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No Thanks, Straight Folks. Your Sperm Donor Advice Is Just Weird

Photograph by Twenty20

A couple years ago my girlfriend, Amber, and I started talking about kids. I wasn’t sure. We have a great life. I write, she paints and photographs, we keep bees and, when we want to, we get in the car, drive west and spend the summer camping and hiking. But I’m in my 30s and Amber loves kids, and I agree with her that we could shape some awesome human beings, so we have decided to go for it.

Amber had a sperm donor picked out from the beginning—a friend she admired who had said he’d be up for it. I hadn’t yet met the guy, so I started talking about whom I might choose and, unfortunately, I opened the discussion up to family and friends.

One family member devised a lottery in which we would not only procure sperm, but also make some cash for our future baby.

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It went like this: we put an ad in the newspaper asking men pay $100 to enter a lottery. We draw a name. I have sex with this lucky man, and voilà! Baby. No need to consider the guy’s intellectual, emotional, physical or spiritual characteristics. He’s a man. He has sperm. He even has a hundred bucks. Obviously, I should fuck him.

This scheme was ludicrous, and, I hope, a joke. Still, I couldn’t make sense of the logic behind it. Why would this guy suggest that men might line up, pay even, to help us have a child? Then I remembered that to some people, a lesbian couple is a highly eroticized grouping of individuals.

I tend to forget or ignore this fact, unless reminded through suggestions like the baby-making prostitution lottery, or when propositioned at an acquaintance’s party—by her father. “My (new) wife swings both ways, so if you two wanna….” Yep. It happens.

Another thing I couldn’t understand about the lottery was why, when we have the opportunity to carefully select a man whose genetics we want to replicate, would we ever use some random dude? Did we seem that desperate? We weren’t.

Others thought we should go a little Habsburg and keep it in the family.

My sister is a planner. After asking us a few cursory questions about what we were looking for, she set to work scrolling her mind for ginger boys. Amber’s got red hair that flames up from her head like fire. Hunka hunka burnin’ love fire. She’s gorgeous. Her hair is her signature. A baby ginger to match? Why not? My sister had a guy in mind. Her friend’s boyfriend. Let’s call him "Red."

We had met Red. Friendly guy. Knows a lot about craft beer. Thankfully, at the time most of my sperm donor talk was just that—talk. It would be a year before we took any practical steps toward baby-making. I joked about sperm with Red’s girlfriend, but that was as far as it went. Eventually, via my grandpa, it came to light that Red and I are second cousins. Or third. The branch of the tree doesn’t really matter. Point is, Red and I are both on it.

The Habsburgs would have approved. This royal dynasty tried to keep their gene pool tight in order to control land and amass wealth. Their inbreeding resulted in children like Charles II, King of Spain, who had such a protruding lower lip, he had trouble speaking. Good looking-out, Grandpa!

Then, there were the sister wives. One thing I said when talking about sperm donors was that I knew many smart, talented women whose DNA I would happily cross with mine. Of course, if it were possible for that to result in a human child, I wouldn’t need a donor. I’ve already convinced the most perfect woman in the whole wide world to sleep over every night.

If I admired my friends, then what about their boyfriends and husbands? Asking after a friend’s husband’s sperm can feel awkward. We hinted to a few people before we decided against choosing a guy who was entangled with one of our favorite women. Why complicate a friendship?

That did not stop a few friends from insisting. One woman liked to remind us that her husband is handsome (he is) and a great guy (also true), but she also made it clear that his sperm were not up for grabs. We weren’t trying to grab them. We knew that claim had been staked. Another friend, after finding out we had chosen a donor, told me her husband was upset he was not the “baby-daddy.” Ugh.

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This friend’s choice of words highlights the irony of this process. Who the sperm donor is as a person is important to Amber and me. We wanted someone who is smart, artistic, thoughtful, expressive and laid-back. Whomever we chose would also have to be, by default, generous and supportive of our relationship. You’ll notice our list of characteristics is not a description of a sperm donor: 5’9”-6”, good eyesight, multi-lingual, etc.

Yet our baby is not going to have a “daddy.” Our baby is going to have two moms, and the genetic code of a smart, artistic, thoughtful, expressive, laid-back, generous, supportive man, who also happens to be quite dashing. And Amber had him picked out long before my disastrous crowdsourcing.

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