Thursday, October 20, 2011

Conceiving through sperm donation: two reflections

January's thoughts:

Novie and I have been discussing some articles about sperm donation that have been published in recent weeks. Some say that this is a personal decision, and it’s not my business, but I fervently disagree with that. I find that I am taking this issue personally.

Every article I read points to infertility as one of the primary reasons for employing donated sperm. However, if infertility or subfertility is your reason to use a sperm donor, it really seems like you are doing a grave disservice to yourself, your children, your current or future spouse, the sperm donor—heck, the entire population of the world, according to some experts. You have worked outside God’s law and will for your life and the sperm donor's; your child or children will have a biological parent they mostly likely will never know and possibly quite a few siblings that they always have to wonder and worry about; your current spouse will know that they were not enough for you; your future spouse will know that you did not have the patience to wait for them to come into your life. Some donors are learning that they have unexpectedly high numbers of offspring, which could affect their lives in untold ways. Included among those affected, are people experiencing fertility problems.

Sperm donation and ART methods make infertile women look like baby-obsessed creatures that would do anything to experience pregnancy and have babies, including using sperm other than their spouses’ or deciding that a child’s need for a father is outweighed by a woman’s desire for a child. I do not want to be lumped into that category! I deeply desire children and the whole wonderful and terrible experience of pregnancy. Some of my darkest days have been spent thinking that this may never happen for me. I can empathize with many of the emotions that other women who are not in a position to conceive or have children for whatever reason might be feeling. I haven’t officially been investigating my fertility problems for very long, but I am strongly affected by this year plus of trying to conceive. I can understand that looking into a future of uncertainty or certainty about never being able to have a child could make anyone feel desperate.

That fear and sadness is not an excuse, however. Excuses are not acceptable when it comes to creating new life, because every excuse is a self-centered one, and creating life is meant to be a wholly self-giving experience. I can’t think of a reason to have a baby using donated sperm that isn’t selfish.

If it turns out that I am never able to get pregnant, that will be crushing. But if (in a strange alternate universe) my husband were set on having a biological child of his own and decided to bring in a surrogate to get the job done, that would be 100 times worse. It would be a clear violation of our marriage vows. The gravity of the words “in sickness and in health” certainly becomes apparent when the “sickness” may be a lifelong situation that prevents you from having biological children. But if you can’t handle that incredible challenge, then what business do you have taking the act of creating life out of God’s hands?

November's thoughts:

It has been very valuable to me to hear Jan's thoughts on using donor sperm to conceive a child because when I initially read these two articles, (, and I assumed I could not understand in a sympathetic way since I have had no trouble conceiving and having children. 

It was incredible to realize that we actually object to this practice for very similar reasons.  We both feel like it comes between the unity between husband and wife.  January is probably capable of more sympathy with someone desperate to get pregnant, but we both understand how important loyalty to our spouses' is.
I realize that many people who use a sperm donor to conceive are in homosexual relationships, or single women who want a baby on their own.  I don't really feel qualified to discuss these other groups so in this post I'm only thinking of a heterosexual couple who use a sperm donor to conceive. 

I have a very emotional response to the whole idea of using donor sperm to conceive because for me having children has been such an intimate part of my relationship with my husband.  I see every part of raising children as something that we do together, from conceiving, to changing diapers, to high school choices. 
I want to have my husband's children, no one else's.  Having another man's child feels like disloyalty to my husband.  If we can't have any more children, we just won't have any more.  We have agreed to carry on our genes only with each other. 
As L gets older, it becomes more profound to me that she looks like us.  It's shocking and exhilarating to realize that she truly has part of me and part of my husband.  It is crazy to think that she grew from pieces of both of us inside me.  Her very genetics pull us closer together. 
However, adoption is in an entirely different category from sperm donation babies.  I feel that adoption does preserve this unity between man and wife, because together they agree to raise a child that is not biologically theirs.  They go through the adoption process together, and through each stage of child-hood together.  This is another kind of unity that is created through adoption between husband and wife.  I'm sure there are a whole new host of trials ready for those who choose to adopt, from dealing with strangers questions, to coping with past treatment that the couple had no part in. 
This togetherness that biological conception and adoption bring into a marriage is intrinisc to how we bring children into the world. 


  1. Beautiful viewpoints ... both of you!!!
    January - yes, I agree 100% that having my husband bring another woman in to be a surrogate would be THE worst thing. What a slap in the face!
    November - I never thought about adoption being a pro-creative unity like pregnancy is, but you are right ... it is.

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