The Anonymous Us Project is a safety zone for real and honest insights regarding third party reproduction (sperm & egg donation, and surrogacy). We aim to share the experiences of voluntary and involuntary participants in these new reproductive technologies, while preserving the dignity and privacy for story-tellers and their loved ones. All stories are contributed anonymously because "anonymity in reproduction hides the truth, but anonymity in story-telling helps reveal the truth." Read More
Below are my thoughts and varied experiences of being a sperm donor over nearly 10 years in the UK. I have been a known donor, donor to a fertility clinic and even provided sperm privately. I hope these ramblings might help you decide what option, if any, is right for you.
My first experience of sperm donation was when I was a grad student doing a MA in Leeds for a year. I was staying with a couple, J and L, as a lodger and found out three months in that J had a very low sperm count and both him and L had stressful shift jobs which made it impossible to conceive naturally after years of trying. He and L had several failed attempts at IVF which had caused emotional and financial strain, one reason why they had a lodger was to help out financially with the mortgage. J shared that they were looking for a known donor to help create their family. They had said that they had looked into buying sperm through a clinic but decided that they would prefer to have some personal contact over the selection process of the donor but had few ,if any, people they could ask. Been asked if I would help was a shock but after seeing their distress and sensing the disrepair they obviously felt I slept on it and agreed the next day. They had spent thousands on treatments, consultations and J had explained the pressures that this had placed on their relationship and finances. Here was an unique opportunity to help this couple who I had begun to know and who had shared a huge amount with me, their home, life and dreams. I figured since most semen probably got wasted against a latex membrane, Kleenex tissue or down a plug hole there was a real and meaningful way to do something productive with mine.
They asked me to have some tests done and make donations through a clinic which was helpful in terms of maintaining boundaries with them and ensuring that legal responsibility for any child born would rest with them. My co-operation was rewarded by been able to stay rent-free. It was a bit weird at first, attending the centre having blood tests and medical history taken and having to produce samples and coming back to their house knowing that these would be released for their use but it was agreed that we would not talk about the process as this was easiest for them, I think. There were surprisingly few awkward moments. I may have been living under their roof but what was lovely was that J and L were very much in love and my role was very much a spectating facilitator. Several months in and before I had to leave L fell pregnant. Seeing the joy I was personally able to give to this couple was wonderful and rewarding beyond words. I still keep in contact with them (arm's length) and they asked me to help out again which resulted in a second pregnancy and bundle of joy. There are two beautiful boys with two exceptionally loving parents and one very proud donor.
After my first positive experience I moved cities but the rush I got from donating sperm really was addictive. My first experience was very personal but I knew this would be unlikely to be replicated so I did what any young man wanting to contribute to the human gene pool would do. I registered at a sperm bank.
The experience was a complete contrast. A battery of tests, lots of probing questions and a session with a counsellor! It was hard at times to see the humanity amongst the sterile surfaces, white coats and petri dishes. I remember feeling nervous and excited during my first visit, completing a questionnaire, being shown around the clinic and to the donation room to masturbate. Hearing how less than 5 % of potential donors cut the mustard made me worried. I needn't have been. A week after my visit I received a call to say that my sample exceeded the standards in terms of volume (4 ml), sperm count (70 million per ml), viscosity, mobility etc... The donor-coordinator was particularly enthusiastic in telling me that my post thaw count was in excess of 20 million per ml and given my education, ethnicity and eye colour she explained I would be a highly priced donor. I would be paid �15 per ejaculate, �10 up front and �5 paid in arrears as a lump sum 6 months after my last donation as if to place my involvement on footing with a financial transaction. All this talk about my fertility though made me feel precious and almost super human but that was short lived by the imperative of the clinic to get me on the donor conveyor belt as soon as possible. There is an acute shortage of donor sperm I learnt. The statistics and references to "parameters" and "quality of specimen" used by the clinic really just brought home that my purpose for the next 20 weeks would be to produce high quality semen samples to be frozen, thawed and used in fertility treatments, people were depending on me. I had a job to do and joined the elite club of around 500 sperm donors recruited each year.
