There are two kinds of checklists, in my experience. One is about donor characteristics and the other is about parenting logistics. My characteristics list has changed over time – and shifted with each donor as some things became more and less important depending on the person and what they had to offer. The parenting logistics list can also shift for the same reason, but it contains less negotiables. Logistics depend on how involved your donor will be. Regardless of how they change over time, proponents of lists will say that it’s good to start with something in mind, and go from there. At the very least, I found that making one helped me to think about what is important to me, what I want and to be clear about these.
The Parenting Checklist
If you are going the no-contact or little-contact route, many of the things on this list (except health) won’t be important. If you are planning to co-parent, the list below becomes vital – and necessary points for discussion early on. These are things you will have to live with for the rest of your lives!
Here are a few of the things I considered along the way as I searched for a donor and considered co-parenting – some no-brainers, and a few that caught me by surprise through conversations.
Beyond sexual health (see previous post entitled Sperm Donor Sexual Health) a background of health issues is also important. You want to know about diseases and issues in his family, so you can compare these to the ones that run in yours. Screening for recessive genes for genetic diseases is also important. Some of these genetic issues (like sickle cell in my case, and Tay Sachs) are more prevalent in certain cultural communities.
Parenting Style / Discipline
How were you both raised and how does this impact what you want your parenting style to be? How were you disciplined? Cultural issues often come up in this conversation, and many of us will do what our parents did, if we felt it worked. How to discipline (and who will do it, if your are co-parenting) is a big issue. If either of you want to parent differently that you were, how will you ensure that you don’t fall into known patterns?
Meeting New Partners
If either of you is not partnered when you have this baby, what is the protocol for bringing partners into your life and home? Many people I have spoken with have a specified time (or other milestones) for introducing a new girlfriend/boyfriend to their child(ren).
How do you both communicate / what are your communication styles? How will you be a united front for this child? How will issues be discussed and resolved?
What type of education do you want for your child: public school, private school, homeschooling? College? University? And who will pay for these?
What kinds of extra-curricular activities do you envision for your child? If you are a proponent of letting kids have lots of time to play and he is all about structured activities (or vice versa), you had better find this out now! What kinds of activities do you value: Sports? Music? Arts? Educational?
Do either of you have a religious community you belong to? If only one of you does, or if they are different, how will this work? Will either of your parents be expecting any religious affiliation for the child?
Time with extended family
How much, when and what does time with extended family look like?
How will holidays be spent – together or separate? And if it’s the latter, how will you decide who gets what?
These are just a few things to consider. Make your own list, and know what is negotiable and non-negotiable for you in advance. This is too big a deal to do on the fly; you don’t want to agree to something in the heat of the moment that you can’t live with. And don’t take anything for granted. What is obvious to you may be the furthest thing from your donor’s experience and vice versa – so talk about everything!