OK, so Carol and I tried the home insemination a couple of times but it just didn’t work. Funny enough even though I was sad about it, I’m glad we did try it. It was certainly an adventure for us and one we can definitely cross of our bucket list.
Here was the thing. I was turning 37 and I knew my odds of getting pregnant were definitely decreasing. We needed an infertility clinic but NOT the one we had gone to previously. Oh hell no, folks. After those two times we felt we had given them a fair chance to redeem themselves. This go round it was important we find an infertility clinic who would treat us like human beings instead of like ATM’s. We wanted one who did have lesbian clients. On top of that Carol and I came to the realization that if we were going to do it again we really wanted the same donor as Judah. For whatever reason it was important to us. We knew the sperm bank no longer had our donor and to ask the bank to see if he would give again would have been costly. The bank would have made the donor go through the same testing as he had done initially and we would have had to accrue that cost. SO, we needed to look in a different direction and one that was more conducive to our pocketbooks. But, how would we find more of our donor sperm?
As we were trying to figure things out Carol caught a show on NPR about a kid who had been conceived through donor sperm. Carol was frustrated with the program because this kid seemed to have a lot of other issues that didn’t have anything to do with him feeling he was missing out on having a father. However, the kid only being18 years old was very young and that seemed to be where he was able to place all of his problems. The kid through out the program kept referring to his donor as “his father”. It was clear he was missing something in his life and needed to fill a void. And so, the kid with the help of his mom started a website called, “The Sibling Registry” which would allow him to find other families who had used the same donor as him. His ultimate goal in creating this site was to eventually find his “father”. Here’s the thing. There are issues (for some) with calling the offspring of those donors “donor siblings” just as their are issues with calling the donor “father”. A father to many is someone who is present in a child’s life and not just someone who “donates” a sperm. Donating a sperm in my mind doesn’t grant you that title nor should it. It’s about being present in the child’s life. And so some see calling the offspring (donor siblings) in the same way. They are connected biologically but that is it. I suppose some feel using the word “sibling” and “father” is too intimate of a term.
Now let me say this. Many donors want to remain anonymous and make that request when they donate. In fact when we picked our donor it was important to us to chose one who did not want to be identified (ever). Those donors who want to remain anonymous don’t see themselves as the parent but only as a way to help other singles/couples to have a baby. The other part to this is that donors also don’t want to be contacted by an infinite amount of children and then begin a relationship with them. The donor does not see them as his children. In fact the donor usually have their own lives and have started their own families. So the sperm banks do not disclose the name of the donor as long as they have requested to remain anonymous. It becomes a closed file. However, in the case of this 18 year old boy, he had high hopes the donor would check out the site and possibly contact him directly. Legally though, I’m guessing that would open a huge can of worms.
An so, how the “donor sibling” site worked was you’d place the number of the donor (the number assigned from the sperm bank) and the sperm bank name in the search engine. In some cases there were many already registered under that donor. If nothing came up for that donor it meant no one had yet registered that donor. In that case a person could register the donor with hopes they’d hear from other people (in time) who used that same donor. Now of course there was a charge to register. Nothing is free, people!
Aside from all of that there are other reasons Carol does not like the “sibling registry”. I suppose in many ways she feels it demeans her as the other parent. It suggests to the child they have a “real father” and “real siblings” which null and voids who actually raised them. And I can see her point. It is the people involved in the kid’s lives that make the family not the ones who so happen to be biologically related. However, I see it a little differently. I feel the reality is Judah was conceived by a donor whose sperm also got other women pregnant. And in our case there were eight other women (that we know of thus far through the donor sibling registry). Because of the reality of how Judah came to be born he will want to know. I think that is just human nature. I compare it to kids who are adopted. There are just some kids who want to know about their biological parents and that’s understandable. I don’t see that as demeaning Carol as being Judah’s other mom in anyway. I can see how scary it can be for the parent BUT, that was one of the reasons I wanted Carol to adopt Judah. She is 100% his other mom and no one can take that away. The reality is some children need to search outwardly to better understand the special family they already have. To me the reality of the situation can’t be taken away. A donor was used and from that other children were born. I’m guessing Judah will be curious and possibly want to meet the other kids who were born from the same donor. Or maybe he won’t. But, I feel that’s his decision.
