Describing with wry humor a lesbian’s search for a potential sperm donor, Aizley’s memoir makes a literate addition to the growing shelf of books altering the traditional definition of family.
Nearing 40, medical researcher and writer Aizley lives in Boston with Faith, a musician and composer. The author is ready to have a baby, but first the couple must decide on a donor: Faith wants someone they know, while Aizley prefers an anonymous source; both are Jewish and initially want a Jewish donor (“it’s a tribe thing”) who agrees that the child can make contact later in life. They begin to research the literature, Faith comes round to Aizley’s position on anonymity, and they finally locate an apparently suitable donor they nickname Baldie. His sperm arrives from California in a number of phials preserved in a tank of nitrogen, and Aizley begins insemination. After months of failure and increasing medical intervention and expenses, she fears she may be infertile, but before taking fertility-enhancing drugs, she checks to see whether Baldie has ever impregnated anyone. Learning that he hasn’t, the couple finds a new donor, half-Japanese and non-Jewish, and begins another, ultimately successful round of inseminations. Along the way, they learn that Aizley’s mother must undergo chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. As she relates in vivid detail her own medical trials—the ovulation watch and the actual inseminations, the doctors and personnel at fertility clinics—the author also movingly details her mother’s struggle with cancer. She describes frankly her jealousy of her also-pregnant younger sister, Faith’s occasionally ambivalent attitude, and fears that she can’t survive without her mother, whose cancer has spread. Relentlessly analytical, Aizley also explores the nature of her relationship with Faith, the meaning of motherhood, and of being gay.
The high level of self-awareness is at times wearying, but good writing and solid medical reporting more than compensate.