Mom Opens Up About Why ‘Donor’ Does Not Mean ‘Dad’
Creating a family is not an easy task when you’re gay. My wife and I faced a series of challenges when it came to making babies, one of which was choosing a sperm donor. At first it seemed like it’d be an easy task, but in reality, it wasn’t. But despite the difficult and pivotal process, the donor we wound up selecting is just that—a donor, not our children’s dad.
I won’t go into detail about our fertility journey, because that’s a whole other story. To sum it up, we used Reciprocal IVF to create our children. Since this process involves sperm, we needed to find a donor. And choosing a donor is a hard decision. When we first thought about having kids, we thought we might use someone we know to be the donor, but after learning about the process, we changed our minds. Why? Well, for many reasons.
We didn’t know that the donor needed to go through testing. Fertility clinics like to know every detail about someone’s history of diseases, blood type, etc. These are things we didn’t think of when it came to finding a donor, but they’re important details that can’t be overlooked. After all, a lot of things can go wrong if you mix genetics that shouldn’t be mixed together. If we picked a donor online instead of using a friend, they would have already been tested for all the things the clinic needs to know.
We also thought having someone we knew as our donor could affect our friendship. We didn’t want that friend thinking our kids were his, or that he had a parental role in the children’s lives. It would have been a plus to have a “father figure” in our children’s lives, but it could have also been a problem if our friend thought they had the right to make parental decisions or thought they needed to see the kids many times each month. Creating children and raising children is a ton of work to begin with, and we didn’t need more things to worry about. We decided to choose an anonymous donor online.
Most online cryobanks (and there are a lot of them out there) offer the same type of information: They show a donor’s adult picture; hair, eye and skin color; body and blood type; interests and education. But each site also offers something a little different, to make them unique. For example, some offer a silhouette of the donors, while others offer a voice sample of the donor answering a question or just saying a few words. Some of the information provided on these sites seems random, but we tried considering each part of the profile to help steer our decision.
For us, appearance was a key factor. We wanted our child to look like both of us, and since only I would be involved genetically, we wanted my wife to be represented by the donor. We used facial matching that was offered on the website to try to find someone who looked like her and help narrow our search. The results weren’t exactly spot on, but it was better than looking through endless pages of donors. Some of the men looked pretty different than her, but each one had at least some similar traits, whether it was the same hair or eye color, freckles or shape of the face. We made the best decision we could.
In addition to looks, we also considered each donor’s interests and education. (We still wonder how they actually verify this information, but we assumed it was accurate and just went with it.) We chose someone with an interest in music because my wife loves music and grew up playing multiple instruments. I saved every piece of information from the donor’s profile to one day show our kids.
We currently have two children (we used the same donor for both), and many people wonder how we plan to tell them about the donor. To start, our kids won’t be meeting him. Many cryobanks have donors that offer up their contact information to give the child when they turn 18, but our donor didn’t have this option available. Since introducing them or giving them his contact information isn’t possible, I plan to show them everything we saved from the donor’s profile, including the few photos we have of him, and explain how genetics work and how we needed these pieces to create them. I want to eventually make a little scrapbook, because he did play an important role in our children’s lives. Without him, we wouldn’t have them.
I hope showing them this and being honest helps with the process, but I don’t think that when that moment comes it’lll play a huge role in our children’s lives, since they will grow up having two loving moms.
We often get asked about our children’s “father,” which always irritates us. A father is someone who is present in the child’s life, someone who watches them grow up, someone who the child refers to as Dad. I’m sure the donor knows he’s helped create children out there, but they aren’t children he’s raising. We will forever be thankful to him for helping us create our kids, but he isn’t their father—rather, they have two loving moms.
Our oldest daughter has only asked about “Dad” once. We explained that some families have two dads, or a dad and a mom, and that she happens to have two moms. There are so many ways to make a family. Although our kids will grow up mostly surrounded by kids who have a mother and a father in their life, we want them to know that love is the key factor in each family. My wife and I know from experience that sometimes kids only have one parent present in their lives, and our children are lucky to have two parents who love them dearly. We plan to have more kids, although we haven’t finalized any plans for how we’ll try to bring another child into our family. My wife might use her eggs this time, or we might use an embryo from the same batch of embryos that our two children came from. We’d like all our kids to have the commonality of the same donor, but we only have one vial of sperm left from the donor. We’d need another sperm vial on backup (the clinic requires you to have two vials on hand during the fertilization process in case the first vial doesn’t work), so if we use my wife’s eggs we’ll have to purchase another donor.
At the end of the day, though, we realize that genetics don’t make a family—love does. Our children will be loved the same way, and their genetics have nothing to do with it.
We are a girl meets girl love story! My name is Christina and my wife’s name is Katie. We have two daughters, Kennedy (3) and Charlotte (1), who we had via reciprocal IVF. Our family is still growing, but for now, we’re enjoying our time as a family of four. We love to travel and show our kids as much of the world as possible. Follow us on Instagram at @babybaileymamadrama and Youtube.
Published September 2019
Photo: Victor Torres