Conversion

Well, I converted this past Sunday.

I’m not going to lie – I was super nervous in the hours leading up to my appointment. Not because I had doubts (I didn’t), but because I wasn’t 100% convinced I was going to be “accepted”. Allowed in. In hindsight, it was a pretty irrational fear. But hindsight is 20/20.

So, beyond the class that I started in September (which ended about two weeks ago), I had to prepare an essay, go before the Beit Din, and then go to the Mikvah if both those other things went okay.

My essay could be as long, or as short, as I needed it to be, and mine ended up going on for 12 pages because I’m wordy and don’t know when to stop writing. XD I was given a list of suggested topics to cover, and I tried to touch on most of them although I couldn’t go too into detail on any of them. I submitted that on the last day of my class, and writing it was hard. I agonized over it for a long time. I had known for over a year that an essay would be required, but I’d sort of put off writing it because I just couldn’t get it right. So when I finally had to force myself to put words on paper as a result of a looming deadline, it wasn’t great. At least, I didn’t think so.

Then on Sunday had I had my appointment with the Beit Din. The Beit Din is a council made up of three rabbis; my Beit Din had the rabbi who had been teaching the class, the other rabbi at the synagogue I attend, and someone who isn’t “officially” a rabbi, but is more along the lines of a lay clergyman. He’s a rabbi but not a rabbi, if that makes sense. They asked me all sorts of questions about me and the essay that I wrote.

In the essay I had written, somewhat offhandedly I think, that I would likely be starting a family on my own. (In answering the question about how I would raise my children Jewish, if I had children.) They really sort of narrowed in on that comment near the end of our meeting. They asked me some questions, tried to determine why I had written what I had.

I won’t go into lengthy detail about the conversation. What I will say is that they asked me if I was open to a relationship/a more traditional family. I said that I was, but that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the having kids should I not find a husband. They said they wanted to see me able to have both, and that there are lots of single Jewish men in the community who want what I want – to settle down, have a family. It’s a little difficult to explain what exactly that conversation sounded like (I think from the way I’m writing it, it sounds a little like religious men trying to push me towards me being a more traditional woman and it wasn’t that at all) but I will say this… I can’t recall a time I have ever felt so profoundly, genuinely, cared about by people who aren’t family. And by that I mean, I was sitting there facing three rabbis, and I could have so easily felt ganged up on, or judged, or dismissed. Instead, I could tell that these questions and comments were coming from this incredible place of genuine care and concern.

I had already decided to take a bit of a break from trying after cycle four was a bust, so I haven’t made any attempt in May to get pregnant.

But I think, after the conversation on Sunday, I may put the plan on hold for a couple more months. Not forever, not even indefinitely.

But maybe there’s a reason that relationships haven’t worked out for me before now. Maybe there’s a reason that I miscarried in February. Maybe the timing just wasn’t right. Maybe now that I’m part of this new community, I’m going to meet the people I’m supposed to meet and have the opportunities I’m supposed to have.

And if not, and it’s all a bust and I don’t meet anyone or I don’t meet anyone I could see myself being with, then I start trying again to conceive on my own. Whatever is supposed to happen will happen. And it only seems fair to give myself another chance to take the more “traditional” route, now that I’m going to be interacting with new people, and participating in a new community. I mean, in all honesty, that would be my preference. If nothing else, all the stress of trying to get pregnant sucks. It sucks doing it on my own, and suffering disappointments and loss on my own. Being with someone would certainly be easier.

On one hand, I don’t love the idea of putting everything on hold even longer. But on the other, wouldn’t it be nice to have both? The husband, and the baby?

Anyway, so that conversation has definitely affected me and I’m feeling conflicted. Until I’m no longer feeling conflicted, the baby attempts are getting put on hold. I don’t want to jump into this, unsure.

So after the Beit Din was the Mikvah, but I think I’m going to write about that in another post because this one is already far too long. XD

I’m so excited that I’ve finally converted, and looking forward to what that means for the future. I’ll try to fill in some of the gaps here later – I had almost no posts about the process between when I started the class and when I converted almost a year later, so I definitely want to get everything else filled in too as I have time.

