Two girls, one chap. One potential baby.
April 21, 2008 7:48 PM   Subscribe

What is it like donating sperm to a lesbian couple who are friends of yours?

This isn't happening anytime soon, but I spoke with a very good friend today who mentioned that she and her partner were considering children in the next few years, and were looking for donors.

My first thought is that it would be a wonderful gift and that I'd be honoured to give it. I have no doubts about their capacities as parents, or their stability as a couple.

They live interstate, and have made it clear that they would want no financial support from me, nor for me to have any influence over parenting decisions, although they would be happy for me to be a part of this child's life.

I'm 23, my friend is 24 and her partner is 38; I live in South Australia and they live in Victoria, if it matters.

So at the moment I think I'd be happy to do it, but clearly it's a pretty big decision and I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has had personal or anecdotal experience of this kind of thing.
posted by twirlypen to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Previously and previously and previously.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:51 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

This and this advice seem particularly worth pointing out.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, it's a pretty bad idea, no matter how much you love them. You can't sign away your parental responsibilities, so you could suddenly find yourself on the hook for child support (and back child support) for the next 18 years...
posted by gerryblog at 7:54 PM on April 21, 2008

(Thanks TPS, I should have mentioned that I had tried searching for past questions, but that says more about my skills than anything else)
posted by twirlypen at 7:57 PM on April 21, 2008

You'd need to talk to a lawyer. e.g. The couple might never demand anything of you, but what about the child? What would his/her rights be with regards to what s/he might expect from a biological father?
posted by winston at 8:18 PM on April 21, 2008

In the states, you *can* sign away your parental responsibilities, but only if you go through a particular procedure (essentially, donating to a sperm bank/fertility doctor, which/who then inseminates your friends). My lawyer friend who does this kind of work explains that "the doctor has to touch the sperm."
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:19 PM on April 21, 2008

Unfortunately, it's a pretty bad idea, no matter how much you love them. You can't sign away your parental responsibilities,

In the USA. Seeing as the poster is in Australia..
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:27 PM on April 21, 2008

I actually knew a guy in Queensland who did, and unfortunately, there was a nasty car accident and one of the mums died. The other had just gone along with the whole parenting thing and decided that she wanted nothing to do with the twins, so this guy, a great guy, aged about 22, suddenly had two little boys to bring up. He hadn't finished his studies, he moved back home so his parents could help, he was uncomfortable explaining the change in his circumstances to his fellow students and to lecturers. He is a great guy, and I'm sure is and will continue to be a terrific dad but the boys certainly did change his life unexpectedly.

Recent 60 minutes (about three weeks ago) TV show discussed another option for donors, where the mothers access services (particularly from the US). Protection and information is built in for both the custodial and biological parents.
posted by b33j at 8:29 PM on April 21, 2008

dirtynumbangelboy: Well, is it true that you can you sign away your parental responsibilities in Australia?
posted by gerryblog at 8:33 PM on April 21, 2008

Please don't be dissuaded by folks who lack direct experience in this. Legal concerns are real, but so is the desire to help someone to start a family. Sure, get legal advice. Of course. I found the National Center for Lesbian Rights here in San Francisco to be very helpful in terms of explaining what the legal precedent is here. I have no idea what the legal situation is where you live. But assuming you will do your legal homework, I can talk to you about what it means to me that someone shared his sperm so I could have a child:

When I decided to get pregnant I was determined to have a known donor. I couldn't afford sperm banks and I wanted someone who my kid would get a chance to talk to should she have questions. I also wanted someone who just intuitively felt "right" to me, something I couldnt' suss out at a sperm bank. I asked a lot of close male friends who said, "no". Mostly their girlfriends said no, actually, but some feared they would be too invested in the child and wouldn't be able to maintain the distance that I was hoping for. Finally I found a guy, the partner of a friend of mine, who wanted the same kind of relationship I did: he's willing to talk to her and answer her questions when the time comes, he's 'around' in my community so they can see each other now and then, and that's it. Our legal agreement stipulates that he has no visitation rights and I have no right to ask for child support. (Here in the States, family court can overrule any agreement of this kind, but fortunately I live in one of the most gay friendly places in the world, so they would be unlikely to ignore our agreement outright) He is not on her birth certificate and is not her legal "father" and we went to the trouble of passing his sperm through a nurse practitioner in order to make his "donor" status official.

My daughter is 5 years old now. I've told her a few times who her donor is and she sees him a couple times a year when we run into him at a social event or have dinner with his family. She isn't particularly interested in getting to know him at this point and doesn't seem interested in the "how did I get here" concept either. That will come and I'll share more details as she asks. To be honest, I rarely think about him and I've heard the same thing from other lesbian families who know their donors even those with teen aged children.

