Interview With a Sperm Donor

Sponsored by Melbourne IVF

It’s funny where life takes you, I never envisaged being asked to write on the topic of sperm donation. I must admit that on hearing the word “sperm” there’s a danger that I may revert back to my adolescent self which means giggles and blushing. I had no shortage of double entendre, rhyming slang and juvenile jokes stored up for just such an occasion but in the event none of that actually happened. Instead in the build up to writing my first post it became a topic that took over and I now consider myself somewhat of a sperm expert.

I began to appreciate the weight of the subject and how much it means to others. It was discussed over dinner, pondered with mates at the pub, debated with Mums at the park (it’s an excellent icebreaker) and mulled over in my own mind. It seems like a topic that everyone has an opinion on, no matter how informed or otherwise, everyone offered a view often based on gut instinct.

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Most of the people I spoke to were surprised that 40% of fertility problems are experienced by us men, there seems to be an assumption that the vast majority of fertility problems are down to the fairer sex. Nobody I spoke with was aware that there is a national shortage of sperm donors with only 1 donor for every 10 people on the waiting list.

Whilst we aren’t exactly famed for our ability to open up and discuss potential misgivings we might experience “downstairs” the men I spoke to, albeit with a healthy measure of male bravado and beer, sang like canaries. Some said they’d be open to becoming a donor but questioned whether their partners would be quite as enthusiastic; convenient perhaps? The majority of women I spoke to weren’t comfortable with the concept of their partners ‘fathering’ another child and how it might impact on their future together.

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In a bid to bring some clarity on proceedings I interviewed a man who, amongst other things, is a sperm donor. He’s a happily married father of two and was extremely open and honest about story and I quite enjoyed playing Parky for the day.

Why did you donate your sperm?My sister is a single mum that received donor sperm from an unknown donor – she wanted a child and saw little chance of having one with someone else, so took the initiative herself. I see how happy she now is with her 3 year old son; it has given her life a richness and focus for the future. I’ve seen close friends try to have a child for the past 5 years. Through the IVF cycles I have watched their dreams rise and fall. Luckily, both have been successful, and I see the effort that it requires and sometimes I know that it can be fruitless. If I am able to give someone the chance to conceive and have children then I feel helping them achieve a dream is terrific.

How long have you been a donor? Just over a year.

How did you feel after making your first donation? A little strange, mildly embarrassed although there isn’t a direct connection to the final recipient. I wonder a little about what will happen, but ultimately I am just happy helping others with their own family.

Do you ever think about whether your sperm has been used in successful pregnancies? Are you actually notified? You do get notified of a successful birth, although this hasn’t happened yet. It will be good to know I have helped another couple achieve a family. I will be interested to meet donor offspring of mine, although I am very comfortable that they will have their own parents and family. I would be an accepting but small part of their lives.

Do you have any say in whether children conceived using your sperm can contact you down the track? Yes, there is a register for donor conceived children, they can contact the donor through the register when they turn 18 years of age and then if the donor wishes they can contact them in return.

What do friends and family think about your decision to donate? Only my wife knows about the donations, I may have to inform my children later in life I guess, so one doesn’t end up going out with her half brother!!

What would you say to another man considering donating their sperm? I think it’s a relatively easy process for a man in a stable relationship with their own family. The process includes counselling which provides an opportunity to consider the issues and implications associated with involvement in a donor program. It’s a personal decision to donate sperm and has more to it than you might imagine.

Why do you think there is such a shortage of sperm donors in Australia? It’s probably not considered the manliest thing a bloke could do, remember the school ground? From my experience, those that are connected to someone else having conception problems will be the most likely to donate. Mainly, I think people don’t talk about IVF, Donations, Adoption, etc to even their families let alone a friend or others, so no one is compelled to donate.

To those of you who are trying I wish you all the best.

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The thing that really came across is just how selfless it is to be a donor. It’s about giving the ultimate gift to someone in need, the definitive random act of kindness. The aim of this post isn’t to have you or your partner queuing up tomorrow morning to do your/their bit, it’s about starting a dialogue and in doing so raising awareness of a problem that affects many Australian couples.

