The Not-So Obvious Donor
August 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
On the first day of my period I make a call to the clinic and tell them that I wish to pusue treatment. I fear that I have left it too long, that they will have forotten that I ever saw Mr Xin and undertook the tests. As I am put throuh to the nurse I gabble that I know that it’s been a while, but I needed to wait for the summer when work is quieter and ovulation will fall at a time when I can escape without too many people noticing my absence. The nurse seems nonplussed and locates my notes with ease. She tells me that everything is in order. She explains that someone from the lab will call me over the next few days with an offer of a donor and I will then need to call on ovulation day to arrange a time for the insemination. She asks if anyone has been through my preferences with me? My preferences for what? I ask. The sort of donor I would like, she explains. I had assumed that being in the position that I am and the current shortage of sperm, that I could not expect much choice, and I tell her this. Well, you can specify a few things, she responds, let me get the forms.
I am due back with a client in less than ten minutes. I am not sure that this is the best time to adequately decide on the characteristics I would like for my child’s biological father. Also, knowing that I will be given no information beyond height, weight, eye and hair colour, occupation; details that I find least relevant to know; means that I wonder if it’s really worth becoming too invested in the idea of choice. What I’d be really interested in are details of their character. How kind are they? Who do they vote for? What sort of man might my child find if they choose to trace them, as I believe they inevitably will? Will they be welcoming and have truly come to terms with the implications of being a donor? I’m also aware that my own colouring of pasty-skinned, blue eyed, ginger means that there being a donor who shares this physical resemblance, is remote. And I’m not sure that I’d want there to be. Perhaps this is an opportunity to save my future child from a life of factor 50, over-sized sunhats and ginger jibes?
I’m pretty open, I tell the nurse when she returns. Well, she goes on. Is there anything that you don’t want? What do you mean? I ask. Well, some people say that they don’t want people like bin men? Bin men? I question. Or postmen, she adds. What’s wrong with a bin man or a postman? I inwardly wonder. Some people tell us that they only want donors with a university education. I think of my family. I am the only one to have been to universty amongst a host of dockers and tradespeople, plumbers and electricians, who all earn twice as much money as me. I have a second cousin who is a postman who always takes my Nan a box of Family Circle biscuits every Christmas Eve, who I’m sure would make a fantastic father. A bin man or postman will be fine, I tell the nurse. She repeats that someone will be in touch in the next few days. I doubt she even bothers to fill in the form.
Four days later I receive a call from the lab. I am in the middle of teaching and I recognise the number as it vibrates on the lectern next to me. I falter and struggle to continue to the end of the class when I scurry back to my office, slam the door shut and make the return call.
Katie from the lab tells me that there are two possibilities. The first is 5″8, 76kg (what is this in stones? I wonder), blonde hair, blue eyes, an office worker who likes music, films and going out. Going out? I think. I immediately envisage him as a hard drinker. And a young one at that. Nobody puts ‘going out’ as one of their likes unless they’re 21. By your late twenties you’re confident that ‘going out’ just ‘is’ and by the time you’re my age you’ve forgotten what it means and you’ve moved on to listing evening class attendance. It is like reading between the lines of a dating profile.
The second is 6″2, I don’t bother to register his kg weight, dark hair, a pilot, who likes fitness and music. A pilot? I am unable to suppress a wow and Katie laughs. She emphasises that his profession means that he will have undertaken significant extra health and medical checks. How can the first compete with a pilot? But something holds me back. Katie sounds surprised when I tell her that I’ll think about it and call her back.
I spend the next few hours in turmoil. What I thought would be a relatively easy decision based on limited options, my belief in loving nurture and uniqueness of any future child and determination not to become entangled in modern-day, aspirational eugenics, temporarily becomes a protracted, fraught one.
In the immediate, unthinking, romance of the moment I am inevitably drawn to the pilot. I imagine him to be good at maths (I failed my GCSE maths and have been lying about it ever since); well co-ordinated (it takes me five seconds to work out my left from my right); well-travelled with a sense of adventure (as a family we spent our summer holiday in the same south devon resort for twelve years and I was 21 before I went on a plane); with nerves of steel (I’ve always been a bit highly strung). He could be the yang to my creative, readerly yin and I fantasise that together we might create the consummate, all-rounder child.
And then I stop, and think of you, my future child at eight, who will probably be living in relative poverty, still in a one bedroom flat, sharing bunk beds with me, and the one piece of information that I can pass on is that your father is a pilot. What will you think and feel? Handsome, gold lapels, cadillac of the skies. Tantalising. A recipe for discontent, I think. I wish I lived with my dad. And then every plane crash reported on the news, might it be him? Or the hero who landed on the Hudson River, might that be him? I imagine you on the one foreign holiday that I might eventually be able to afford, scouring the departure lounge for any sign of him. As we board the plane and fasten our seatbelts and the captain welcomes us from the flight deck, your excited legs swinging beside me will be accompanied by the inevitable question. Is that my dad? What would I say? No? That it might be? That I don’t know? And your excitement turning to confusion and insecurity.
I also start to see beyond the initial glamour to wider (and undoubtedly wilder) speculations. ‘Fitness’ sounds solitary and I envisage a fragmented, lonely life spanning the globe. I wonder about his motivation in being a donor. Does he want to establish some roots, but why has he not achieved this for himself?
I return to thinking about the 5″8 office worker. There is something straightforward about him, as if he is who he is. A blank slate for my future child to become whoever he or she might want to be. He sounds sociable and ‘going out’ starts to make me smile. I also recall being the only child in my family to have red hair which resulted in me being convinced that I was adopted for a good three years of my childhood and I begin to think that it might be responsible for my child to have at least some physical resemblance to me. The first donor’s blue eyes might mean that we’ll share this characteristic and strawberry blonde might not be so bad.
Tempting though the pilot is, I decide no. Anonymous office worker it is. I call Katie back to tell her.