Feeling weird about sperm donor choice
Solomum2023 · 18/01/2023 20:46
I have some feelings that may be controversial, but I hope I can explain myself correctly. Sorry in advance if it long-winded.
I am a SMBC and have finally fallen pregnant after 1 1/2 years of fertility treatments - 4 IUIs and 2 egg retrievals plus some cancelled cycles due to cysts and a polyp removal in between. I got pregnant on my fourth embryo transfer (first from the second retrieval) and I was obviously ecstatic seeing that BFP at last. I honestly didn’t think it would ever happen for me.
However, once the initial joy and relief that my body was able to sustain a pregnancy faded, I began feeling an odd melancholy about my donor choice. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t actually regret my choice of donor. I chose him because he seemed like a genuinely good person (as much as you can tell from an extended Cryos profile), his letter to future children was the most sympathetic of all the ones I read, he was healthy and had lots of sporty interests, and he scored well on empathy, a trait that I prioritised.
However, he was also the 5th donor I tried, being encouraged to switch donors between IUIs and deciding on my own to switch again between my first and second IVF round after all three transfers from my first retrieval failed to implant. As such, I changed my mind a few times in terms of which criteria I prioritised (because I never came across that “perfect” donor who ticked all the boxes), and especially the two last donors I tried ended up being quite different from one another.
Out of all my choices, I got particularly “attached” to the donor I used for my first IVF round (which failed), despite the fact that there were parts of his profile that also really put me off. His positives were very appealing to me - he looked almost exactly like me and he seemed like a very exciting person with lots of hobbies that I imagined my child might be inspired by - but he also had some traits I didn’t like too much, like admitting he had a temper (which my child will already get from me) and scoring low on empathy.
Those “negative” traits niggled at me so much that, once I decided to change donors for what would be the final time, I deliberately went for someone who seemed like a kinder person with more altruistic values, and who scored higher on empathy, even though that meant compromising on how much the donor physically resembled me and how “exciting” I found his profile overall. He was a smarter choice, but a less instinctive one, who complimented me rather than resembled me, if that makes sense.
Objectively, I know I should be happier with the choice that worked than the one that didn’t, for the reasons mentioned above… and also because it WORKED! We were clearly compatible, and I will be happy to read his letter to my child one day. He was just so different from what I had initially gone for, and I think the dichotomy of those last two donors’ personalities and how random it made me feel like my choice had been really threw me, more than I could have anticipated. This was such a huge decision, and I essentially made it five times. And suddenly it worked.
Honestly, I don’t think the feelings I am experiencing are really about the donor (profile). If I had become successful with the previous donor, or any other donor for that matter, my subconscious would find reasons to second-guess that choice as well. And there would always be a reason. (If it had been the previous donor, it would have been the empathy thing.) I think it’s about the choice itself, and the process of switching so many times, which is retroactively hitting me now that I have had time to really digest how it felt to be in treatment for so long.
It is the randomness of it all. The fact that I had this huge choice to make (so different than when you fall pregnant with a partner), and knowing that suddenly, that choice is now entirely permanent. And I could have so easily made a different choice, at any stage, with any consequence.
I wonder if the fact that my child is a boy has something to do with my feelings as well. The gender is all I know about him, after all. And I can’t help imagining him as a tiny version of the donor, with nothing whatsoever of myself in him, whereas with a girl I might not have thought that much about the donor at all. My hormones are obviously also a huge factor. I can feel my common sense trying to break through, but my emotions are just so hard to control.
I am just so upset with myself and feel so much guilt for not just feeling uncomplicated relief that my final donor choice led to the best case scenario out of all the potential outcomes. I am actually pregnant. I am past my 20 week scan and my child seems healthy and perfect and my pregnancy has so far gone smoothly and exactly as it should. I am one of the lucky ones. Why is my brain doing this?
I hope and expect that once my son is born, all of these feelings will vanish. He will be a real person, not an idea that exists in my head based on a baby picture and a questionnaire. He will just be my child. But I worry, because these feelings are cropping up now, if I might always wonder a bit about all those other potential donors I didn’t choose.