You can find out more about Sperm Donation on Melbourne IVF’s website

What would you have asked the donor if you could? Why do you believe there is a shortage of sperm donors in Australia? Would you/your partner ever look into becoming a sperm donor?

September 2, 2014   | 2 Comments

The Male Underwear Model Who Came To Stay

I have a vague notion of what Anna does for a job, I know she works in advertising and I know she sounds very professional and a little bit scary when she puts on her ‘work voice’ but I couldn’t really give you specifics.

I’ve heard talk of retouching images, essentially photo-shopping models to make them look even more perfect. It’s a bit like when you rent a car from a hire company and they walk around with a clipboard marking scratches and dents, she finds the scratches and dents on the models and fixes them up, a comparison which Anna isn’t entirely happy with.

Recently works been quite hectic for Anna and she’s been bringing bits and pieces home with her. That’s when he first turned up, this other man. Not just any man but a man who looks like he’s been painstakingly chiselled from granite, parades around in nothing but a pair of briefs, a smug grin and has been blessed with a disproportionately large endowment. He’s always around, always demanding her attention and getting in the way. Hate’s a strong word but I hate him passionately.

He’s an underwear model, that’s right my wife spends hours and hours staring at male underwear models and “retouching” them. I don’t like the expression “retouching” it sounds too much like touching, virtual or otherwise. I’ve also noticed she has a certain twinkle in her eye when she’s with him, I’ve seen that twinkle before, it’s the same one she had when she watched Patrick from Offspring.  I even did some sit ups and bought the same undies in a bid to divert her attention, but it was no use, she just asked why I was breathing in?

Last night she came home looking like she needed a stiff drink. “What’s wrong hun?” She explained that the company had lost a client, one of the clients that she had been working on, the underwear client. “Oh no that’s terrible news. I know how much you were enjoying the work”. Those are the words that came out of my disingenuous mouth, what I was really thinking was does that mean I won’t be forced to count his abdominal muscles and wonder whether he has stuffed his sparkling undies with socks each night?

I like it better when it’s just us two.

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July 23, 2014   | 8 Comments

When Scams Go Wrong

After enjoying the bounty of treats that goes hand in hand with holidaying with his grandparents, Max is finding it hard to adjust to ‘normal life’. The Walt Disney movies aren’t quite as regular, the late nights have been cut short and new toys are no longer on tap. His real weakness turned out to be ice-cream; he must have sucked, slurped and licked his way through the entire range from Twisters to Cornettos to Feasts and everything in-between. He was generally sporting an ice-cream moustache and a jittery disposition for the entire six weeks.

I was fully aware that I would be picking up the pieces of ‘The Grandparent Routine’ and gently ween him off his plethora of naughty vices. I’m happy to say that Max has now been clean for two weeks…………so I took him out for ice-cream to celebrate. Or at least that’s what he thought he was getting, it was actually one of those self serve frozen yoghurt places that seem to be breeding like friendly bacteria throughout Melbourne. In my head I convinced myself that some sort of victory was taking place due to the fact that he’s being fooled into eating yoghurt but in reality by the time he piles up mounds of chocolate sprinkles and cookie crumbs I suspect he will have the last (slightly frenzied as a result of all the sugar) laugh.

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This was to be our second visit to said establishment. The first time we went I got all caught up in the excitement of self serve yoghurt and by the time the tub hit the scales it had been adorned with all manner of ‘extras’ and there wasn’t much change to be had from a $10 note.  As a proud tight arsed father this really hurt, I kept having nightmares about paying $10 for yoghurt and had regular flashbacks of the smug cashier taking my $10 and replacing it with a couple of silver coins.

Not this time. This time I had a plan. I came prepared; I took my own sprinkles from home. I tried wedging them into my jeans pocket but it left me with an unfortunate bulge that would be hard to explain to the innocent teenage girls that work there. “Right Max here’s what we’re going to do. You need to hide these sprinkles in your hood and not take them out until I say so, okay?” He looked delighted to be allowed in on the scam, not to mention shocked at being trusted with an entire tub of sprinkles. He made a strange sprinkling noise as he walked, like a human maraca, into the shop but not enough to provoke any suspicious looks.

