Fertility Musings, Questions & Answers and News

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Donating Sperm for a Sibling? A Brother's Thoughts.

I got an interesting letter a while ago from a young man who I'll call Joseph.

"Hi. My sister & her (lesbian) partner have asked me to be a sperm donor. They joked about it five years ago. We kind of left it in the air for a bit then, as I was living abroad at the time. They turned to other possible donors, somewhat to my relief. Three possible donors later, each backing out after talks and meetings etc, they decided to try a fertility clinic.

We live in Ireland where no such service exists or (I think) is legal - for lesbians. In the last year they have gone 7 times. Each time was unsuccessful, each time with less and less trust in the system - there is no personal touch, no feeling of getting good service from the clinic...the prices are going up, and they feel - being 'foreigners' they are being ripped off. That's all tied up with the anguish and emotions, the fertility drugs etc., etc.

About five weeks ago they came back to me - their original first preference. I've grown up, am 34 and have very different views to 7 years ago, but I am very worried. Being a donor is one thing, being the child's uncle and father is another. They gave me a book which is very much from a woman's point of view. I'm not finding much sensitivity for the man, the donor. Even the donor's experiences seem to be coming from men who are very unattached to their sperm.

I don't think I sound crazy. But I am afraid that if I donate I will be part of something very real, a reality I will want to be part of. But what happens then? I want to help my sister, I want to help her partner. But what about my parents? What about me? I've never been given the opportunity to be a dad before. I thought that was taken from me once I came out to myself 17 years ago. I need to talk to someone who has had similar experiences, those who did it and those who didn't. I'd appreciate your comments.

Joseph - Ireland."


This was my response:

"Dear Joseph,

Thank you for contacting us. I read your story and I think that it's very good that you're taking the matter so seriously.

I would be happy to post your question on Fertility Stories along with any answers we receive. Let me know if you are interested.

Personally, I think that there are a lot of issues involved: You would be placed in an un-natural relationship with your sister, being a co-parent to her child (which, actually, biologically would be your child). What would your legal obligations be? What would your sister and her partner's expectations be from you? What would happen if your sister and her partner decide to dissolve their relationship? Would you have visitation with the child? Have to pay child support? What if you disagree with the education they choose for the child?

It seems the matter is very complicated and would have very long-term effects on your life.

I also think you are correct in that most donors have no desire to have any sort of connection with the children born of their sperm - this has its advantages, such as keeping just the 'parents' in the picture (particularly in heterosexual couples).

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rachel"


Joseph's response:

"Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your reply. I think posting my query may be a good thing, as I need some real life experience feedback. My friends are differing very much in their opinions. Some flat out no's. Others are envious.

I'm not sure if I was clear - I am gay as well as my sister. My sister is 2 years older than I and we are very alike in looks, mannerisms and personality - strong family line hey! No wonder I am their number one choice. Since I have taken on this consideration seriously my mind has wavered and weaved from positive to negative, from fear to excitement. Each step has ramifications in each and every direction. Yep, I'm feeling a little overloaded. I'm not under pressure, although a 'no' is not going to go down well.

The need, want, to have a child I think has heightened this year with the treatments and drugs, I think my sister's girlfriend is more than ready and 'wants a baby'. I was worried about my sister. I was leaning towards a negative gut feeling up until we actually sat and talked about it. I was concerned my sister was being pushed into this, her partner is persuasive and I wondered if, like me, my sister had never really thought about having kids before. It's so hard to know...maybe if I was lucky enough to be in a long term relationship and my partner was the family kind, and I loved him dearly, then yes I think I would want to have a family.

There is so much uncertainty… And that's before the legalities. I already know that there are no legalities. I mean, there is nothing in place to protect me, as a donor - to remain just a donor. No law exists in Ireland to prevent my sister &/or her girlfriend from claiming child welfare. Would I argue it? If things were to change? How could I? The child would be biologically mine. But trust is the bind. I trust my sister, her girlfriend. I trust their ability to bring a child up well. I trust them that should circumstances change, they would not turn on me.

