I admit, there is a spreadsheet. Buried in the depths of my laptop’s hard drive amidst family photographs, the Excel file contains images of the nine dark-haired, dark-eyed strangers selected as contenders from the donor catalogue on the sperm bank’s website. Accompanying the columns of photographs are rows of biographical information: date of birth, height, weight, ethnicity, religion, blood type, and reasons for becoming a donor.
Each potential donor has a nickname:
– Grad Guy
– Jazz Hands
– New Jew
– Perfect Except
Each nickname is followed by two columns of rankings — first PartnerA’s, then mine. We agree on number nine, number eight, and number one. All that really matters, I suppose, is that we agree on number one. PartnerA and I have chosen a donor. Yikes.
But before we get to the chosen donor, let’s back up for a second. How does one go about purchasing semen? Cue Xytex.
Xytex is the largest supplier of North American donor sperm. Xytex is the semen warehouse, so to speak, responsible for stocking hundreds of regional and international banks with its “product”. There are a handful of other suppliers, but those require hefty fees to view the details of their “goods” and none offer the comprehensive, photo-inclusive profiles offered by Xytex. So we began our potential donor search with Xytex.
Xytex’s donor catalogue includes hundreds of potential donors from which to choose. “Hundreds” sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Until you consider the fact that every sperm-lacking individual in the entire free world is using the same hundreds of genetic options from which to procreate. Then “hundreds” is a tad disconcerting, isn’t it? Throw in the fact that of those, a handful are ethnically Jewish (but not religiously), a handful are religiously Jewish (but not ethnically), and a handful are both ethnically and religiously Jewish, bringing the sum total of Jewish donors available through Xytex to a whopping… handful. But what can you do?
Initially, I hadn’t been interested in being involved in the donor selection process. I’m frightened about the genetic imbalance — namely, PartnerA’s complete genetic relation and my utter lack thereof to The Impending Fetus (TIF). That fact notwithstanding, because how I feel about anything has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of this imposed endeavour, I allowed myself to become interested in the donor catalogue for its sheer entertainment value. After all, it’s not every day that one has the opportunity to shop for sperm.
The donors’ profiles read like a combination between a university entrance application, a medical file, and a modeling portfolio. I know that a great many people agonize over this decision, reading each candidate’s lengthy biographies word-for-word and comparing photographs for hours. Perhaps it’s my “what’s meant to be will be” life philosophy, but I truly don’t care that much. The people with whom one crosses paths in the world have meaning. Our presence in this time and place isn’t random. Everything (and everyone) happens for a reason. You have the kid(s) that you’re meant to have. That being said, it’s important to me that TIF’s donor have dark hair — an attempt at feigning genetic resemblance — but his shoe size, his favourite book, and his SAT score? Meh.
The only additional factor that I considered as I was reviewing donors’ profiles were the donors’ general temperaments, as much as one can glean from internet profiles. The reason for my interest in general temperament is because should the donor be an “Identity Release” donor, and should TIF one day wish to seek information about the donor, and should the donor and TIF someday have contact with one another, I would prefer that the donor not be some southern Catholic whose motivation for jerking off into a cup twenty years prior was to share the God-given gift of life with infertile heterosexual couples. I’d prefer that the donor not be a gay-hating bigot. Of course, none of the donors’ profiles are adorned with rainbows, but some of the donors are gay themselves (and it’s obvious from the “gay-face” photos) and some, like our number one, seem to have a “live-and-let-live” life philosophy. Which brings us back to our number one.
Eventually, we narrowed our options down to nine, and the only potential donor that PartnerA and I agreed upon with complete certainty was number one. We both independently ranked him the best of the nine contenders. The others would be varying levels of fine, but I feel as though I’d be settling with two through nine. With number one, though, I don’t feel like I’d be settling at all. Number one is perfect. So who’s number one, you ask?
We call him Mickey because his childhood photo bears a striking resemblance to one of my childhood photos taken at about the same age. In my photo, I’m wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Give Mickey’s photo the same Disney accessory, and you’d swear on your firstborn (so to speak) that Mickey and I were the same kid. The photographic resemblance between our childhood photos is pretty incredible. So we call him Mickey.
Shortly after PartnerA and I reached a consensus about the donor in late September, PartnerA called the primary regional supplier of Mickey and asked about his availability. The primary regional supplier confirmed that they had eight vials of Mickey in stock. PartnerA then called a secondary regional supplier of Mickey and asked about his availability. The secondary regional supplier confirmed that they had four vials of Mickey in stock. Twelve vials of Mickey between two regional suppliers? Sweet! And according to the Xytex website, Mickey is still active in Xytex’s donor program, so presumably more vials of Mickey would be available in future, sent from Xytex to the regional suppliers upon request. Perfect! PartnerA and I decided that what we would do was buy two vials of Mickey ($1600) and each month as we used one vial, purchase another ($800). So we would always have one to vial of Mickey to use, and one vial of Mickey in storage at the fertility clinic.
You know what they say about the best laid plans.