I chose a table at the back of the room, away from any onlooking do-gooders or have-a-go-heroes. “You stay here Max while Daddy goes to fill one of those tubs with ice-cream goodness. Don’t talk to strangers and don’t touch the sprinkles”. I politely refuse the ridiculous offer to try the “new green tea flavoured yoghurt” and head straight for the chocolate. I gave the lever a good hard yank and without thinking about it start executing a perfect spiral shape. I turn around to make sure Max is keeping to his side of the bargain and have a horrible sinking feeling as I see Max in full dialogue with one of the smiley customer service team, he’s holding up the jar of sprinkles and gesturing towards me.

“Your adorable little boy was just showing me the sprinkles that you asked him to smuggle in”. I never used the word smuggle, that’s slander! “Ah yes, erm, he’s quite fussy about his sprinkles” She then explains to Max that they have lots of different types and perhaps he should come and point to his favourites. Bitch. Needless to say the bowl was promptly filled to the brim and by the time it made the scales it was another (possibly our last) eye wateringly expensive yoghurt outing.  I walked home with my wallet and pride slightly dented, trying to ignore the annoying sprinkling noise coming from my jean pocket.

July 21, 2014   | 22 Comments

Black Pepper Tofu with Jasmine Rice

Sponsored by Woolworths

My parents were vegetarian and didn’t pander to the demands of a stroppy child, I ate what they ate. I think I felt fairly ripped off at the time when I heard peers discussing the merits of sausages, steaks, bacon, etc. I kept my dirty little secret to myself, back then even as a bashful 6 year old I knew vegetarianism was a bit ‘different’ and being ‘normal’ was important.

Mum’s a good cook and could work wonders with whatever was kicking about. Dad was good too but he became infamous for his signature dish which my siblings and I cruelly dubbed “prison soup”. There wasn’t much of a range in vegetarian food back in the 80’s. You could get packets of Veggie Burger mix which you added water to and fried, they had a spongy texture and didn’t taste of much and I can remember thinking that if this is what burgers are meant to taste like you can keep them.

These days the range of vegetarian products is fairly comprehensive and I’ve converted many a sceptical carnivore to the joys of a good veggie burger or pie, even if they don’t care to admit it. One product that still divides many vegetarians let alone carnivores is tofu. Tofu hasn’t received much of a PR job and has a reputation for having a lack of flavour and disagreeable texture.

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But it’s got many virtues; it’s cheap, healthy and will quite happily linger in your fridge for a few months whilst all around it goes mouldy. In the right hands it’s delicious, those hands are usually the chef at our local Chinese takeaway and after nagging and pleading and several prawn crackers he took me into the kitchen and showed me how to make his favourite Tofu dish – Black Pepper Tofu with Rice and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce. I’ve since made it at home and it’s a total tofu game changer.

Black Pepper Tofu with Jasmine Rice

Serves four.

500g macro hard tofu

Cornflour for coating

Vegetable oil for frying

2 brown onions thinly sliced

2 red chillies thinly sliced (optional)

4 garlic cloves crushed

1 thumb sized piece of chopped ginger

5 tbsp crushed black peppercorns

8 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sugar

1 bunch of spring onions cut into slithers

Coriander to garnish

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Cut the tofu into 2cm cubes and toss them in cornflour, salt and pepper. Half fill a large pan or wok with oil (or use a deep fat fryer) and heat it to 180C, or until a small piece of bread browns in 15 seconds. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, once they are golden remove and dry on some kitchen towel.

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In a clean frying pan heat some oil and add the brown onion, chillies, garlic and ginger and cook over a low-medium heat until soft and sweet. Crush the peppercorns and add to the pan along with the soy sauce and sugar. Warm the tofu in the sauce, add the spring onion and stir through. Serve with steamed Jasmine rice and garnish with coriander.

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It’s been great to see the increased range in vegetarian foods that are available to Australians, even in the six years I’ve been ‘Down Under’ it’s grown massively. The next time you find yourself pushing your trolley down the vegetarian aisle have a closer look at some of the products on offer and see whether you can convert any of the sceptics in your house or perhaps yourself.

The vegetarian macro range, available in Woolworths includes over 30 products and having worked my way through most of them I’m a total convert.

