Sperm Shopping

We bought sperm! We bought 6 vials (to be exact) because the sperm bank gives you a deal if you buy in bulk. I kid you not. Costco-sperm.

As it turns out, there are deals to be done at every corner when sperm shopping.

Norse and I sat down a few weeks ago on a Thursday night with a pumpkin ale, signed into the Xytex sperm bank, and planned to max-out our free 24 hour open-access subscription to the site. We heard from some queer parents that they sat down for the free trail, drank wine, and chose sperm. While we were not going to limit ourselves to the free trial timeline, there seemed to be no better way to start the process– especially since, after the first 24 free hours, the bank charges $195 for a 3-month subscription to an unlimited numbers of profiles, images, personal essays, and medical histories.

Choosing sperm is not easy. Sperm is not just sperm. It is attached to mostly young men with pictures, lives, histories, families, ideologies, ideals, ambitions, and grammar mistakes. Many want to help “couples like you” or “people with infertility problems.” Most name their dad’s as their heroes, write about their dedication to sports and frats, and I can’t image that many think that they’ll be helping people like us.

The trouble with sperm is that no deal, not even 24 free hours, can distract you from the fact that you don’t have what you need to make a baby, and because of the intricate mix of government regulation and private medical profit-making, you must shop online for a chance at growing your family. You must sift through essays that assume your heterosexuality, and that frame your class-privileged choice to buy $595 + shipping per vial of sperm through the benevolence and charity of young, white, cis, hetero college men trying to pay off their debt to the academic industrial complex.

That evening, we looked through every sperm donor, made a list of potential winners, and came up with one we both thought was “the one.” It was easy in that we both agreed he was the best on offer. It was difficult in that we had to include another person in our process.

I can’t describe what it feels like to think about putting a random young white guy’s sperm inside of me. And to pay for it. Over and again. And without any guarantees. Mostly, right now, I am just sad.

Thank goodness for goofy baby pictures of sperm donors. I am convinced that this is why you are given a free trial to access extended profiles, which include baby pictures, because you need to laugh in between gulps of beer and tears.

When we’ve shared this experience with friends and family, they have all been excited to see the picture of our donor. Some have talked about it as ‘great data’ (oh, academics), and others have commented on the process as if it is somehow exotic or enviable. This makes me feel like our life is edutainment.

Not many have asked how we’re coping with the process– because it is a process.

It is technical, expensive, lacks intimacy, spontaneity, and at times joy. It involves shipping dates and pick-ups, credit cards and the obsessive tracking for signs of ovulation.

But, it is ours, and we are reconsidering how we share it with others.


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