This shape is of a mountain. Or two birds. Or a forklift.

I’m finding that each individual woman brings her own stuff  to the conversation about motherhood. To have a child is to face everything that makes us human —  race, class, sex, gender, economic status, romantic love, meaningful work, family structure, religious convictions, our own parents, whether or not Life On Earth should continue — and then arrange it into patterns that make sense to us or at least ones we can live with. This process is uncomfortably, personally fraught. Part of my journey into the fraughtness involves trying not to bring my stuff to other women’s reproductive/familial decisions (and it’s rare to occupy a time, place, and socioeconomic strata where that choice is not made FOR us. Most women don’t have the luxury of discussing it on the Internet. First-world problems). People can advise and support, or discourage and hurt me — but their take on the matter is ultimately about themselves: their history; their damage; their regrets; their hopes. It is a Rorschach inkblot test. That’s why bearing and raising a child is the most personal of decisions (which, paradoxically, affects women as a class in a myriad of ways). No one can know how, when, or whether a particular woman should bear a child except the woman herself. Understanding this is like being let out of a cage.

Eugenics on a tiny scale

You maybe didn’t know this because why would you? but there’s a virus called CMV that infects 85% of  adults. It doesn’t do anything; it just sits there being herpes’ harmless second cousin forever BUT, if you’re a woman using donor sperm AND you’re CMV-negative, you can’t use a CMV-positive donor because of risk to the baby.

I’m negative. Goodbye, 85% of donors! Goodbye, Mr. Sensitive Multiracial#2882! Goodbye, gay rower (who claims to be straight after all)! My choices have narrowed and narrowed again — no blondes; no hunters; no undergraduates — so I’m zeroing in on “Saul,” a CMV-neg Jewish doctor. Great save! I am made entirely of win: Despite the lesbian/late-bloomer/downwardly-mobile factors at play here, I can still have a baby with a Jewish doctor!

And Saul is…so Jewish. He has mold allergies and a 4.66 valedictory GPA and a mother he describes as “a nightmare.” He’s a nebbish like you’ve never seen. I will call the baby “Kreplach Punim.”

This is quite serendipitous, because I was raised in a Jewish neighborhood with Jewish friends and thus developed a Jewish soul. If I had long-term amnesia and didn’t remember anything about myself, I’d worry that I’d missed too many Hadassah meetings during my fugue state. I can Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha’olam well enough to make Saul’s mother proud, even though she’s probably more appalled by sperm donation than by Jews For Jesus.

I wonder if she knows that Saul is on sale. A twofer deal. I can buy four vials for less than what it cost to fix the weird idling noise my car made last spring.  The mind reels.

Coming Up Next: What Happens If I Have A Boy?

Mani-pedis with my gay son

I found a donor I like as much as #2882, and he comes from a better sperm bank — they don’t charge $75 for silhouette photos and other extraneous ripoff jazz. This new guy, “Bruce,” is the right size, the right coloring, hella smart and a funny writer. He’s an “elite-level lightweight sculler” who participates in “regattas” and other biased-SAT word type activities. When my mother saw his baby picture, she cried because he looked like me. The sperm bank lady said he has a great personality with no signs of creepiness or sociopathy. I decided Bruce was my guy.

But then I played Bruce’s 20-minute audio interview for my best friend. Halfway through it, she smiled meaningfully; the way she smiles when I’m missing something.

“What?” I asked. “Isn’t he great?”

“I’m getting a…seriously gay vibe here,” she said.

“Cut it out,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, his favorite movie is ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ He gave up singing in a men’s chorus to pursue rowing full time. And now he’s talking about sperm donation as a way to continue his family line because he isn’t sure he’ll ever have a ‘full-time partner.’ A straight guy would have said ‘wife.'”

“Nooooo,” I said, as I realized she was right. You can see Bruce’s gay from space, but I missed it specifically BECAUSE I try to live in a gay bubble as much as possible. “Full-time partner” is normal, familiar language to me; not a a Giant Big Gay Red Homo Flag.

So now I have questions: How strong is the genetic component of homosexuality? Am I doing my child a disservice by giving her/him TWO gay parents? Isn’t doubling up on the gaygredients a needless risk? Am I increasing the possibility that my kid’s life will be harder than necessary? Wouldn’t it be safest to go with my second choice; a man who didn’t knock his math SATs out of the park but who does refer to his partner as “the wife”?

Also: Does my reticence to use gay sperm stem from a good place; e.g. wanting to protect my child from the slings and arrows of flamboyant faggotry, or is this actually about internalized homophobia? Am I a self-hating queer? (I mean, I do hate myself, but I never thought it had anything to do with being a lesbian).

