Finally getting back to this...
So we had these two guys. Let’s call them Dr. Doolittle and The Boy Next Door. We liked them both equally, which is to say they were the best of the profiles we reviewed. I wanted one of them to reach out and grab me the way The Beatle had, but the longer I stared at the profiles, the more certain I became that we would have to use actual decision-making to choose one of them. But how? How do you weigh the relative values of this quality or that trait?
These were the criteria we used to narrow it down to Dr. Doolittle and The Boy Next Door, roughly in order of importance to us, and how they both rate in each category:
- ID Release: This has been non-negotiable for me since Bleu suggested it in a comment on this post. Both of these donors made the cut.
- Physical resemblance to M’s family: They both have it. Kind of. Neither are the ringer The Beatle was, but their features are fairly neutral and neither have noses or brows or chins that look dramatically different from M's family. The Boy Next Door might have a slightly greater resemblance to KD, and therefore E, but Dr. Doolittle looks a bit more like M, which presents an interesting option.
- British heritage: M’s family is deeply English in appearance, speech and mannerism. The Beatle was 100% English as well. Neither of the new donors are. Dr. Doolittle has some English in the mix, along with 3 or 4 other things, and The Boy Next Door is Irish and Welsh so, close but no cigar. At one point, this felt important to me. I wanted our kids to have the same answer to the “What are we?” question, as I remember going through a phase where my own cultural heritage felt very salient. I’m over it, though. I’m down with understanding culture experientially rather than biologically and in that respect, our next child will be 50% English, just as E is, no matter what his or her donor’s nationality was.
- Artistic: Both M and I are. Both of our families are. It feels important to us. The Beatle was. Neither Dr. Doolittle or The Boy Next Door claim any artistic ability. This criterion lost out to others when we couldn’t find a (second) perfect match, but I still feel a little unsettled about that.
- Intelligent: Huh, how to justify this one without sounding like a first-rate narcissist? M and I both come from smart-ish families (if not humble ones, ha ha!) and E is a smart little cookie. If we were starting from scratch, I'd prioritize kindness or creativity over intelligence any day, but we want to conceive a child that will fit in well with E and be able to hold his or her own in the inevitable sibling scuffles. We aren't looking for a rocket scientist, just someone of at least average intelligence. Both donors seem to meet this criteria. Assessing this is a total guess anyway. Sure there are test scores and GPAs and fields of study and interview responses, but how much of that is nurture, socialization and access to resources? Quite a bit, I'm guessing.
- Laid-back temperament: M has this. I do not. E does not. It seemed like it might be a good idea to balance our family out a bit rather than add another strong-willed cook to the kitchen. Both donors seem to have this, Dr. Doolittle more so than The Boy Next Door.
- No major health issues: This goes without saying, but to be honest, we weren't all that hung up on it. We kind of figured that anyone who would make the cut to be in a donor program would have a cleaner family medical history than either of us. Aside from one donor who got the ax for too many cancers on too many branches of his family tree, we didn't put too much weight into this category.
M was leaning toward Dr. Doolittle and, looking at the list above, I agree that he seems to have a slight edge. The clincher for M was the clip of his audio interview in which he managed to come off sounding smart, funny, easy-going, compassionate, and all-around amazing… all in a 30-second answer to a single question! But for some reason, I couldn’t get on board. It wasn’t because I wanted The Boy Next Door. I just couldn’t choose either one over the other.
The Breakthrough came when I read through each profile in great detail and tried to distill their most attractive qualities down to a 1-2 sentence summary. What I came up with was that I liked The Boy Next Door because he seemed like M’s people – smart, thoughtful, soft-spoken, laid-back – and he is studying the same subject both M and KD have made careers in. There is nothing particularly flashy or attractive about his profile. He’s just a good, solid candidate. I liked Dr. Doolittle because, well, he kind of seems like the perfect guy. Even the person recording his "staff impressions" clearly had a crush on him (no joke). He has cool interests and a cool field of study and cool belief systems and just seemed like the kind of genes you’d like to recruit into your family. But then I realized that a big part of what made Dr. Doolittle so attractive to me was his Other-ness; the novelty of his Philosophy major (we don't have any of those anywhere on our family trees) and the Mr. Cool voice in his audio recording (like all the popular kids I was too Type A to hang out with in high school and college). The opportunity to literally purchase qualities I admire in others was a seductive one. That said, if we are sincere about our efforts to conceive the child that is most genetically pre-disposed to blend in with our families and the child we already have, The Boy Next Door is the obvious choice. I shared these thoughts with M who agreed, and thus the decision was made.