37-year-old single woman finds a sperm donor on Facebook
A woman tells me about how she found her sperm donor in a Facebook group and why she believes it was the right decision for her.
As you may know, I'm very interested in the trend in freelance donors. For various reasons, donors and recipients are choosing a more direct route, outside clinics and banks. Here I speak to a 37-year-old single heterosexual Canadian woman about her journey to motherhood using a donor she met through a Facebook group.
"I've had long-term relationships," she told me, "and always sort of expected that having a child would happen. But it hasn't played out that way."
11 minute read
When did you start thinking about single parenthood?
It was probably about a year and a half ago. I had dated somebody for about six months and we broke up just before COVID. But during the pandemic, we started to hang out again and became best friends — you know, just developed a really fantastic loving friendship between the two of us. And I was talking about my future and that I had always kind of wanted to have a child. And he just casually said, "I can give you a baby if you want one."
Him putting that idea in my head was enough to start the wheels turning. And then all the questions. Can I do it? Should I do it? Can I afford it? Is this a good idea? How complicated is this going to be?
And at around the same time, coincidentally, my mom had said something to me about, you know, have you ever thought about co-parenting?
She wants grandchildren!
Yeah, exactly. That was last summer. Then in December, I moved to Saskatoon. I decided, when I was starting over with a new job and a new city, that that is something I'm going to start actually pursuing. So I went off birth control and started tracking my cycle. I was going to start trying in the summer.
With that friend?
That was the idea. We talked about how he would have no parental rights and I would not come after him for child support. I was feeling good. I was feeling ready. So I planned to go out there, to Lethbridge, where he lived, for the next cycle.
He said, you know, you should probably reach out to a lawyer and start drafting some sort of agreement for us to review. So I did that. But the lawyer got back to me and said, "Bad news. If you have sex with this partner, the agreement will not hold up in court." So that totally threw me.
Why not just avoid intercourse? Use a syringe or a menstrual cup?
Yeah. The lawyer followed up and he's like, "Bad news again. Even if you inseminate at home, it still won't hold up in court. There has to be clinical involvement." My friend would have to donate in Lethbridge and then have it shipped to Saskatoon. But I wanted to avoid going through a clinic.
I was devastated. I was like, why can't this just happen? We're both being very responsible. We know what we're getting into.
I was very, very upset for a couple of weeks. I had another talk with my friend. And we said, okay, screw the legal agreement. We know what we're doing. We'll write something out. It doesn't need to be legally binding or witnessed or anything like that. Let's just go ahead.
So the second month we met up and we did have sex, but the timing with my ovulation wasn't right. By the next time, he had kind of started to see somebody he was seriously interested in. The one promise we had made to each other from the very beginning — because we were both casually dating — was that we'd always have safe sex with others. That's the one thing we promised. If you're going to date, fine. If you're going to tell them, not tell them, we can discuss all of that. But if you're going to have sex, have protected sex. And it turned out he had not had protected sex with this person and lied about it. If I had not asked specifically, "Did you wear a condom when you had sex with her?" he would not have told me.
So that kind of ended that, right there. And at this point, actually, we're not speaking.
Yeah. So then I was like, okay, now what? I started looking a little bit more seriously at the clinic option and using an unknown donor. I thought, if it's going to be this much trouble with this much emotion tied to using someone I know, then maybe I should just go through a clinic. I had my initial appointment and they ordered some testing.
But in the meantime I searched online for a new "known" donor. I had the apps and joined the Facebook groups. I started chatting with a man from Winnipeg. And we were on the same page about a lot of things.
How does that work?
When you join the Facebook group, you put a little blurb up, saying "Hey, this is me! This is what I'm looking for!" I said I preferred someone local and that I wasn't willing to travel or ship sperm. I had a whole slew of people send messages to my inbox.
Like how many?
I don't know — 10? A lot of them were really creepy. Especially because I'd said that I'm okay with NI [natural insemination] — sex. And there are some strange people out there.
And why did you go for that? Why not just say artificial insemination?
Yeah, that's a good question. I think there's a hippie part of me that just thinks it should be an intimate act. Creating a child. And I think partially because I was already sort of pursuing that method with my friend. I mean, I definitely would not have had sex with just anybody, it would have had to be somebody that I believed was a good person and who was semi-attractive. But besides that, we really did just have the same sort of expectations. He interviewed me as thoroughly as I interviewed him.
What sorts of things did he ask you?
About my financial stability. And we definitely talked about if or why I would choose to terminate a pregnancy. He kept on saying that he was picky about who he donates to. He had helped a friend informally, many years ago, in his early 20s. He's 33 now. And he has a kid of his own with an ex. He'd been helping one other recipient, but it didn't take. And now I'm the next.
How long did it take for you to decide? How long did you chat about it — did you have a video chat or what?