Having said that, I know a number of lesbian moms who are very close with their donors. A friend of mine has a one year old and her donor babysits once a week. He is very much a loving uncle figure in the child's life. That situation works well for them and for the other families I know who operate that way. Back to my situation, even though he's not an "uncle", my donor and his family are always happy to see my daughter. His two children, both teens, light up when they see this kid who they know to be a biological half sister. They don't expect her to be anything more than that, but I think it tickles them to have a relative who isn't a relative and I get the sense that the whole family feels they've contributed to making my family happen. And they seem proud and happy for that.

For my part, I feel so deeply grateful for the generosity of this man and his family. On one hand, sperm is a very little thing. But for me, the fact that someone was willing to take a little bit of a chance and trust me meant that I was able to start a family. My kid is the most wonderful and most important part of my life. She's what I'm proudest of, most challenged (in a good way!) by. Being a parent is how I've learned and grown, and that is a miracle that I can never adequately say Thank You for.

Just to add a little reality to the discussion, here she is!
posted by serazin at 10:05 PM on April 21, 2008 [10 favorites]

A lot of folks in here are gonna be all like "blah, blah, blah Lawyer. Blah, blah blah Research" and so on... and that's totally fine and definitely represents one way to go about it.

That's totally fine, and God bless 'em for chiming in, because their concern and their advice is most certainly coming from the heart and from an interest in you and your friends making the best decision.

BUT. If you'll indulge me, please let me counter these dozen-or-so well-intentioned voices by speaking on behalf of (quite literally) billions of your hominid ancestors stretching back millions of years when I say:

Free. Goddamn. Baby.

You obviously have to do what is right for you... and I'm only speaking for myself when I point out that if I were given this opportunity to procreate without substantively taxing my own resources... well, I would feel like I was basically waving a huge middle-finger at every single hairy, bipedal tool-user that ever had the good sense to fight his whole life to pass on his genetics.

Think of all of the truly horrible, inexcusable, wretched things that our ancestors have done, just to have some semblance of this great gift that you've so recently been offered. And far from any concerns of wretched, you get to pass on your genetics in a way that brings delight and a lifetime of joy and love to two of your close friends!

Dude... you gotta do it. I drive you to the clinic. You go fill up that cup, and if you're still feeling shaky about it afterwards, we'll go out to the bar and have some drinks.

(The entire time we are at this bar, I will be looking at you thinking "What a lucky son-of-a-gun". Especially after my clumsy and artless attempts to create opportunities to produce my own progeny using depressingly conventional and potentially ruinous courtship displays are thoroughly shot down.)
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 10:26 PM on April 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Obviously this bears consultation with a lawyer or Someone Who Knows on your/their part, but I found an article which suggests that it may be possible to securely sign away parental responsibilities in Australia. Just pointing it out since much of what people have said upthread is US-focused.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:26 PM on April 21, 2008

Man, I can't believe I just spent five bucks to answer a question.

Anyway, I have been there and done this - and am still doing it, in the sense my friends have a wonderful, ginmormous baby boy I see regularly and love to bits.

The first thing to bear in mind is that you need, above all, to trust your friends. That's more important than anything else. You can agree what you want, write up what you want, lawyer what you want, but, at the end of the day, you've got to be sure they'll do the right thing by their kid, you, and each other. It will be 18 years before you're clear of potential legal obligations, and depending on how you, they, and the hypothetical wee one end up feeling, a lifetime for the emotional ones.

The second thing to bear in mind is that an actual child can warp the brain. My daughter (the little angel my wife and I had together) just made me a complete mess of baby-hormone induced OMGSHESPERFECTSQUEE. My friend's son didn't quite have as a powerful a reaction - but I was one of the first people to see him when he was born and tears ran when I held him for the first time. You could be quite a bit more attached than you expect. Or not; I know there are plenty of people who aren't, but consider that possibility. For me the fact I was planning a kid of my own with my wife certainly made that part of it easier.

But integrity is critical. You need to be confident that even if they split up, or move to a different place, or have more kids, or lose their jobs, or whatever, that they'll honour your agreements and understandings even - or rather, especially - when it's hard. You don't want to be like the guy in Britain who's currently in a public slanging match with the mum with the disabled kid who's decided to sue him for child support (and years of back support) when her partner left and avoided coughing anything up.

Think about a few other things - are you going to tell friends? Parents? Will you know the baby's extended family? Do you want to be Uncle Twirlypen, "that guy", or what? Who's next of kin if the mothers both die? Their parents? Brothers? Sisters? You? If it's not you, will they honour any visitation/contact agreements you've made? It would be terrible if your friends died in a car crash. It would be even more terrible if the kids ended up with nutty brother Derek who never really approved of his sister's lifestyle and wants to cut you out of the wee one's life.

How do you donate? Via a sperm bank? Drop around their place with a cup and a pile of magazines?

How are current/future girlfriends going to react? My wife was extremely supportive (one of the mums is an ex-girlfriend of hers), but was set on the fact that she didn't want me helping to get them pregnant until we were well on the way with our kid.

