Adventures in Baby Making as a Single Black Lesbian

feature image via shutterstock

They say parenthood is full of surprises. They say it changes you in ways you’d never expect. They neglected to mention, however, that the path to parenthood itself can also change you and is full of surprises as well. I never thought I’d be trying to get pregnant. If you had told fifteen-year-old me that I would not only allow sperm inside me but that I would also pay thousands of dollars for said sperm, I’d have laughed you off the face of the planet. One, I have a very visceral negative reaction to even the idea of semen. And two, while I find pregnancy fascinating and beautiful, the idea of tiny fingers caressing my ribs from the inside freaks me out.

So how is it that I’ve found myself setting aside a couple of hundred dollars each month for the purpose of buying sperm and hopefully getting pregnant? A weird synergy between my identities and realities — a mix of being poor, having anxiety, being a queer person of color, and society’s biases against my identities — lead me to my current baby making path.

Whether or not I’d become a parent was never a question for me. I knew that I would be a parent as instinctively as I knew that I loved girls. I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t aware that I wanted a kid or that I was enamored with girls. It was my relationship with my own mother that inspired me to become a parent. My mother and I were always very emotionally close, I’ve always been able to talk about pretty much anything with her without fear of being judged and she has always been willing to hear me out when my desires conflicted with her parenting decisions. We’ve also always been physically close, lots of snuggling, lazy back rubs, and tickle fights. I’ve always known that I wanted to share a similar kind of relationship with a child of my own someday.

My discomfort with pregnancy meant that I always assumed I’d become a mom through adoption. My own anxieties and assumptions about spending years with a child and growing to love them only to have them returned to their birth parents led me to believe that fostering to adopt would probably not be the best path for me. I then favored international adoption because the process was much more streamlined than domestic and once you were matched with a child you almost always ended up going home with that child. Being poor or, more politely, working class meant that international adoption was not financially feasible for me since the average cost of adoption is higher than my annual salary. I thought that perhaps domestic adoption might be where I’d settle in but when I read up on the process I had to come to terms with the reality that, even when using a black-focused agency, living in a homophobic and couple-oriented society meant that I was less likely to be chosen quickly by birth parents. The line most adoption agencies give is that birth parents typically choose two parent families over single parent families and heterosexual families before queer ones. As a single black lesbian it was not out of the realm of possibility that I would be chosen, but the wait to be chosen was almost guaranteed to be longer.

Buying sperm and getting pregnant started to seem like a better path for me as a queer black woman. I didn’t need anyone’s approval to get pregnant. As long as I had the money for the sperm the sperm bank would sell it to me.

My reaction to the idea of semen  Via youtube.com

My reaction to the idea of semen
Via youtube.com

The first step was selecting a sperm bank. The sperm bank I chose was selected because of their large database of donors, their reviews, and the fact that they openly helped singles and LGBT would-be parents. Though, as is unfortunately typical, I noticed the cis normative practice of using the term “woman” and she/her pronouns at times to describe the person getting pregnant which ignores the reality that not everyone who gets pregnant identifies as a woman. The next step, selecting a donor, is where race became a factor in my parenthood journey again.

Among the many search criteria one could use in a donor search, from educational degrees to blood type, there was race. Initially when I started my donor search my only “must haves” were that the donor be agnostic/atheist (I felt we should agree on that fundamental world view at least) and that the donor be “open,” meaning that they were willing to be contacted by the child after age 18. I felt that my child should have, at least, the option of contacting their sperm donor if they felt the need. Having been, essentially, abandoned by my father as a child I knew what it was like to have certain curiosities about the person who contributed to half your genetic makeup but to have no way of getting answers and I didn’t want that for them. I also felt that, for me, having an open donor elicited none of the anxiety that fostering to adopt did. With fostering to adopt it could be two years before the adoption is finalized, during which time the birth parents could possibly regain custody; that’s too much uncertainty for too long. With an open donor neither the child nor the donor have any identifying information from one another until the child turns 18, and that would be only if the child chose to seek the donor out; that risk of getting to love the child only to lose them was basically not there in that situation.