Sharing this here in the hope that maybe other SMBCs or parents that used a donor have had similar thoughts during their pregnancy, and that you might share how you worked through them or how the birth of your child changed your feelings on the subject. 💜
TunicFox · 20/01/2023 05:29
Hi OP, firstly congratulations on your pregnancy, sounds like a long journey to get there and that must be amazing! 😍
Sorry to hear you are having such complicated feelings about it. I'm going through the donor journey too, with a partner, but I can definitely relate to a lot of your feelings and can imagine ourselves second guessing our choice of donor if/ when I do become pregnant.
We've only changed donor once (after a handful of IUI rounds with one donor not working), but it is such a wrench, and we had similar experiences with becoming attached/ changing our critieria/ it all feeling very arbitrary etc. Knowing that it would have been a completely different child if it had worked with the other donor.
It really pulls you all over the place doesn't it?
I suppose the things I'm trying to keep in mind are:
a) I am contirbuting 50% of the genes
b) We are contributing 100% of the upbringing, nurture, and parenting
c) I like about 90% of what I know about the donor!
I am just trying so hard to minimise the things to worry about because actually, looking at my above list, the 10% I might not like about the donor is very small! But it's easy to hone in on it with a laser focus, because infertility makes you feel guilty and shit and you question everything in a way you just wouldn't with a 'natural' pregnancy.
When you look at personality traits like empathy, having a temper, etc - it is very difficult to say how much of that is genetic and how much comes from the way you bring up a child. Focus on the nurture side and you will hopefully have a lovely little person in your life, wherever their genes came from.
I do think that, as you say, when your baby is here you will love him so much that a lot of your worries will melt away - this is what I hear from other parents of donor conceived children, anyway.
Have you looked into joining the Donor Conception Network? There is some really good support there and people you can talk this sort of stuff through with.
Good luck for the rest of your pregnancy and birth and I think just try to remember that when your little boy is here, that will be all that matters!
TunicFox · 20/01/2023 05:33
Oh and I was also going to add a comment on sex... I'm sure you know this... but just because it's a boy does not really mean he will be like the donor.
He has as much chance of getting a lot of your traits as if he were a girl. There is no real difference.
Many girls are like their dads and boys like their mums. So do try not to worry about that, as you won't know until he is here!
Cuppasoupmonster · 20/01/2023 05:39
Well, it’s too late for doubts now. If it helps many (most?) women on here have babies with men who have some kind of personality deficiency because very few posters would say their boyfriend or husband is 100% perfect. The process of selecting a donor is a bit of an odd one I suppose as with an ‘in real life’ conception there’s a sort of fate/inevitability to it, whereas you’ve literally had to sit down and choose who will create the baby with you, out of a group of ‘potentials’. So I guess it must be easier to feel like you’ve made a mistake in your decision.
Is this also a bit of gender disappointment? (You can admit it here and hopefully nobody will be an arsehole about it!). I can see how life as a SMBC must seem easier if the child is a girl, plus you’ve mentioned this is after your 20 week scan where I presume you found out the sex?
Hollyhocksauce · 20/01/2023 05:47
Are you receiving counselling OP?
Your message is very long which suggests you're thinking very deeply about this and you're experiencing some strong emotions about it. It sounds like it could be helpful to have someone IRL that you can simply process all of this with?
JoyPeaceHealth · 20/01/2023 06:06
Wow, interesting post. I think you will see your son as YOUR SON and the thought processes will abate as soon as he's born.
holyspiggot · 20/01/2023 06:19
Congratulations on your pregnancy, it sounds like you had a hell of a journey to get there and it's wonderful that your baby is doing well x
I am in a same sex marriage and carried out baby, so used donor sperm a little like yourself. We were very fortunate that we only had to choose once.
We started out our search looking for a donor who was physically similar to DW, thinking it would be best if they baby looked like either one of us. That wasn't successful.
