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Let's Get Physical (Physical)
a blog by S.I.F. October 12, 2010
I am one of the rare few who has seen what it means to be on both sides of the donor equation.
Egg Donor, Sperm Donor
Years ago (while still in college) I was an egg donor.
Having no clue at the time that infertility was in my future.
Just a little over two years later, I was looking at donors for myself. This time of the sperm variety.
I learned a lot from both experiences, but one thing that struck me the most was how natural it was to rely on the physical when choosing a donor.
Selecting Donors Based on What We Can See
When I myself was donating, I knew for the most part that I was picked based on physical characteristics. It was explained to me that both of my recipient mothers shared physical similarities with me and that many egg donors were chosen in this way — based on who looked the most like the mother-to-be.
This made sense to me. After all, I didn’t necessarily think I had anything special to offer in any other arenas. No one would ever accuse me of being athletic or artistic, and while I did fairly well in school; I also attended a campus known for its party atmosphere.
What I did have to offer were physical traits prospective recipients may have been seeking out.
And I understood that.
When it became time for me to choose a donor of my own, I found myself relying almost completely on the physical as well. I believed that most other aspects were a case of nature vs. nurture and knew that I personally have always had more faith in the nurture.
The difference, of course. is that while the recipients of my eggs were presented with a packet of photos of me, the only photographic evidence available for my potential sperm donors were singular baby pictures.
Obtaining adult photos of a sperm donor can be a challenge at best.
Still, I found myself gravitating toward the donor profiles attesting to features I would typically be attracted to. Dark hair. Green eyes. Tall.
The physical features that would have me swooning in real life.
I think my thought process was that if I picked right, perhaps this guy could share similarities with my future husband; the future father of these babies to be.
Beyond the Physical
Everything beyond the physical (creative abilities, athleticism, scholastic achievements) I looked at as “extras.” I used the secondary traits to make final decisions, but they were not ones that landed them in that pool of choices to begin with.
In many ways, I think it's human nature to base these decisions first on what we can see, and then on the traits that may or may not be moldable. It’s not a matter of vanity or an attempt to create a physically superior child; instead, it’s a way of bringing a child into this world who physically carries some of the features you always pictured your babies-to-be would have.
A way of attempting to control one aspect of this process by focusing on the things you can see.
When it’s the things you can’t see (like whether or not this will work at all) that you know deep down matter the most.
Everything else (including the physical), is just “extra.”