We went through the process of choosing a sperm donor and ordered 6 vials of IUI-ready sperm from The Sperm Bank of California.
Choosing a donor is a very personal process, and I had never talked to anyone who had gone through it before. Both Molly and I wanted to choose someone that was similar to me, at least in terms of basic characteristics such as eye color, hair color, height, and to some degree weight (I’m 5’8″ and about 140-145 lbs so it wouldn’t make much sense to choose someone who was 6’2″ and 220 lbs). We also felt very strongly about choosing an open donor or identity-release donor, which would give our child the option of obtaining the donor’s contact information when they are 18 years old.
We browsed the profiles available at our local LGBT-friendly healthcare provider (where we attended the AI educational sessions), and we found that most of the profiles that we were interested in came from The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC). We liked that TSBC was the only non-profit sperm bank in the United States, and it was the first sperm bank in the US to serve lesbian couples and single women. Most importantly, we liked TSBC’s profile content in that they are very thorough with medical history and have interesting donor narrative questions that you can read as written in the donor’s own handwriting. The profiles did not ask about grades or GPA, but they did have a spot for highest level of education achieved. One aspect we really liked about TSBC profiles were the interview notes, a page written by the TSBC staff interviewer on their impressions of the donor.
We first narrowed the pool down by only looking at identity-release donors; this means that when the child is 18, they have the option of requesting the donor’s current contact information. We felt this was an important feature to us, because we do not want to make the choice for our child of whether or not they can learn the identity of the donor. Choosing an identity-release donor doesn’t guarantee that our child will learn the donor’s identity at some point, it just leaves the door open for that option should they want to in the future.
We had a couple definite physical qualities that we weren’t willing to compromise on based on wanting to choose a donor that was at least somewhat similar to me. These qualities were eye color (blue) and hair color (brown, light brown, or blonde). Other qualities we looked at were height, weight, complexion, ethnic origin, hereditary medical problems, and family mental health history. We liked reading the donor narratives (open-ended questions), but it was difficult to make narrowing-down decisions based on these because there really are no wrong answers. We were able to make a few narrowing-down decisions based on them, most based on spelling, grammar, and just general senseless answers – it sounds rude to be judging someone’s answers to the questions, but when you have to choose one, you have to draw the lines somewhere. For any quality where no donor matched my quality, we tried to choose ones that were similar to Molly.
We were able to narrow down the pool to two potential donors. Both were identity-release donors with blue eyes and dark blonde/light brown hair. They both were of similar ethnic origin as Molly and me, both were involved in interesting careers and/or hobbies and at least sounded like they were driven in life, and neither had very serious family medical histories. One of the donors had a baby photo available so we purchased that; as cute as it was, we weren’t convinced that it looked similar to my baby photos. Unfortunately, the other donor didn’t have a baby photo available. We ended up calling TSBC, emailing them a current photo of me, and asking them to tell us which one of the two looked more similar to me. They told us which one (turned out to be the one without a baby photo available), and the decision was made. We ordered six vials of this donor.
Other things that were charming about our final choice were his responses to the open-ended questions. We especially liked his answer to why he chose to be an identity-release donor, mentioning that if the child desires, they should be able to learn about him in order to develop a full sense of self-identity. His interview notes describe him as a genuine southern boy with bright blue eyes – sounds like he was an accurate choice!