Then we tried to find a donor who was physically more like me, after all of the baby looked like one of us it was better than neither of us, right? We didn't like any of those profiles either.
Then, like you we realised that empathy and the letter to a future child were the most important things to us. These were the things missing from the other profiles. We chose a donor less physically the type we were looking for and based solely on these attributes.
It was around the same time as you in the pregnancy that I started to worry about our choice. I suppose if things are going well after 20 weeks you don't spend every waking minute worrying about the pregnancy anymore and other stuff starts to creep in. We also found out we were having a boy and this totally sideswiped me! What if the baby looked like a total stranger? Would we think of an anonymous man every time we looked at our son? One day a very curious colleague asked how it felt to carry a "stranger's baby"....that didn't help!
All I can tell you is we now have a 4YO son - and he is exactly that, OUR son. He looks a lot like me and many of his characteristics come from DW (unfortunately, not always her good points!) We occasionally think of the donor if DS is particularly good at / interested in something that we have no natural aptitude for, but it's pretty fleeting.
Give yourself a break OP. You have made a massive decision five times over, based on very little information really. A donor profile is like a 2D snapshot in time, you don't get to keep learning about the person behind it and that can be difficult. My take is, if you chose based on good emotional and social attributes instead of just cold hard looks there's most like other stuff that you would appreciate in the donor's character.
holyspiggot · 20/01/2023 06:20
Excuse the typos - up at 05:15 with aforementioned DS! Scrambled brain
2bazookas · 20/01/2023 06:22
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Persipan · 20/01/2023 06:34
In terms of resemblance, you already resemble you! So your son will very likely have at least some features that really resemble you. (And to be honest, people are constantly telling me that my double-donor child looks like me...) Resemblance is also partly about things like gestures and expressions; things that are often learned rather than biological.
Something I get struck with quite regularly is how amazing the randomness that led to my son coming into being. Not to go all Doctor Manhattan about it, but we're all of us so incredibly unlikely, statistically speaking, as to be considered miraculous. I sometimes used to wonder how I'd go about my life, if I were to live it over again, and I had all these ideas, and now I think instead about how I'd have to do everything exactly the same in order to end up enabling my son to exist because he's so fab and I wouldn't want him not to.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying I think it'll all be fine, but if it's stressing you out right now, why not have a bit more counselling through your clinic?
Best of luck, and congratulations to you.
louise5754 · 20/01/2023 06:52
My dds are nothing like me. Both are like my sister in personality. Youngest looks like her dad. Most kids don't look like their parents do they?
JoyPeaceHealth · 20/01/2023 07:50
My son is physically very like my abusive ex but I still don't see that on an emotional level. I just see my son.
Absolutely the right outcome was to have the baby of somebody with empathy.
TunicFox · 20/01/2023 09:43
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Oh, what a helpful contribution. I'm sure this remarkable insight will really help OP. I bet when she was agonising over all those hundreds of donor profiles, going through a painful process which I hope most people will never need to experience, she thought she was just designing her baby like a video game avatar.
Thanks so much for the wisdom, I'm sure she's sorted now and wondering why she ever doubted herself. FFS.
Deadringer · 20/01/2023 09:54
It must be pretty overwhelming to have wanted a baby for so long and now that dream is becoming a reality. A bit like getting your dream job then worrying it wont be what you expected or a good fit for you. (not remotely the same as a baby but ykwim). When i got pregnant the first time i had a lot of mixed feelings and regret, even though we had been trying for a baby. I am not sure the donor is all that great either, even though i am still married to him!! I dont want to minimise your concerns but i think feelings of doubt and regret are normal to some degree in pregnancy. And fwiw i have 4 dds and one son and he is the most like me.
Solomum2023 · 20/01/2023 12:28
Thank you so much to everyone for engaging! I was so nervous about posting at all, because it felt like I was the only one who had these feelings. But the understanding is truly wonderful. As most of you say, it is just a culmination of a very long, overwhelming process. I do think these feelings will fade as my baby goes from idea to reality, but it was nice to get them out there and get some perspectives.
