Only a single significant contact is guaranteed, and then all bets are off. We can all imagine a rose-colored vision in which donor and child hit it off famously, develop a strong and lasting relationship that does not threaten the lesbian couple that raised her, and fulfills everyone’s deepest desires (I will take a pony that shits cheesecake). But just because we can imagine it doesn’t mean it’s actually going to HAPPEN that way. Most donors are young, single men, 90% of which (fine,my sample size is not totally significant, let’s say 50 profiles, but this is WordPress, not Scientific American) list their reason for donating as “I need the money.” Anywhere between 18 and, I don’t know exactly, 30 years later, this fine gentleman has agreed to be contacted by a total stranger who happens to share his DNA. By this point, he may have his own family, his own children. I would be willing to bet real, actual, cash money that this man, no matter how fine or noble, will certainly HESITATE before jumping into a Hollywood fairytale reunion with his long lost offspring.
I admit that in the scenario I am imagining, my theoretical child is deeply devastated by this lack of relationship with her donor, and I am not sure that is based on anything nearing reality. Maybe she’ll be cool as a cucumber; and maybe she won’t even ASK. But these are things we just cannot know in advance, so we do the best we can.
Additionally, in the interest of being completely honest, I’m not sure I could take it. Our child, raised by us, nurtured and loved and cared for and so, so, so wanted- now has a burning desire to know a man WE don’t even know? I just… well.
In the end, J and I chose a donor who happens to be anonymous, and this is more incidental than the fact that he was a chubby, curly-haired, blond angel in the photos we have of him. I am sure, what ever happens, this will be the first of many difficult parenting decisions we will have to make… it’s just so strange to make them BEFORE we’re even parents.
Thoughts? Wisdom? Mockery of my navel-gazing?
PS- I should add that I am writing from my own lesbian perspective, and I know that straight couples can and do use donor sperm, and undoubtedly struggle with similar issues. If you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you.