Nothing as Planned: Part One of a Three-Part Series
Originally published 2-22-08
I had it all worked out a few years ago. After mulling over whether or not to have a baby–being a lesbian, being single, being over 35–I decided to go for it. Coming to that decision wasn’t easy, but the ups and downs I had gone through were nothing compared to the path that lay ahead.
Wanting the baby to know his biological father, I chose a sperm donor who was a family friend I’d known since age 14. Tommy was now in his late thirties and had done well for himself, in some respects. He’d amassed great wealth as a restaurateur and investor, but he’d lost on love, and found himself divorced after a rocky marriage in which his wife left him for his best friend.
Everything seemed all set, but then he went off and did something stupid. He fell in love and got married again, and his wife wouldn’t even hear of him donating his sperm to another woman.
Next I settled on Robert, a handsome, smart, 40-something gay man, who had been in a relationship with Ethan, a relative of mine, for almost 10 years. Robert also had deep desires to have a child. He wanted the role of an “uncle,” where he would spend occasional weekends and summer vacations with the child, but he didn’t want the responsibility of full-time fatherhood. The situation was perfect.
And then he went off and did something stupid. Really stupid. He contracted HIV in an extra-gay-marital affair. The injury to Ethan was plenty (though their relationship would survive, and thankfully Ethan remains HIV negative), but the injury to both of us was devastating. His prospects of fatherhood were dashed.
Eventually I moved on, onto the manhunt of my life. There was Tristan, a fashion photographer, playboy and world traveler, who never wanted to be tied down, but who told me he had a strong urge to “spread his seed.” He had a penchant for lesbians and assured me the best way to conceive was “the old in and out.” Before we had a chance to test his theory, the wild stallion was tamed. His domineering new girlfriend informed him that his sperm now belonged to her.
After a few more false starts, with straight men whose better half literally had them by the you-know-whats, I focused on the gay men in my life. I went through my little black Palm Pilot and started dialing for donors.
When I ran across the number for Evan, a former coworker who once told me he loved kids, I tripped over myself getting to the phone. Why didn’t I think of him before? Evan was a loner gay man who was a top executive at an entertainment company in Hollywood. He, like me, had suffered the untimely death of his beloved brother, and he, also, desired to bring new life into his family. We hadn’t spoken in years; I rang him up, stumbled over awkward small talk, and got to the point.
He was silent for a few moments, and then proposed, “Let’s do lunch.” We met at his favorite insider spot in Beverly Hills, seated at a private table in an Ivy-covered outdoor gazebo. I committed to memory. This would be the place where I would end my search for a donor and my family would begin.
He agreed to do it. He would be the “uncle” figure I was looking for, and not only that, he would contribute financially – substantially — and want nothing in return except being known as the father to the child. I was overjoyed. We spent the next few hours sharing our vision of our family-to-be, even deciding on names for a girl or boy. Then he said he had one more thing he needed to tell me. He heard it wouldn’t be a problem. There were ways to “scrub” the sperm to make it safe, but he thought I should know, he was HIV positive.
Perhaps HIV was not the end of family aspirations after all, I thought. I went to the Internet to explore the possibility of insemination with HIV positive sperm. I consulted a friend who worked for an HIV testing center. All data confirmed, the outlook was not good. I avoided it for weeks, and then I couldn’t even make the call. I sent Evan an email explaining the danger to mother and child and the low chances of success of pregnancy with HIV sperm. He didn’t write back for months, but finally did, to say good luck with everything.
Out of ideas and gay friends, my friend Denise and I started scouring the online personals for some hint of a man who might be a good donor-dad-uncle. I even posted an ad, “Help Make a Family,” which resulted in a few obscenity-laden responses and a few sincere ones, followed up with some pretty scary pictures of the guys.
Not to sound too shallow, but I hoped I would find the donor attractive. I had this idea that, even though I didn’t plan on sleeping with the guy, he should be someone who I might date if I were het, because I felt that some kind of natural selection would be at work, with attraction meaning we were intended to be mates, if circumstances were different.
Near losing hope, Denise pulled up a post using “baby” as a search word. “What about this one?” She found a posting from a Brazilian-American gay man, who wanted to be a sperm donor. He was HIV negative. One down. He wanted the child to know him and in fact he would like to visit on occassion. Okay, good. He wanted to contribute financially. Okay. As I read on about his philosophy regarding his role as a known sperm donor, everything seemed in order.
We agreed to meet at Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills. It felt like a blind date when he walked through the busy restaurant to greet me. “Karen?” He said, calling me by my “Craigslist’s name,” with a musical Brazilian accent. He was energetic, confident, courteous … and attractive. Very attractive.
We spent the next few weeks getting to know each other’s friends and family. He brought over a bag of family photos, his diplomas and even childhood finger paintings. He wanted me to know everything about him and to feel comfortable with him. I appreciated his openness, and his eagerness, and I was glad he wanted to show me that he was trustworthy. I felt in my gut that this was the man I’d been looking for.
My friends gave him the thumbs up. We both went to our doctors for every imaginable STD test. Our doctors gave us a clean bill of health. We were both ready, willing and able. I was practically shaking with joy. My dreams were answered, my hopes fulfilled. I would be a mother. All was right with the world.
Now all I had to do was get pregnant.