I asked him for a video chat a couple of times. And he sort of blew it off. So this was all through messenger on Facebook. We talked throughout the day every day for about three weeks.
And you decided to give it a try.
We planned for him to come to Saskatoon. Oh, there was another thing — I could not find anybody in Saskatoon. And I didn't want to have to pay for travel expenses, which is usually expected for this type of arrangement. He was willing to cover that himself. I think he knows that it's a struggle to find donors. I think his heart is just genuinely in the right place. He wants to help. He's doing it for altruistic purposes.
So you didn't pay for the sperm?
And you had a written agreement?
I manipulated the draft agreement that I had from my lawyer. The donor already had an agreement from the woman that he had been working with prior to me. And we went back and forth over the course of a couple of days, negotiating certain points and amending it until we were both comfortable.
So he drove the nine hours to Saskatoon.
Yeah, he drove in. So he probably arrived at about 6 p.m. on a Friday. That was our first time meeting in person at all. We sat down and chatted and signed the agreement. Then we went out for dinner at a local burger place.
What did you think at that point, when you were having dinner with him? Were you having second thoughts? Or were you reassured?
I was reassured. We had the same sort of comfortable banter that we had had online. And to me, it felt like a first date. I'd been online dating for a number of years, and you can chat with somebody for a long time and then meet in person and it's not the same.
Did you have a back-out plan? What if you discovered you couldn't stand each other?
We had talked about that. If either one of us had been uncomfortable, he would have stayed in the spare room.
Oh, so he actually stayed with you. He drove in and then he just stayed with you.
Yeah. After dinner, we had a couple glasses of wine and had sex. It was very awkward.
Yes. Yes, it was.
I was so nervous and giggly. He finally made the first move and we just kind of got into it. It definitely was not the same as any other sex I've had. I don't know how to describe it.
But you weren't wishing you hadn't made that decision.
No, absolutely not. No, it was fine. Besides just the awkwardness. Yeah.
So was it just that night? Or did you think you'd better maximize the opportunity?
He stayed two nights. We had sex that night and sex in the morning. And he did stay the next night but we didn't have sex.
What was that second night like?
I think at that point, it started to be like, why are you still here? I mean, it wasn't so awkward that I asked him to stay in the other room. But I guess at this point I was feeling like this isn't a date, this isn't somebody that I'm interested in, that I have any connection with. Just not the kind of person that would normally be doing that kind of activity with.
And yet you selected him above the others, so he must have had something.
Yeah, yeah. I guess he checked all the boxes. Normal. Thoughtful. Respectful. Physically matched to the photos he shared. There was no reason not to select him. But yeah, by the second day, I started to be like... you can go home now.
And you got pregnant?
It didn't take that time.
So tell me about the second time.
It was very last minute. He got sent to Regina for work. And I was able to drive down there after work one evening.
So you stayed over in his hotel room?
No, I got my own room. He was sharing a room with a co-worker. It was very late. I had worked all day. I hadn't been planning on going so I didn't even have laundry done. I threw wet clothes in a bag and packed up the dog and it was very rushed. And I was very tired when I got there. It was probably about 10 o'clock.
He came down to the room. I had a glass of wine and had a quick shower. And it was less awkward. But still awkward. I would say it was more mechanical the second time. I was definitely there to get it done. The first time I didn't know what to expect, didn't know what I was doing. But the second time was like, all right, let's do it.
Did you ever require him to prove that he had no STIs?
Yeah, that's in the agreement.
He showed you documentation? How does that even work?
For me, it was part of the initial testing through the fertility clinic. So I had my results. And I when he came to Saskatoon the first time, I pulled it up on my eHealth account and showed him. And he had a recent test. Actually, he had gone for a test that week but didn't have the results back just yet. He had his results from being tested before the prior donor. So I knew that he'd only been with the one recipient before me. And it was in their agreement that she was also clean, so I was pretty comfortable that it was all okay.
Weren't you nervous about all this? Why wouldn't you just go through a clinic?
I'm convinced now that this was the right decision for me. When I think about going through a clinic and choosing a sperm donor, the traditional way, I'm not as comfortable with it. I understand that there are certain protections and screenings that are advantageous, but there's something about that human side of it that it's missing. I would hate to have a child and for them to meet their donor when they're 18, and then for it to be some weirdo. And I'm not comfortable with not knowing how many half siblings there are out there.
What I'm doing is very intentional and I want my child to know that I thought a lot about how this will affect them in the future.
If I'd continued to try with this donor and it didn't happen, I don't know if I would have pursued it through the clinic or if I would have just sort of accepted that. You know, I tried. I'm glad I tried. But it's not in the cards.
But you are pregnant.
Yes. I just confirmed it last week.
You told him? The donor knows you're pregnant?
He was the first one to know.
This interview has been edited and condensed.