Further cementing my cart-before-the-horse lapse, D and I donor shopped this week. I did this once before, half-heartedly, in 2000 after watching If These Walls Could Talk 2. I remember only two things about the movie. First, it was heart-crushingly painful to think about the death of a partner – it’s a scene I still flash back to when I look at D in the right light. Second, there was a store for sperm. I was living in Brazil at the time and it hadn’t ever occurred to me that you could browse a database looking at hair color, eye color and hobbies. Since then I’ve been on and off the baby train but I never returned to the donor shop to browse.
I know D has been looking for potential folks for a few weeks, considering friends and both our (sort-of) local bank and the granddaddy of all banks on the other coast. I’ve been reluctant to join her without a plan for moving ahead. Now that we have an appointment though, I feel more prepared to talk about the choices.
Most of our male friends have passed the point where they’d like to throw a child to the lesbian wolves and, while they love us, I suspect their minds (or their wives’ minds) boggle at the potential legalities of it all. It was awkward enough to talk about their physical attributes between us, judging whether one’s potential uni-brow beat another’s height deficit. D and I are not tall people and one of us already would be tossing in more brow than average. It’s a risk we’re not willing to take.
Sure, we’d love to have a man our child could look to when she gets a genetic disease or can’t place her quirky laugh, but at the same time, I’m not sure our potential donors are as open-minded as we are in the ‘it takes a village’ sense. While I can’t speak for my wife’s childhood, I can tell you I spent plenty of roaming the neighborhood, being tending by family friends and passed off to grandparents. My parents loved me to death, I’m sure, but they weren’t possessive about it all. Who has time for that? I’d like a known donor for that reason, but I recognize the complications of it.
Having opted for the sperm bank route, we picked a bank (amazing how that, in and of itself, was a conversation) and winnowed out a few likely prospects. Despite taking four years to purchase a bookshelf we both like (and we’re still waiting…), we picked a guy in under a week, which is pretty phenomenal in our household. I suppose for major decisions we do move quickly, it’s the little things that last an eon. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Choosing what we were looking for was an interesting exercise in trying to control genetics. Initially we were tied to one person who had an amazing sense of humor (though not our sense of humor) but no common interests and features that looked nothing like mine. Somehow, his personality made up for the fact that, paired with him, we’d have a baby that wouldn’t look in a million years like it could be related to me. And he fell right off the list.
Look, it’s not like I want to pretend I’m the birth mother, or that D and I, through the magic of genetics, produced a perfect little mix of our xx genes. But it’s more important to me than I thought that we shoot for a donor that looks like me. We’re already living in a state that looks for as many ways to marginalize us as possible, and if someone, one time, at one critical moment, assumes she’s my daughter because she looks like me, I’ll take the stereotype and be grateful for it. So we’re going for a blue eyed blonde. There’s more to it than that, of course, but we tried to line up as many elements as we could.
In the end, it wasn’t important to us to know who the father was. What was important was that we’d want to hang out with him, that his personality meshed with ours, that he had positive words of advice for our child and that we wouldn’t be ashamed to give her his information many years down the road and let her read his words and hear his voice. No, she might not ever meet him, but parents run the risk of making bad choices all the time. No reason why we can’t start now.