@TunicFox I think that is the core of it. The knowledge that it could have been a completely different child with a different donor. Of course that is a "false" worry, because a) any other sperm cell with any other egg would also have been a different baby and b) how do we know pregnancy would have been/will be achieved with a different donor? Some of it is compatibility. In my case, I did try many times before being successful. This donor + this specific cycle + this egg was what worked in combination. (This is fact - the feelings are irrational!) I hope if you end up experiencing something similar when you fall pregnant, with a donor you can also look at this thread and comments to feel better :)
And you are absolutely right about the gender determining which parent a child is more like. It's just my head filling in the blanks of this mystery person growing inside me and using the "templates" I have available.
@Cuppasoupmonster thank you for being understanding. It is exactly like you say, this was the one aspect of the treatment I had full control over, so the pressure was somehow greater to make the best/right choice (even though there is no such thing). Plus not being partnered means the DNA contribution of the donor is more of an x-factor, I think. But I hope my post does not minimise the feelings of people who have children with SO's they later change their feelings about. That is a totally different, and I think more emotionally complicated, issue.
Regarding gender disappointment - you are right in your observation that this does play a role, though I would probably more accurately call it gender anxiety! I am excited about the idea of having a boy and could see pros and cons to either gender. But as a SMBC, I definitely do think it would be easier for me to navigate raising a girl, and easier as well for a girl than a boy to be raised by a single mother (maybe I just think this way because I am the daughter of a single mum, so I know how to navigate this "world" already). I think in this context though, it really is just the (not actually true) idea that inside of me could either be growing a little version of myself or a little version of the donor, dependent on the gender, and it is just so hard for me to imagine a little boy as being half-me. Does that make sense? Of course this will only be true until he is born, because then, I won't have to imagine - I'll see him as all-himself and discover his unique traits along the way. It just helps explain why I am suddenly so fixated on the donor, I think.
@holyspiggot thank you so much for this comment. To know that someone felt so similarly to me is honestly such a relief, I was so worried I was the only one. "What if the baby looked like a total stranger? Would we think of an anonymous man every time we looked at our son?" is very close to the fears cycling around in my brain right now. The rational part of me knows that I won't feel this way once the child is here, but it is a relief to hear someone else has worked through these feelings and that they were transitory, as I expect they will be for me as well. Pregnancy is just a weird in-between time, where you are just cooking something inside of you in an oven with no window, and you can do nothing but just wait until the timer dings until you can find out what your recipe turned into! Congratulations on your son :) I can't wait to meet mine.
@Persipan very very good points, and I do also have plenty of days where it just feels magical that this child is even coming into existence! "It could have been anyone" is only a scary thought until you can make it concrete - "it could have been anyone, I can't believe it's you."
@louise5754 no, you are absolutely right! I just happen to be a nearly 1:1 clone of my mum, so it's hard to abstract from that. But no, most people mainly just look like themselves honestly :)
@JoyPeaceHealth I am so sorry to hear about your experience. I have seen this sentiment many times - your child is you child, at the end of the day, and their own person aren't they? So many children intentionally grow up to be the opposite of their parent(s) because they see the pitfalls and warning signs in a way others don't.
@Deadringer Thank you for your comment! I do hear of a lot of women that have tried to get pregnant and then feel so guilty about not simply being overwhelmed with relief once it happens, so I know it's fairly common. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Counselling is definitely something I am looking into. I don't want to blow my reaction up into something bigger than what it is (I expect it's temporary, as I come down from the emotional rollercoaster of being in fertility treatments and get used to my new reality, all the while pregnancy hormones are raging...) but I am also cautious not to let my emotions get away from me and develop into something detrimental. 💜
TunicFox · 20/01/2023 13:34
I think in this context though, it really is just the (not actually true) idea that inside of me could either be growing a little version of myself or a little version of the donor, dependent on the gender, and it is just so hard for me to imagine a little boy as being half-me. Does that make sense? Of course this will only be true until he is born, because then, I won't have to imagine - I'll see him as all-himself and discover his unique traits along the way. It just helps explain why I am suddenly so fixated on the donor, I think.