 

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Choosing a Donor

(I apologize in advance if there are any typos/if something is unclear. I’ll tidy this up later. I’m writing it before running out to my conversion class, but I wanted to get this posted because I’d meant to write it on Friday and got sidetracked!)

So my last blog post was about where and how to find a donor. This post is about the process (at least my process), of choosing one. (And my next post will return to the topic of conversion for a bit!)

I’ll preface this by saying there is no right way, and no wrong way, to choose a donor. This is an intensely personal decision, and this is a process during which you must be honest with yourself about what you want.

On Known Donor Registry (KDR), you have a couple of options for donation method. Those are the first things to consider. Do you want to do AI (Artificial Insemination) or NI (“Natural Insemination” – sex)? Yes, for some people that is a legitimate question – there are plenty of donors on KDR who offer NI, and plenty of recipients who take them up on it. To be fair, NI is more conducive to conception, but it also requires a woman to literally have sex with a stranger. (Never mind the potential conflicts when it comes to custody and child support – you can have a contract that both parties sign, but if a child is conceived through sex, the courts can, and have, tossed the contracts aside to either grant joint-custody or enforce child support. Yikes, big risk!)

I was not into the idea of hooking up with someone just to get pregnant, but no judgement here. To each their own. It just wasn’t the right way to go for me.

So then I had to make another decision – did I want to find someone local, or did I want to broaden my options and find someone willing to ship? In the end, that decision was more or less made for me due to the fact that there was only one local donor active on the site, and we didn’t really want the same things. (He wanted to co-parent, and while he agreed to just donate and not get into a co-parent relationship, I had the feeling he might change his mind down the road and try to fight for joint custody.) Which meant I had to look for someone who lived elsewhere, but was willing to ship.

It wasn’t just a matter of finding someone willing to ship, but someone who had done it before so I was confident that everything would go smoothly. There are so many possibilities for problems, and the donation has to be shipped overnight and used as soon as it arrives, or it isn’t any good. (Cycle 4’s shipping was particular stressful – and a little funny in a cringeworthy way – which I’ll write about later.)

So knowing that I wanted to go with AI, and that I would be finding someone who was willing to ship, I had to figure out my non-negotiables.

They were: he had to have recent clean STD tests**, he had to be intelligent, he had to be at least moderately attractive, he had to have a clean criminal record (which I could search myself on the Court of the Queen’s Bench site if he was Canadian), he had to have had previous successful donations (specifically, from when he’d shipped, so I could know his donation was strong enough to survive transport), he had to be open to communication with the child (if they want it) at least once they turn 18 (one of the benefits of a known donor), and I had to just… get a good vibe from him. I had to feel like in the real world, maybe we’d be friends, or we’d at least get along. I had to feel comfortable talking to him.

So, armed with my list of non-negotiables, I started to search the site. At first I wasn’t limiting my search to Canadians (I should have; I’d really recommend anyone limit their search to people within their own country, because shipping costs are insane otherwise.). The site is really easy to navigate, by the way. When I found a few profiles that looked promising, I started sending hello messages.

Also something to keep in mind: these guys are doing this for any number of reasons, but they aren’t machines. Don’t send them a message that says “hey, can you ship me some sperm?”. They’re people, who are potentially going to provide you with the one thing you’re missing to create a child. They deserve a whole lot more respect than a lot of people give them. Not everyone has altruistic motives, true. And there may be creepers you will have to wade through. (I didn’t connect with anyone truly creepy, but I’ve read some awful stories.)

I ended up selecting a donor in the USA, but that relationship ended up falling through before any shipments were sent. I’m actually happy it did, though, because I went back to the site, started talking to people again, and found an incredible donor who was equally as determined to make sure his recipients are good people as I was to make sure my donor was a decent human being. We messaged, and then emailed back and forth for a few weeks. We got on a Skype chat. Now we’re Facebook friends. This kind of arrangement has the potential to be awkward, or uncomfortable – but I’ve lucked out; my donor is so professional, and just plan kind. He doesn’t make me uncomfortable, at all, and makes me feel so supported throughout this whole process.