I know to anyone reading this I may sound very selfish, but I am trying to get to the heart of why I want to do it, why I don't. Part of me thinks - stop thinking, just do it, you can't know the outcome - who knows the outcome of a child, the conception, the birth, the life. The changing of all relationships as time passes. None of it can be controlled. Is that a positive or negative?

Thanks for listening,
Joseph"

We look forward to your comments.

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19 Comments:

  • I came across this site while doing a search in Google about sperm donation. I found a very interesting post about a man "Joseph" who was wondering if he should or shouldn't donate his sperm to his sister and her partner.

    I am interested in his story because I had a similar one but I decided to donate to my sister and her partner and now they are proud parents of a baby girl. They went through the same odyssey as Joseph's sister and her partner. At the end they asked me to be their sperm donor.

    I had to think about this but I accepted. I guess Joseph would put me between the "men who are very unattached to their sperm". After helping them, they asked me to help other couples that they knew. So far I have helped 2 other lesbian couples to conceive a baby and now I'm helping another one. I never had problems about giving "my babies" to other people; do you think I'm heartless? Maybe, but I do believe that fatherhood is something that you have to build little by little. An ejaculation doesn't make you a father. Even with my sister's daughter, I don't consider her my daughter -I don't have these kinds of feelings toward her. I'm heterosexual and one day if I meet the woman of my dreams I will create a family with her and the babies I'll conceive with her will be mine.

    I like to be a sperm donor because I think that every woman should be allowed to be a mother regardless of her sexual preferences. These women are very good women and they really want to build a family and I thought it was a very good thing to help them to realize their dream. I'm not a naive man and I'm aware of the risks of sperm donation, as Joseph said. Sadly, we donors we don't have any rights and we are not protected, so if someday one of the couples I helped will ask me for child support or money I will take all my responsibilities. It's a big risk, I know, but if you don't risk in your life you will never live. Anyway, as I already said, I'm aware of what I'm doing and about all the troubles I could run into but I will still donate.

    I grew up in an all female family so I really love women, they are precious stones for me and this is why I want to help them. My mother has always worked for women's rights - since she was young - so she's very supportive of me. She likes what I'm doing and she encourages me do to more. So now I guess you will think: ok here is a happy donor!! Oh well it's not completely true there are also a couple of side effects:

    - Lesbians are not very kind with sperm donors. Most of them consider us not like human beings but just like, as an old feminist used to say, (having growing up in a feminist family I know this)"walking dildos". When everything started we didn't know anything about home insemination so since I can read English very well I started searching the internet for information about home insemination. I came across a large number of lesbian forums and groups about this subject and donors were considered an "object". I remember a woman who was saying that she "used" her donor many times in a row without any problems like he was just a sperm dispenser. I found a lot of this, of course I can't speak for everyone, I also met very kind women, but most lesbians treat men just like sperm containers. I'd like to believe that it's a form of "defense" - that it's easier to deal with just a "sterile cup" than dealing with a man. If they see the man as an object it will make things easier for them.
    - I'm single now but I worry what my wife will think and say when she knows that I'm a sperm donor. I had a story with a woman last year: the second couple I helped did the insemination in a clinic so I had to donate there and I met a nurse and so she knew from the start that I was a donor and it was ok with her, but I don't know if it will be the same for the next woman.

    By Anonymous Franco (Italy), at 12:35 PM  

  • I am very interested in this story because it is happening in my life right now. My husband has been asked to donate his sperm to his sister and her partner. I already have children from a previous marriage and my now husband and I decided not to have any of our 'own'. Having said that, I am uneasy with his having a child with/for someone else. The emotions I have are so mixed and although he and I have talked about it a little, I can't seem to put my feelings into words. On one hand, I think it's a wonderful gift! Being able to help someone else have a child, especially a child with your own 'genes' so to speak would be awesome!!! On the flip side, because he has no children of his 'own', how attached would be be once this child is born? I also think of the future of this child and what, if anything, would be told to him/her. There are so many other things I am thinking about, but just can't seem to voice! I would love to hear from anyone that has any advice for me! Thank you!!

    Confused!