Do you have any strong opinions about stuff - religion, circumcision, you name it... Fortunately the mums agreed with my total opposition to hacking bits off the lad's penis[1] that there was no problem there, for example, but the mothers will be making a bunch of decisions - sometimes hard ones, in the case of everything from problems with the birth through to healthcare - and you need to be comfortable with the fact that you aren't going to have a say in 99.9% of them. If there's anything you really, really care about, you should discuss it up front.

That's before you even get down to the nitty gritty. You should talk to a lawyer about what you legally can and can't opt in and out of, being mindful of the fact that laws can and do change, not always for your benefit. With the women I helped, we drew up a contract that clearly stated what we wanted and expected. While it could all be ignored by the New Zealand Family Court system it's a clear, signed, witnessed statement of intent, which can help people make decisions if things ever got really derailed into that kind of action.

That, I guess, covers some of the practical stuff. From a more personal perspective, hell, yes, it was an honour to be asked. I had to think about it though, and I'm we agreed on an uncle level of proximity, because, like I said, tears came when I held that little boy. He's not my son in the way my little girl is my daughter; I don't have the day to day contact, the good times, the hard times that build those real, unshakable bonds. But if he needed to for some reason, he'd be able to live under my roof as my son any day, and love the little tyke.

After he was born and his mothers were back home, I visited them; the birth mum's mother was staying with them, bounded over to me, clutched me to her, and said, "Thank you for your wonderful gift"; her daughter is her only child and so this is her only chance of a grandchild. It felt so good to bering such joy into her life, and the other grandparents, as well as my friends; my friend's grandmother, well advanced into her 80s and mostly bed-bound, was presented with her great grandson and said, "This was worth waiting around for." Things like that are an incomparable joy - as are the smaller pleasures of hanging out at his house, watching him and his half-sister play together in the toy-stealing manner of a 10 and 16 month old. Contrasting my verbal, fair, blond, blue-eyed daughter with their huge (he's already bigger than her), olive-skinned, brown-eyed lad is a delight. Some weekends we go to the pool, sometimes to the park or the zoo, sometimes they drop round. It's bloody neat and I love it.

I'm proud as hell of him, and grateful to my friends for giving me a chance to be a part of him and his life.

[1] This is not an invitation to the site's trolls to shit up the thread, thanks.
posted by rodgerd at 2:52 AM on April 22, 2008 [11 favorites]

Thankyou all, especially serazin and rodgerd for your heartfelt replies. Like I said, the actual decision is still in the future, but your words have helped me to really consider what I'll possibly be getting into.
posted by twirlypen at 3:27 AM on April 22, 2008

Do your legal homework.

Read about this. There are 50 books available on Amazon.

Don't expect that it's a one month project. Average time is 6 months or more. Two or three donations a month. Expect your adventurous sex life to be monogamous for the duration, unless you want to infect your friends with your various girlfriends' possible diseases. Don't lie about it. If you have no self control, don't volunteer.

Get tested for STDs. That will cost a few bucks. Find out if you are fertile. That will cost a few bucks.

38-year old moms are called 'geriatric' by medical folks. Down's and other problems increase in probability at that age. Also, 38-year olds are harder to get pregnant.

Getting pregnant <> giving birth. There are 9 months separating the two and a lot can go wrong. Discuss with them what will happen if something does. They may choose to abort a problem pregnance. It's their decision. They may miscarry. Several times. Just like hetero women.

It helps if you LOVE the two moms, and can trust their ethics. All the legal paper in the world won't save you from a bad heart. If you don't really know their hearts, keep your gametes to yourself.

As a bio-dad, you are not a parent, just a causal agent. You can arrange anything you want, but parenting is a 20 year job, and your part is a 5 minute job, so if you expect your input to take precedence over the dedicated attentions of two moms, you should get a different hobby.

Also, in the States, you can sign away any right you want, but you can't sign away someone else's. The kid has rights that he/she could potentially enforce when they become legally competent.

This is not for the faint hearted. If you pass the tests, you'll do a great service to friends who can't do something they want to do. Lesbians are just like other people... they fight and break up, some are lousy parents, some are lousy partners. Know your friends before you go off and do this cavalierly.
posted by FauxScot at 6:11 AM on April 22, 2008

Completely off topic, as I have absolutely nothing useful to add to the thread rather than an emotional "go for it", but rodgerd -- your post brought tears to my eyes; that was beautiful. Welcome to ask.mefi - you're (paid) presence here is definitely a welcome addition!
posted by cgg at 8:14 AM on April 22, 2008

I have good friends who had twins with a known donor. It took well over a year to conceive, so there was some impact on the donor's life in terms of avoiding things like hottubs, pot and recreational sex on certain days. But he's thrilled he did it, and I think it's a tremendous gift to give your friends.
posted by judith at 8:02 PM on April 22, 2008

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