I’m currently in the first half of yet another two week wait as I write this. We did two inseminations this cycle, in the hopes that might give me the edge I need to be successful this month. But if not, we’ll try again. I’m so blessed to have found the donor I did.

I’m glad I’m recording all this finally, and I’m looking forward to getting it all down. Hopefully someone might stumble across this one day, and find it helps them a little – even just knowing they aren’t alone in this process. If you’re reading this and you’re considering this as an option for you, I’d be happy to talk. Feel free to comment below and I’ll get in contact with you. 🙂

** KDR is just a platform, kind of like Facebook. They don’t require donors submit anything to post a profile. It is 100% up to the recipient to make sure they are getting information (like STD test results, etc.) from their donor, and ensuring that it is legitimate. However, KDR will remove members (be they donors or recipients) for lying, if it’s discovered they have an STD, for harassing, for asking for money for donations, for pushing for NI when the recipient is only looking for AI, if someone reports the offending user.

How in the world does one find a donor, anyway?

I get asked this a lot. Seriously. People are curious – how (and where) does one find a sperm donor?

The answer is, well, it depends. It depends on if you’re going through a fertility clinic/the medical system, or if you’re going it alone. If you’re going through a clinic, they’ll provide you with the necessary information. They’ll help you find a donor. I think there are catalogues, and profiles, and all that fun stuff. You’re also looking at roughly $400-$800 per vial of sperm. (Fun fact – in Canada, it is illegal to pay a sperm donor for their, uh, donation. In the USA, it is not. For this reason, there’s a real shortage of Canadian sperm donors, at least if you’re going through a fertility clinic. Most of a clinic’s supply is imported in from the USA, where donors are paid anyway.)

But I’m not going through a fertility clinic. And I really couldn’t afford the $400+ per vial, knowing I’d need at least one vial (but they recommend 3) per cycle, and knowing it often takes several cycles for a healthy woman to get pregnant (no matter how well you time everything).

So, I googled it. Surely there were other people in the same situation.

Did you know there are a whole bunch of sites for finding donors? Like, a lot. (Okay, maybe not really a lot, but a lot more than I expected to find.)

I signed up on a few of them before realizing they were paid subscription sites. You could look at people’s profiles, they could message you, but you couldn’t message any of them back without subscribing. I didn’t inherently have a problem with subscribing, but I knew the cost would be a barrier to some — which meant that the donor options might be limited. I also hoped (and maybe it was wishful thinking) that I would find a donor quickly… which meant I wouldn’t need some 3+ month subscription.

And then I found Known Donor Registry. For lack of a better way of describing it, it’s essentially a mash of up Facebook and a dating site, for prospective donors and recipients. You sign up, create a profile, post pictures, friend people, find donors based on certain criteria, etc. It’s a free site, which is great. It also requires that everyone signed up as a donor does not charge for their donations.

They also have all sorts of articles, resources and information which I found incredibly useful.

Okay, you might be thinking. Is any of this regulated in any way? Do donors have to submit test results, or answer questionnaires, or get screened in any way?

No; anyone can post on the site. Anyone can sign up as a sperm/egg donor, and anyone can sign up as a recipient. The responsibility is entirely on the recipient to make sure they get the information they need from the donor… and on the donor to make sure they’re donating to someone they think might be a good parent. (I, for the record, have a contract with my donor, I saw all his STD tests (clean), and got other information from him that I deemed important.)

A lot of people don’t realize this is an option. They automatically assume that going through the medical system is their only option and they can’t afford it. (Although I live in Canada and healthcare is free, fertility treatments aren’t considered necessary care and so they are at the individual’s expense.) But it’s not; there are definitely other options out there if you want to get pregnant.

I really want to chronicle all this, because when I was starting out I wish I’d come across a blog where someone else talked about this whole process. So maybe one day this will be helpful to someone.

My next post is going to be about how I found someone on Known Donor Registry, and next week I’m going to be going back to writing about my conversion as well. I have so much to write about there, as well!

Here’s to making the best of life! Happy Wednesday!