Save the swimmies! (Photo: futurowoman)
I never thought I’d visit a sperm bank.
Perhaps it was flipping a motorcycle at 90 mph on Infineon Raceway.
Perhaps it was tearing my Achilles tendon in jiu-jitsu practice, then getting thrown on my head.
Maybe having my scuba mask fill with blood at 120 feet underwater in Belize?
That could have done it.
Or perhaps is was just crossing the 30-year age threshold and having friends who didn’t make it. 9/11, suicide, accidents — bad things happen to good people.
I came to realize in 2007: it’s really not that hard to die. And that’s when I started thinking about storing my genetic material.
Yes, my little swimmies.
In this post I’ll talk about the process, how I did it, and why it’s cheap insurance in an unpredictable world. I’ll also throw in some curious details (sexy time!) just for entertainment…
The Reasons to Store Sperm
Doing the research, the pros far outweighed the cons:
1) Men are becoming progressively infertile. Go munch on some soy for a mouthful of phytoestrogens, or just stick with preservatives. It’s hard to avoid testicle-unfriendly food and toxins. Talk to endocrinologists who do clinical meta-analysis and get your sperm count measured. It is probably less than your dad’s. Real-world Children of Men (for men) in full effect.
2) There are many medical conditions and procedures — cancer treatment, for example — that can render men infertile.
3) People who “know” they don’t want kids change their minds. A lot. Just look at the number of vasectomy reversal procedures. And no, these procedures do not work well. Failure rates are high.
4) Above all: Why not do it? If you can afford it, it just seems like a no-brainer for bloodline and peace of mind. The potential downside of doing it (cost) is recoverable; the potential downside of not doing it is irreversible.
I’m not a king looking to spread my seed across an empire, but part of me does want to leave a legacy in the form of a child. Call me old-fashioned. I want momma Ferriss to be grandmamma Ferriss at some point, even if I get hit by a cement truck or nailed by blue ice from an airplane.
Think it’s easy to get someone pregnant? Sometimes. Most of the time, after looking at the numbers, it seems surprisingly hit-or-miss.
Does this mean I wouldn’t adopt? Not at all. Several aunts and uncles have adopted, and it’s a beautiful thing. I just also want to have children who share my DNA. I see no reason not to ensure both can happen.
Is this ego-driven? On some level, of course. But so is owning a home or having a decent car, wearing clothing besides what will keep you warm and eating food besides what will keep you alive. Humans are ego-driven with anything past the base necessities for survival.
Sperm Storage – The Steps in Brief
1) Find a sperm storage facility. Google “sperm storage”, “sperm bank”, or “sperm donor” along with your state or city.
2) Make an initial appointment and get tested for infectious diseases.
Most reputable locations will require testing for common STDs prior to storage. I was tested for:
HIV 1 & 2
HTLV-I & II
RPR (for Syphilis, Al Capone’s farewell song)
HCV (for Hepatitis C)
HBsAG and HBcAB (for Hepatitis B)
It’s a romantic first date. And, yes, I cleared like a Mormon taking a drug test.
Cost of initial consult: $100-150
Cost of STD lab panel: $150-200
3) Warm up your wrists and get busy. Six sessions per kid.
Think it’s “one shot, one kill”, macho man? Think again. You’re no Peter North, and even if you were, 50%+ of your sperm count is annihilated from the freezing process.
You should make six sperm deposits for each child you’d like to have. It can take inseminations over eight months for a woman to get pregnant, although in vitro fertilization (IVF) ups the chances somewhat at much higher cost, generally $9,000-12,000 per attempt.
Oh, and forget about abstaining for long periods of time, oddly enough.
For best results in storage/fertilization/impregnation, abstain from ejaculation for at least 48 hours but no more than four days before each session. More than four days and dead sperm cells begin to accumulate and cause trouble, as you need a certain ratio of live sperm to dead sperm per 1 cc (cubic centimeter) of volume. I scheduled one deposit every fourth morning a la: Monday 10am, Friday 10am, Tuesday 10am.
Cost per sample frozen: $150-200 (x 6 = $900 – $1,200 per potential kid)
4) Store all the suspended swimmies somewhere safe.
This will usually be handled by the facility that did the initial freezing. This is also where the credit card comes out.
Cost per year: $300 – 600 (often for all samples)
The E-mail You Need to Read (and Perhaps Replicate)
After my first storage session, I sent the following e-mail to my brother and a number of my closest friends. All names have been changed, but it covers some very possible challenges and necessary sleight-of-hand:
Subject: Critical and Serious E-mail from Tim Ferriss – Please Save
Hello Bill, Bob, Dave, Lisa, and Sarah,
So, after reading “The Last Lecture” and realizing that I have a fairly high-risk lifestyle with motorcycle accidents, jiu-jitsu and all else, I’ve decided to store sperm for potential future use, should something terrible happen to me.
