As more and more couples seek medical help to have children, there’s high demand for sperm donors. What motivates a man to donate his reproductive cells to an unknown number of women so that they might have a child biologically related to him that he may never meet?
We asked this question of a man who has been donating his sperm at the Fairfax Cryobank twice a week for over a year and a half. This married father agreed to talk on the condition that his identity remain hidden.
Donors at this sperm bank must go through a rigorous screening process, and only 1% are accepted. Like other donors, he is required to remain abstinent 72 hours before he donates, which he admits “kind of puts a little personal damper in your personal life, especially if you’re a twice-a-week donor.”
So why are you doing this?
A mixture of selfishness and altruism. I had friends that had gone through this process and said it was hard finding a donor that matched their needs. The extra cash also was nice, because I was saving for a down payment to buy my first house.
What does your wife think about you donating your sperm?
(I had) a long conversation with my wife (about how) it would be something where we could help out as well as get, you know, a means to an end as well. After some push and pull, we decided that it would be a good thing to do and went forward with it.
So she didn’t have any reservations?
She did, yeah, of course. So that’s why I said it was a push and pull, it was kind of a conversation that took a little while for her to … come to grips with it.
You mean to know that there could be quite a number of kids carrying your DNA?
Right. And … really the only hang-up is that we have our one child and … she wouldn’t be the only one maybe to share that with me. (That) was kind of a hot-button issue (for) a little while. (My wife had a friend who) went through that process (so) she figured, you know, if we can help at least one person — albeit a small portion of what I do helps that whole process — but it also helped us out, and so we’re in our new home now.
How much do you earn?
[He refrained from answering that question, but Fairfax Cryobank laboratory director Michelle Ottey gave this response:
When a donor completes the Fairfax Cryobank screening process and is accepted into the program, he makes a commitment to donate once a week for six months. Most donors stay in the program longer: approximately 18 to 24 months with breaks now and then. Donors make approximately $100 for each specimen that passes the semen evaluation and is processed.]
What kind of screening process did you have go through, and what do you think about being among the 1% chosen to be accepted into the Fairfax donor program?
I had gone through a pretty rigorous screening process when thinking about joining the Air Force. This was a cake walk in comparison. I was pretty confident I would make the cut.
[Ottey: The screening process includes a review of three generations of medical history by the medical director, screening of three or four semen samples for quality, and numerous infectious and genetic tests.]
Any idea how many children have been sired from your sperm? Would you ever want to meet them?
I have no idea, and I would not “want” to meet them, but I wouldn’t be opposed if they had an interest in meeting me.
[Ottey: This donor is an ID Option donor who has agreed to having his contact information released when kids reach the age of 18. The Fairfax Cryobank monitors the “inventory” monthly, and we stop distribution of a donor when we have 25 reported families. At that point, the remaining vials can only be purchased for sibling pregnancies by clients who have reported a birth.]
What happens if you, your wife or your child see someone on the street that resembles you or your child? Do you wonder, could we be related?
I have seen people that look like me before on the street, and I never thought we might be related. It might cross my mind now because of this process, but it wouldn’t bother me.