    By Blogger Confused, at 6:52 AM  

  • Here is a flip side to the coin. My husband was diagnosed with azoospermia. Our dreams of having children naturally was shattered. Years later we decided that a life without children didn't really fit in with our dreams, so we went on a donor list. A year later we are now at the top of the list and got issued with 4 profiles. Not one even coming close in resemblance to my husband.
    It was shortly after this that friends had had a baby and I comented that the child looked exactly like the father. His response was "I'll never experience that..."
    My brother in law is 32 and single, my heart craves for him to be a donor. But it's my husband who says it would be too weird.
    It's breaking my heart, because I know that if it were my brother or sister in my shoes, i would never hesitate to help them out.
    I know the nights I have cried myself to sleep, desiring a child.
    But I don't just want anyones child...I want a part of him...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 AM  

  • Thank you for your comment. This is the sort of thing I need, is feedback from other people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:50 AM  

  • I am in exactly same situation as Joseph. My sister and her partner have asked me recently to donate sperm so they would have the kids. I have been debating about doing it for them. With the legal, political and rights for lesbian couples out there is not treated fair. I am gay myself. I know I never will have kids of my own,it is for my own personal choices, but giving kids for my sister and her partner. That would make their world brighter for them. I am looking for more feedbacks. Anyone can help?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM  

  • I am in a very similar situation, just not with a lesbian couple. My brother has had a long history of health problems leading to an inability to concieve. He has asked me and my two other brothers to create a "cocktail" to inseminate his wife. One other brother is married, one in a new relationship, and I have been with my girlfriend for 7 years now and intend to marry and have children with her. The married brother has said no, the other has said yes. I dont know what to do.

    My first reaction to the question was, "of course, I'd do anyhting for my brother." My girlfriend does not see it this way, and is opposed to it entirtely. This puts me in the middle - two people I would do anything for asking me to do contradictory things. I am a mess over it, and just don't know what to do. I go from angry at both my girlfriend and brother to sad to confused to detached, and cant get around it. To make matters worse, my parents are playing the guilt game on those of us that are reluctant. I suppose they have the same drive to have a biological grandchild as my brother has for a biological child. His current wife has a young son from a previous marriage as well.

    I get caught here - If genetics matters enough for me to donate, then doesn't it matter enough for the child to be mine, to create a strong desire in the future for it to be mine entirely? I guess if genetics matters, it matters and the child would be mine (or another brothers, which really just adds uncertainty.) So there is an inhereny tautology in all this - genetics both matters and doesn't.

    I also worry about the other child. He is around 6 now, but has known my brother as his dad since about 2. How will he feel? Wont he see that genetics matters to his father, enough that he would go to these extremes?

    In the end I feel it is a very selfish question to ask of someone. It amounts to asking for my first born child. My girlfriend cant handle the thought, but I want to be a good brother and person. I dont know what to do. It is drving me crazy. To top it off, they are very impatient and want an answer before her next period. I just cant take it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:42 AM  

  • Any updates on this? I'm facing the same situation?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 PM  

  • My 34 year old husband of 4 years was put into this same situation two weeks ago. His lesbian sister and her gf of 2 years just asked my husband to donate sperm to impregnate the gf. The family had no clue that the sister ever wanted a family and no one thought that their relationship was **serious**. In fact- my husband, his straight married sister, and her husband were all blown away by this request.

    The problem is that I am 35. This past year I have prepared myself to have children. After much discussion- my husband decided he was too immature to have children- that he didn't really want any kids NOW. So we have decided together- not to have children.

    So I was very angry at this request and very angry at the fact that my husband would even consider it. He would be willing to give a child to a woman he has only met a few times but not willing to give me a child. There was no way I would settle for him having a "biological" child in this world while I could not. No way. No how. Sorry it just isn't going to happen.

    Not only that- we were concerned about the legalities of donating. Since the sister and her gf live in Australia- but we live in America- what are the laws that would protect my husband and myself? What happens if the sister and gf split up and the gf takes the child since it is her own biological child? What happens if they split and the gf sues for child support from my husband? Also if my husband is too immature to have his own child- then he is too immature to donate sperm. I don't think he is ready for that at all.

    I also agree that it is a VERY SELFISH request to ask your siblings. Esp if they have decided to not have kids. I am still working through our decision to not have kids and some days it is harder for me- some days easier. But I would find it a slap to my face if my husband decided that he WANTED to donate.