PartnerA’s period began on October 5th. (TMI?) At the fertility clinic, cycle day two is the day that you place your order for that months’ sperm. So in preparation for placing the order, PartnerA called the primary regional supplier to again confirm that they still had eight vials of Mickey in stock. The supplier told PartnerA that in the week since her last call, Mickey’s eight vials had all been sold. Moreover, Xytex no longer had any available vials of Mickey in The Great Sperm Warehouse. And worst of all, Mickey was suddenly no longer involved in Xytex’s donor program, so additional vials would not be available in future. Ugh.
PartnerA then called the secondary regional supplier of Mickey and, learning that they had three vials of Mickey still in stock, ordered all three ($2400).
Naturally, I was visiting my family out of town during this ordeal and learned about it all via Facebook chat. That’s also how I learned that a representative of the primary regional supplier of Mickey contacted PartnerA again a few days later to say that she had called in a favour with a friend at Xytex.
PartnerA was in her office in one city, I was in my family’s living room in another city, and we were making major life decisions over the internet. This conversation totally happened on Facebook chat:
PartnerA: Okay, Primary Regional Supplier called me back.
PartnerA: Primary Regional Supplier has a friend at Xytex.
Sea: *edge of my seat*
PartnerA: Xytex friend helps her out sometimes.
Sea: Seriously?! omg! Drama! Sperm drama.
PartnerA: There are still a few units of Mickey floating around.
PartnerA: There might units of Mickey that are on reserve for other ferility clinics but that are no longer rquired by those clinics. If so, Xytex friend can procure those units and forward them to Primary Regional Supplier for us!
PartnerA: She’ll tell me Tuesday. If Primary Regional Supplier gets anymore (come on, Xytex friend) then we’ll buy them out.
PartnerA: I’ve told Primary Regional Supplier that. I told her that as many as she can get, I will buy.
Sea: Well, how much should we buy? Like, how much do we need?
PartnerA: There’s no way to know.
Sea: I guess you just don’t know. Don’t go too crazy. $$$ I don’t know. I don’t know.
PartnerA: I know.
Sea: You might need 10. You might need 1.
This is the pivotal decision, right? Knowing that this is our one shot at Mickey, and knowing that each vial costs $800, how many vials do we buy? How many will we need for TIF #1? And what if in future we want to create TIF #2, TIF #3…? Will there be enough Mickey left over for subsequent TIFs in storage? Or will we have used all of the vials for TIF #1? How comfortable are we with using different donors for different potential fetuses? What if TIF #2 is procured via a different method and we end up with unused vials? Unanswerable questions.
On October 9th, the primarily regional supplier of Mickey called PartnerA back to say that they could procure up to six more vials of Mickey through Xytex — but this was it, really this time. How many vials did we want? Agh. None? Six? There’s no way to know how many we want, because what we want is enough, and there’s no way to know what number is enough!
These six vials were in addition to the three vials that we had already purchased from the secondary regional supplier of Mickey. If we bought all six, we would have nine total — enough for nine months’ worth of tries but at a cost of $7200 for sperm. Ouch.
We settled on three more vials, which PartnerA ordered, neither of us really sure that three more was the “right” number. That said, we decided that three more seemed like a good, solid, lucky number, and three more brings our total owned vials of Mickey to six, which is six tries at a cost of $4800 for sperm. That’s $4800 of ouch rather than $7200 of ouch for sperm. $4800 is a ton of money for sperm, and $7200 is even more than a ton of money for sperm, considering that guys throw it away every single day! You’d think the stuff was gold, for what it costs! I feel like we’re starting out at a disadvantage. Barring infertility (which is not the case in our situation), straight people can try an infinite number of times for free, and save their money for parental leave, for daycare, for infant necessities and fun baby accessories, for their child’s education fund. If we try just nine times, we’re already down $7200 plus the actual cost of IUI and we could potentially have nothing to show for it. Not to mention how we’re going to pay for life during PartnerA’s mat leave, for daycare, for infant necessities and fun baby accessories, for TIF’s education fund… The money aspect is freaking me out intensely right now.
So now we have three vials of Mickey at the fertility clinic. We’ll get another three vials of Mickey in two to three weeks.
PartnerA’s now completed the super-painful dye-injected fallopian tubes test (HSG) and approximately half a dozen more internal ultrasounds. I hear that her ovaries are photogenic. Her most recent blood work revealed a B12 deficiency and subclinical hypothyroidism. She’s now on pills for both.
From here, beginning on Tuesday, October 16th, PartnerA goes in to the fertility clinic every single day for internal ultrasounds and blood work. At some point between Tuesday, October 16th and Friday, October 19th, DrText is going to say to PartnerA: “TOMORROW!” Tomorrow means the first IUI attempt. Yeah, you read that right, the first IUI attempt will be this week. By this time next weekend, PartnerA could be pregnant, and in three or so weeks, if I remember Juno correctly, PartnerA could find out that she’s pregnant by chugging multiple bottles of Sunny Delight in a gas station washroom. That is how it works, right?