You are absolutely right... you are not growing a little version of yourself OR a little version of the donor. You are growing a little person who is going to be completely and utterly himself, not a little version of anyone but just his own unique person, your son.
I think with donor conception, more than anything, it is important to make a conscious choice (as much as we can!) to move away from the 'mini-me' way of seeing children.
No child is a mini-parent/ mini-donor. All children are themselves :)
Hope this is reassuring and not judgey, I know exactly how you feel (and feel similar sometimes) but I just try to make a conscious decision to push away those sorts of thoughts, and it helps.
Cuppasoupmonster · 20/01/2023 13:42
It absolutely makes sense. I have a 3 year old girl and am pregnant with a boy. I was so convinced it was another girl, a sister for DD like how I grew up with 3 sisters (and my NIPT test wrongly told me it was a girl, but that’s a different story!). When I found out it was a boy I was really confused - not sure why, probably out because I’m one of 4 girls and a boy, my family is overwhelmingly female and I just can’t conceive a male ‘me’. DD is very like me in personality and the way she looks so I recognised her at birth whereas I don’t feel I will recognise this one - he even looks like DH on the scan photos. But I suppose that’s the excitement of a child isn’t it? That we don’t know what they’ll be like, but either way it will be magical. Now I’ve had DD and experienced maternal love, I’m less worried about a boy than had DC1 been a boy, if that makes sense. Maternal love is so strong it overcomes basically everything, honestly it’s true that you always think your child is the cutest, the most interesting, the most special baby ever. I can’t tell you how it works, but I promise it just does!
Now; park all this donor stuff to one side and focus on you and your little boy and the happy little unit you will be. Being pregnant is in itself a very special (if slightly worrying) time, so please don’t look back with regrets when it all works out fine and you worried for nothing! ❤️ can you start some pregnancy yoga, go for a massage or antenatal swim class?
ATailOfTwoKitties · 20/01/2023 13:50
The knowledge that it could have been a completely different child with a different donor.
Or with the same one. I have a ginger child, a dark one and a blond one. A shy sensitive soul, a mad life and soul of the party, and a no-nonsense practical one. I even have two who are rather unusually tall and one who is tiny.
It's all part of the fun.
holyspiggot · 20/01/2023 15:03
So glad that you are feeling less alone with your thoughts xx
Cattenberg · 20/01/2023 16:24
I’m a SMBC and I think the extended donor profiles offered by some sperm banks actually made it harder to choose. Twice, I hesitated and my preferred donors “sold out”. Everyone has their flaws and every family has its share of illnesses and tragedies.
I ended up going for a UK-based donor who I have less information about. I do know that he has a degree, seems like a happy, optimistic person and that his grandparents were all long-lived.
The process was bizarre, but now that DD is here, the idea that I might have had a different child instead is unthinkable. DD happens to have my colouring, but personality-wise she’s very different and will clearly go her own way. I suppose they all do.
I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and the excitement of meeting your baby. Also, as going it alone can be tough and anxiety-provoking, I hope you have some support from family or friends.
Teaandtoast35 · 02/03/2023 18:58
OP, I’m choosing a donor now and have …1… to choose from, because of various medical reasons, including being CMV negative.
I have given birth before to my daughter, who was stillborn. I recognised her immediately as my daughter. I didn’t realise she looked like me until later but she really does.
I’m also having a bit of a panic about not feeling the baby looks like me (nothing wrong with the hair and eye colour but it’s not mine or anyone in family’s) and also the baby feeling alone.
I’ve also had three miscarriages and I think it just feels like there’s no choice, ever, in life, to make things better for your kids. It’s been helpful to read your post. I suppose everyone must panic about this. And perhaps it feels like when we choose to be SMBC we are trying to choose better and then to feel like actually there’s no choice, possibly their traits are are beneficial to pass on as someone we could have dated, and perhaps the only thing we are achieving is a) getting kids here that might never have been born, and b) not bringing them up with a difficult second parent.
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