Around that time I cut off all my chemically straightened hair, went natural, and begun working on undoing the damage that living in a white supremacist society had done to my self-image as a black woman. If I’m being fully honest, before I started reconnecting with myself as a black person, I didn’t want my donor to be black. The donor could be a light skinned PoC or white but not black. I figured that if my child were mixed they may end up with lighter skin and eyes which might confer a bit of light skin privilege to combat the disadvantages to being born to a brown skinned black queer woman. Plus, I thought that they would probably be prettier than they otherwise would be if they were fully black. I told you guys I had internalized some shit.

Cutting my hair had been the first step in shedding anti-black thoughts. Even though I hated going to the salon and hated the chemical burns I occasionally got on my scalp from relaxers, I had been hesitant on going natural. But why? I knew something had to be up in my brain because there was a lot of resistance to a seemingly simple solution. Why would I hesitate to avoid the long waits at the salon, the chatty hair technician who always talked about the men I’d attract with my new ‘do (no thanks), and save some money in the process? It took some time but I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I worried that my natural hair would be rough and nappy, that having such hair would make me unattractive to potential partners. I had been getting relaxers since I was ten and couldn’t remember what my natural texture was like, except that people always said that it was very thick. Once I realized that I had internalized such poisonous thoughts, I immediately vowed to turn my skeptical gaze on myself and to name and recognize any other internalized racism, and purge it from my being.

I started this process with Tumblr. I made a profile and only followed pages that made me happy (like cute babies of any species) or that spoke the truth (like critiquing power structures). If I reblogged an image it was only of lovely people of color, especially black women, that made me feel proud of my brown skin and kinky hair texture. Having black beauty normalized and reaffirmed like that bolstered my self-esteem as a brown black woman. To my surprise, my newfound appreciation for myself and my community quickly spread into making my blackness a central part of my identity, which included making black issues something I devote myself to as an activist. Along the way to self acceptance I realized that I had changed my mind about my donor. They needed to be at least a person of color, if not black. So now I had three criteria instead of two: the donor needed to be a PoC (preferably black), atheist/agnostic, and open. I started my search.

Seriously though, how could I have been biased against this adorableness?  Via

Seriously though, how could I have been biased against this adorableness?
Via pocinqueery.tumblr.com

I decided to start with race because I figured it would give me the biggest pool to start with which could be narrowed down with my other criteria. Imagine my surprise when the number of donors available dropped from 507 (the full list) to 12 when I searched for black donors. Only 12 donors on the whole list of 507 were black. Adding the “open” criteria brought the number down from 12 to 5. I knew that such a small pool of options would not work for me, so I would have to open up from only black donors to PoC donors. But, for curiosity’s sake, I added my last criteria of “agnostic” before giving up. I ended with 2 possible donors. That experience did make me wonder why the number of black donors was not more proportional to the general population.

After reading up on sperm donor qualifications and experiences I realized that the donation process itself may decrease feasibility for black donors to complete the process. Donors have to be able to make it to the bank at least once a week for six months to a year to deposit contributions, they have to abstain from ejaculating for three days before contribution days, and with some banks they are not paid until the end of the contract. Black populations are disproportionately affected by poverty and it seems obvious that poor folks might have difficulty securing weekly transportation to make it to the bank. Poor people would have a tough time making it to the bank when they’re open (bank hours are generally 9-5) without having to take off work. The fact that some donors are also only paid at the end of their six month to a year contract might also discourage donors to dedicate so much time and effort to the process when the payoff is so far away. Not being paid during the process might actually make it harder to see the process through until the end. I understood that the process was put in place to protect the health of the recipients and guarantee that the product would be up to appropriate standards but the rigors of the process meant that black donors, who were disproportionately likely to be affected by poverty, were more likely to be unable to meet the process requirements. It also meant that recipients of color often had fewer options if they wanted donors of their own race or ethnicity.

