I know a lot of queer folks who are looking to make babies. I also know the internet is not as helpful, inclusive, and/or supportive in this quest as we would hope. I know because I looked. There are lots of “trying to conceive” message boards and websites (TTC is the shorthand that everyone on those boards uses) but those sites are VERY heterocentric, and not every queer individual is going to feel comfortable there. There’s also not a whole lot of helpful technical advice, which is important especially if you are going for DIY conception (not going through a sperm bank but finding your own donor and inseminating in the comfort of your home.)
Side note: To be thorough, I will mention that queer families are also created with the help of fertility clinics, adoption agencies, surrogate mothers, and of course sex, too. I’m not as familiar with these methods of conception, but I hope to have some guest posts here someday to cover all these areas.
DIY conception is what I’m most familiar with because it is what we did, and the route that quite a few other families I know are taking. I’ll get into why we made that choice, and the pros and cons of DIY vs. clinic, in a later post. In this post I’m sharing the steps of our process in a lot of detail, and I hope this will be helpful to other folks.
1. Decide what kind of donor you are looking for, what relationship you seek to have with them, and what relationship you seek your child to have with them (present as well as future). In DIY conception, you know the donor, so decide whether you want that individual to be someone you are very close to, or someone who is more of an acquaintance and won’t be in your life much after the donation. Other factors to consider: age, general health, maturity level, reliability/ timeliness (you are going to be depending on this person to be available to do a very specific thing at a designated time. He needs to be able to keep his appointments.)
We wanted someone who was not in our inner circle of friends so as to avoid any complications in the relationship this person has with our family. We were looking for a donation of sperm, not a co-parent and we knew that B would be doing a second-parent adoption of the child, so we had no desire to establish legal paternity. Yet we wanted someone who would be open to the possibility of a relationship of some sort with the child at a later time when and if the child had a desire to know their biological donor.
2. Find your donor. Come up with a list if your three top choices for donors, and broach the subject. Tell them exactly what you are looking for and what you are not looking for. Ask if they might be willing to consider filling this role for you. Give them time to think about it. Include their partners in the discussion, too, because they have a stake in this as well.
3. Once you and your donor have agreed to move forward, agree on your agreements. Be clear about what is going to happen. We wrote up the things we had talked about, and all involved parties signed and dated the document. It was a covenant. We knew what we were signing up for, and where the boundaries were. Things to discuss and agree on: duration of said agreement (are you going to try just once? Six months? A year?), mode and frequency of communication (we agreed that we would tell our donor when I got my period, so he would know that in about a week and a half we would need to meet up for a donation. Then we would text around day 8 of my cycle to figure out a specific day and time for the donation), method of delivery (make sure you and the donor are on the same page about timing between ejaculation and insemination, what kind of vessel will be used, and keeping the sample warm, etc.), and location (Your place? His place? Will the donor bring the sample to you, or will you go get it? Will you already be in the same place when he produces a sample, or will you coordinate to meet up right after?). Lots to think about…
Also decide whether you want to have a legally binding agreement about donation, or not. I’ll write about this in another post, but for now I’ll just say that this may or may not be necessary or desired, depending on what state you live in. We did not make a legally binding agreement, just a written agreement between us. With our donor and in our state, we were comfortable with that.
4. Track your ovulation, and do the deed. I had been tracking the length of my cycle for several months before we started trying. I also tracked my cervical mucus for signs of ovulation. With this information, I was fairly certain I was ovulating on day 11 of my cycle. Because sperm can live for up to 5 days but an egg is only viable for 24-48 hours after ovulation, we got a sample on day 9 and day 11. The sample was provided to us in a glass jar within 15-20 minutes of it being produced, and it had been kept at body temperature the whole time. We drew the sample into a medication syringe and inserted it just like a tampon. Then for good measure we inserted an Instead Soft Cup to trap the sperm up close to my cervix, which I kept in overnight.
5. Relax, Wait, Persevere.
I know a couple for whom this method worked on the first try. For us it worked on the second try (although I’m fairly certain I had a chemical pregnancy the first try, it just didn’t stick). For other couples it will take much longer, and for some it may never happen. Those TTC sites that I mentioned can be a good source of support for you during the waiting game, but it’s also very easy to over-obsess about the process. What is meant to happen will, so try to give yourself some grace. When a child is supposed to join your family, it will come to you!