K actually requested this post, so I wanted to oblige! We get this question a lot from well-meaning friends (many of whom are also going through the same process), so it does help to have it written down here for posterity. Or something. In any case, I present: How We Chose our Sperm Donor (for Anderson and Baby Z #2, who have the same donor dad):
1. We first chose our bank. Our doctor gave us a list of accredited sperm banks with whom they work; there were approximately 10-15. We went to each site to compare ease of site use, price, storage options, donor availability, etc. There are both benefits and drawbacks to using a local bank: the sperm can be delivered the same day, but there are often limits to how many times a donor may be used in a particular geography. We ended up choosing a non-local bank for two main reasons: one, the website was very easy to use and had a lot of information available on the donors. Two, they didn’t tier prices. Some banks had premium fees for their “Nordic line” (true phrase) or donors with MDs and PhDs – sometimes double the less desirable donors. We were not interested in that kind of racism/classism so we chose a bank that had a flat fee no matter which donor you chose. These guys spend a LOT of time getting to and through the donation process. It sucks that some are treated like second-class sperm citizens :).
2. It was important to us to have a baby who looked like us. It’s not important to everyone, but with two moms we figured baby would face some natural stigmas (even in our liberal city) so we wanted to pave the way for him to the best of our ability. Additionally, we wanted it to be visually obvious – to the extent possible – that he belonged to both of us, for those times when we were traveling to less friendly locales, or just walking down the street. So, as I would be carrying, we looked for a donor who looked like K’s brother in height, build, and coloring. For us, that meant around 6’1″, blond, blue eyed, slender. It wasn’t terribly hard to narrow it down based on those criteria – we got around 6-8 hits in that general look. It’s much harder for multiracial families, who might only have one option per bank :(.
3. We browsed the donors’ medical histories, which are free. We eliminated those who had conditions that ran in my family (alcoholism, for instance, is in my family – we didn’t want it to also be in our donor’s family). We looked a little at ethnicity; K is German and English (though as a spoiler, our donor was Polish and Irish, so close enough?). Upon our doctor’s advice, we eliminated those who had not yet had a successful pregnancy.
4. We started getting superficial. I eliminated everyone with terribly poor grammar/spelling (it just drives me crazy, and we had to narrow it down somehow). We paid surprisingly little attention to education other than that, primarily because so much of one’s education is based on one’s own family upbringing and where they grew up. K and I both have advanced degrees, so we are fairly confident that our child will feel supported in learning and will have the opportunity to get a college education if he/she chooses. It’s one of those nature/nurture things – and honestly, while we want our child to enjoy learning and school, college isn’t the most important thing in the world.
5. When we had it down to two, we ordered the full profiles which included baby pictures, essays, and a more complete history. We loved both donors. One reminded me of my dad (he even had the same niche career as my grandfather), and the other was very athletic (a plus in our sports obsessed, competitive family!) and kept emphasizing his strong relationship with his family. A positive and loving relationship with parents and siblings was important, especially to K, as that’s something that is harder to “teach” – more nature than nurture. Ultimately, we would have gone with either, but one was Anonymous and one was Open, meaning our child could contact him when he/she turned 18. After some debate and chatting with friends, we went with the Open donor. It just felt right to know that at least we hadn’t taken the choice away from our child. Plus, while some banks charge a lot more for Open donors (meaning we would have had to tell our child that we couldn’t afford it), ours was the same fee. It seems almost cruel, then, not to.
So there you have it. Our five basic steps in the sperm donor choosing process. If you went through this process, how did you choose? How do you think we did? 🙂 Note: we think Ander was pretty cute!