    And if my husband donated sperm- I would probably start to hate it like you would hate a love child your spouse conceived while you were married. I am not a saint and I wish I were- but I am human and think that I would begin to resent my husband, the sister - the gf AND the child.

    To the men who are asked to donate before they are married themselves- what happens if you do donate- and then you get married and you find out that you can not conceive with your wife? Please think through this very carefully- because think of all the resentment that will build.

    I completely understand WHY lesbian siblings would ask their brothers for sperm. I get it. I am not cold hearted. But I wish for once these lesbian siblings would stop being so selfish and think about others and how it would affect the brothers - the guilt- the pressure- it is so unfair and so selfish.

    Just from a Wife's point of View

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:43 AM  

  • While I feel for the poster who's husband thinks he doesn't want children with her, I think it's she who is being selfish, and not thinking it through. The fact is, he decided for you that you were not going to have children, that much is obvious. And you resent him for that whether or not he donated to his sister. But, what if he donates to his sisters partner, and upon seeing his new baby neice/nephew decides that being a father wouldn't be so bad after all? 35 is not too old.
    There are pleny of legal documents that would prevent a donor recepient from coming back to the donor for support.
    And until you have been there, there is no way to understand the ramifications involved from the recipients point of veiw. There is more risk that the known-donor will suddenly want to be involved in the life of the child, a child that for practical purposes is to be the child of the couple, and only because science isn't yet far enough along to make that possible does a third party need to become involved. Depending on the sister, this can become very, very painful. Asking a brother for sperm is never an easy task, for one thing, at what point (if ever) do you tell the offspring? and if so, how?
    My partner and I are in the middle of that quandry right now. Do we, or do we not, ask my brother to donate? Despite the tens of thousands of dollars more it would cost us to go through a clinic, would it not be a better option for us, and our child, in the long run? On the other hand, my parents and grandparents would have a biological grandchild, and don't they deserve to look into the eyes of a (blood)family member not some random strangers baby?
    We are not planning to start trying till next year, so we are spending this time considering our options. Unfortunately, it's not an easy road.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 PM  

  • To the wife who doesn't want her husband to donate sperm to her SILs partner: I think very few people wouldn't understand your feelings. As theoretical as everything sounds before it happens, once it does, there's no going back and you'd have to live with the consequences forever. I, for one, completely understand your feelings and even though my husband & I have been blessed with children, I still would never be able OK with him donating sperm.

    By Blogger Rachel Inbar, at 11:58 AM  

  • To the ananomous that is caught between your girlfriend and your brother. I understand your girlfriends feelings but they are her feelings and to love someone as i'm sure she loves you then she should respect you for what ever you decide. I myself battled cancer and cannot have a baby. Last night my brother offered his sperm if my boyfriend couldnot give or otherwise chooses not to. That is the most imazing feeling to know that I am loved that much. All the other little things that are stopping you from doing so are petty im sure. Life is too short not to share something so wonderful as the gift of life, and to who better than your own sibling. Knowone is more like you than your own brother. All the genetic issues are just to much to worry about. Let it go and love your family wether it be your neice or your biological child. Let him enjoy being a father thats whats important. He I'm sure went through a much harder battle with his health than you are with this. Put yourself in his health shoes for a week and you'll see that there is too many reasons why you shouldn't donate. God Bless.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:18 AM  

  • This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 PM  

  • holy cow! I am gay a gay man and just had this conversation with my gay sister about donating sperm for her partner to get pregnant. I am so glad i found this blog from a google search. I am having such mixed, confused emotions about the whole thing

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:57 PM  

  • i'm so glad i found this blog. TO ANY MEN THINKING OF DONATING...DONT DO IT. my partner did, before got together, and it's the most horrible, horrible thing. it's definitely made me think more than twice about the relationship, the possibility of us having children etc.
    I think it's an incredibly selfish thing to ask of someone (he donated to friends of his) and now I have to deal with his 'first born' being in the world - not to mention the confusion that she (the child) feels about it all.
    JUST DON'T DO IT.
    And to the woman who's husband has azoospermia - i feel for you. It would be horrible not have children of your own. But i think you should think about the possible future partner of your brother, crying herself to sleep because the situation she's found herself in (ie: he already has a biological child) is one she would never had chosen for herself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:17 AM  