Here’s the situation:
-Beginning today and over several months, I will make approx. 6 deposits at http://www.donationfacility.com. I am not donating, just storing for worst-case scenarios.
-For a bunch of legal reasons, I had to designate a “partner,” who is the only person with access to the stored samples if something bad happens [Single males are generally unable to store for later use or “just in case”]. I chose Lisa, since she is A) female, and B) easier to reach than Sarah [who’s overseas] via phone.
I’m emailing the five of you because, if something happens to me, I kindly ask all of you to consider female candidates for receiving the samples. I’d be thrilled if this were Lisa or Sarah, but I certainly wouldn’t expect this. I’d just want you all to decide together if someone is someone I would approve of or not as the shepherd and missus for my sole progeny. Bill [my brother] has veto and executive power in the case consensus isn’t reached. 6 deposits gets you 2 impregnation attempts monthly for three months, which is good for one woman only, so please choose wisely if it comes to it. I would ideally want the resulting child to know my family and spend regular time with them, assuming my family feels the same way.
Again for a host of nonsense FDA and legal reasons, Lisa as “partner” is the only one who can get the samples. [Storage facility] could help her do procedures on herself with the samples, but if it were for someone else, she’d need to get the samples and you’d all need to figure the rest out. Sperm only survives for a few hours without freezing, so it would be quite the adventure.
I don’t expect anything to happen to me, of course, but I view this as the ultimate life-insurance policy. Momma Ferriss wants grandkids, so it’s a relatively cheap way to ensure that happens, no matter what :)
Please ask any questions you might have, and please save this e-mail somewhere safe. Good idea to print it as well.
Mahalo and see you all soon!
I would be hoping for quite the opposite, whether I play that role or a surrogate mother’s husband does. This entire process is damage control for a worst-case scenario: something catastrophic happening to me.
Sexy Time Details
So, cover the baby’s ears. I’m going to tell you something stunning and disgusting. Something you probably don’t want to hear. Ready? Most guys like pornography. And Santa Clause doesn’t exist. I’m sorry.
Here’s how the storage facility website sells the “donation” process:
“He [the donor/storer] is then shown to a private room where he can collect his specimen in a provided sterile cup.”
About as sexy as lethal injection, right?
Well, upon arrival, there were surprises in store. I was led to a cornucopia of porn DVDs around a secret corner. Right in front of a bunch of female lab technicians looking awkward. There was something for everyone in this motley selection. Norwegian juggler fetish? It would’ve been there. No expense was spared in covering all bases.
I grabbed a few titles (I’ll spare you the names) and headed to a small white room with a sliding door. I followed the lead of a quiet male Asian assistant in a white lab coat. He looked at his feet and departed with “please wash your hands when you finish.” I didn’t expect a call the next day.
The den of clinical sin was about the size of a hotel bathroom, with a paper-sheet-covered cot on the floor (yeah, baby!), a metal chair, a 13″ TV/DVD combo on a small stool, and a stack of magazines suspiciously adhered to one another.
So, I sat down, still quite content and ready to do my duty. A minute of “I can’t believe people want me to do this” and on goes the DVD. Then… my brain got sodomized.
See, I live in San Francisco, and — well — there are a lot of “alternative” sexual orientations. It also happens, sad times for Tim Ferriss, that Mr. Clean-Your-Hands was not good at matching DVDs to their cases.
I had already come to the realization that this room, with paper sheets in all their glory, had been used by hundreds of other donors. That alone required me to enter a state of focus reserved for Olympians and Iron Chef competitors. Then, I turn on the DVD and see two hairy boys doing something resembling wrestling. But not wrestling.
Second DVD, same story. Third time was the charm, but I was already supressing so many images and realities that it was like bending a spoon with my mind to get done what every guy has mastered by age 12.
Ah, Mr. Wash-Your-Hands. We will meet again, and I shall give you a judo chop.
Mentally prepare, gentlemen. It won’t be as easy as you think. These are tough, dangerous times. Good times to save your swimmies as cheap insurance.
And don’t forget to wash your hands.
Other posts on physical optimation and body games:
How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise
From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks
The Science of Fat-Loss: Why a Calorie Isn’t Always a Calorie
Real Life Extension: Caloric Restriction or Intermittent Fasting?
Odds and Ends:
Posted on: November 20, 2008.
Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.