Widening my search to all open PoC agnostic donors gave me a much more manageable donor pool of 37. I looked for donors who seemed like people I’d be friends with in real life. They needed to seem queer friendly, anti-racist, and should not show signs of having a savior complex. They got bonus points for being explicitly feminist or pro-social justice. Anyone who seemed into critical thinking and skepticism also earned bonus points. I ended up jiving with five donors and decided to make my first financial investment. I purchased the childhood photos for the five donors so that I could see what they looked like (my bank does not include any photos in the free donor profile). Eventually I decided on a biracial lawyer who works with people who are treated unfairly, encourages his future offspring to question everything, and values his family very much. He’s quite the cutie! (for a guy.)

The sperm for my donor used to cost just over $700 per vial when I first picked him (recently the price rose to just over $800) and because I’m poor I knew I’d have to start saving immediately in order to be able to afford a few vials. I had already decided that it was in my best interest to buy at least five vials of sperm whenever I was ready to make the purchase. For one, it was more economical. If you bought five vials then the bank would give you a year of free storage. For two, I wanted to secure a small stock pile in case I didn’t get pregnant the first couple of tries. I set my savings goal at, at least, $100 per paycheck. Sometimes though if big unexpected expenses came up I missed my goal because I don’t make enough to absorb unexpected expenses *and* save a decent chunk of my check.

not my actual savings...my money storage device is not nearly that cool  Via lifeyourway.net

not my actual savings…my money storage device is not nearly that cool
Via lifeyourway.net

While doing research on other people’s experiences with sperm donation I read in a book, Knock Yourself Up, that if you couldn’t afford to buy one vial of sperm per month and pay the doctor’s office fees for insemination, that you couldn’t afford a baby. It gave me pause and made me wonder if I was too poor to have a kid. I wondered if I should wait. Then I realized that people who made less than me made it work so I probably could as well. If I waited until I felt certain that I made enough money I might never have a child. I had already done the work of securing a support system of people willing to help me and researched what kind of social support services I could turn to if the need arose. It would have to be enough. The idea that if one didn’t have $800-900 of disposable income per month they shouldn’t have kids is classist as hell anyway so fuck that noise.

I’m skeptical of your classism

I’m skeptical of your classism

Actually, besides that one quote claiming one couldn’t afford kids without hella extra income, Knock Yourself Up was one of the better books on baby making while single. As I went in search of books that were relevant to my journey, books for singles using sperm donors, books about black experiences in pregnancy, and books on queer pregnancy, I found myself mostly disappointed by what I found. Besides the fact that it was hard to find books on those topics, especially books that were recently written, I found myself annoyed at the lack of intersectionality (thank you Kimberlé Crenshaw for coining such an excellent term). The books I found that addressed my needs as a black woman (talking about the racialized differences in treatment by care providers, unique pregnancy risks, and poorer maternal and fetal outcomes) were generally heteronormative. The books for single sperm recipients were more queer friendly generally but sometimes were a bit classist or racially biased. Queer-specific books often assumed readers were coupled and also were racially biased. Actually, unless it was a book specifically about PoC, all of the books had a bit of racial bias. Even seemingly small things, like the fact that the people on the cover are always white and very few of the families featured within the book were families of color, contributed to the sense of exclusion from the pregnancy and childbirth conversation. Carrie Murphy of the Mommyish blog has a really good article about this. Despite some difficulties, I did end up building a small stack of pregnancy and parenting books that were very inclusive and made me feel good about all the aspects of myself. I’ve also got a few more to look into.

Fullscreen capture 1222015 14237 PM

So this is the journey that led to me saving hundreds of dollars each month in the hopes of someday getting pregnant despite being squicked out by some aspects of pregnancy. I never thought this would be the path I’d chose for parenthood but amazingly I do think it’s the best fit for me, even if it wasn’t my first choice. I don’t need to appeal to white hetero folks in order to become a parent through pregnancy. Even though it’s hard to find resources that are inclusive enough to cover most aspects of my identity, those resources do exist whereas finding books on adoption written by PoC was basically impossible. Some days my anxiety makes me worry about whether I can financially weather having a kid and whether I’m capable of properly shoring up my kid from the racism and homophobia they’ll experience simply from being born into a black queer led family. Generally I’m optimistic, though; you have to be strong to survive in a society that’s not only not built for you but that actively disadvantages you at every turn, and I’ve survived this far. So maybe my pregnancy path isn’t as simple and straightforward as baby books would have you believe it should be because I’m a poor QPoC with anxiety, but it has been an interesting worthwhile journey so far. I can’t wait until I can take the next step. Just another year or so of saving money then I can buy my sperm and start in on trying to conceive.

