Excerpted from Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction by Kim Bergman, Ph.D.
If you’re a male couple, your sperm-related issues are primarily focused on which partner should provide the sperm. After all, only one man can be the biological contributor to one egg. Similarly, if you are a female couple, you’ll be deciding which of you will be inseminated. Admittedly, technology is changing rapidly, and at some point gene splicing may progress to the point where DNA from two men could be combined and used to fertilize one egg, or DNA from two women could be spliced and then fertilized by one sperm. But for now this is not an option.
Sometimes the choice of whose sperm to use is an easy one — one of you may really want to use yours and the other doesn’t care. Or maybe there is a family history of health issues, addiction, or mental illness on one side so you use the other. It is also possible to take sperm samples from both partners, mixing the semen together so you and your partner each have an equal chance of being the biological father. However, doctors typically don’t like this approach and I don’t recommend it either, as it’s a bit more complicated medically, ethically, and legally.
In cases where both of you want to be a biological father, you can “take turns.” Essentially, when you get a batch of eggs from your donor (usually around ten or twenty are harvested), you can fertilize half of the eggs with one partner’s sperm and half of the eggs with the other partner’s. Then you take a fertilized egg from one of you and put it in the surrogate, freezing the rest of the embryos for later use. After you have your first child, you can have another, this time using an embryo from the other father. Or, if you want twins (much more on twins later), you can use one embryo from each of you, transferring them at the same time. If one takes but the other doesn’t, you can go back when you are ready and use an embryo from the other dad.
In cases where there will be two moms who both want to be genetic parents the idea is the same, although the logistics are different. You can use the donated sperm to inseminate one of you first, and then for a second child you can inseminate the other.
Whether you are a two-dad family using only one of your sperm, a two-mom family taking turns, or a family using a sperm donor, only one parent will be genetically linked to the child. It is really important that you sort through any feelings you may have about being a nonbiologically related parent before your baby is born. A mental health professional can be very helpful here, but the most important thing is that both parents are on the same page and acknowledge that they will both be full and equal parents regardless of biology.
Allen and Isaac, a legally married gay couple who’d been together for about ten years, both wanted to have a biological connection to their kids. When I explained that they could each fertilize half the eggs, and they could have a baby with their own genetics, they were thrilled. But they kept referring to the babies they were planning as “his baby” and “my baby.” It was obvious they were struggling to believe that with any children they had they would be equal parents, regardless of genetics.
Eventually, Allen and Isaac decided to try for twins using one embryo fertilized by each father. However, one of the embryos didn’t implant, so they only had one baby — from an egg fertilized by Allen. As soon as that beautiful baby girl was born, they started talking about having “Isaac’s baby” next. They continued to struggle to believe that they were equal parents — not just to the baby they had, but to any they had in the future. They went on to have a son, and after he was born we had many conversations about their family of four and how much they both loved and felt connected to both children. Allen and Isaac eventually came to realize that their connection to their children went beyond biology.
No matter your situation, it’s important that you understand and truly believe that you are both 100 percent the parent. When you are unified in this way, you send a message to the universe and the universe responds in kind. When people have questions, you can make it clear that you are both the parent, and that’s how people will see it. If you want to then answer the question about who the biological contributor is, you can do so — but you don’t have to. That is a very personal choice. Biology is not the determining factor in parenthood. It’s love that makes a family, not genetics. So no matter where the sperm comes from — the dad, an anonymous sperm donor, or a friend — the parents are the parents.
Kim Bergman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and co-owner and senior partner of Growing Generations, one of the oldest and largest surrogacy and egg donor agencies in the world. She serves on the corporate board of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and is an emeritus board member for the Family Equality Council.
Reprinted with permission from Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. Your Future Family by Kim Bergman, Ph.D., is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 423-7087.