What are the advantages of DI over adoption?
Well, a lot cheaper and a lot less of an emotional roller coaster, in my opinion. There is no "just adopt" - it's a very challenging, expensive, frought, and most likely long process (but rewarding and wonderful too!), where donor sperm, especially if you get pregnent right away, is much more straight forward. Your child is then half related to you genetically and you have a degree of control over the other genetic half, where you have zero control over genetics with adoption. You also control the prenatal environment, which you cannot do as much with adoption. DS doesn't require an FBI background check and extensive home study. A child conceived with donor sperm doesn't have a birth family, which means that you don't have to navigate the emotionally complex waters of another family in your child's life (well that depends on the type of adoption that you pursue to a degeree, I suppose). I'm not sure that these are advantages per se but they are differences - you have to weigh the importance of each to see what you consider an advantage. In my opinion and for me personally, there are some very distinct advantages to adoption over DS. So a lot of the differences are just that - differences, and they may or may not be advantages to you personally depending on your situation.
Is it always better to use an anonymous sperm donor? Are there certain advantages to using donor sperm from someone you know?
This is a very personal choice. There are 3 levels of information: totally anonymous, "willing to be known" donors (sperm bank sperm, ID released to the child when the child turns 18), and known donors that are acually individuals that you negotiate with. For US, it was non-negotiable that we wanted at least some level of openness with the donor. Our ideal is a known donor who will have some sort of relationship with our kid as they grow up, but the only person that we trusted and who we really felt on the same page with is logistically difficult to get to, so we are trying with frozen “willing to be known” sperm this cycle. I cannot imagine my child asking me for more information about their genetic makeup and me telling them that I didn’t think it was important to have that available to them. But again this is a very very personal decision and there are many people who choose each option all the time.
For us, the advantage for using someone that we knew is that our kid won't have 18 years to build up this mysterious donor in their head - it will just be Uncle Xxx from day one. As a lesbian couple with only one male relative other than our two fathers, we also liked that our child would have a loving male in their family. And also, with our friend we know him, his history, his personality, all kinds of stuff, where a sperm donor can put whatever they want on the application and very little of it is checked out or verified. Plus with frozen sperm, the ID release is basically just name and last known address, and it's given to the child when they turn 18. What if the donor changes their mind? Most banks limit the number of families from a particular donor, but what if he's already had 10 kids contact him and is worn out and tired of it?
When using an anonymous donor, what traits are important to consider in donor selection?
When looking at frozen DS, we only looked at willing to be known donors. After that, some range of similarity in features to my partner (dark hair, blue eyes, not too tall, not too short), and read the profiles. Personality, history, most medical background wasn’t really relevant beyond the “gut feeling” we had when reading the profiles. We didn’t opt for baby pics or voice recordings from the donor, or any of the extensive info that some banks offer. When considering a known donor (ie friend), trust was the absolute top priority. We trust and love our friend who we had considered to be the donor, and even though we would not have chosen him based on his physical characteristics had he been a sperm bank donor, we ALL take a risk when trying for a pregnancy with a known donor, so it was imperative that we trust each other. Physical traits were basically not even considered with him.
Would you recommend telling your child the truth behind his/her conception?
We are a female-female couple, so we don’t have the option to hide it. But I plan to be very open about it from the very beginning. I think that much of the recent research done with children conceived with the help of a 3rd party points to openness being preferred. There are a few great podcasts on this topic from a program called “creating a family” that I downloaded for free from iTunes.
It sounds like you are in the very beginning stages of considering this and it’s probably all very overwhelming and possibly missed with some grief if you are like most of the women in my support group who went through the decision to use donor sperm. Hopefully you can find the right choice for you and start to get excited about it again!