Aug 12, 2010
12:10 PM

The Search for Steamin’ Semen

The Search for Steamin’ Semen

Unlike straight couples, we have the ability to make logical choices in our kids’ conception. Their genetic makeup is in your hands—well, his hands—when you choose a sperm donor as a lesbian couple. Whether you go fresh or frozen, consider the following as you take this important step on the path to parenthood. I’ve been there.

More unsolicited advice from the Gayby Boom.

Make a list of what is important to each of you in a sperm donor. For example: ethnic or physical likeness to the bio or non-bio mom, height-to-weight ratio, hair color, I.Q., athletic or musical ability, education level, age, shoe size, sperm count or availability.

Compare lists and prioritize them, creating criteria for choosing from available donors through a sperm bank or for approaching potential known donors. Alternate top choices; seek mediation if criteria vastly differ. This is an excellent test of your parenting communication skills.

Fresh versus frozen? Banked sperm is safer, legally and medically, offers fewer emotional and practical complications, but is less effective than fresh, which is statistically similar to “the old fashioned way.” Intrauterine insemination ups the odds with banked sperm, an up-front cost that could prevent a legal quagmire later. Books abound on this topic. Read them.

Sperm obtained, begin insemination during the potential bio-mom’s next ovulation, hoping for good luck on the first try. It has happened.

But is unlikely. Try again, pausing to reevaluate the priority list before attempting with donor “A” again.

No luck? Going nuts? Only you will know when to consider moving sperm count to the top of the priority list (even if that means a donor with flat feet, narrow shoulders and no mathematical ability), going for a more invasive and expensive procedure, or trying fresh, warm, risky, frisky sperm supplied by a sympathetic friend.

When choosing a donor, remember that genetics aren’t everything and that the child who arrives is nature’s crap shoot, no matter the planning involved. So don’t beat yourself up if that special donor becomes unavailable and you have to consider Plan B, C or D. 

Check with the sperm bank about anonymity—some sperm banks allow contact between donors and recipients, and offer offspring the chance to know the donor after eighteen. Make sure the policy matches your needs.

When choosing a known donor, look for someone with clear boundaries, positive feelings about you both as parents, and straightforward expectations as a donor now and in the future (which match yours). Medical screening a must, as well as legal documents removing his parental status; you pay the fees.   

Factor in both the bio-mom’s and the donor’s increasing age when deciding what reproductive technology to try, even if you’re sick of hearing the phrase “advanced maternal age.” Donor age does matter.

Choosing a sperm donor is pretty darned private, but others might not think so. Prepare a strategy to deal with intrusive questions as they arise, so you’re not left speechless in the grocery store when an acquaintance shouts, “Can I borrow your donor?” from the next aisle. Yes, it happens.


Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting,, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (

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