cryogenic banks

Who’s Your Daddy (sorta): Baby Story Chpt. 5

J&EWe don’t all have access to a willing rock legend, so choosing a donor who will contribute half the genetic material to your child is no easy task. You wouldn’t believe the sorts of things you have to wade through.

I sifted through all the informational literature, testimonials, videos and price guides to finally come up with a cryogenics bank that suited our parameters – ethical, genetic testing, IUI ready secret sauce, anonymous donors and price.  Once that was settled, I was able to start concentrating on finding the perfect donor again.

We had already discussed what our ideals were. Since Bashert was to be the one who carried, we wanted to find someone with more of my features, colouring, etc. But I have to tell you, once I got into the website and saw the different combinations I could come up with, it was like playing with an electronic paper doll. Let me see…green eyes, black hair, medium complexion. No, no…blue eyes, curly hair, ears that don’t attach at the bottom and left handed. Scot/Irish heritage?  Latino? No problem, throw in a foreign language? sure thing…

Another thing to get through was the donor levels. Who knew that sperm came in economy, standard and premium?And for goodness sake let’s not forget the washed and unwashed states. As Bashert is want to say, “Oh, vey!”

Economy, just as it sounds, was the lowest level of sperm available. That sounds kind of bad, doesn’t it? Lowest level – like they should be hanging out on the street corner trying to push drugs to unsuspecting kids or something. No, these poor unwashed masses were simply those donors who had only limited genetic testing, no college education recorded and the other documented donor information was a bit skimpy. These were the guys that donated before the heavier standards were in place for this particular cryo bank. There was a sort of a “you pays yo’ money and takes yo’ chances” kind of feel to these donors. It may have been perfectly lovely sperm, but most of this bargain-basement special sauce did not come IUI ready and we wanted a bit more for our future child.

The next level up was the standard class, I think the group was actually tagged as the name of the cryo bank, sort of  the “Sperm R Us” donors. These were the young guys just starting out in life, but working toward something, undergraduate degree, next level management, that sort of thing. They had been accepted into the program after the more stringent testing began. They recorded more extensive medical and familial records. A few even had baby or childhood photos and a recorded interview. But with this added measure of security and intel came a jump in price. In 2002, an IUI ready vial of special sauce at this level was around $250 a pop (so to speak).

The crème-de-la-crème of the special sauce was the premium standard for this bank. Called the graduate level, this category was for the eggheads – no pun intended. To be in this club, the special sauce must have been cooked up by gentlemen with no less than a Master’s and preferably a PhD. That level of education was really all that separated the wheat from the chaff. The items available to share about the donor were all the same. Bashert and I weren’t prepared (or able) to pay upwards of $400 a vial just for the “dahctah”.

Remember, Bashert was working for a private diner’s club, but only making minimum wage – back then that was $5.15 an hour. I was working two part time jobs, one that paid minimum wage and had a set 20 hours a week and one that paid about $8 an hour for around 30 hours a week. The bankroll was not fat cheddar. We would have to pay outright for the sauce, storage, transportation, and insemination. The only thing covered under insurance was the testing – and that turned out to be a sore spot later.

So, with our picky protocols and shallow pockets, we like Baby Bear, selected the level we felt most comfortable with – “Sperm R Us”.

Once I was done playing genetic dress-up, I got down to brass tacks and began looking in earnest. Bashert’s clock was ticking toward her next ovulation and after the assault she suffered at the hands of Dr. Lizardo, we wanted to move through this stage as soon as possible.

It was frustrating. Time and time again, I would think this was the one only to read a little further into it and discover that schizophrenia ran in his family (yeah, we were really surprised that one made it on the list, too) or that there was rampant heart disease on his father’s side. As time grew nearer, I was seriously beginning to think about lowering our standards some in order to make this happen.

But then one afternoon, I was back at the computer and a new number popped up under my descriptive search. Green/blue eyes, medium complexion, dark hair, correct blood type…so, I opened his file to read more. Oh, hey, curly hair – Bashert would like that…a little on the short side, but that’s okay – good things come in small packages & I’m not exactly a basketball player either, getting his bachelor’s degree, likes team sports & art, absolutely clear medical record and family history until this caught my eye: uncle died in Holocaust…wait a minute…grandfather perished from injuries sustained in Holocaust…wait just a dang gone minute here…are we talking Jewish?

We had purposely not searched for Jewish donors. Since we were able to be choosy we didn’t want to possibly reintroduce diseases that run in the Ashkenazi gene pool. But as I read down this guy’s list of publicly available information, he fit the bill in every category we had decided on. The more I looked, the more excited I got. I called Bashert over to the computer.

I read off all the information I had gathered and then…ta da…revealed that he was all that and a bag of bagel chips! You would think we were at a Chippendales’ show they way we were oohing and awing over this guy’s profile. We were so taken that we decided right then and there to order the “extras’ so that we could get the fullest scoop we could. The extras included a personal profile he had written and a childhood photo. Yes, we knew it was more money out of our pockets, but I think we both knew this was the one. The essay was nice; he came across as a good guy, but what truthfully sealed the deal? The photo.

Now, I searched and searched for a match for my physical characteristics/interests and that criteria is what this guy came up under, but people when that childhood photo slowly revealed itself (we were on dial-up, so it took forever!), fractal line, by fractal line there in all her male gender identity sat Bashert. The kid could have been Bashert’s brother! I actually looked at her and asked, “Your Dad used to be a traveling salesman, right?” It was uncanny.

