Navigating the complex world of fertility treatment, I was faced with the reality of paying more than $8,000 in clinic fees, sperm bank fees, and even FedEx shipping if I chose a known donor. This financial burden led us to consider a less conventional route. Consequently, we turned to sex with a friend since the fertility treatment was too expensive, resorting to the old-fashioned method to expand our family.
Money, or the possession of it, can pave the road for virtually anything. Your small business objectives Your fantasy travel. Your garden gnome collection. It can even facilitate family formation. But if, like me and millions of Americans, money is tight, it’s easy to feel completely prevented from achieving your ambitions, especially the childbearing component.
This is how I felt as I evaluated my choices for conceiving as a voluntarily single parent. It was the month of May, and the snow had finally melted from the streets of Minneapolis. I was 33, almost 34, and ready to become a mother. I was prepared for years. There was only one problem: I needed a better track record in romantic relationships. I realized I had to reevaluate when my last attempt at a relationship failed, despite what I had perceived to be a spectacular connection.
In reality, my desperation was stifling my prospects of finding a companion and the father of my child. By the time I was in my late 20s, I was aware that female fertility often falls after age 35. With each passing birthday, my desperation grew, and my dates were able to detect it.
Just Add Sperm
At age 33, I determined that becoming a parent was my top objective, even if it meant being unmarried. If I did not at least attempt, I would live the rest of my life with regret.
Single parents, by choice, are those who are single when they decide to have a child. They may be mothers, fathers, or non-binary individuals. Some individuals are single because they choose to be. Some people are single for inexplicable reasons. (That was indeed me.)
However, this group has one thing in common: conception appears differently than typical. It demands a product from outside. Sperm was the missing ingredient in my instance. As I quickly discovered, however, a single vial of this abundant natural resource can be quite expensive in the world of artificial insemination.
I had believed that conceiving a kid would be a natural aspect of a partnership, requiring no initial financial input.
My lifestyle may be described as modest. At the age of 33, I was a university teaching assistant. I had a low income but no debt. I had excellent health coverage. I even had some savings. Several vials of sperm, though, could eradicate the majority of it.
I had thought for years that conceiving a kid would be a natural aspect of a partnership, requiring no initial financial input. My savings were intended for the actual cost of raising a child, not for conception. Every parent knows that having a child drastically alters one’s financial profile; what was formerly spent on daiquiris is now spent on childcare and more. For me, having a child was financially worthwhile. But I felt it would be wonderful to begin my adventure as a parent with some sort of safety net.
I drove to a suburban hospital center just outside Minneapolis late that April. There was the reproductive clinic that my primary care physician had suggested. The personnel seems to be accepting and nonjudgmental. The clinic’s name was straightforward: OBGYN & Infertility. However, the price was not straightforward. It would cost approximately $450 for an initial consultation and labs, approximately $350 to determine if I was ovulating (some individuals require this multiple times per cycle), and approximately $350 for each insemination attempt.
This amounted to a minimum of $1,150 for my first month of attempting to conceive, plus roughly $600 for each subsequent month. My insurance would pay a portion of this, so I was optimistic that I could pull it off. It was then necessary to investigate the sperm issue.
I considered utilizing sperm from an unknown source. My previous roommate had stated he planned to donate sperm to a gay couple he knew, and once I understood I could ask a friend, I began compiling a list of potential donors. The first person I asked, a good friend from several years ago, agreed. We shall call him Jack.
I left the fertility clinic with colorful brochures for two sperm banks. Even if I wanted to utilize Jack’s sperm, I would have to go through a sperm bank because the fertility clinic I had chosen did not accept fresh sperm from non-spouse donors; only frozen sperm was permitted. The clinic staff had indicated that they needed to avoid any potential parentage claims from using sperm obtained outside of marriage. The sperm’s freezing helps eliminate any legal ambiguity.
Optional Fertility Clinics
As it turns out, the cost of insemination skyrockets when frozen sperm is required. The cryogenic sperm banks that freeze the samples require exhaustive donor screening and testing. This is also a liability issue; no corporation wants to be sued over an unexpected medical condition caused by the mingling of biological fluids. In reality, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires donor sperm to undergo a specific amount of testing.
I dialed California Cryobank‘s number to learn more about modern pricing. The California Cryobank is the nation’s largest sperm bank. Using sperm from a tested donor from their vault, a donor you are unfamiliar with costs roughly $1,000 for each vial. This is the base rate, which requires selecting a donor with limited information. Donor photographs necessitate a cost increase.
At the time of my research, it cost more than $5,000 for the first set of vials to be obtained from a “known” donor, such as Jack, with whom you have an arrangement. (A “set” is the amount of sperm your donor can generate with a single ejaculation. It might be one, or it could be eight.) According to them, this is largely owing to the necessary testing. However, it is significantly more than an STI panel.
And if you require additional young swimmers? Nearly $1,400 is charged for each new round or set of vials. In addition, each time a donor provides a sample, the clinic demands two different medical examinations six months apart. The sperm is not released until six months have passed. Oh, and FedEx shipping prices start at $275 per shipment. I hung up the phone with a whirling head.