Now Carol does feel strongly about telling Judah the truth and about it being his decision whether to meet the other “donor siblings”. Where Carol and I disagree is she feels we don’t need to tell him about the “donor siblings” until he asks us. And only when he asks do we tell him. Listen, there’s no doubt in my mind Carol and I have a smart kid but come on. To extrapolate that far in regards to thinking on his own that the donor had other children is something that I feel won’t be realized until well into his later teens. I suppose what worries me. I never want him to feel we ever hid anything from him. I feel we should tell Judah about the “donor siblings” just as we shared with him about the donor. Bits at a time and what he can understand at that time. One should never wake up one day with that kind of surprise. I don’t think that would be fair to our child. I also feel once he is a teenager (with all of the hormones and such) that wouldn’t be a terrific time for that realization to hit. In many cases they are already so vulnerable. And so, if we talk to him before hand (in bits and pieces), maybe he’d have a better foundation by that time.
In terms of the donor Carol and I have always agree. Since Judah was young we have spoken about the donor (age appropriately). Our kid isn’t stupid and understood at 3 years old that two moms couldn’t make a baby. He knew there had to be a male participant somehow. In fact when he was almost 4 he once asked me, “Momma, how do we make babies?” I was surprised because he had already asked how he was created and he knew (there was a donor). I suppose Judah noticed my confusion on my face and he added, “No, Momma. I don’t mean how two women have babies. I know that. AND I don’t mean how two men have babies. I know that too. I am asking how a man and a woman have a baby.” Gotta love kids!
Anyway, we have a large packet with detailed information about Judah’s donor. That is always available for him to see or to just ask questions. In fact just the other day Judah asked, “Did the donor like baseball like me?” and “Did the donor have curly hair like me?” And of course we answered him. However, I feel he asked because we made him comfortable to do so. We started giving him the information when he was young which gave him the comfort to continue to ask for more information. I feel we need to do the same with the fact Judah has donor siblings.
Now as you could see, Carol was not fond of the “donor sibling” registry. So, why in the hell would she be on their site? Good question. The fact was the site’s purpose was multifaceted. Aside from the obvious- finding donor “siblings” and it being a sort of support system to mothers who had children with the same donor, it also was a way to find other vials of sperm from the donor you wanted. Many woman over purchased and bought way too many vials. Their reasoning? Well, as you saw with the infertility clinic we used. They request the woman go through at least 6 inseminations. The other reason is the woman may not be sure if they wanted more children. So in many cases they purchased more vials than they needed.
And so, when Carol heard about this site on NPR even though she hated it’s premise she knew it could be the perfect place to find more sperm from our donor. Without my knowledge Carol went to the site. When she searched for our donor’s number and sperm bank lo and behold there were a few people registered. They had used the same donor and had children by him (obviously or they wouldn’t have been registered). Anyway, Carol was able to find out about the other kids born to our same donor: girl/boy, age, and area of the country. Through that we had discovered Judah was the oldest kid- first one born using this donor. The families who used “our” donor and conceived their children were either lesbian couples or single moms. As far as Carol saw in the “sibling registry” no straight couples used our donor. That of course didn’t matter to us. Some of our best friends are straight married couples. I just had to put that in there for humor sake. We get that often, so I thought turn around was fair play.
Alright so because Carol really wanted to get sperm from the same donor (and to surprise me with that news of being able to get it), Carol put her feelings aside about her dislike for the site and she e-mailed one of the couples she saw in the donor sibling registry. It was a lesbian couple who had two children from “our” donor. Carol e-mailed them and introduced herself. Not comfortable with the idea of sharing too much information, she did tell them we had a son who was conceived with their same donor. Of course all Carol cared about was asking them if they had any sperm to spare. Sounds like the 1930’s song, “Brother can you spare a dime.” Well, lesbian’s can you spare some sperm? Sorry, just my twisted humor added in here. In all seriousness, it would have been rude to just jump in and ask if they had extra sperm to spare. So as we Jews like to call it, Carol “schmoozed” with them first. Not something Carol likes to do anyway, so good for her.