Future goals.  Via tumblr.com

Future goals.
Via tumblr.com

Ashley Targaryen usually can be found huddled in feminist coffee shops with likeminded queers working on dismantling the kyriarchy and sipping Jasmine tea. When she's not at coffee shops she usually can be found in gaming stores or book stores, basically any place that nerds gather. Ashley loves to read but has difficulty finding the time to do so in between hanging out with friends and partners, work, and hiding in her hobbit hole of introversion. Words that are important to her identity include: femme, queer, atheist, black, PoC, poly, nerdy, anxiety, and future parent. Planning out the minutiae of future goals gives her brain happy feels.

Asher has written 1 articles for us.

64 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this story! I can relate as a broke, queer, single, black mom who is always iso more familiar models for how to do this with joy. I just filled your inbox with words, but I also wanted to thank you here too, in community. I hope there are ways we can support each other on this journey.

  2. YES.
    “I have a very visceral negative reaction to even the idea of semen.” Amen amen. Yes. I have always known that I would at some point be pregnant, but what it takes to get that to happen grosses me out on a primal level and makes me so uncomfortable, especially because of the thought of some person jerking off into a cup…ew.
    Have you read Staceyann Chin’s thoughts about being a lesbian of color making a baby on her own and subsequently raising her daughter? Because it is life changing. That, and I could stare at her beautiful child, Zuri, forever. Besides, everything Staceyann Chin touches is gold, so.

    • I follow Staceyann Chin on Facebook and have read a few of the articles she’s done about motherhood. I agree, Zuri is one of those beautiful little humans that I could adore all day. Have you watched their youtube series, Livingroom Activism? The one on asking before touching and consent is great. I can’t wait for Staceyann Chin’s book on becoming a parent to come out!

  3. Hi!

    Enjoyed reading this quite a bit. I’m all done baby making, but it’s always fun to see how others make their choices.

    First, I hope you’re already participating in a queer TTC (trying to conceive) discussion board. There are some great resources to be found there.

    I believe the recommendation about not being able to afford a kid if you can’t afford sperm is because daycare costs more than sperm. Enough parents use daycare that it’s a common recomendation.

    Finally, I always bought sperm as I went because I didn’t want to save for years or pay to store extra. My youngest was conceived with IUI and a trigger shot, which turned out to be cheaper than another vial of sperm and I kind of wish I’d realized that much sooner in the process (my lowest cost conception was with a known donor, but that has a whole different set of anxieties).

    Good luck.

    • I lurk on a few queer ttc boards but I tend to run into this issue where people post lots of similar threads, how many IUI tries did it take, to trigger shot or not to trigger shot, and how to time your conception to encourage having a child with external bits or internal bits. Whereas I’m looking for more threads along the lines of, how to do pregnancy clothes when your sense of style is not at all like most “maternity”* wear, how to deal with heteronormative assumptions placed on your pregnant body, how to navigate dealing with hospital staff who make assumptions about you based on your age and race, etc.

      Do you have any boards you particularly like?

      I’ve thought about doing pay as you go sperm buying but my anxiety brain prefers the idea of hording a little pile of sperm so I’m guaranteed to have a few shots at my donor without risking his stock running out. All of his Intracervical Insemination (ICI) vials are sold out and he only has Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) vials left so I’m extra concerned about them getting snatched up.

      *I prefer the term that Butchbaby & Co use, “alternity” because not only women get pregnant

      • There are plenty of right ways to do it. I only mention the alternative because none of my kids took 5 tries (3, 2, 4, 4 -not everyone is so lucky, and the last two were a first attempt at IUI). You’ll also be spending plenty on shipping, if you don’t live near the bank/storage.

