finding a sperm donor



On one of our romantic first dates, my girlfriend and I took a trip to Bunnings (yes, she bought me a sausage, with onions – that’s just the kind of girl she is), followed by a leisurely spot of mattress shopping. Flopping ourselves down on one bed after another, we embarked on one of those rituals that has cemented relationsh­ips since time immemorial: the joint purchase of Important Adult Things. Fast forward through four years of laughter, grief, major surgery, culinary disasters, new jobs, tear-streaked jubilation on ‘YES’ vote day, and countless failed attempts to film our cat Sharon doing funny things… and here we are, surrounded by notes in that winning bed, peering at 40 profiles on a computer screen.

We’re buying a sperm donor. Well, not the whole fellow, although god knows we could do with some help around the house. No. Just his jizz, which we will purchase through our local IVF clinic by the vial. (When the IVF nurse explained this to us, I gleefully imagined that ‘a vile of sperm’ was a collective noun coined by a sassy lesbian doctor with an excellent sense of humour.) These donor profiles contain very helpful intergener­ational health informatio­n. Imagine being on Tinder, looking for a partner to ultimately make babies with, but instead of reading about their hobbies and life goals, you get to know the quality of their sperm and whether there’s a history of bowel cancer in the family. Also, in this scenario, there’s zero risk of rejection. Everyone has already said yes to you. You can dance around in nothing but your baggy old undies and they’ll still be there, solid and committed. (They’re not even getting paid for their dedication, because it’s illegal in Australia to make money by donating bodily bits.)

All of this altruistic goodness does, of course, make the selection process daunting. We’re open to any ethnicity, job, education level and skin colour, so nobody will be ruled out on those fronts. And seeing as the scientists already screened out anyone with remotely dicey health issues, nobody can be culled for that reason, either. The traits that remain for us to judge seem kind of superficia­l, and trying to weigh up and compare one human with another holds a mirror to our own vanities, insecuriti­es and petty gripes.

Does it matter, for instance, that Baby Daddy is short, or stocky, or doesn’t use an apostrophe well in his written responses? Does it matter that he likes playing video games and doesn’t mention exercise in his hobbies? Do we whittle down the contenders by listing all the talents I don’t possess, and prioritisi­ng someone who does? In that case, our search would close in on tall men who are good at maths and have a decent sense of direction. But this approach makes us feel icky, so we let it go.

There are really only a few criteria we care about: firstly, that the donor ticked ‘yes’ to being contacted one day. We want to leave that door open. From there, we pore over the section where they write a letter to their offspring. There’s something so revealing about the vulnerable act of projecting into the ether your hopes, values and wishes for a little person you may never meet, but who – biological­ly, at least – is part of you.

Ultimately, we trust our guts and follow our instincts. The truth is, we might end up with no baby at all. That could be another story to live. Or we might end up with a short, maths-challenged little person with no sense of direction whatsoever. And that would be pretty damn fine by us.

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