Now let me explain how one buys and sells sperm. Stay with me here, because it can get confusing. First let me say this. The vials of sperm are not sitting in any of these women’s freezers. No, not at all. The sperm has to be stored in a reputable sperm storage facility which typically is held in the same place it is purchased until needed at the place you are being inseminated. Not only is that the law for liability issues but it also guarantees the quality. Can you believe we’re really talking about sperm here? Crazy and weird, I know. And so an individual may own a vial of sperm but it is always stored in a sperm bank or infertility clinic. Got it? Now, if the individual wants to sell a vial to someone else (because they no longer need or want it), they can. It is called transferring of ownership. The sperm bank charges a fee for the transferring, however the payment of the vial is done privately between the old and new sperm owners.. But as I said, the sperm never leaves the bank until needed to another bank of choice or infertility clinic.
To break this down a little bit more: “ownership” means: The vial of sperm is owned by the person who buys it (duh) and it is registered in their name at the sperm bank. Now of course there is a fee for the sperm to store the sperm, so the owner is responsible to pay that monthly storage fee (until it’s used, sold to another owner or until it is asked to be destroyed). If the owner chooses to sell it, they contact the sperm bank where it is being stored, both the seller and buyer fill out paperwork (which states the sperm ownership is being transferred) and then the sperm bank places it in the new owner’s name. Now I bet you are wondering how much all of this costs? Good question. First of all, it depends on the sperm bank. For us the transfer of ownership wasn’t cheap (even though it’s all done on computer). We paid $100 at that time. OK, now that you are up on how it all works here was where our story got interesting.
The lesbian couple returned Carol’s e-mail and told her they did indeed have extra vials of sperm they could sell. In fact they had a whopping TWENTY vials they could sell her! Alright folks, Carol’s mouth fell to the ground when she read how many they had bought at one time. To put it into dollars let me do the math for you. The cost of twenty vials times $200 (the cost per vial when they bought it) equaled $4,000. However, we know they had more than the twenty vials because some were used in the insemination procedure to get pregnant. But, since we can’t know that number, I’ll keep it at twenty vials for example sake. Another cost was what the sperm bank charged to store each vial of sperm per month. Now, at the time we had contacted the lesbian couple who purchased the twenty vials they had already been storing the sperm for five years. At roughly $10 a month per vial it cost $200 a month for storage. So the storage costs for a year was $6,000 and $30,000 for five years. Just adding up the cost of the sperm and it’s storage fees for five years the women put out a minimum of $34,000. And that didn’t include the cost of their procedures and tests. I have to tell you folks. That blew our minds. For us it was expensive to spend $2,000 to get pregnant with Judah. We couldn’t have imagined spending $34,000. At that cost one could have had IVF OR have adopted. Feel free to check me on my math. That is not my place of expertise.
Meanwhile, truth be told, Carol was thrilled to have found a couple who still had sperm from the donor we wanted. Who cared how many extra they had. The fact was they had extra. And so, before talking to the lesbian couple any further, Carol wanted to talk to me. She was excited to have found another route to get vials of our donor and couldn’t wait to tell me the news. AND when she did tell me I was beyond thrilled too. I couldn’t believe it. But, once my head came out of the clouds I started to think, “OK, how did she find the extra vials and what was going to be the cost?” There always was a cost.
I asked Carol where was extra sperm located? Really what I meant was how did she find it? But in classic Carol form, she answered me literally and told me it was at the sperm bank. Well, no shit Sherlock. All sperm is at the sperm bank. Meanwhile as thrilled as I was with knowing she had found our donor’s sperm I knew something didn’t smell right. I knew our donor was no longer active at the sperm bank so, how in the hell were there vials available? OK, what was going on here? Carol knew me well and knew I’d ask many questions. I think she had hoped just maybe I wouldn’t have. Folks, Carol doesn’t wing it, so I’m not sure how she thought she was going to pull that off. The bottom line was she didn’t want to tell me how she found the extra vials. The reason? She didn’t want me to go on the “Sibling donor” registry or contact any of the woman who used the same donor as us.
With my pushing she in the end had no choice but to tell me about it. But when she finally did I had to promise I would not contact the woman or go on “The Sibling Registry” site. I was really mad. I didn’t think it was fair. I had a right to know about “The Sibling Registry” site and to see it for myself. After all Judah was my kid too. It wasn’t just her decision. Even though it really upset me I promised (for marital peace) that I wouldn’t contact the women or go onto the site. Just know though, that didn’t keep me from arguing with her about it. To this day even though I continue to disagree with her about it I have yet to go to on the site. Hell, I only know how it works from what Carol told me. As far as being in contact with a few of the other families? I am. That came about through them contacting me on Facebook. I have enjoyed getting to know them on a different level than just sharing the same donor. But on another level I have enjoyed seeing updated pictures of their kids and hearing about them. One can’t help but to compare knowing they all had the same donor. I’ve even caught Carol doing that as well. Meanwhile, it has been fun to see how the parent/parents have also influenced the child which has made the “donor siblings” different.