  • I totally agree with the last post - men don't do it. You may be persuaded into thinking you are just giving 'the gift of life' but this is rubbish - there will be lots of emotional consequences for your partner at the very least. If you stay in touch with the mother your partner is going to feel she is in a mormon like relationship. My partner donated sperm to his lesbian best friend without thinking that any future partner would mind. I met him 2 months after she conceived. I spent the early months of our relationship feeling very uncomfortable knowing there was another woman out there carrying his child. This woman wants my partner in her/their (depending on your point of view) child's life in an uncle like role. He's now between a rock and a hard place - he wants to honour the commitment to her but he realises how I feel very mournful about the whole thing and he does not want to upset me. I am very confused. I understand why that child has a right to know her father but I can't stand the fact that her mother and this stupid decision puts me in a such a horrible position. The right to have a child should be something special to a couple, not given away like a commodity.

    By Blogger Jealousofwhatfeelsstolen, at 1:42 PM  

  • I'm not sure how old these postings are, but the information and thoughts are very pertinent to my current situation. I have so many questions, and don't know where to turn to get some answers or advice. I've only started to explore the Internet for some guidance. It would be nice to talk to someone that have donated sperm, but don’t know where to turn.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 PM  

  • Good reading. Great seeds for discussion here - I'm sure everyone could write more!

    My sister-in-law and her wife have asked my husband and his brother to donate. We have two children - so there isn't the first born issue - and are very close with them. They initially wanted to do a "cocktail" but after talking about it decided that everyone including the child had a right to know who their father was. We've had lots of intense conversations about the legality and future consequences - met w/ lawyers, done std testing...

    I am thrilled. I don't know if I could part with my eggs as easily, but feel strongly that this a great thing for him to do. It makes things more complicated, but life is complicated. My kids will have half siblings, but they will know the truth and have a closer bond as cousins. I have found that when I share this to friends, I am met with many of the same doubts as found here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:02 PM  

  • As the term 'selfishness' has been so openly used in this comments section, particularly by the partners of men asked to be sperm donors, I ask, surely the 'selfishness' in this equation comes from the partners of the men asked to donate?

    To these women, it may trouble you to think of your partner having other children or your first child with him not being his 'first-born', but can your troubles be in any way related to the devastation that your sister-in-law is feeling, knowing that she cannot have children that are 100% genetically hers and her husbands and that the only possibility of them ever having a child that resembles and ii genetically related to both of them is by using his brother sperm to conceive a child?

    Think of all the step-parents in the world who accept and love their step-children despite knowing that these children are their partners 'first-borns' and their children together wont be.

    Also, if your partner is happy and willing to donate (perhaps he even offered his sperm to his brother without asking?) surely you can accept that your partner has allowed his brother to have children that are as similar to him as he will ever get, which is an amazing thing for your partner to given.

    It's devastating to be told that any children you have with your husband or wife wont be 100% genetically yours, and in my opinion, denying your partner's brother and wife a child that shares 75% of their genetics (50% from the mother and 25% from your partner as he and his brother are 50% genetically similar) and the chance to have a child that resembles your partner's brother and continues his genetic line is the greatest act of selfishness of them all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:11 PM  

  • This is so crazy.. i had no idea so many people in the world were going through the same exact thing as me and my girlfriend. We have only been together for 3 years but we are very much in love and we both want children so badly together. But being to females its impossible for us to have a baby together. A few months ago we were talking about our options and her brother asked how we felt about him maybe being a donor.
    My girlfriend is all for the idea because the baby would resemble her and we both want it to come from us.. Technically.
    But im a little more hesitent. I mean its a great thing that the baby would be from both our genes, but im just afraid that she wont think of it as "ours" that she will feel like its her brothers and not hers. She keeps reasuring me that she wouldnt think like that and her brother says that he would love the baby as an uncle and not as a father, that he would never throw that up at us. I dont know i really want to do it because its the only way it will really be both ours. Im just scared..
    Any advice??

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:55 AM  

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