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Notwithstanding the resounding wave of unanimous disapproval from the supportive ladies on an online fertility forum I’d joined, I had already made up my mind that the arrangement with Phil, the would-be-anonymous donor, was unacceptable. Amid all the uncertainty that comes with choosing a sperm donor, the rock I clung to was the decision to provide someone who my child would have the opportunity to contact at age eighteen. That choice, for better or worse, was non-negotiable.
With little else presently of interest on the co-parenting website, my thoughts began to drift abroad… towards Denmark to be precise, and a sperm bank that had been recommended to me by the Assisted Conception Unit I was waiting to see.
I had done a little research on the company and heard nothing but good reports – it seemed a regular baby factory! I called them and was pleased to find them helpful and professional, answering my myriad of questions with typical Danish straightforwardness and efficiency.
But there were risks.
Although the company shipped to the UK, they did not refund any money if the product was stopped at UK customs. The sperm was sold in ‘straws’ at just over 200 Euros each. They recommended two to eight ‘straws’ per insemination but I was determined to stick to the monthly budget I’d set for myself and could afford only one (I had read that this might be sufficient if mixed with a sperm-friendly lubricant). The sperm was shipped using either dry ice at 160 Euros or a liquid Nitrogen tank at 210 Euros, in order to keep the little soldiers fresh until they were called for duty. So a stopped shipment would mean over £400 thrown away and, even more valuable, an ovulation wasted!
Another risk with this route was even more daunting; there were questions over the legality of importing sperm to the UK. Information was rather hazy. The bank itself stated that it was perfectly legal to send sperm to private individuals and that they didn’t have any problems with customs, but the consensus on the forum seemed to be that it was against the law to import sperm to any UK address other than that of a registered clinic. It worried me but in my reckless state, with my desperation to conceive growing ever more urgent, it was a risk I was willing to take. I fantasised that if I was arrested, I’d fight tirelessly to rally a media-circus and cry out against the injustice of the system and the right of women to choose home insemination rather than allow themselves to fall victim to private clinic prices. I would gather the support of a new age of suffragettes and not stop until the laws were changed! My moments as a rampaging Boudicca of donor-mothers was short-lived but I’d made up my mind to go ahead regardless.
Tentatively at first, I began to browse the website, searching through the donor profiles without ever losing the sense of surrealist wonder at the idea – shopping online for a baby, as though I was purchasing a new jacket! I wanted a donor with an ‘extended profile’, meaning that I would be able to read a detailed breakdown of the donor’s statistics and history. The additional information also included baby pictures, emotional intelligence test results and a voice clip of the donor reading a personal statement he had written to his potential child – a lovely idea!
Still hesitant, I selected a profile from the middle of the list… and immediately fell in love. Not only was the donor I’d chosen a scientist and teacher (like me) who had lovingly raised a son himself, but he had written the most beautiful message. It began:
“You are here because you were wanted. You were loved before you were even born, before you were even conceived. That must be a wonderful thing to know. Your family, against the odds, managed to bring you into the world to love you.”
The words made me cry and I knew instantly that this was the right choice.
I decided to wait a couple of days before placing the order, allowing time for the dust of this new, untried route to settle. After another phone call to Denmark and a further onslaught of questions well answered, I was doubt-free and determined.
I grabbed my debit card and went to the website to place the order, so eager that my fingers were barely able to type the web address… only to find that my wonderful donor was sold out! I couldn’t believe it! Only two days ago the bank had 14 straws of his sperm left.
I wanted to collapse on the floor like a deflated balloon but I needed to leave for my morning train to work. I had no time to waste. Either I ordered today or the sperm wouldn’t arrive before my ovulation, expected within the next few days. I contemplated calling in sick but decided against it. I needed precious home-time for the receipt of my shipment. I grabbed my netbook, hoping to find time to search donor profiles during my lunch hour. Life was happening too quickly and my ticking body clock struck the hour with panicked gusto all the way to the station.
Somehow, I managed. I snuck into a spare office at midday, opened the website and selected my search criteria (making sure all the donors were non-anonymous). Frantically I flicked through the 19 choices that popped onto the screen. At times like these, I’m afraid to say that one’s personal prejudices kick in. I have never placed any value on looks, but intelligence and a caring nature are crucial. I eliminated several options at once, perhaps unfairly, as they worked in low-paid blue-collar jobs. Of the rest, I found myself zipping down the profiles to the personal statement at the end, written in the donors’ own hand. Many others fell by the wayside due to poor spelling and punctuation (possibly a trifle harsh – they were Danish and writing in English as an additional language!). I rejected one promising young physics student because he’d only bothered to write a couple of sentences, and those with little care or thought.
Then I happened upon a profile that I connect with. The donor had a background in economics but now worked as a yoga teacher and ran his own Alexander Technique school. I had visions of a former high-flying investment banker who had grown increasingly disgusted at the world of greed and materialism, and had shunned it to pursue an idealistic, spiritual path. This appealed to me – drive and ambition but a grasp of the meaningful.
I couldn’t resist a peak at his baby pictures, which revealed a something between a cherub bursting out of a Michelangelo heavenscape and a strawberry blonde Orson Welles!
Like my original choice, this donor had written a beautiful message, proudly describing the three biological children with whom he lived and the fact that he “strived to be a positive element in the gradual realisation of the full human potential”. Sold on his progressive outlook! I could live with the Orson Welles bit.
A few minutes later I had ordered a straw of MOT10 sperm (the MOT being a quality count based on the number of sperm that swim in a forward progression) to be delivered within the next few days. Perhaps some of my donor’s upbeat energy had rubbed off on me but I felt peaceful and optimistic about the decision…
… until that evening, when I ovulated early!