At that moment, we knew we had found the one. We went to the phone and began the arrangements. We had enough saved up for two vials of special sauce and the extras we had ordered. We had our ducks in a row with all the physician paperwork completed in advance, so all we had to do was set up an account, tell them what we wanted, hand over the credit card number and voilà! we would be set to move into the next phase of this story: insemination.

My friends, as joy filled as the moment was, it was also absolutely terrifying.

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First a Bank & There Ought To Be a Law: Baby Story Chpt 4

J&ESince I couldn’t be directly involved with the physical proceedings, I threw myself into finding the perfect cryogenics bank and donor. First came the bank.

Sperm banks are regulated at the National level by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). They are supposed to be regulated at the state level by each state’s respective State Department, but as we have all heard, the follow through is not always the most attentive. We wanted a place that stood by ethical policies that protected both the donors and the clients.

We wanted a place that did the most genetic testing possible at the time. As Bashert has Ashkenazi Jewish heritage on both sides of her family, we needed to make sure that the donor we selected didn’t have a history of known diseases prevalent in that type of lineage.

We also needed a bank that supplied IUI ready special sauce. Not all places did.

One of my own criteria was that the donor be anonymous. Bashert and I talked about that one extensively. My reasoning was emotional. If I wasn’t able to contribute genetic material, I at least wanted to be the full other parent to our child. To me, a anonymous donor is as the dictionary describes – one who gives without need of recognition or acknowledgement. I didn’t want any ghost of parental figure lingering in the background of our lives. We would have the pertinent information, such as, medical background, family histories, physical characteristics, personality reviews and so on to give to our child when the time was right. I just didn’t want another physical person in the mix. Three’s a crowd.

So, I was looking for a place that was shown to follow ethical practices, have IUI ready specimens, perform extensive genetic testing and have donors that agreed to remain anonymous. And oh, yeah, we had to be able to afford it.

Well, in 2002 that narrowed down our choices quite nicely. It even eliminated the bank we have right here in our home town. It would have been wonderfully convenient and less expensive, but we just didn’t feel it met our picky standards. Besides, it sort creeped me out knowing that the donors could have come from right next door. Silly, I know, but there you go.

We ended up with one of the larger banks located out of state. It had been around for some time and seemed to set the standards for what a cryo bank should be and met the qualities we were searching for. The next step would be setting up an account and finding the perfect donor for us.

I am going to pause here for a moment and tell you something about myself. I am a mild mannered person, quite shy really and it takes a lot to get me visibly angry. But mess with anyone I love and it’s Bruce Banner to the Hulk in three seconds flat.

Now, in the previous chapter I said that I was not able to attend the actual appointments with Bashert due to our situation. We had to maintain covert operations in order to achieve the goal of the mission. Little did I know what indignities (sounds like such a small word for her suffering) Bashert was having to endure. She kept me in the dark about many of them so that I wouldn’t go to the clinic and get myself arrested.

It makes my blood boil even now to recall the horrific circumstances she had to go through with one of the doctors. I could deal with the attempts to overcharge us and even the onslaught of negativity that came from a place that was supposed to be about giving the gift of joy to parents, but I could not deal with was the physical violation that occurred.

You see, part of the process in verifying that a woman has viable eggs is a vaginal sonogram. It is an invasive procedure that should be handled with the utmost of respect, care and gentleness. Bashert’s original compromise with the ID was to do one ovulation cycle and then have the sonogram. What Bashert didn’t know was that her ID had a partner that filled in when he was not available. It just so happened that her ID was not available the day she was to have her sonogram done.

It is always discomforting to have your regular physician replaced at a pivotal point, that’s why I have disliked going to team practices where I am never quite sure who I will be seeing on appointment day. Knowing that Bashert was already on edge about a procedure she had never experienced before and had not been told what to really expect, the change up created an even more heightened state of unease.

I did my best to try and give her support as I kissed her goodbye that day. What she told me later had me ready to wrap my hands around Dr. Lizardo’s throat. If I had known the rest of what Bashert did not reveal, I am not sure we would have Yoda right now.

When I came home from work that afternoon, I expected to find a partner relieved that the deed was done, but happy with the results. Instead what I found was a visibly shaken woman who had obviously been traumatized by the doctor who was supposed to be helping. (see Bashert’s site for her revealing story). I was ready to report that freaking doctor to the head ID,  the AMA, and whoever else I could find. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have reported it to the police (after I had beaten the living hell out of the woman).

This woman, this “doctor”, who supposedly took an oath to protect her patients had basically raped Bashert when performing the vaginal sonogram. Dr. Lizardo made sure there were no witnesses – all the staff was gone, including the attending nurse. She used undo force and did not listen to Bashert’s concerns. She offered no real apology or comprehension as what she had actually done.

Bashert didn’t let me in on the whole story at the time. She wanted to go ahead with our plan to have the baby she so wanted. She didn’t want to jeopardize anything even in the face of such degradation. She felt constricted by the limited choices we had and for whatever reason, Dr. Lizardo seemed to realize that Bashert was bound by that. What a fucking situation to be in. Even with the partial information I had, I was so beyond furious.

This is what many lesbian and gay couples have to go through just to have a family.  Humiliation and violation without recourse. And people wonder why we are fighting so hard to get the rights we deserve.

At that point, no matter what the ID said was needed, we were going to stick to the plan, get the insemination done and get the hell out of Dodge. As the kids say today, that place was “whack”.

To get this accomplished, it was time to pick a donor.