Molly Hawkey is trying to find a sperm donor. She’s tired of looking for the right relationship, and she’s especially tired of paying an annual fee of $550 to store the eggs she froze at 37.
Hawkey, an actress and comedian who makes her living as a headshot photographer, wants somebody who doesn’t have a history of addiction or alcoholism in his family, since she does in hers. Hawkey, now 39, is looking for someone who has relatives that lived long, healthy lives. Preferably, the man will be funny, talented and maybe even attractive.
Most of all, though, she wants her sperm donor to be someone she’s not dating and who doesn’t mind giving up all parental rights to let her raise the baby alone.
How, exactly, will Hawkey find this man? Through a podcast.
Called "Spermcast," the podcast debuted in the spring and might be the first created with the explicit aim of impregnating the host. She hopes to use the podcast not just to interrogate men as potential sperm donors, but also to interview other female comedians about their careers, their desires for motherhood — or lack thereof — and their obstacles to getting pregnant. What started as a personal project has since evolved into a sociology experiment: She envisions a future episode, for example, where she asks men on the street if they’d ever date a pregnant woman and if they’ve ever had sex with a pregnant woman.
“I guess I’m wondering, why don’t we talk about this?” says Hawkey. “Boyfriends don’t want to hear about it, and you don’t sit around with your 25-year-old girlfriends talking about ‘How am I going to get pregnant?’”
On “Spermcast,” her first candidate is Brandon Barrick, a fellow actor and comedian whom she invites on the pilot episode of the podcast without explaining its premise.
“I know you’ve got a girlfriend. This is not a sexual thing,” Hawkey tells him midway through their conversation, revealing the real reason she’s invited him on the show. “But like, you know, I’m a fan of your sperm — your DNA.”
Barrick plays along as Hawkey proceeds to question him for the next half-hour about the length of his hair, his height, intelligence, singing voice and athletic ability. At the end of the episode, which also includes an interview with a pediatrician about the science of genetics and reproduction, Barrick says he’s open to the idea of becoming Hawkey’s sperm donor.
Hawkey hasn’t always been this sure about getting pregnant. As an environmental activist, she wrestled for years with the fact that bringing more humans into the world contributes to climate change. And although she’s considered adopting, she’s “dying to be pregnant,” she says on one episode.
The podcast could also offer a way to pay for the potential child. Hawkey is in a “heap of credit card debt” and the surgical procedure to extract her eggs cost her more than $15,000. She hopes to find a way to monetize the weekly show so that she can afford to raise a child.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on a podcast, which is one of Hawkey’s more personal projects. She gained a small online following in 2016 for a comedy project in which she edited herself into episodes of “The Bachelor.” Her character, a 37-year-old retired actress who calls herself the oldest contestant in “Bachelor” history, was intended to lampoon the homogeneity of the series, but it was also a caricature of herself and her own struggles to find love in her late 30s. She believes it’s no coincidence that she developed the project shortly after freezing her eggs, during a time that she now describes as a creative renaissance.
“I no longer had to worry about what men thought about me, because I didn’t care [about finding a partner] anymore,” she says. “Before, everything I ever did was filtered through ‘What is a man going to think about this?’” But after freezing her eggs, she says, “I knew I didn’t have to worry about that because I could just be me. I was like me for the first time in my life.”
The feeling of freedom didn’t last long. Hawkey soon felt her “biological clock” — a term, she learns in one episode, that was coined by a Washington Post columnist in the 1970s — ticking again. She remembered her 16 eggs sitting in storage. She thought maybe she’d develop an Instagram series about “somebody you feel sorry for, an idiot” who desperately wanted to get pregnant. It was a friend who worked for Comedy Central who convinced Hawkey she didn’t need to create a fictional character to tell this story. “I kind of realized the universality of this feeling and how women don’t talk about it and we’re all so programmed into thinking we need to be moms from the moment we’re handed a little baby doll,” Hawkey says. “And I realized there was more than just the finding a sperm donor, it was also about exploring the idea of motherhood.”