She then asked if I would be the genetic contributor to her future child.
I was flattered, but this wasn’t the first conversation we had had on the subject. Starting perhaps five years ago, as Francesca entered her mid-30s, we had spoken several times about how much she wanted children despite that she was single. She thought I’d be a suitable donor. Though these had been idle conversations over drinks, she was ready to move forward and wanted my answer within the week.
When confronted with the decision years ago, I had answered without really thinking about the ramifications. Call it pride or hubris, I was confident in my genes and wanted to pass them on.
But it was different now. I know I want children and am looking for someone with which to do so. No longer quite as carefree, I had to consider what my future partner or children would think of this. And how was I going to feel knowing there was a child out there with my DNA, that might look like me, but that wasn’t mine, even though I wanted children?
I spoke with my friends and family trying to hash out the right thing to do. One of my closest friends gave me the best advice, telling me to listen to my gut, that a decision like this couldn’t be decided by reasoning alone. My mother was excited by the proposition, but said that any future partner of mine that had a problem with this arrangement was likely not someone whom I should be with anyway. As for the reaction of my imaginary future offspring, this is the 21st century and unconventional families are becoming the new normal.
My gut said yes, so I sent Francesca an email saying I would donate my sperm so that she could have a child.
Our largest obstacle was that I lived in New York and she in San Francisco. The whole process could be done in two days, she said, and she would fly me out depending on my schedule. Spring break was coming up, which would be the best time for me before summer. She sent me information on legal counsel and I set up an appointment with the clinic during the latter half of my break.
I arrived in San Francisco on a Wednesday evening. Francesca and I went to dinner and discussed everything we hadn’t already over the phone. We talked about what the next day was going to look like with the various counseling sessions and tests, and we went over the consent forms and other paper work. We said goodnight and the next morning I went to the clinic.
The first appointment was for private counseling. A middle aged woman asked me a variety of questions, the first being why I wanted to be a sperm donor. I said it was for Francesca and that I knew how important this was for her. I told her what I thought would happen as the child was conceived and grew up and how I’d feel in various situations. I couldn’t know my emotional reactions, but my essential approach was that it was Francesca’s child. All decisions were hers and I was only providing the DNA. This went on for 45 minutes, after which Francesca joined us and we had half an hour of group counseling.
The counselor said she didn’t see any issues with me as a donor based on our conversations. Francesca explained why she wanted me to be the donor and why we shouldn’t be together in a traditional relationship. We explained that we were in very different places in our lives with different outlooks towards our futures; she was ready to put down roots, and I have always been a bit of a vagabond, moving from place to place and changing careers.
We talked about custody in case Francesca was in an accident and whether I would see the child. I said that since we were old friends, I would have a role in the child’s life, but the capacity of that role would be up to Francesca. In all decisions, my participation would end at the donation, and everything after that would be up to her, and eventually, the child. This is the agreement we made.
With the go ahead from the counselor, next were the tests. I had visions of physicals and shots, but it was much simpler. I waited in a doctor’s office, gave blood, then waited some more, and was escorted to a private room where I would produce my donation. I was given a sealed and sterile cup with my name on it and was told to write the exact time my sample was produced. There was a little cupboard in the wall where I would put the filled cup and a light to turn on when the sample was ready. There was a computer and drawers full of magazines for stimuli. The nurse wished me luck and I locked the door after her.
I looked through the magazines, a smattering of Playboy, Penthouse and Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. The computer had one icon: a link to a free porn video site. It all felt so clinical and sterile. I went for the videos and after a few minutes ejaculated in the cup. I washed my hands, noted the time, put the cup in the cupboard, turned on the light and walked out.
I remember thinking how strange it was leaving the clinic. I had been there for four hours and had several friendly encounters with the staff, but as I left that little room, no one made eye contact with me. I went back the next day to deliver my second donation. I checked in with reception, waited in the lobby, was escorted to the same small room, produced another sample and left. I texted Francesca to let her know I was finished.
She brought me to the airport the next morning and I flew back to New York where I patiently wait to find out if it worked.