When we decided to have a baby, we were in agreement to use a known donor. For Hunter, this was driven by a desire for as little medical intervention in the conception process as possible. Basha is a second-generation queer who was conceived with an anonymous sperm donor, and found that anonymity very disempowering; for her, it was important to give our child the knowledge about their donor that she didn’t have.
We came up with a list of criteria for known donors. We wanted our donor to be Jewish, live locally, and be interested in having a non-parental relationship with our child. Though we considered this to be minimal criteria, we couldn’t think of anyone to ask.
We drafted an email to send our to our community asking for donor recommendations, and worked on getting up the nerve to ask distant acquaintances. Meanwhile, we enrolled in an 8-week class called “Maybe Baby” at the local feminist therapy center. We already knew almost everything there was to know about getting pregnant thanks to our bible, “The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth,” but we took the class hoping to meet other queer prospective parents. When we mentioned to a friend from class that we were having trouble finding a Jewish donor, she immediately thought of her good friend S, who might be interested in helping us. She asked S that night, and they said they would consider it, so the next week we were set up on a blind date of sorts.
We liked S right away, but the process of courting a previously-unknown-to-us known donor was awkward at times, and we all took it slow. S told us that they had two goals: one, to enact the world they desire to live in, where queer people share sperm in order to help each other create families; and two, to have more children in their life that they could have a loving, non-parent relationship with. This was exactly what we were looking for, but it still took time to build a relationship that we could envision continuing for the rest of our lives, and to develop the trust needed to make a baby with someone who would legally have parental rights over our child for a few months. We got to know each other, ate pizza, and felt it out in a non-committal way. In the meantime, S got some basic labs done to make sure their sperm was viable, we read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” cover to cover, and we both tracked our cycles. We spent many hours in conversation with each other about who would get pregnant first, and came to a tentative decision that it would be Hunter.
After months of process, S came to us and told us that they had decided to start HRT in about 3 months. Once on HRT, S would stop producing sperm; if we wanted to make a baby with their sperm, we had to do it now. They agreed to bank sperm so that we could have a genetically related sibling down the road. We realized that we could maximize our chances of conceiving by taking turns inseminating, since we were ovulating about two weeks apart. We got a bag of leftover insemination supplies from friends who had just had twins, bought a bunch of pregnancy tests, and were ready to start trying.
S lives just two blocks away, so the technicalities of inseminating were easy. Hunter met S on their porch, picked up the small plastic cup full of what we hoped would become our baby, and rushed home. The first time that Hunter emptied the syringe up by Basha’s cervix, all the semen spilled right back out, and had to be drawn back up and inserted again. We tried again the next day, but two weeks later, Basha got her period. Luckily, that the same day Hunter became fertile. This time it was Basha meeting S on their porch, trading semen for banana bread, and carrying it the two blocks home between her boobs to keep it warm.
Between insemination attempts, S went to the clinic every few days to freeze sperm for baby #2. This was a huge undertaking for them, and to their credit, they never complained. We had talked to a local fertility clinic and learned that for us to have a known donor freeze sperm, it would cost a minimum of $2500, and would involve a lot of red tape. But, if S was the client instead of us, and froze sperm as a part of their gender transition, it was a quick and affordable process. This workaround saved us thousands of dollars.
Impatient for a positive, we started testing only a week after inseminating Hunter, and Hunter was pregnant. Hunter’s first try, and our second ever attempt – we couldn’t believe it. Ten months later, right on her due date, Ruth was born.
There are a few other interesting components to our conception and birth story. One is that we planned a homebirth with a queer midwife (Ray). We share so much queer community with her, that on the day Hunter went into labor, she had to cancel her plans to attend a potluck… that happened to be at our donor’s house! S texted us that night to say they hoped we were the labor she was called to, and wished us good luck. We also had an incredible queer doula working with us, with whom we have stayed in touch. Although Hunter’s rising blood pressure necessitated a hospital birth, we were luckily greeted by a hospital staff that let our our midwife and doula facilitate almost the entire birth, and Hunter managed an unmedicated labor much like the one we had planned at home.
Another unique aspect of our story is that Basha decided to induce lactation so that we could no-nurse. For Basha, it felt like a way to be connected to our baby without having been the biological or gestational parent. She used the Newman Goldfarb protocol, which involved taking medications that were hard on her body and mental health, and pumping 7x/day for the month leading up to our baby’s birth. Once Ruth was born, she had a tongue tie, so nursing was much more complicated than we imagined. However, almost 7 months later, we are still co-nursing our baby. And Basha will be adopting Ruth next week, where we will be celebrating with our local family, including Basha’s non-gestational mom who adopted her almost 20 years ago.