Good news! Our payment has been found and the sperm will be shipped next week. We had another OMG-you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me moment when someone at Guy’s rang to say they had been informed the sperm bank wanted to ship some sperm over for us and yet we didn’t appear to be on their system!! But it is all fine now – deep sigh of relief – and we’ll soon have six phials of little swimmers in the deep freeze at Guy’s. It feels really crazy, but really good at the same time.
And so, I wanted to talk about the donor and why we made the choice we did. I imagine that if you meet someone and fall in love, and they happen to be of the opposite sex with fully functioning reproductive organs, and you decide to make a commitment and that you want to have babies with them, then I doubt you’d ask them to list their genetic heritage and specify any illnesses anyone in their family might have. Why would you? If this is the person you love, then does any of that really matter?
That’s one of the strangest things about the process of finding a donor. You have access to medical information on not only the donor, but his siblings, parents, grandparents… And then you stop and question whether, if you found a donor who was intelligent and had a great baby photo, you would decide against them due to some illness which may or may not be genetically transferable. We were lucky with the donor we chose in that there is very little illness or disease within his family, but when you’re given that information it is hard to ignore.
We decided some time ago that I would have the first baby. I’m older – if only by 3 months – and definitely more broody; L says she might have the second baby, she just wants to “see how horrific it is” for me first! However, that fact had a fairly strong influence over the ‘aesthetics’, if you will, of the donor. We decided that ideally we would like a blond-haired, blue-eyed donor so that the baby would possibly potentially share L’s features, despite the fact that my brown hair and eyes may be genetically dominant. (Is this true? I’m not sure. L says so, but I think blue eyes are dominant.) The donor we eventually picked has brown hair and blue eyes, but is blond in his baby photo.
I’m quite a strong believer in nurture over nature, and didn’t feel that the donor’s personality mattered hugely. I was keen that the donor be quite well educated as I believe this does reflect some level of intelligence (which has been proven to be at least partly genetic), although I also intend for us to raise our child in an environment that will nurture and encourage learning. In the end, the donor we chose ended up not only being intelligent (to be honest I had a hard time understanding some of what he wrote in his personal statement), but also extremely artistic, musical and sporty – all traits which are quite significant to us, particularly the latter two.
The strange thing is, you end up feeling a little bit like you’re requesting some kind of ‘designer baby’. It’s an odd situation to be in. If you have a baby with someone you’ve chosen to spend your life with (and I know that this is not always the case, nor even that couples who do embark on having a baby together feeling that they want to spend their lives together always do – my parents are a case in point), then the characteristics of each of you will be impressed on the child, either genetically or environmentally. Equally, each child is not a carbon copy of its parents but an individual in its own right and may even seem completely at odds with the parents’ personality traits, ambitions and ideals, and of course that is totally okay and normal. So when you’re buying sperm and have all this information and all these options, where should you draw the line?
I feel like we’ve been incredibly lucky. We saw the donor’s picture and loved it; we read the staff’s impression of him and were impressed; we looked at his personal statement and were ever so slightly in awe; and we checked out his medical history and breathed a sigh of relief. There really were no tricky decisions when it came to our donor.
And I know we will love our child whether he or she is an academic, a sportsperson, a computer geek or anything else from the vast array of skills and interests a person can have. Even if this child were not to have the genetic makeup of either of us we would love it and bring it up as best we could because it would still be ours. I’m so excited to think that (all things going well) we are going to create a whole new life. What a truly incredible thing to do. I can’t wait to meet this little person we’re going to be responsible for!