The expectancy and pressure is not for the faint hearted. Having to book appointments and masturbate on demand was at times dehumanising but the staff always courteously reminded me be about the difference each yield would make. If I had any reason to doubt this I just needed to look at the copious numbers of pictures of new-borns sent in by successfully treated patients that adorned the staff notice board. The process certainly requires dedication; planning your life around weekly visits and trying to observe the required 72 hour abstinence period so as not to have to run the gauntlet of having to hand in a near empty cup to the nurse. After final tests my samples were ready for release and I left the programme. A few years later I enquired about the outcomes and found out 8 children were born from my donations, 5 boys and 3 girls. The clinic still have frozen samples and mentioned that as up to 10 children or 10 families can be created from each donor's sperm it was likely this number would grow as patients returned to the clinic. This was some butterfly effect! Because I donated before 2005 no identifying information will be made available. I have no problems with this. No one has any say over the circumstances of their conception but I hope that all those born from my donations have loving and honest parents and feel no sense of lack of identity or lack of self worth. My main reservation was feeling a bit like a commodity. Being compensated for each donation, effectively and religiously been told to maximise volume and sperm count through abstinence and lifestyle choices, being given a donor number and no doubt featuring in some catalogue to match supply with demand all commodified the process. I was also amazed at the discrepancy between the amount paid for my sperm (�15 per ejaculate) compared with the hundreds of pounds recipients paid for the privilege of probably having a portion of it!
The last experience I had of donating was helping a lesbian couple seeking a donor through the internet and this was by far the riskiest enterprise I took on. They did not want to go through a fertility clinic partly for financial reasons but mainly due to some ideological opposition to the "State" as they put it "sanctioning their family". They had been trying to get a donor for some time but had been previously let down. They cared little for the semen analysis information and family medical history I offered which was surprising. Their main concern was that I would agree not to have any contact or involvement with any child born from any donation which was uncontroversial in my mind, much to their relief. I understood their reasons and after weeks of e-mails going backwards and forwards we agreed that I would be on call to produce fresh semen samples in a hotel room booked by them near to me to coincide with ovulations. Shortly after ejaculation I phoned them to return to the room and left them in the room with the DIY insemination kit and cup. This was a far less invasive, complicated and a more enjoyable affair. Over the course of two years and multiple hotel visits I was able to help them conceive two babies, a boy and a girl. I later found out that legally if I were traced or traceable I would be financially responsible for them and that sperm donation can only lawfully be carried out through regulated and licensed clinics so I would not advise private donation for others. Also clinics will consider the wellbeing of any child born from your donations before approving any treatment and private 1 to 1 donations do not offer this safeguard for those who understandably want some reassurance over who they are donating to.
I do think of the children but I have a family of my own now and I am resolved not to talk about my donor years. This may seem selfish but compartmentalisation avoids been over sentimental over my important but very limited role in the lives of the 12 children (and more?) I had helped make. I hope I'm not arrogant or misguided in thinking I have spread a lot of joy and of course egotistically I am proud of my genetic legacy. Sperm donation is unique and amazing but needs to be thought through in terms of the processes which can be dehumanising and the consequences to you, your family and the individuals who may grow up not knowing anything about the man who helped them into being.
I'm a transman, meaning I was born a female but I identify as male, and though I've completed sex reassignment surgery and I'm now legally a man, science has not come far enough to give transmen actual sperm-producing testicles. So, my options for parenthood were 1) be a biological mother or 2) be a legal father with the aid of sperm donation or adoption. My wife and I have been together ten years and we married in 2009. We started looking into using a sperm donor so that we could have children together. We completely ignored the possibility of adoption because we live in Utah and the Mormon church has a lot of influence in adoptions here and we didn't think they would be helpful towards a couple where one of the potential parents was transgender.
On a side note...
Before you say "Well, you didn't have to tell them you were transgender," 1) a background search would quickly reveal that my name was Mary Elizabeth for over 30 years, and 2) If I were going to put my child up for adoption, I would want the people who want to raise them to be honest about who they are. They're giving you a child! The least you can give them in return is the truth.
Anyway, back to my story...
Internet searches and visits to fertility clinics never failed to bombard us with images of smiling children and stories of nothing but complete happiness from all involved. My wife and I felt that there was no downside to sperm donation. The child would be wanted and loved and that's all that mattered. That was all they needed to be happy and healthy people.
And then we came across this website, Anonymous Us, on a Facebook parenting page we'd joined. The comments, some of which came from women who'd become mothers by sperm or egg donation, were scathing and hateful towards the donor conceived person who penned the story in the link, calling them ungrateful, whiny, a brat, a bitch, and even going as far to say they should go kill themsleves. The sheer hatred people had for donor conceived people who were anything other than eternally grateful to everyone involved in their creation made my heart ache for the ones who were unhappy. I imagined that such people must feel so isolated with no one to talk to without being judged (Being transgender in a conservative area, I'm very familiar with that feeling).
I spoke with my wife about how the stories I read on this site made me feel and ultimately, we decided to not go through with sperm donation. My wife was disappointed, because she'd always wanted to experience pregnancy, but she was on the same page that I was. We're not sure of where to go from here in order to become parents but we know without a doubt that we made the right decision in not using a donor. The whole experience has brought my wife and I closer as we have made peace with the possibility that we may never be parents and have come to a place in our relationship where we're fine if our family never grows beyond the two of us.