I was a little upset with Carol when she told me she had not asked the lesbian couple about how much they wanted per vial for the sperm. My worry was they’d want way too much and we’d have to start all over again looking. Our excitement would have been for nothing. And so Carol wrote the lesbian couple to ask them their price per vial. A few days later when they responded, I must admit I was flabbergasted by how much they wanted. Listen after having dealt with our infertility clinic who seemed to have nickeled and dimmed us and after dealing with the sperm banks who did the same thing when these women wanted to charge us so much I was angry. Gosh, I understood that the sperm banks and the infertility clinics were a business and even more so I understood how the lesbian couple would want to also get some of their money back. I got it. BUT, I suppose that because this was such a sensitive area where emotions could run high (especially when a woman wasn’t able to get pregnant) it just all seemed so callus.
The lesbian couple asked for $400 per vial. They felt because the donor at that point had earned his doctorate, they could then charge the “executive” rate which was double what they had originally paid. My heart sank because I knew as much as we wanted that same donor, there was no way in hell we could afford that amount per vial. I asked Carol if she could please explain to them that we just couldn’t afford it and if we could possibly please pay them $200 per vial. Listen, we had decided that we were only going to try two more times and then call it quits. So, we only wanted two vials. And I suppose in my mind since they weren’t needing the vials anymore at least offering what they had paid originally was fair.
Carol disagreed with me. She felt they had a right to ask what they wanted and if we didn’t want it that was our problem. But, having no other alternative and knowing we really wanted that same donor I felt desperate to try to negotiate with them. Plus, since I wasn’t allowed to contact the women myself, I had to beg Carol to do it. And so, she did. They replied fairly quickly but not with the answer we wanted. They felt their price was fair (because the donor had gotten his Master’s degree) and that was the amount they wanted. Of course I was upset. It was something I wanted very badly and I hated that we couldn’t afford it. However, what really upset me was something else they said. They also wrote that they’d give us time to think about it but by a certain date they were going to have all of the vials of sperm destroyed (since they didn’t need it anymore). WHAT? Are you kidding me? They’d rather destroy all of it than to at least sell us two vials for $200 each? Two vials! That was all we wanted. Listen, if we could have paid the price they wanted, we would have. We honestly couldn’t have afford it. Meanwhile, just tell us thanks but no thanks. Their response to me felt very mean and uncaring. I just didn’t feel they needed to add the part where they were going to destroy it. Anyway as much as I wanted that sperm there was NO way we could have paid what they wanted. Carol wrote them back and thanked them but let them know we just couldn’t do it.
During this time Carol received an e-mail from a woman who had also used the same donor. She had one child- a boy. When Carol would read her e-mails to me she seemed so kind. I encouraged Carol to ask her if she knew of anyone else who may have some extra vials of the same donor. Carol was hesitant but did ask her. To our surprise this women too had extra vials. Wow! We had another chance to possibly get the same donor! And so we asked her how much. She had three extra vials and she offered to sell them to us for $200 per vial? I couldn’t believe it! It was amazing! Carol told her we only needed two and so our chance to have the same donor became a reality. We couldn’t believe it. It felt as if we had won the lottery. Well, not that we had ever won the lottery but if we had, this was how it would feel.
Carol and I hated throwing money out the window which was how it felt when we were trying to get pregnant (again) and it wasn’t working. We already had a child and we felt it wouldn’t have been fair to take away from him. Carol and I did the calculations and figured out we could afford to give it two more gallant tries. The IUI procedure would cost $500 a piece so it would cost us $1,000 for two procedures. Then, there was the cost of the sperm which would have added $400. Because my insurance paid for all tests, we were fortunate to not have to pay for that part. So, our cost would be around $1400 and some possible change. We felt we could spare that without taking away from Judah and so we went for it.
Our next and most important step was to find a new infertility clinic. We knew it would probably mean we’d have to travel to another city but at that point we were more than willing. And so another one of our journey’s began in a new direction.