I wasn’t sure dating was the solution. What if it didn’t work out? That would leave me 36 years old, still with no baby on the horizon.
“Is it hopelessly improbable to find the mother of your children on OkCupid? We’ll see, won’t we.
I’ve always wanted to be a dad. I had a great dad, and I’ll make a great dad someday. But as I get a little older, I’m starting to get just a tad concerned about finding a traditional reproductive partner. This profile is an offering to the chance of meeting a non-traditional one. ;)”
So started the OKCupid profile of “FutureBestDad” — the biological father of the 16-week-old fetus I’m carrying.
I came across his profile just a week after the final breakup with my lovely ex-boyfriend Ben, who had decided he just wasn’t ready for kids. I had just turned 34. My mother suffered multiple miscarriages after 38, and I felt sure that I wanted more than one child, so I could hear my biological clock ticking loud and clear.
I’m a problem-solver, and the natural way for me to work through the normal breakup grieving process was to go about solving the practical problem it had created: How I was going to have kids, stat?
I wasn’t sure dating was the solution to my problem. Even if I got really lucky and met someone promising almost immediately, I’d want to date for at least two years before we decided to spend a lifetime together. And what if it didn’t work out? That would leave me 36 years old, still with no baby on the horizon.
I’d already frozen my eggs, which gave me some biological leeway. But emotionally, the serious potential to lose two more years felt pretty scary to li’l ol’ baby-crazy me. (Not to mention, that’s a helluva lot of pressure to put on the dating process.)
So, I settled on an alternative: I would search for a platonic co-parent. I planned to reach out to hundreds of friends and acquaintances to ask them if they knew any sperm creators who were looking for an egg producer. I envisioned going through the reproductive equivalent of a very intensive, bidirectional hiring process where the would-be father and I could vet each other on everything from financials to parenting philosophy, check each other’s references and more. We would then agree to settle near each other in a city like D.C. or San Francisco, share joint custody, and be one big, happy, platonic family.
Gay men or couples seemed likely prospects — it’s hard to have a biological kid as a gay man. I figured, if I powered ahead, I had decent odds of getting this done and dusted within six months. Having a plan that didn’t rely on the vagaries of the dating market felt empowering and exciting.
But hey, I might as well date for fun in the meantime, right? So one night, just a week after Ben and I broke up, I stumbled across FutureBestDad. We had a 96% match score. I clicked with enthusiasm.
Over our first coffee, I grilled Greg on child-rearing. “How would you approach discipline?” “As an atheist, how will you feel if your kid turns out to be religious?” “How would you think about my bodily autonomy while pregnant with your child?” Over time, we found some fault lines, but nothing bigger than you’d expect from any couple. We met each other’s friends. Almost all were impressed enough to give us something between a tentative “maybe this isn’t crazy after all” to an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Our families were somewhat more skeptical, but the opposition became muted as we spent more time together.
And we wrote documents. Oh, did we write documents — first on our own and later with lawyers. We’re both big on communication in relationships to begin with. But when there’s no social template to help define expectations — when you’re literally making it all up from scratch — you have to be really explicit to make sure you’re on the same page. We were both nervous that we could accidentally agree to a plan based on a fundamental miscommunication or different assumptions — from what we would tell the children about our unorthodox family, to how to make decisions about schools, to where we and the kids would live, to how to handle shared expenses. Our dozens of pages of coauthored Google Docs unearthed a lot of important discussion items.
We considered a simple gamete swap: He would donate sperm to me, I would donate eggs to him that he could use with a surrogate, and we would go on about our lives with minimal contact. There was the scenario we called “cousins”: We would swap gametes, with no ongoing legal responsibilities to each other, but we would also stay heavily involved in each others’ lives, as if we were friendly siblings and our kids were cousins. And then there was my original scenario, where we would be full-on, platonic co-parents with joint custody of the kids.
You’re probably wondering whether there was any romantic or sexual attraction between us. Well, I’m not going to lie: Greg is both an attractive man and squarely “my type.” As my therapist can attest, I had to work hard to manage my emotions on that side of things. We did try actually “dating” for about a month. But Greg was still processing his recent divorce, and even now he feels that it’ll be years before he’s ready to consider re-marrying. That was why, at age 39, he posted his unorthodox OKCupid profile. He’s also firmly polyamorous, with long-standing secondary relationships that are very important to him —– including Crista, his girlfriend of 15 years. Neither of us were sure how I might handle that in a long-term romantic relationship.
It quickly became clear that, emotionally, I was incapable of thinking seriously about co-parenting with Greg while being in a relatively casual romantic relationship with him. With our urgent timeline looming, I reached a breaking point and announced a new policy called “gay best friend.“ We established that I was simply going to pretend that this attractive man I was thinking about co-parenting with was gay, and therefore off-limits romantically. It took real self-discipline but has worked surprisingly well.
As we spent more time together, I tried to keep an open mind to the possibility that the whole thing might fall through. Both of us were getting very invested in the outcome, but we were having trouble coming to a compromise in one area. I felt that donating my eggs to Greg was a huge deal, and I wasn’t sure I would ever be willing to give up parentage of a biological child of mine. For Greg, donating sperm felt like a relatively small decision, but agreeing to a lifetime of co-parenting with someone he’d still known less than a year felt very scary. Meanwhile, I felt like I couldn’t afford to stretch out our decision-making process much longer. I began to check out regular ol’ sperm banks. I even said to Greg once, impatient with his caution, “If it weren’t for you, I’d already be pregnant!”
But then we hit upon an option we both felt great about. Last June, we decided that, as a first step, we would pursue a so-called “spuncle” strategy — short-hand for “sperm donor/uncle.” Legally, I would be the only parent of our first child, with all the responsibilities and rights that entails. But, informally, he would be heavily involved in the child’s life, in an uncle-like role. Maybe in the future we would move to full-on coparenting, or I would donate eggs to him to complete a “cousins” arrangement — but by the time we’d need to make those decisions we would have a lot more information and know each other a lot better.
I was jubilant on the day we finally signed the contract. Shortly thereafter, Greg donated sperm at my doctor’s office. And through the miracle of IVF, I became pregnant in November.
In the meantime, my ex Ben and I have become great friends. I’ve also started a fun, low-pressure relationship with a man who thinks the whole situation is pretty neat — definitely not a relationship I could have explored if I were in single-minded pursuit of a long-term partner to procreate with.
Greg and I hang out about once a week these days. Sometimes I call him when my body is doing weird things and I just want someone to listen to me complain. And because he’s poly, it’s not just the two of us who are invested in this child. Crista, who never wanted biological kids, is also incredibly supportive. She recently took me on my first maternity clothes shopping expedition. All three of us shared the magical moment of first hearing the baby’s heartbeat via ultrasound.
I’m excited to have as many adults as possible in love with my baby — and willing to help carry the load of what is still, in many important ways, single motherhood.
When the baby comes, during those first few raw months of sleep deprivation when everything in my life gets upended, Greg and Crista plan to be around as much as possible. And then, like every family, we’ll see what comes next.
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman is a progressive activist and political consultant living in Oakland, California. She is the founder of SumOfUs, a global corporate watchdog. When she’s not writing strategic plans or attending protests, she can often be found staring at the sky through redwood branches.