I’m much more worried about having a gay son than a lesbian daughter. I’m thinking about AIDS and anal prolapse and poppers making him retarded and no one thinking he’s attractive after he’s 30. Lesbians don’t make as much money, but I find we age better in terms of general happiness (albeit invisibility). Our ratio of joy to tragedy seems…more favorable.

My friend told me not to worry. “That stuff is cultural,” she said after I stopped rambling on about popper retardation. “It’ll be a different world in 20 years.”

“Well, sure,” I said. “We could be living in the  post-apocalyptic Former United States of Romney, being kept by middle-class Asians as remote-controlled pets and fighting the Water Wars. It could be worse by the time this kid grows up.”

She said I was worrying about the wrong things and smiled meaningfully again.

I’ve decided to trust her. There are so many ways for life to be difficult that it’s madness to try to avoid them all. And the whole thing about having a child is: You don’t know who you’re getting; not at all. You issue an invitation to a stranger, and 40 weeks later that person shows up at your door. Hello, you say, and after a couple of years, they say hello back.

Dear Sperm Donor #2882,

I’ve taken to calling you “Andrew.” I don’t have any particular attachment to the name, which is why I chose it. “Andrew” is a friendly blank slate; the flavor-absorbing tofu of names. I can project anything onto an “Andrew.”

I know only a few things about you. You weigh 150 pounds and stand 5’9″ inches tall (a fact that made my dad lobby for Donor #1794, who’s 6’3″*). Dad is 5’6″ and says short guys have problems, but I consider your height a plus. The tall donors get snapped up fast, but really, must everyone be a hulking giant? I’m 5’2″ with the shortest torso you’ve ever seen outside The Learning Channel, so I don’t want a 9-pound, 22-inch-long baby. I’d prefer a 6-pound, 19-incher, even if I get a boy, which I probably would. (Most lesbians seem to have boys, whether because the XY’s thaw out first or because of our extra testosterone? Is that a thing?) Anyway, in your profile here you make a little joke about your height that shows me you’re comfortable with it. You make a few jokes, actually, and they’re not the lame ones the other donors make. The minute I see the phrase “but hey, that’s just me lol” or “baby batter,”** I stop reading. Ditto for guys who list “hunting and fishing” in the Interests and Hobbies section. I’m looking for gentleness here. I’m looking for empathy. I also avoid any profile in which the clinic staff calls the donor “charming,” because “charming’ has a sinister subtext. Charm is often premeditated; a strategy designed to get something from someone else. Charm is overrated.

What else. You have blue eyes. Which is…whatever. I’m not fussed about eyes as long as the baby can see; besides which, my brown eyes will kick your blue eyes’ asses. Gregor Mendel says so. I like the idea of two different-colored eyes, but the only donor who has those is blonde, and a blonde or bald baby wouldn’t seem like mine even if I saw it come out of my vagina with my own eyes. It would feel too Aryan and Luftwaffe-y. A fat baby would be just as odd. The babies in my family are lean and brunette, with long fingers and toes. It’s not like I wouldn’t love a fat baby, but since I have a choice — and I do; it’s one of the graces allowed a woman in my situation — compact and brunette it is. The Scandinavian guys don’t need any help. Everyone else loves their lanky Nordic asses.

You’re a working, touring musician. What a badass, Andrew. And it’s how I’m sure you’re not a sociopath or a narcissist who’s donating sperm to spread his genes — you need the money and you’re the laid-back sort. I’ve dated musicians, so I’m familiar with the type (it’s entirely possible I had sex with you for free sometime between 2002-2009;  the whole period is fuzzy and there were a lot of folk festivals in there).

You have a wacky, 21st century genetic mix — Scottish/Welsh/Irish/French and 1/16 African-American. The face of the future!

You believe in God. Oddly, I’ve been rejecting atheists and agnostics out of hand. I want my child to have some capacity for faith. (Jewish would be fine, but do you have any idea how fast these sperm banks run out of sons of Abraham? They can’t keep Jews on the shelf).

You’re a Gemini. Which is, I guess, auspicious for twins if I believed that sort of thing. Twins would be an adventure: Two for the price of one and all that.  Speaking of which, I clicked on “Add To Cart” just to see how it would feel to have $1170-worth of you in there. It feels as right as I thought it would.

Andrew, know that even though I’m not 100% ready, you’re my top choice; the standard against which all other sperm is (are?) measured. I’ve seen a hundred of these profiles, but no one has come (heh) even close to you. Thanks for doing this. I wonder where you live; what you’re up to tonight; what the clinic is paying you. I hope you’re making enough to buy a kickass guitar, keyboard, piccolo, et. al. Have a good tour. Eat lots of zinc and stay off the weed, man. God, I hope you’re not a drummer.




*#1794 is a filmmaking Rollerblader with an MFA; cool, but he’s also “anonymous” rather than “willing to be known.”

**God, I wish I were making this up.