location: Transition > Becoming a Parent > Choosing a Sperm Donor
The following is how my wife Molly and I chose a sperm donor. Choosing a donor is a very personal process, and this is simply how we went about it. The following does not intend to outline how anyone should or should not go about it in their own lives.
We did the first 4 inseminations (using a total of 6 vials of Donor #1) at our local LGBTQA-friendly healthcare provider via natural intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Sperm Bank Choice:
Our local LGBTQA-friendly healthcare provider, where we were enrolled in their Alternative Insemination (AI) program, had a small room that contained hundreds of profiles from many different banks. We browsed through the profiles and first looked at basic qualities such as eye color, hair color, required medical factors (ie. compatible CMV status), and open-donor/identity-release status (we wanted an open donor/identity release donor).
We found that most of the profiles that we were interested in came from The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC). We liked that TSBC is 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 the best 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, grammer, 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.
Making the Final Choice:
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.
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!
Starting with the fifth insemination, we went to a local fertility clinic and used one vial per insemination. Because we had used the 6 vials of Donor #1 on the first four inseminations, we needed to buy more. However, The Sperm Bank of California was sold out of Donor #1 at the time we needed to purchase more so we had to decide on a second donor.
Sperm Bank Choice / Narrowing Down...Again:
Because we liked the basis of the The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC), we initially looked at their other donors available. However, at the time they did not have any other suitable identity-release donors available. Therefore, we began the process from the very beginning, looking at profiles from all of the various companies. We eventually found 3 donors at California Cryobank (CC) who were open-donors (similar to TSBC identity-release donors) with blue eyes and brown/light brown/blonde hair. Unlike TSBC, CC profiles do have a fairly extensive area for education background and GPA, and, while it wasn't a dominant consideration in our decision, it was a contributing factor. CC online profiles also indicate if the donor has had previous pregnancies or not, and this was also a factor in our choosing as we preferred to choose someone who was "proven" and did have previous pregnancies.
Making the Final Choice:
Choosing among the three donors was difficult. They all were fairly similar to me in the basics (eye color, hair color, height, weight). One of the three had a grandparent with Alzheimer's disease, and when looking for something to narrow down the decision, this was enough for us to stop considering this donor. California Cryobank has a Donor Look-a-Likes section, which lists a few celebrities with whom the donor shares physical characteristics. The two remaining donors had handsome enough celebrity look-a-likes, though I certainly wouldn't say I look like any celebrity! Interestingly, their profiles described them as quite different. One was a medical doctor while the other was mastering in an artistic field. One was Christian, one was Agnostic. One had the same blood type as me, the other did not. Both Molly and I being agnostic medical professionals, we considered this one being the better choice for us. However, the baby photos sealed the deal. We purchased baby photos of both donors and the artistic Chrisitian's photo looked so similar to my photos at the same age that there was no longer a question of which one to pick.