After a little research, we found that there were only a few legit sperm banks out there, each claiming to be the best.
- Cryogenic Laboratories, based in Minnesota, had a comparison chart, describing itself as the "most affordable." It also differentiated itself by offering staff-impression audio clips, which is, to me, about the most meaningless advantage a sperm bank can offer. "Ooh, this employee spoke into a microphone! You can listen to the unique vocal quality of some random lady." What? I don't care about the staff member's intonation. I just need her to be detailed about the donor, whose voice actually does interest me. They also have adult photos of some donors, which is actually a pretty big difference, although one with drawbacks.
- The next bank we looked at was Fairfax Cryobank, which is owned, apparently, by the same parent company as the Cryolab but-- despite having a nearly identical website and nearly identical pros & cons-- does not share a donor or customer database, so you have to go through the form-submitting, account-creating procedures twice. I have no idea why the two banks don't just get their shit together and merge. The real difference, as I see it, is that the Cryolab's donor database is full of sweet, Scandinavian farm boys, and it is staffed by unfailingly polite Minnesotan staff members; meanwhile, the Fairfax donors seem a little more worldly and perhaps more qualified in terms of education, while its staff members-- in our experience-- were a little more indifferent. Then again, one of that town's more glamorous features is the Tastee 29 Diner, so you can see where they wouldn't be the happiest crews.
- Another bank, which we didn't explore very thoroughly, is Xytex. I was on the defensive immediately because, when you go to their home page, some polo-shirt-wearing blond lady starts talking to you from the bottom right corner of the screen. Once you get her to shut up-- if you're someone who likes surprise video attacks, this might be the bank for you, but it was an ugly start for me-- you look up to the top, thinking, "Oh, this is kind of an attractive site," and then you see a big heading: "Enhancing Lives Through Cellular Ingenuity." Not encouraging. I'm on board with life-enhancing, but "cellular ingenuity"? Can't you just say "donors" and "vials" and "becoming a parent" and all those nice things? You make it sound dirty and science-y. It also mentions "choice gametes." Seriously?
- The California Cryobank was our first sperm-buying home and, from what I can tell, by far the best option. They have a comparison chart, too (yeah, yeah), and what stands out is that the donors are selected from three of the top five American universities. Suck it, Fairfax.
I can say, at the administrative end I represent in this process, that the California Cryobank has the very best customer service, with prompt e-mail responses and unfailingly friendly people. I can name two staff members offhand-- Shawnbay and La'Trice, whassup!-- and have been kindly guided through traumatic financial and sperm-thawing experiences.
Goddamn, though: they are expensive.
For one, it's e-mail exchanges that take freaking forever:
Fairfax: "Free shipping with the purchase of two vials"
Me: "There's no coupon code for the free shipping; will we be reimbursed having been charged a $210 shipping fee with our order?
Fairfax: "Hello. I'm confused as to why there would be a reimbursement?"
Goddamn it. Get me Shawnbay.
Very much to our frustration-- to a degree that, left alone in the house, I was infuriated by our lack of hard liquor-- Fairfax didn't offer an Saturday shipping option, even though they use FedEx, just like California Cryobank does. When I e-mailed to inquire why that was and whether the option existed, I was told that FedEx didn't offer Saturday delivery in all areas, so it would depend on zip code. Listen, yo, freaking Pizza Hut knows to ask my zip code before allowing me to make an order for delivery, so let's get our shit together, shall we?
Lo and behold, FedEx does indeed offer Saturday delivery in our area. Let's do that, I say, and the lady writes back, Whoops, the shipment has already gone out and will be delivered Monday.
The point where I realize we are working with a truly jacked-up organization is the point where, this morning, I arrive at our clinic to pick up the tank o' sperm and find this:
You may remember from previous episodes that our tank from California Cryobank looked like this:
The insemination, jacked-up, worn-out tank aside-- seriously, did this come back from Afghanistan? What did they do to it? Do they just have one?-- is done, and I can only hope the sperm itself stand up a little better to comparison.