        I liked the queer board at mothering.com back in the day. Not sure how it looks now, but there were a variety of experiences and people were nice. The topics of maternity wear, assumptions about heteronormativity (I could talk about this all day. I’ve been parenting 12 years and if I had a nickle for every time I was assumed straight just for having a baby on my hip, I would have a lot of sperm purchasing power. Having a baby = coming out every day for the rest of your life), and hospital staff are more likely to be covered in pregnancy threads. And when you stop lurking and start participating, you can bring those issues up! Unlike a book, you can steer where you want to go.

        I’m pretty sure maternity clothes fit no one’s personal sense of style. I think it’s more like public shaming or atonement for sins. Kind of kidding. I found all mine in thrift stores. I’m sure if I was willing to spend the money, I could have found something better, but my style is pretty happy with jeans, T shirts, and hoodies. It worked out.

  4. @asher-jak Ashley! You’re beautiful and this was beautiful and your child is going to be beautiful! I am so glad I know you. I’m still coming to visit you someday, I promise. 🙂

    I especially liked hearing the parts of this story where you unlearned your internalized anti-black thoughts… the fact that that’s a thing we have to do at all breaks my heart, but the fact that people can unlearn it and make what had been vulnerabilities into such powerful parts of their lives makes me feel downright joyous. And your description of how tumblr helped you fill your world with good images is (OMG!) almost exactly how I came to find and embrace images and understandings of queerness & being poly & other things that had previously made me uncomfortable. Thank god for tumblr!

    Keep doing you. I can’t wait to meet your baby someday.

  5. asher, your story is so important and the way you’ve shared it with all of us is so relatable and full of so much compassion. i love it. i can’t wait for more.

    also, i’ve often had the same thought ‘ am i too poor to even have a kid’ and it’s such a shitty feeling, like you’re lower than low. i really appreciate you sharing that struggle. definitely made me feel connected to you and to the idea that many of those feelings are internalized self-hating worthless violent thoughts and i gotta let them go.

    again, just many thanks and it’s always an honor to work with you.

  6. thank you so much for sharing this. i’ve been thinking a lot about how/if i will want to procure a child, and it feels really good to hear from someone else unpacking the many layers and dimensions of that decision. <3

  7. You took so many of my deepest anxieties/concerns about pregnancy and really put them out there (I’m also black, queer, financially strapped, single, the physical process of pregnancy/ giving birth has always freaked me out even though I desperately want to one day be a mother).

    Anyway, Thank you so much for sharing! I’m not quite at the “baby making” part of my life yet, but I can’t wait to hear how the rest of your journey unfolds. So excited for you and hope to hear more!

  8. So excited to see this on Autostraddle today! I’ve struggled to find much conversation around choosing to parent as a single queer person in general, and especially what that looks like at the intersections of our other identities as well. As someone considering a path that will hold similar questions, I really appreciate hearing your story. Hope to hear more about your journey and maybe continue this conversation with other folks here!

  9. Yes, thank you so much for writing about your experience! You are going to be a great mom. One word of caution: my wife and I had no luck at all trying to conceive for a year until we used IVF, a very expensive procedure (about 23k in San Francisco, plus about 2-3k for sperm and storage). Conception rates are shockingly low otherwise, especially if a woman is over 37 or so, because there are fewer viable eggs. And the body rejects most genetically abnormal embryos. And it is difficult for any woman, young or old, to get the ovulation – injection timing just right. We tried 6 times without luck before going to IVF, and it cost us a lot in money, time, and emotions. So I wish the best of luck and maybe some good advice about locating an insurance plan or some way of obtaining a loan to do what you need now, not later. You seem like an incredibly responsible money planner, so you would be a good candidate for a loan.

    • My wife and I have tried IUI twice without luck. We have two vials of her gametes left and are thinking about IVF. We meet with the doctor tomorrow to discuss our options. We were on our way to saving the money but then my wife was having difficulties with her depression and now is out of work. The whole having enough money to have a kid thing…

      • Listen hard to that doctor, especially if you would be comfortable working further with her/him. We did the IVF, including full genetic testing of resulting embryos. That meant that nearly every embryo got rejected. We therefore ended up with one viable, healthy embryo per cycle. Now we are keeping the three embryos frozen, waiting a year to transfer one to uterus, because my wife wanted to get healthier, lose some weight, and get to a better stage at work before getting pregnant. It has also allowed us to save some more money. For you or others, delaying the transfer can mean having more time to save money or pay off the IVF bills. Something to consider.