May 7, 2014   | 13 Comments

20% of Australian Men Don’t Know………………

Sponsored by Melbourne IVF

…………..there is a shortage of sperm donors. There’s something primal about the urge to have children. For lots of us we reach a point in life and there’s a child sized gap that ‘needs’ to be filled. That’s what happened to us, one day the idea of children just seemed right. It all happened very quickly, one moment I was enjoying the act of making a baby and the next I was literally being dragged from pram shop to pram shop. Looking back I took it for granted that we would be able to have children, there wasn’t time for doubts to creep in

Being a Dad means everything to me and I couldn’t imagine not being able to have children, could you? I know people who have been in that position and the stress and strain it’s put on them and their relationship is painful to watch. For single women, female couples and couples with male infertility the chance to be parents and have a child of their own often rests on the shoulders of sperm donors.

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There is no shortage of men in Australia and there is no shortage of men with sperm in Australia, what there is is a chronic shortage of men that are aware and willing to donate their sperm. It seems ironic that there should be a shortage of sperm given that it’s a bi-product of one of the favourite male past times, I have no statistics to back up that claim it’s just a hunch.

I think we’ve all encountered men that are full of bravado on the topic of conception and will often favour dinner parties or pubs as a suitable forum to bring up their impregnating prowess. “Let’s just say there wasn’t much need for practice if you know what I mean” or “If you do need any help in that department you know where I am, I’d be happy to help out”. Or perhaps I’ve just befriended some real toerags in my time?

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Would I donate my sperm? Now that I know what it is to be a parent it’s something I’d give a lot of thought to. There are worse things to do with your afternoon than to potentially give someone else the gift of life. I don’t think I’d feel awkward about the act of ‘donating’ or telling others that I do. For me it wouldn’t be a decision to take lightly, anyone conceived through a donor can contact him if they wish to when they turn 18 and that deserves some serious thought. It would also have to be something that my wife is comfortable with.

The aim of this post isn’t to have you (if you have the necessary bits) or your partner  queuing up tomorrow morning ‘to do your/their bit’, it’s about acknowledging that for every 10 people on the waiting list for sperm there is only 1 donor and that only 20% of men are actually aware of the shortage.

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Were you aware there was such a chronic shortage of sperm donors? Would you be happy for you or your partner to donate sperm? Have you or someone you know benefitted or experienced sperm donation?

May 6, 2014   | 19 Comments

The Joys of House Hunting

Something’s not quite right when you start to feel nauseous that it’s nearly the weekend. The past few have been spent in a car with a map, hunting for the elusive dream home. Our net has been cast far and wide, it’s a trawler net, not one of those sustainable ones that lets unsuitable fish fit through, we’re catching everything. Last Saturday we set off at 9am and returned at 8pm; stupid big net.

Rather than search for properties that falls within our location and budget I have an involuntary reflex that automatically enters unsuitable locations and a figure that is substantially beyond our upper limit, just in case the owners have a kind heart and see no real value in financial gain.

Rather than set up a search on that well known real estate website and patiently wait for an email to alert me of a new property, I will visit said site approximately 20 times each day. This also means having to decipher ‘estate agent’ speak and there seems to be some recurring themes. This morning I saw a property that simply had the headline “Provence?” in reference to the beautiful French region and style, what this property had was a photo of an outside table and chair with a bottle of wine and a baguette on it.

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Other favourites include;

This one’s got it all – it has a roof, four walls and a floor

Real quirky character – Whoever decorated this property was clearly on drugs

Neat as a pin – its only redeemable feature is that it’s been cleaned

Room for improvement – you might as well knock it down and start again.

There was actually an Estate Agent in England who gathered notoriety for taking honesty to the extreme and described one house as having; “All the charm and poise of a vicar on crack. Suit midget on a budget.” It would certainly make the process of house hunting more entertaining.

I remember house hunting pre-kids being quite a leisurely process, measuring up rooms and ‘debating’ where I’d put my X-Box. These days I spend the entire viewing trying to restrain Max from jumping on the beds, using the toilet, stealing food and generally making himself at home in someone else’s.

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House hunting is beginning to feel a bit like an exercise in self harm for someone too squeamish to deal with the sight of blood. I suspect this is just the calm before the paperwork, removalist and renovation storm that’s on its way. The hunt goes on.

How is house hunting for you? Are you currently searching?