I anticipated I would take four cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI) before conceiving; it is common for women under the age of 40 to require four to six cycles of IUI to conceive. Adding the charges of the clinic, sperm bank, and FedEx, I would be looking at a total of $6,000 to $7,000 for an anonymous donor and over $8,000 for a known donor of my choosing. Certainly, insurance could have benefited in some way. When sperm is so…abundant, it just didn’t seem like the correct course of action.
Therefore, I decided to fly to California to attempt conception using some of Jack’s fresh material. I paid for Dixie cups and a turkey baster, as well as an examination of his sperm for motility and STIs. However, booking the plane ticket was more difficult. My menstrual periods are typically random; if anything, their duration seems to be determined by my stress levels. I purchased a last-minute ticket after a fresh menstrual cycle began, and a few days later, I was basking in the June sunshine of California, surrounded by the citrus trees and fairy duster-covered streets of Berkeley. I was both anxious and excited to implement my strategy.
I had entire faith in Jack. He was not romantically drawn to women, therefore, it was doubtful that any of us would have misdirected feelings. He wasn’t confident he would have children of his own, so he was pleased to have a piece of himself in the world.
As soon as the digital smiling face appeared on my ovulation test, we tried our hardest to conceive. Each afternoon, he would leave me a Dixie cup, and I would transport it to its proper location. We engaged in this activity for at least nine days, which, in hindsight, was perhaps excessive. I returned to Minneapolis by air. A few weeks later, though, my pregnancy test revealed a single line.
I determined after that encounter that my next attempt should be closer to home. This had less to do with the expense of flights in general than with the difficulty of precisely timing them. In addition, traveling increases my stress levels, which is not ideal for conceiving. If I wasn’t going to freeze and mail Jack’s sperm and go the clinic route, I wanted someone I could summon to my studio apartment on an as-needed basis. Therefore, I determined that I would be open to having sex for sperm during the next cycle.
Sexual activity eliminated some issues while introducing others. I knew it provided the sperm the best chance to survive and reach their destination. But it also signified uneasiness, maybe emotions, and other complicated human emotions. Perhaps I should give the Dixie cup another shot. I wondered. In the end, though, I was content with engaging in sexual activity with guys, so this next step felt logical.
I began informing acquaintances that I was seeking a sperm donor in Minneapolis. A few weeks later, in August, a friend recommended a person she had been dating. He was polite, calm, blond, and a veteran. He was involved in computer programming, yoga, polyamory, and healthy eating. When we met for coffee, he appeared principled, kind, and sincere. He declared that he desired to do good in the world.
He received his STI testing at the VA facility. We arranged for him to arrive unexpectedly the next time I ovulated. In addition, we chose to adopt the “natural way” of insemination, i.e., sexual activity. I do not know what would have transpired had I requested that he use the Dixie cup. But I didn’t. In the end, this was the most effective strategy from a scientific standpoint: cervical fluid can work miracles.
In addition, he was interested in atypical relationships, in closeness devoid of the constraints of conventional romance. Despite not sharing his polyamorous views, I could understand his philosophy at that time. His unorthodox way of living mirrored my unique approach to starting a family.
When the time arrived, we stood for a while gazing at my bookcase while drinking the bottle of Malbec I had procured to relax us. Then, cordially but clumsily, we engaged in sexual reproduction.
Two weeks later, my pregnancy test still showed no second line. We intend to try again shortly.
In the interim, however, I began dating someone. We were casually dating; there was no pressure. Being in his company was simple. We weren’t having sex. But I realized I need to have an urgent conversation with him. I was upfront with him about my desire for a child by the end of the summer, but I understood I could not date one guy while attempting to conceive with another.
After maybe the most significant relationship discussion of my life, we decided that he would be my donor. We would use a donor contract to make our intentions clear and to provide the greatest possible legal protection. There would be no restrictions.
Consequently, I became pregnant with the use of normal, everyday sex. I was overjoyed the day I received the positive test result. A few months later, I parted company with the donor.
I believe I made the proper decisions. The natural way cost me a few hundred dollars in total, and it worked swiftly. However, it was hazardous. While the donor and I have adhered to our contract requirements, there have been a few difficult, emotional exchanges between us, particularly amid the pandemic’s panic. I wish I didn’t have to pick between risking my life savings or spending them.
Nonetheless, the majority of things worked out. I possess a beautiful daughter. And as soon as that old desperation subsided, I captured the love of my life and future spouse. And rather than spending my cash on sperm, I provided for my daughter, keeping her safe and warm during the bitterly harsh Minnesota winters. Eventually, the three of us relocated to Tucson, where life is somewhat simpler.
In my story, a few exceptional men’s compassion opened a door out of the box built by money. But what if we could supply safe, legal, and economical donor sperm to single parents by choice, LGBT couples, and anybody else who needs it? Then, we could immediately hurl the box out the window.
Meaningful articles you might like: Facts about Fertility, HPV, and Cervical Cancer, Top Fertility Centers to Help You Start a Family, 6 Infertility Warning Signs You Should Never Ignore