    • Yikes, I’m sorry you two had such a tough time conceiving. This is pretty much one of my worst case scenarios, I’m not sure what I want to do yet if I don’t get pregnant with the first five vials. I plan to get pretty aggressive fairly quickly in my attempts to conceive. I’m thinking that the first two months I’ll try unmedicated, move to medicated for my next try, and follow my doctors advice for my last two vials.

      • Asher, If we had it to do over again, we would “Go big, or go home.” By that, I mean we would have started with IVF. If we had not had the money, we would at least have paid for the chemical treatments to make the body more receptive to conception. I wish all potential parents could make the decision without money determining so much. Hopefully, fertility treatments including IVF will become standard parts of insurance coverage; that is especially possible as IVF becomes less expensive with evolving technologies and higher success rates.

  10. I wish you luck. I want a kid one day and i think I would be a pretty decent mother. I personally would want a good amount of financial security before having a kid but I emphasize with money doesn’t appear magically and certain career paths don’t pay as much. Especially, if you want to try while your still young enough to hopefully conceive easily.

  11. Once More With Feels:

    I’ve talked to my sister and my mother about motherhood. My sister loves the fact that I don’t want kids as a testament to me lesbian radical feminism but honestly after some wine and watching Steel Magnolias (the all-Black remake), she knows I will make a great aunty. As for my mother she thinks it’s a another failure on *her* motherhood and it honestly hurts me sometimes.

    You read about motherhood through feminist lens and find all kinds of theories, pathologies and craziness when it comes to motherhood. And yet for me, so those readily available perspectives, the mothers and would-be mothers often do not look like me or have a similar narrative. When the mothers look like me, they are seen as a burden, “tax-payer waste” and it is straight up hostile to even mention being a black mother especially a single black mother.

    I’m just happy to have read this and your journey will honestly help those who want to have kids and want to support queer people who want to have kids. So you have my support and I’m just excited, YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

  12. First- it is SO NICE to read about pregnancy and parenthood through a feminist/antiracist/anticlassist lens. I think this is the first time I have ever read someone give meaningful criticism towards classist attitudes towards parenthood and it was great. Thanks!

    Second- I was concevied through “donor” sperm and raised almost solely by a financially strapped single mom. My mom is pretty great but was definitely not perfect about how she handled the entire choosing sperm/telling me thing, and my family’s hush-hush attitude about how I came to be SUCKS.

    If I can give my thoughts to anybody getting pregnant this way, as someone who was conceived how your child will be conceived, awesome. If you don’t want to read them, that’s cool too, but I’m gonna leave them here anyway.

    Thoughts:

    NEVER consider sperm from someone who isn’t “open”. It’s a pretty awful feeling to know that the sperm bank has all this info on my biological father, both personal and medical, and I can’t have it. It also has put me in some tricky medical situations, not to mention the whole existential who-am-I-where-am-I-from thing.)

    Be honest with your kid from Day 1. Talk about it. Get (or write!) a picture book about how they came to be here. Read it regularly with your kid.

    Don’t put off telling him/her. Don’t dance around the topic. I didn’t find out until I was ten and it was completely traumatizing.

    Never lie or be weird to anyone else about how the kid was conceived. It puts him/her in a bad situation and makes them feel like it’s a big, negative secret.

    Your kid will probably want to know that you wanted and loved them so much even before you met him/her that you put extra effort into making sure you got to be a family (This is what my mom told me when I was ten and honestly makes me feel better).

    Also, I put donor in quotes because, seriously, no one is donating anything here. Nobody is filling out all that paperwork and going through all these medical tests and spending all these time going back and forth to offices and ejaculating into cups out of the goodness of his heart. It’s because he’s getting paid for it. This isn’t blood donation; he doesn’t get cookies and juice on his way out. If everybody could drop that crap “donor” euphemism, that would be great. Language shapes our thoughts and sperm banks are an industry, not a nonprofit.

