Jun 26, 2017

a giant can of sperms


I just got off the phone to Yolanda, the recruiter at Fertility Associates. I’m not infertile after all! I had wondered after an ex tried get pregnant and didn’t. Yolanda says I’m in rude health. She seemed excited by the good news.

I’m thinking back to how I got the idea of donating. I had a crazy week in early March. My dad had an operation. I didn’t know if I’d get to continue with my Masters, as I'd gone over my deadline. In mid-March, my three older siblings had three babies within two weeks. I’ve always been left for dead by my siblings, who are champions of the world. I was single, the girl I’d been seeing in January had left for London. I googled 'sperm donation' and found Fertility Associates. I sent them an email, then I quickly forgot about it until Yolanda rang to make an appointment, three months later.

The appointment at Fertility Associates was really full-on. I explained to Yolanda at the beginning of the interview that I hadn’t fully thought donation through, since applying on a whim. I also told her that I was a writer and thought it could be fertile material. She said that would be good publicity for the Clinic. 

The first part of the appointment was ok, but then I got overwhelmed. This happens to me in doctors' surgeries. I fainted once, leaving a consulting room. Julia was my first serious girlfriend, as an undergraduate, aged 21. I was inexperienced and we'd broken two condoms, one in her her parents' bed. We'd gotten pretty wound-up at the prospect of becoming parents. Julia decided that she wanted to go on the pill. She was so wound-up about everything and had failed to get a prescription at the Doctors on the Uni Campus, due to high blood pressure. She'd gone to that first doctor alone. We went together to the second doctor, a few weeks later. He was describing the risks (1 in 10000) of blood clots, and I began to feel light-headed. The appointment ended and we walked out the door. I crumpled vertically, like a tower being detonated. Two nurses rushed towards me and asked Julia why I'd been seeing the doctor? Afterwards Julia bought me a Moro bar and said it was sweet that I'd been so worried about her blood clotting. A few weeks later we were staying over at her parents house and she heard a branch snap in the garden. Julia was terrified of intruders; her Dad was a judge and she thought that guys he'd sent to prison might want revenge. I tried to calm her. Finally I said, 'if there's an intruder I'll protect you...' 'What would you do?!?!', she replied.


I almost fainted when that Heart Doctor was talking to my dad, in March, after his operation. I pretended to read a newspaper on an adjacent bed, I didn’t want to make him any more worried. 

Yolanda was fine — friendly and professional — but she did start racing through the paperwork. There were some unexpected questions. Yolanda asked me to write down my sister's name, OMFG, or the name of any woman who I wouldn't donate to. Imagine that list! 1. Paula Bennett.

Yolanda asked if I’d consent to IVF, and just the words ‘frozen embryo’ pushed me over the edge. Thinking of the start of a life being so cold. She also talked about donors meeting up with the families, twenty years later. I find this hard to imagine, in that I don’t like imagining it. Not least because, in this scenario, I would be 50.

I didn't think it would all affect me so much. I was just thinking about it rationally: 'just a helpful waz’, and 'I'm not doing anything else with it.' Not how I felt about it unconsciously. I broke out in a noticeable sweat halfway through the appointment, I went woozy. I told Yolanda I was being overwhelmed, she apologised. It’s a curious job, Sperm Wrangler, and afterwards I wished I’d asked her how she’d ended up doing it. Probably because it pays well. Fertility treatment is expensive. Donors can not receive payment for their contribution, to ensure that they're doing it for altruistic reasons.

The interview finished with a line. “Now for the fun part.” Yolanda, I bet you say that to all the guys! Yolanda handed me a clear, plastic jar with a pink screw top. It was nice to be encouraged to have a waz, for a change. Have you ever been in a masturbatorium? It's the lovechild of a clinician and a home-maker. An armchair made of wipe-down fabric. Analog porn inside manila folders, labelled 'gay' and 'straight.' Folded, white towels. The masturbatorium’s window-less, wood-veneered and womb-like. Needless to say it's a pretty crazy waz under these false conditions. I laid a towel down on the seat of the armchair. I had to take my sweet time, being a bit freaked out. Twenty minutes later I handed my sample to Yolanda, across the reception desk, to be tested.
 *    *    *

I mentioned this appointment and thinking about donating to my psychologist. She said, 'I'm not saying don't do it, but you'd need to talk about it for a couple of session, first!' The psychologist said that, at the age of thirty, I still might have kids of my own. She could understand wanting to donate as a forty year-old who hadn't had kids with anyone. 
Independently, I had started thinking about what it would be like to have offspring who you couldn't protect, or guide. There'd be someone else in that role. What if I didn't like the recipient parents? You get to choose who you give yourself to in real life, with good reason, and I'd have to relinquish that control as a donor.

On the phone call in which Yolanda confirmed my suitability, she said that there was a severe shortage of donors. I got a slightly pushy feeling. In the wake of my psychologist's caution, and my initial cavalier attitude, I told her that I couldn't donate. I hadn't grasped the theoretical implications of it until I experienced them in the consulting room. I'd sent a boy, to do a dad's job.

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