Finding a sperm donor is a lot like dating. You’re terrified that they won’t like you enough. That they won’t think you’re pretty/smart/cool enough to be trusted to carry on their genes. Or that they’ll remember that time you were so drunk, you vomited in their shoe and won’t think you’re responsible enough to have a baby, period.
You might want a known donor so you can attempt home insemination, which is free and reasonably easy. Maybe you want your child to know to whom they’re genetically related. Or you might be looking for a co-parenting arrangement. Whatever the reason, this guide will help you find the sperm donor of your dreams.
First of all, draw up a list. Start with your inner circle, and then move out. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Distant relations, friends of siblings, work colleagues, ex-partners. Hell, I ran out of male friends so fast, I even resorted to asking my mom’s ex-boyfriend.
If you’re queer, this bit can get confusing. Remember that gender is not necessarily related to sperm production. I had to strike several people off my list when I remembered this. Not all people who identify as men are able to produce sperm, and some people who identify as women can (but of course tread respectfully here).
More: The Real Cost of Fertility Treatments & Adoption
The three H’s (things to look for in a donor)
Hotness factor. What? Don’t pretend you’re not thinking about it.
Health. You’ll likely want to consider what mental or physical hereditary health issues run in the potential donor’s family as well as the donor’s STD status and general health (which can affect sperm quality).
Honesty. Do you trust this person? The last thing you want is for them to do an about-face once the child’s born and decide they want 50-50 custody, or to start sticking their oar in about what school the kid should go to or whether they should be immunized.
Some people include cultural or racial background, brains, creativity or personality traits in here too, but they didn’t make it onto my personal list — probably because they don’t start with an H.
Once you’ve got a short list of donor options — or perhaps, like mine, your list is just very short to start with — you need to carefully plot your next move. You can approach a potential donor several different ways.
You can text or email
There’s the direct route: “Wanna make a baby?” There’s the mysterious prologue: “Hey, what did your great-great aunt die of?” And there’s the ominous intro: “I have something big I want to talk to you about.” The problem with online sperm dating is that potential donors can be known to sometimes take months to reply — and you may be so busy obsessively refreshing your emails that you won’t be able to work or sleep.
You can be romantic
After all, you are asking someone for their orgasm. A friend of mine wrote a poem and dropped it on her potential donor’s doorstep — but I reckon you can do better. Why not treat it like a marriage proposal? Hire a skywriter, get a chef to write it in balsamic reduction on some mashed potato, graffiti it on their garage door. What? You’re not into it? I guess you do have to make sure you have the budget to do these things more than once in case the first person says no. But who could say no to a balsamic sperm request? *Shrug*
You can bring it up when you’re really drunk
For years, every time we’d had a few too many glasses of wine, I’d harangue one of my friends for some sperm. It paid off, because 10 years later, he agreed. The problem was, as noted above, I was then really self-conscious that he’d think I was too trashy to be a good mom.
Some sperm-request approaches I’ve seen but wouldn’t recommend:
Posting a “general callout” for sperm on your Facebook page
Sending a group email asking for leads and accidentally cc’ing your ex with whom you’re still not speaking
Asking the same person your ex asked a week earlier
Most important: Have a bit of style and be respectful. It might seem like all you’re asking for is a teeny-tiny bit of insignificant sperm, but most people take their tadpoles very seriously, and so should you.
Be prepared for the heartache of rejection and for singing “All By Myself” into an empty turkey baster. And be warned: This stings ways worse than someone unmatching you on Tinder, and it may be awkward forevermore when you run into that person.
But when you do finally hit the jackpot, it’s time to get to work.
What to do when you find a donor
Be clear about your expectations of each other. What role do you want this person to play, and how much interaction do you want them to have with your kid? Be careful not to be too optimistic here. According to one LGBTQ family lawyer, most issues arise when formal agreements include things such as, “We’ll have a family dinner every Friday night” or “We’ll always spend Christmas together.” This might sound lovely, but it doesn’t take into account people moving, getting new partners or starting other families. Even if in reality, the donor might spend a fair bit of time with the kid, on paper, it’s best to stick to a straight-up donor-recipient agreement (unless you’re actually co-parenting, of course).
Take into consideration that while one or both of you might be single (or with a supportive partner) at the moment, this could change in the future. Partners can change the donor dynamic a lot. If you’re approaching a straight man, be aware that even if he’s adamant that he doesn’t want kids of his own, he may in the future wind up with someone who does — and who is not thrilled with him spreading his seed elsewhere. Of course, this is a total generalization, but it’s worth noting that many women I know have been more comfortable asking gay male friends for sperm donation for this reason. On the flip side, people who have already finished making their families can be good to ask because they’ve been there and done that — and may well be ready to help someone else (you) get there too.
More: People Think I Have a “Designer Baby” Because I Chose His Sperm Donor
Of course, making babies with someone doesn’t have to be romantic, but on some level, it is still an emotionally intimate act. Whomever you choose (or whomever chooses you), it will be a lifelong relationship, regardless of whether you see each other every day or never again. So choose wisely.