March 28, 2014   | 8 Comments

It Shits Me That He Swore

We were making our way back from the library weighed down by a bag full of books and a child that is reluctant to acknowledge that his feet are made for walking. His ears pricked up as he heard a passing police siren, few things excite Max like a services siren.

“I think it’s coming to get me Daddy”

“Why would it be coming to get you Max, what have you done?”

“I said fucking”

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Of course it was said just loud enough for the passing Mum who had just collected her son from school to hear. I caught her eye as she looked at me in disbelief, I think was wearing the same expression, and was hit with a large dose of something that felt a bit like shame or guilt or sadness? I couldn’t help but think that that Mum probably looked at us and thought ‘bad parent, bad kid’ – I wanted to catch her up and explain that it wasn’t an everyday occurrence and it hadn’t come from me.

I came down to Max’s level and told him in no uncertain terms that it’s a word he shouldn’t use and that some words are off limits. In truth he had said it with all the confidence of someone that didn’t really know whether the word he was saying had any meaning whatsoever. After a few silent paces he asked me if I was “happy now?” which is what he says when he knows something has riled me. I gave him a big hug and told him I wasn’t angry with him and that he hadn’t done anything wrong.

I hate that he said that word. I suspect most parents struggle with the notion that their toddlers are anything other than perfect and him saying that word doesn’t make him imperfect but it certainly caught me by surprise. Don’t get me wrong I can swear with the best of them (in adult company) but there is something surreal about hearing it from the mouth of a toddler, my toddler.

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It was the first time as a parent that I was forced to acknowledge that no matter how much you want to shelter or protect them from the unseemly bits and pieces of life, you can’t.

March 25, 2014   | 11 Comments

5 Teachers I Vaguely Recall

When I was training to become a teacher, the lecturers drilled it into us that the best teachers will always be remembered by their students. I remember my Dad bumping into one of his former students 30 years on who told him what positive impact he’d had on his life. I racked my brains trying to remember whether any of the teachers in my 13 years of education had had a major impact on me. I don’t think I can honestly say any of them did. I think they ranged from completely unsuitable to average, there was no great inspirational figure that imparted a thirst for learning. These five stuck in my mind for other reasons;

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Mr Sixsmith was one of the most unlikely candidates to be a PE teacher that you’ll ever come across.  He had a glass eye; rumour had it he lost it in a javelin accident but I suspect that might have received some creative license along the way. He sported a greasy side parting, a bristly moustache, an ill fitting tracksuit, a complexion that suggested he probably enjoyed a drink or two and belly to match. When it was shower time he’d come along with a brush and push you under the water, in hindsight I’m not sure he should have been working in a school.

Mr McEwan was one of the angriest men you could ever wish to meet. He taught Woodwork and after telling me to “put some elbow grease into it” was unimpressed when I spent 10 minutes searching for a tub labelled “elbow grease” in the cupboard. He always wore a short sleeved white shirt tucked into an impossibly high waisted pair of grey nylon trousers. His teaching methods were straight out of the old school and two of his favourite things were shouting in your face and finger poking.

Mrs Bird came along when I was making the transition from dorky boy to lusty (dorky) teenager and she was the closest thing I’d had to an attractive teacher. She taught Geography and low and behold my best subject suddenly became Geography; I know all my capital cities and can talk at length about igneous rock.

Mr Barker was another PE teacher. He was ex-military and I suspect he was struggling to let go of his army days. He was one of those teachers that was a lot of fun if you were on side but you knew that if you did push his buttons you would probably regret it. He had an old shoe called Mr Smiley that was a sort of a sidekick, it had a smiley face drawn on the sole and he’d ‘encourage’ any stragglers to partake with a whack across the legs. I once sent a stray discus hurtling towards his testicles at high speed only for him to vault it at the last moment, sighs of relief all round.

Mrs Pretorius was my Sociology teacher and a total stoner. She was always unprepared but you forgave her for it because when you smoke that much marijuana I imagine planning lessons and marking work wouldn’t be very high on your priorities. I seem to remember watching The Simpsons quite often and being asked to find examples of sociological goings on.

Do you have any teachers that stick in your mind, good or bad?

March 18, 2014   | 10 Comments