My partner and I really want to have a baby (she would carry) and we've talked about the option of having my brother donate his sperm.
I really love the idea of our baby having my genes. I'm worried that the relationship between my brother and the baby, and me for that matter, would be difficult or confusing, and I guess I'm wondering if you know of any others that have gone this route.
Is it common? I'm not scared of the difficult aspect, but the uncle/dad thing is a bit strange. I wouldn't want my brother to act as a father or think of himself as anything more than the baby's uncle, but I obviously know that these things are impossible to predict. Any insight or resources you can offer would be much appreciated.
To the issue of using your brother's sperm, Rachel Epstein, the coordinator of the LGBTQ Parenting Network at Sherbourne Health Centre said this: "People have certainly done this, and it has worked out fine, with the brother playing an uncle role."
An important factor involved in this decision would be having your brother relinquish his parental rights in order for you, the non-biological mother, to adopt the child. Also key is your brother's temperament and your connection to him.
"I'd also want to know how old he is, if he has kids of his own and how he feels about doing this," said Epstein. "In other words, it would be important to have a process of discussion with him to figure out whether or not it could work. Sometimes it comes down to a gut feeling, but there are also many practical things to be discussed such as how he would see his involvement with the child and what happens if he finds himself having unanticipated feelings."
Relinquishing of rights is done as part of a second-parent adoption process that would give legal parental status to you and your partner. "Most people do this process with the help of a lawyer, and it costs $1,500 to $2,000," said Epstein. For more information and resources regarding LGBTQ parenting, go to lgbtqparentingconnection.ca.
Another option is to have the carrying mother implanted with the fertilized egg of the non-carrying partner, so one brings the roast and the other supplies the oven. I spoke with a reader who is currently pregnant this way, and she offered some amazing and detailed insights.
"The process is different for everyone," she wrote, "but my partner had to take a few different kinds of hormonal injections in the weeks leading up to the retrieval. For us, the process started with both of us going on birth control pills, though not all clinics use that protocol.
"From what I understand, there are basically three different kinds of protocols: flare, long and antagonist. We did the long. It depends on a bunch of factors, including age, ovarian reserve and, if applicable, previous response to treatment."
They met with their clinic for the first time in April, at which point they both had blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds, which were repeated during their next menstrual cycles.
"We both went on prenatal vitamins and tried to eat healthy. We basically started the real process at the end of June, based again on where we were with our cycles. The time from beginning treatment, in our case starting birth control pills, to the actual transfer of the embryos was around six weeks, but it's a bit different for everyone."
Physiological preparations can be pretty zany.
"My partner had to do daily subcutaneous injections into her stomach for a few weeks, and I had to take hormone pills," she said. "First, she was on drugs that shut down ovulation, putting her into a state of menopause. Then she started drugs for controlled ovarian hyper-stimulation that make your ovaries get more eggs ready than the usual one per month."
The egg retrieval process happened during a day surgery with twilight sedation. At that point, Preggo Mom started doing daily intramuscular injections into her ass, continuing until the end of the first trimester.
"The drugs are intense," she said. "The ones I was on made me constantly nauseous -- good preparation for the first trimester! I was lucky, though; the drugs my partner was on were worse. Her migraines got more frequent, she had hot flashes and mood swings, and as it got closer to the retrieval, her ovaries were heavier and heavier, which was uncomfortable for her."
Eggo Mom also had to go to the clinic every other day for a few weeks, then daily toward the end for blood work and ultrasounds, "to ensure that her ovaries were responding well without being overstimulated. It was an extremely intense time, emotionally and physically," said Preggo. "Obviously, it worked for us -- first try! We are so, so lucky -- so it was totally worth every second. But, it was definitely a challenge."
Really? Two women sharing one household, battling every stage of reproduction within a span of about four months is a challenge? The Thunderdome is more like it. Congratulations, women. I'm roaring over here for you. Might I also suggest, for additional inspiration, a trip to this art show?
"Three days after the retrieval, we did the transfer, which requires no sedation," Preggo Mom continued. "We transferred two embryos but only one took. Then we waited two weeks to find out if it worked. Some doctors recommend various kinds/lengths of bed rest at that time. Our clinic recommended 24 hours of bed rest, followed by taking it easy. I took the week after the transfer off of work to allow my body to relax completely, though the clinic didn't required that. I just wanted to do whatever I could to be relaxed, since that's supposed to help with success rates. We both also did acupuncture with a practitioner who is experienced with IVF."
They used an anonymous donor. "The fertility clinic gave us a list of sperm banks that are Canadian-compliant -- meaning they use testing processes that are in line with Canadian legislation, I guess. They have websites, and it's a bit like online dating. You type in any parameters that apply to you, then go through their profiles.
"The profiles include things like personal essays, childhood photos, audio interviews, medical profiles -- though you have to pay extra for some of these, depending on the bank you use. Once we selected our top three, we gave the form back to the clinic, which arranged for delivery of the sperm. It was a relatively straightforward process considering what a huge decision it is."
This procedure, along with being a bit of a hormonal hell ride, is also costly. "The prices vary by clinic," said Preggo, "but it seems to cost around $8,000 to $14,000, depending on the clinic and what procedures you have to have done.
"Then there are the medication costs on top of that -- usually an extra $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the drugs. The good thing is that if the egg donor partner responds well to the stimulating drugs and has good eggs, you will get more than one or two good embryos, and since most people only transfer one or two, you can have the rest frozen. If your first try isn't successful, you can then try again with the frozen embryos, which is a lot cheaper, I think around $2,000."
"The only other thing I'd add is that if you're considering this, have your GP write several referrals for different clinics," said Preggo. "It's worth meeting with at least two in the early stages, so that you can make sure you are going forward with a clinic (and doctor) with which you feel completely comfortable. We had total confidence in our doctor, and I really think this played a role in our success."
Preggo and Eggo used the Create Clinic (createivf.com) and their physician was Dr. Sharma, whom Preggo describes as rad.
I offered to take Preggo out for a drink for basically writing my column this week, but she's not going the Studio 54 route with this little gem.
"I haven't been drinking," she admitted. "I'm not normally so cautious, but I guess since we spent $12,000 to get knocked up, I feel a bit more protective."
This column was originally published in NOW Magazine. Ask Sasha:
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