    • First, I’m really glad you liked reading my article. That makes me pleased as pie.

      Second, I’m sorry your family’s handling of your origin was less than stellar. It stinks that their actions made you feel bad.

      Third, thank you so much for sharing your perspective! This is a very valuable resource to me as a future sperm bank parent. Can I ask, what term do you prefer instead of sperm donor? I see your point about “donor” being somewhat of a misnomer.

      • The language issue is a tough one, because English doesn’t have a word or phrase that works well here. I personally use “biological father” when I think about it in my head, because it feels best and is the least emotionally loaded for me, because it contrasts with “social father”. But I think others may prefer to avoid that one because of the word “father”. I’ve also heard “sperm contributor”, which is less loaded but more awkward and clunky. I suppose it’s pretty personal, and each family and child will have to independently choose one, since there is no good phrase yet.

    • I also feel donor is a misnomer in this scenario. I went with a known donor and no money changed. It was all from the goodness of his heart. It made me feel weird to contribute to the business of conception (which as Ashley pointed out so thoroughly, is full of isms.) My son is almost 2 and I speak openly about his donor when people ask me. I haven’t had to discuss it with him yet but I am working on that narrative and want to make a little book for him. I read a lot about the effects of closed adoption and “donors” before making my decisions.

    • This is a really important perspective, so thanks for giving your side of the story.

      Just to point out though that the idea of being paid for donating sperm is strictly a US thing. In Canada, sperm donours, egg donours, and surrogates cannot be paid for their bodily donations.

  13. What a wonderful essay. Thank you so much for sharing. (I’m glad you brought up the outrageously classist argument that reproduction is a privilege of the middle and upper class.–apparently when you’re poor, you don’t deserve to have children. If it’s an accidental pregnancy, you’re careless. If it’s intentional, you must be ‘gaming’ the system or not planning ahead…)
    I’m so impressed by how empowered you sound in several aspects of your life.
    I absolutely wish you the best of luck with your journey to parenthood.

    • Things did not go as planned and I had to seek assistance. My phone conversations with state assistance were terrible. When I mentioned donor once I was told that because I chose to get pregnant that they wouldn’t help me. I was then referred to another place and I had to make up a story. Because I would not name a father, I was called a slut (without actually using the word), shamed, and told that if I had another child and didn’t bother to find out the name of the man I slept with then I would boy receive any assistance. It was a horrifying experience for me and would have been so much worse for a woman who was raped or had been in an abusive relationship. I didn’t want to end up needing assistance but I got pregnant faster than I had expected and then I lost my job because I was pregnant.

  14. Thank you for this! I’ve been wanting to start on the “saving money for sperm” journey for a while, but fears of not being able to afford child care and other things have held me back. I’m glad for your words on the topic! I’m also single, which has seemed like a roadblock, so hopefully you’ll write more on your decision to be a “Choice Mom”!

    • I was really struggling with concerns about paying for childcare when by happenstance I found out about this childcare assistance program in Missouri that I qualify for. A good friend of mine has agreed to get registered as a childcare provider through the program and be my nanny for the first three years of my kiddo’s life. That’s currently the plan. I’m also saving what extra I can for childcare in case that doesn’t work out. The US needs to get its act together on maternity leave and family support though. People shouldn’t have to stress about it this much.

  15. I always find the hair conversation so interesting. I grew up with natural hair and have natural hair now. The hair in my profile flat ironed, I believe, but I did perm it once in college. I grew up in a predominately white and Asian community for the first few years, where I never thought my hair was anything horrible. It was different than my classmates, but not different bad, just different.

    It wasn’t until we moved to inner LA that I was made to feel like I should be doing something with my hair. That I had “good” hair. It’s 3C, for reference. People who wouldn’t talk to me, who felt I had nothing else to offer, would stop to both compliment and tear me down for it. I felt shamed. I particularly felt that as an inherently “ugly” inferior dark skinned woman I shouldn’t have looser curls. It was odd. To this day I think I keep my hair shorter to avoid some of the negativity I receive about my hair in it’s natural state. I had someone cut my hair in class without my permission as joke once. They felt so strongly it was a curly weave. I will never forget that. I didn’t go to school with the kids in my neighborhood for long, so unfortunately it was of the only impressions.

