Having Kids Using a Sperm Donor
I am a gay parent. This is not a confession, coming out story, or apology—just a fact.
I am gay, married to a woman, and have three kids. Translation: I am a very tired human being who wishes she had more date nights with her spouse and fewer conversations with her kids about the proper way to wipe their bottoms. I am just like you. Sort of. Since I started writing stories about being a parent, I have been very deliberate to write from a perspective to which most parents can relate.
Parents are parents are parents.
I believe gay parenting is just parenting. Parents are parents are parents; our kids’ behaviors, the emotions they make us feel, or the desire to have kids in the first place is not changed or determined by sexual orientation. Now that I have convinced you that we are the same, there is one way we are different: Gay parents do NOT produce children by having sex with their partner of the same sex. Shocking, I know.
Some straight parents do not or cannot create their families through sex either.
This difference can also be a similarity, though. Some straight parents do not or cannot create their families through sex, either. For a variety of reasons, families are created in many beautiful ways. Adoption, surrogacy, and egg and sperm donors are options individuals many choose to bring a child into their lives and homes. I cannot speak for all gay parents, because, well, we don’t all know each other, but my partner and I used an anonymous sperm donor to create our family. And just like I can’t speak for all gay parents, I can’t speak for all parents—gay, straight or somewhere in between—who used a sperm donor to have kids, because all of our stories are different. But I am happy to tell you a few things I know about using a sperm donor to have kids.
It’s not a lesbian thing. It’s a biology thing.
Lest someone reading this may have forgotten, babies are created when an egg is fertilized by a sperm. Reproductive cells produce babies, and there many ways for these cells to meet. You know the most common way, but fertility is not always guaranteed. And just because I am in a same-sex relationship, I am not infertile. My partner and I have all of the working lady parts, we just needed sperm. So we bought some from a reputable cryobank. We chose an anonymous donor who is willing to meet the children he helped create when the children turn 18. We felt it was important to give our children this option.
Save the turkey baster jokes.
Actually, don’t save them. Don’t use them ever. Some families who use a sperm donor may do home inseminations, but unless you know it is okay to joke about it, don’t. There are no accidents for couples who require fertility assistance, and baby making should not be belittled with stereotypical jokes. Also, frozen sperm is REALLY expensive. For this reason, my partner and I chose to use a fertility clinic to perform the insemination. We were informed that the success rates for conceiving were higher if done via intrauterine insemination (IUI) vs. home insemination.
It’s just sperm.
Yes, it is a vital part of the baby making process. And so is the egg. Two things: sperm is not some sacred seed that should be worshiped; and let go of the fifth grade giggles when it’s talked about. It’s just sperm.
My kids have a sperm donor, not a dad.
My oldest child is five years old. When she was three, my partner and I began the conversation about how she was conceived. She will happily and proudly explain to you that she was made with love from my partner’s egg and the sperm of a very special man who wanted to help her mamas make a family. She will also happily and confidently tell you she has two mamas, no dad. Our twin boys will be three in a few months, and they are starting to understand this story, too. We started conversations with our children early because we want their narrative to be something that just is and not something that shifted or changed at a specific place and time in their memory. The story of their sperm donor is an important detail in their family history, but just one of many important details and not a life changing realization. We also used books to help us have these conversations with our children. I highly recommend What Makes a Baby
and Zak’s Safari
. Both are great children’s books written in a kid-friendly and easy to understand way. And they're visually fun. The sperm and eggs in each book are cute in their own cartoonish ways. The books have detailed and helpful information for parents, too.
My kids have donor siblings.
A feature about the cryobank we used, which is common with many, is the ability to join a sibling registry. On a voluntary basis, families who purchased sperm from the same donor are able to share information with each other. The donor is not privy to any of the information, and families can choose the level of detail they are comfortable volunteering. We connected with another couple who used the same donor, and despite my initial hesitation to let strangers into our lives with children who shared half of my children’s DNA, it has been a lovefest from the very beginning. After several vacations together, lots of forethought, and numerous conversations between the four parents and six kids, memories and stories have blended together to create the foundation which is our family. The oldest kids know they share a sperm donor, and they call each other brothers and sisters. I have written about this unique relationship several times. If you want to know more about how we explained the concept of donor siblings, check out my article, Sisters Born of the Same Sperm: I Used a Disney Movie to Define Donor Siblings, which was featured by The Next Family.
It’s (probably) none of your business.
I am an open book and have been writing about my journey to and through parenting for many years. I will answer any question if it comes from a place of kindness and a willingness to learn or understand. But not everyone feels this way or is this open. Asking same-sex couples with children questions just to satisfy your curiosity, or assuming straight-looking parents conceived their children via a romp in the sack may be hurtful and could close the door for future conversations. There are millions of men and women who have used infertility clinics
for assistance in achieving pregnancy. There are also a growing number of transgender men and women in opposite gender relationships living the same parental dream you and I are. The last thing any of us want is to feel judged for the way we became a parent. All individuals—no matter their sexual orientation—should be able to have children if that is their desire. Eggs and sperm make babies, and sometimes people need help making reproductive cells meet. Every parent’s journey is a bit different. But I can say this about all parents: we’re tired and we need all of the kindness and support we can get.