Have you ever been in a situation that is so out of the ordinary that you can’t help but laugh, even if it might be serious? This story from Ben Tari is about the bizarre real-life experience of donating sperm to help a lesbian friend become pregnant.
I try to catch his eye to acknowledge the bizarreness of the ordeal, but without luck. There is no camaraderie. This is serious business.
“Well if he can’t make it happen, at least you know mine works!” It was crude but we laughed, as friends do. Then my three kids blurred past in a cacophony of squeals and Nerida’s smile faded.
“Actually,” she said, “would you consider it?”
So now I’m on the 17th floor of a grey building in the city, in a waiting room surrounded by cream furniture and smoky glass, filling out paperwork about who can access my frozen sperm. The receptionist is appropriately professional, armed with a vocab that avoids words that could make the situation seem dirty, however, the repetition of the word ‘deposit’ makes me chuckle inside. The couple opposite seem earnest; I can tell they’ve been here before by the way they breeze through the forms. I try to catch his eye to acknowledge the bizarreness of the ordeal, but without luck. There is no camaraderie. This is serious business.
It all seems quite surreal and I can’t wipe the goofy grin off my face.
I’m handed a room key. It’s a chunky white plastic paddle with a red number one on it. Like a toilet key from a trendy cafe, so no one can walk in on each other. The nurse also hands me a specimen jar that seems kind of small, but I accept the challenge.
The ‘deposit’ room is a cross between a bathroom and a small hotel room. Except instead of a bed, there is a slick leather recliner like a dentist’s chair. It’s covered in paper towelling. There is a bright white sink next to which a stainless steel rubbish bin sparkles. There are two thick black folders of porn; one straight, one gay. A sizeable flat-screen telly looms on the wall in front of the recliner. The tilt of the chair and screen placement makes it like a cockpit but I decide against using the chair; there’s no need to mess up the place or have to clean. My aim is true. I screw the lid on and leave with a final glance to make sure I’ve covered my tracks; like a cat burying the evidence.
I see humour and wonder in the undertaking but I’m beginning to see that most cannot afford this luxury.
The corridor is lit supermarket-style, making me squint. I’m light-headed from the endorphins buzzing through my system as I lurch up to a sliding window and press the buzzer. A chirpy scientist in a lab coat smiles and offers to take my sample after signing more documents. It all seems quite surreal and I can’t wipe the goofy grin off my face. It’s way too early after a sexual act to be asked serious questions. The scientist can see my amusement. She rides a fine line between professionalism and a knowing smile. Her hair in a tight bun, serious glasses low on her nose and her doctor-esque outfit all combine to recreate a character out of the Black Label Penthouse I’d been gawking at a minute ago. Interestingly, I feel an overwhelming need to be held. And maybe chuckle. In a place that’s catered for everything necessary to procure my semen, is intimacy too much to ask?
For us, getting pregnant is about letting it happen and not getting in the way. The fertility clinic is the exact opposite.
Next week we have to go to counselling, my wife and I, where doubtless we will be asked many uncomfortable what if questions. We joke that Nerida is around so often at our house that the kid will believe they’re one of ours anyway; just another in the constant parade of ragamuffins. It’s going to be okay. For us, getting pregnant is about letting it happen and not getting in the way. The fertility clinic is the exact opposite. It conspires and calculates and demands that every personal detail be scrutinised, from ovulation cycles to sperm stalk numbers. All at a hefty price. I find it tricky to take the clinic seriously. Nerida finds it tricky to get pregnant. I see humour and wonder in the undertaking but I’m beginning to see that most cannot afford this luxury.
Author Ben Tari is a writer, actor, teacher and father of three. He gets his mojo from the power of stories and often finds humour in odd places.