  16. I feel so separated from the queer community as a mother. I have been trying to reconnect, reading autostraddle helps. So, when I logged in and saw this gem of a post, it made my day. Thank you! I am a queer single mother by choice. I am poor. I am under educated (all of my attempts at higher education have been foiled, attempt 5 is approaching). It has definitely been hard to find others who have been on similar journeys. Blogs have helped a ton and I have been writing on mine for 3 1/2 years. Slowly other SMCs have come out of the woodwork, some straight, some gay, so far all white. Please consider blogging your experiences to add your voice! I can be found at http://www.goodfamiliesdo.wordpress.com.

    • You are inspiring. Never give up your dream of getting more formal education. Being more educated will, if nothing else, make you a better advocate and role model for your own child. Plus, education basically rocks! You will learn so much more about the world and yourself in it. It gives one a different lens. My mom went back to school when I was 8, continued to work, and made a casserole or something for us kids to pop in the oven each night. She was awesome, and I always respected her for it, even when I missed her being home more.

      • Thank you, I appreciate the encouragement! I tend to do things backwards but being able to provide for my son and eventually add to my family is paramount. I want to be an IBCLC, not a huge money maker but a profession I am very passionate about.

    • Thanks for posting the link to your blog, i will check it out asap. I’ve been researching online and i also found hardly any good places to talk with other single mothers by choice. And hardly ever anything about going the known donor route (that you mentioned in another comment). I’d love to get more input on this generally. I hope you don’t mind me asking you some more questions in a private message or via your blog?

  17. Asher, thanks for writing this post. Just this week i was wondering if there was a post about “babymaking” somewhere on autostraddle. I too am single and queer and have decided to go ahead with my plan of having a baby now. I have the advantages of living in a european country with a pretty solid social system helping young families/kids – although i am scared a lot too how i will make it work while being a freelancer and balancing a pregnancy/baby with work that is pretty unstable to begin with. I have a feeling you will be a pretty great mom though, you plan ahead and you want to make it work:) I think this is a great start! Do keep us posted with your journey!

  18. Mini update: I did end up reading those two books I wanted to look into, “Mama’s Little Baby: The Black Woman’s Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby’s First Year” and “Having Your Baby: A Guide for African American Women”. Neither of them passed my intersectional criteria because they’re both heteronormative but I felt that Having Your Baby (HYB) was better about it. Overall I liked HYB better because the writing style was clearer and more concise, it was more informative about unique medical needs of black women, and it didn’t seem nearly as dated as Mama’s Little Baby (MLB) even though they came out around the same time. MLB was not bad, it had historical information about black midwives, notes about various African cultural practices surrounding pregnancy/babies, and a few lists of African names. The two biggest deterrents for me were the insistence that spirituality was important in pregnancy (including a whole section devoted to spirituality) which is okay but as an atheist it turned me off quite a bit and the outright heterosexism. There was a chapter for single women and the book portrayed that as being a valid option but when trying to make singles more relatable they were listing off reasons why someone might be single they had a lot of circumstances except for being lgbtq. They also used he/him exclusively in reference to partners. So while there are things I liked about Mama’s Little Baby I have to say Having Your Baby is a way better fit for my library.

    • Have you tried the Our Bodies Our selves book for pregnancy? Inclusive language is really hard to come by and is only just picking up. I feel like that one, and maybe even Mayo Clinic, said partner instead of husband. I didn’t read much of OBOS but Mayo was my go to for understanding the medical stuff and making an emergency birth plan. On a similar note, I found a course for lactation consultants on LGBTQI breastfeeding. I am working towards becoming an IBCLC and was super excited when I stumbled across that.

  19. You have clearly planned for this thoroughly and are incredibly responsible, so I hope hope hope it all works out for you! Not to scare you, but donors often sell out within a few months – so I’d look again who is available when you’re within a month of your savings goal. And most places recommend buying 12+ vials if you want a sibling, as the average for IUI success is 4 tries at 2 vials per try. BUT I hope all the statistics are in your favor!

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