Photo from Little, BrownThey call it the lucky sperm. After all, when the one canister of donor sperm fell into the hands of a single woman debating motherhood, something magical happened.
She ceased to be single, and she passed it to a single friend. Who then ceased to be single.
But somehow publishers didn't think that would fly off shelves, so Carey Goldberg, Pamela Ferdinand and Beth Jones have written the true -- sometimes heartbreakingly so, sometimes hilariously -- story of their sperm under the title Three Wishes, a memoir set to hit shelves today.
Goldberg, who took the plunge and first purchased the sperm when she was contemplating single motherhood, is now a mother of two with the man she met the very day the sperm arrived.
She spoke with The Stir about the sperm donation, J-Lo's new movie The Back Up Plan, single motherhood and society's stigma.
Can you tell us about the decision to pursue sperm donation alone?
It was pretty surreal, and initially very painful. It wasn't what I had ever wanted to do. I had always thought that it would never come to that, and then there I was turning 39 -- which was my own deadline -- and realizing that the rubber was hitting the road. I was really going to have to do this if I ever was going to.
Amazon; $16.49Then it entailed a fair amount of reporting, talking to people with experience with single motherhood or experience with parenthood in general and, gradually, zeroing in on the decision that I would not use a known donor. That I would actually go shopping at sperm banks.
And then it morphed into the question of if you're going to choose a donor, what are you going to choose. The information that's legally available is very frustrating -- it's these basic statistics about height and weight and hair color and eye color. For extra money, you can buy more information about a donor, but it's certainly a very different process from figuring out who you want to date. Most of the qualities that you care about in people that you meet are not on paper.
Did you have concerns about when your son or daughter would start asking questions?
Yes. It was clear from the get-go that this was not optimal. I think most mothers would say this was by no means their first choice. It was dealing with the cards you've been dealt and saying OK, if I ever want to have a child, I'm going to have to do it on my own.
I thought through very carefully. In the book I actually went and talked to a therapist and said you know, the moral aspect of this is really bothering me because how can you bring a child into a situation that's clearly not optimal from the get-go? The therapist said, "What do you really think a child needs?" and I sort of tried to list it. It's kind of a circle of people who love her, and a safe, good environment where she can reach her potential. I could offer everything but a father. I sort of felt like in fact, the situation that this child of mine was born into would be not that bad.
I was aware that a child born to a single mother is different, but I also felt like our society has reached a pretty nice point of accepting the various different kinds of families that there are. It certainly would be an issue, but it wouldn't have to be anything very bad.
What was the conversation like when you finally had to tell Sprax [your husband] "by the way, there's another man there?"
That came very early on! That came basically on our second date. What was good about that was it was so early on that it could just kind of be put into the mix from the get-go. It wasn't some sort of horrible surprise for him. It was oh, I've met this woman and one thing about her is she's planning to have a baby soon and she already has the sperm.
I don't know if you've seen there's a movie coming out with J-Lo where she's done that whole thing. Are you planning to see it?
I saw the trailer, and there was one moment in the trailer that looked really good -- they're lying in bed and the guy says to Jennifer Lopez "I love you," and her reponse is to hop up from the bed and throw up in the sink! I think it's going to be just one more stupid Jennifer Lopez movie, but it is almost uncanny the similarities that it bears to our story.
Although, you know, the major difference is that she actually did have -- I think they were twins -- with donor sperm, whereas none of the three of us ended up actually using the sperm.
But there is that magic sperm effect. We have all kinds of theories about it, but we think maybe it has something to do with the fact that there can kind of be magic when you finally take action and just go for what you want.
Have you been surprised by the public response to the issue?
There's actually a Jennifer Aniston movie coming out too, based on a Jeffrey Eugenides story called The Baster. I think they changed it to something like The Switch!
But it was very interesting to me that the entire time I was preparing to become a single mother and then actually was a single mother because Sprax was always around but he and I broke up when I was three months pregnant, and we didn't get back together until our daughter was almost 2, so there really was quite a long period where I was a single mother. But, in that whole time, I never got any flak from anybody about the decision. At least not to my face.
That was amazing to me, because it made me think that at least in the sheltered circles where I travel it's actually not that big a deal anymore. But then an excerpt of the book ran in the Boston Globe Magazine, and they had to turn off the comments because they were getting so many nasty comments from people. It must really vary a lot depending on your social milieu.
One thing that hasn't surprised me is there's a great deal of interest in it. It's a hot button issue, and even though very few women end up becoming single mothers, I think a great many of us think about it at some point.
Did you consider -- or go -- the sperm donor route?
Going to baseball games
Riding bike rides in the nice weather
Playing outside after work/school
Going for walks outside