Keeping it in the family: Helping my brother become a father

Hi, I’m Tate. My younger brother Drew was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 17. He went through treatment and had one of his testicles removed. Not exactly what your normal 17 year old guy expects to be dealing with! I was 18 then, and just heading off to college. I felt bad being away at school, when Drew was stuck in the hospital going through surgery and chemotherapy. I can only imagine how awful the whole ordeal must have been for him. He lost his hair and was like a bone rack by the end of treatment. Being away, there wasn’t much I could do to help support him. I vowed to make that up to him one day. Little did I know that day would come 10 years later when Drew, now cancer-free, married the love of his life, Jinessa. Drew had always been up front with Jinessa about his cancer and the possible effect that surgery and chemotherapy might have had on his fertility. She said that didn’t matter to her and that they’d build their family through other routes if necessary. Now that they’re ready to start a family, Drew recently went to have his fertility tested. Unfortunately, the results showed that his sperm count is now so low that it would be almost impossible for him to father a child, even with the help of IVF and ICSI. Apparently the only option to have a child was to use donor sperm.

After he got the results, Drew was pretty bummed out. He knew that it was a really small possibility, but a part of him still held out some hope that he could father a child with Jinessa. It seemed so unfair to me that Drew first had to deal with cancer and now he was faced with infertility. Talk about a double whammy. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe I could make good on my promise to help by offering to donate my sperm so Drew and Jinessa could have a child. Drew and I are the only kids in our generation on both sides of our family. I’m not even sure I want to have kids, and there’s no girlfriend in the picture, so in that sense, it really is up to Drew to carry on the family name! I figured if I donate my sperm, the baby would still have our family bloodline. Unlike anonymous sperm donation, Drew and Jinessa would have all the information they need about our family’s medical and social history, and Drew would feel like he has a biological link to his child. The next time I was at their place, I talked to Drew and Jinessa and suggested this option. After taking some time to think it over, they said “Yes!”

We went through all the medical testing and screening and were given the go ahead for quarantining my sperm. Then we met with a counsellor to talk about the implications of making a baby in this way. The counselling session was more helpful than I expected. I told the counsellor that I don’t expect to have any say over this child – as far as I’m concerned, this is Drew’s and Jinessa’s child. I admitted that I hope to have a special role as an uncle, but I think I’d have that anyway, whether they used my sperm or not. We all had a chance to talk about our expectations around what the child will know. I told Drew and Jinessa that I’d follow their lead on this, since they will be the parents. Drew and Jinessa shared that they want to be open with the child from a young age. We talked through how we might set boundaries so that the child learns from a very young age that Drew is his or her dad and that I’m the uncle who gave a gift so that the child could be born into our family. We all committed to talking through any issues as they arise in the future.

Honestly, I really see my donation as a gift that I am giving freely without any expectations. I’m just so grateful that Drew beat cancer and has had the opportunity to get married, and now to hopefully become a father. It feels great that I may have some small role in making that happen. And if it works, another bonus is that I’ll get to be an uncle!

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