Jolivette Mecenas

How We Chose Our 'Willing-To-Be-Known' Donor

Jolivette (third from left) and Charlyne with friends Sarah and Carrie, who are in the process of adopting a baby in Texas. The two couples plan to vacation together with their new families. i i

hide captionJolivette (third from left) and Charlyne with friends Sarah and Carrie, who are in the process of adopting a baby in Texas. The two couples plan to vacation together with their new families.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Jolivette (third from left) and Charlyne with friends Sarah and Carrie, who are in the process of adopting a baby in Texas. The two couples plan to vacation together with their new families.

Jolivette (third from left) and Charlyne with friends Sarah and Carrie, who are in the process of adopting a baby in Texas. The two couples plan to vacation together with their new families.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

A few weeks ago, Jolivette Mecenes wrote the first part of her story on how she and her partner, Charlyne, went about conceiving a baby — and how people felt entitled to ask her about it. Here is Part 2.

The second most popular question people want to ask us (after "How did you get pregnant?") is: How did you choose your donor? As I wrote in the first part of this story, we gave up on our wish list of known donors (guys we love and admire) and turned to a local fertility clinic and sperm bank.

We decided to search for a donor whom we did not know, yet was "willing to be known" to our child once he or she turned 18. We spent weeks reading through handwritten donor profiles. We compared photos of the donors as little boys, some dressed in karate outfits, others dressed for a Sears portrait, circa 1983. In Donor #XXXX's photo of his boyhood self, he smiles openly, optimistically. And he is just adorable.

I can't articulate how we actually selected Donor #XXXX, except to say that the process was intuitive as well as carefully reasoned. And the selection created a new intimacy between Charlyne and me that I did not expect. It's not exactly like falling in love, but we did experience that same dreamy sensation of imagining ourselves spending the rest of our lives totally in love with a third person, even with only a few clues of who that person — our future child — may turn out to be.

About Jolivette

Jolivette Mecenas, 38, lives with her partner, Charlyne, in Los Angeles. The two welcomed their first child, Maximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, on Aug. 17.

I fully admit that I may be romanticizing, but Donor #XXXX struck me as someone who plunges headlong into life with energy and sincerity. I think Charlyne liked the fact that he seemed a bit more humble than the others. She was so not impressed by another donor who listed at least two professional degrees from reputable schools and an accompanying list of highbrow accomplishments (gourmet chef, black belt martial artist, world traveler, etc.), as his ambition did not sound so genuine. Our donor, on the other hand, listed fishing and dancing as some of his interests — simple, yet appealing. In the end, we know that our boy is going to be whoever he's going to be, and that's the beautiful mystery of raising a child.

With a donor in mind, we started the business of fertility. Donor insemination is pricey, and we're on the budget of an assistant professor and a grad student/adjunct professor, so we did our homework on fertility to make insemination as cost-efficient as possible. I find it funny that at age 37, after menstruating for about 25 years, I finally began to understand how my reproductive system works. Since age 12, I had a vague understanding that life ran in cycles, but I experienced these as the "normal life" phase, then the dreaded cramps and ibuprofen phase, then the weeklong messy and inconvenient phase; repeat.

The fuzzy mystery of human reproduction became clearer a year ago, when I began the process of obsessive charting. Did you know that a woman's first day of her period is the first day of her cycle? I did not know that. I also did not know that at about midway of her cycle (it's different for everyone), a woman's basal body temperature rises slightly, indicating a hormonal surge, after which follows ovulation — the best window of opportunity for getting pregnant. This sliver of time only lasts about two days, so I took my temperature and charted faithfully, trying to eliminate the guesswork as much as possible. (I've since learned from a hetero guy that there is a phone app for charting a woman's cycle. Apparently, couples who don't want to get pregnant are in the know!)

In December, I thought I had mistakenly read the ovulation test as positive, but it was too late — we had already ordered the specimen and were scheduled for insemination the next day. We went ahead with it, and with amazing luck (I call it winning the lesbian reproductive lotto), the home pregnancy test indicated positive two weeks later. The hospital confirmed my pregnancy that same week, and here we are nine months later.

Jolivette (second from left) with her partner, Charlyne, and friends Robert and Dario at their last baby shower in Los   Angeles. i i

hide captionJolivette (second from left) with her partner, Charlyne, and friends Robert and Dario at their last baby shower in Los Angeles.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Jolivette (second from left) with her partner, Charlyne, and friends Robert and Dario at their last baby shower in Los   Angeles.

Jolivette (second from left) with her partner, Charlyne, and friends Robert and Dario at their last baby shower in Los Angeles.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

Along the way, we've had many invaluable conversations with others who have shared their stories and knowledge with us. Another couple, my dear friend Carrie and her partner Sarah, are currently in the process of open adoption. In this type of adoption, the birth mother and the adoptive parents establish a relationship with each other that is comfortable for both parties, so that the child will have an "open" understanding of her birth mother and adoption. Carrie informed me about the similar advantages of selecting a willing-to-be-known donor, citing studies that show how just the possibility of meeting one's donor in the future benefits a child's psychological and emotional well-being. This information helped us approach our family planning with greater sensitivity toward the special concerns we as a family may face in the future.

Every child has a different response toward finding out he or she was donor-conceived. Who knows if our son will be curious, or if he will even care? Either way, 18 years from now he can contact Donor #XXXX, who has indicated that he is willing to respond. The scenario of our son and our donor meeting 18 years from now is almost impossible for me to imagine, when in the here and now I'm just trying to wrap my head around his birth. But these are facts of life that Charlyne and I need to consider for our family.

In the meantime, Carrie and Sarah and Charlyne and I are talking about future joint family vacations, which is way more fun to imagine. The bummer is that our Texan friends live in Austin, while we're here in L.A. — too far apart for regular play dates. But that's OK — creating community with other LGBT families also includes dreaming up fancy summer vacations, and I'm already picturing the four of us with our babies in tow, back on the beach in Hawaii. Aloha nui loa!


A quick update: Jolivette's baby is still breech. (Read her post about her breech baby.) The version method failed, so she scheduled a C-section for Aug. 24. She says she also scheduled acupuncture and moxibustion, a Chinese herbal remedy, as a continued effort to help baby turn in these last few days before the C-section. Jolivette says she wishes to thank readers who posted more helpful suggestions, resources and encouragement about breech babies in the comments.

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