The XX Factor

Diary of a Single Mother: Choosing My Baby’s Father

“Kat,” a single physical trainer from New York, has long wanted to be a mother. Now in her early 40s she is currently undergoing Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). She has agreed to share her experience with us, although she would like to keep her identity private. In her first installment she descrbed her decision to try and get pregnant this way. Today she tells us how she picked the sperm donor.

How many times have I picked guys on a dating website who sounded great on paper, and even pretty good on the phone? But when I met them I realized I wouldn’t even consider a second date with them, let alone a relationship. They’d have some nervous tick or a depressing personality or something. Well, when you’re picking your donor, the other genetic half of your future child, you’re going on even less information. And you quickly realize that for the donor sites, this is big business. ( Click here to see a donor catalog.) You have to pay for most of the information about these guys. If you ask the people at the banks how they verify their info, they say, “Well we work with them closely.” Not exactly reassuring.

This was really hard for me to get over until, just like the other parts of the process, I had to give up control and hope that my intuition about these paper profiles would lead me to the right place. The doctors give you a list of FDA approved banks. If you are going to a popular bank, your child could have many (and I mean many) siblings floating around. It brings up so many questions: like what if later on your child has a relationship with someone who is their sibling without knowing it? ( Click here to see the donor sibling registry.) Will they even want to meet their siblings? Who are these guys who are willing to do this? Do they have a crazy gene? Are they narcissistic? Or just really need money? It doesn’t seem like the cream of the crop that you are picking from.

I decided that I needed a photo to help me decide on a donor. I know you can’t tell much from a photo, but some how I felt that I could ‘feel’ into the consciousness of this person if I had a photo…even if it was a toddler photo.

You can choose from hundreds and hundreds of donors of every religion, ethnic and genetic background. Someone told me that her friend had talked to a priest and he said, “It’s better for the gene pool if you pick someone not in the same religion.” But I finally decided that I would feel better about sticking with my religion.

Then I narrowed it down further. I thought, “Well … I can sort of make a designer baby…look for the traits I know I want…even better maybe than the person I would marry.” I wanted tall and a shot at blue or green eyes, smart, good health history, good looking. Not too artsy, maybe more mathematical. After that, I was left with maybe only 15-20 choices.

Now starts the endless reading of profiles…profiles that do not seem the donor took a lot of time or care to fill out. You could tell they were giving a lot of pat answers.

Why do you want to be a donor? “I want to help people.”

Only a few were honest enough to say, “I need the money.” By that point in the process, you start analyzing everything about the handwriting, every choice of word, every grammatical mistake. Everything!

Days later I am finally down to three. So now I start buying more info on them. I have the cute baby pictures, I’ve bought bits and pieces of the profiles. Now its time for the expensive stuff-the personality profile, the health history, voice recordings, whatever else you can get on them.

One tall, supposedly handsome, smart donor has a lot of Hashimoto’s disease in his family and he had tried some funky drugs (ketamines) that made me nervous. His voice was not great. Now I’m down to two. I sent them to my family. The feedback was in-they liked the tall Russian guy. But then I checked with the bank again - he wasn’t very good looking as an adult. Then we hear the voice. Oh my goodness-no personality whatsoever. I gave myself two days to mull it over and then I decided. The donor I picked-everyone liked his voice. He sounded like he had personality. He was studying materials science, he had smoked some pot which didn’t sit well with me, but better than ketamines, his baby picture was adorable, he was a little heavy for his height and only 5-foot-9 but athletic. I should mention there were others I liked, but they were sold out or didn’t have the right kind of vials for IUI … only for IVF. ( Click here to see the difference.)

This guy had 5 vials left with the possibility more would become available in June. Get out your credit card and do it. So I did. All 5 vials.

I can say, once I made the decision, that was it. I never looked back.

Photograph by Duncan Smith/Getty Images.