Ugly Babies

by Jillian Quinn

Donor 3027 is an amateur filmmaker who is color blind, a quarter Cherokee, and bilingual. In their interview notes, the staff members at the sperm bank say he’s articulate and self driven. They make no mention of his looks. After searching through hundreds of donor applications for a man with the perfect spunk to reproduce with, I suspect that the staff makes donors who are only a faint cousin to handsomeness sound like they are close relatives to it instead. So the omission of the donor’s looks can only mean one thing – Donor 3027 is ugly. In the baby photo he provided, there’s a dollop of crunchy brown hair curling up on the top of his bulbous head. He has a cyclopean toothed smile.

I move on to the next donor because even at thirty-five I’m still nagged by the idea of what my mother would have to say about me breeding with a brainy guy with no looks like she did. “If you have kids,” she said to me throughout my childhood, “try to find a Prince William type to do that with. Someone handsome with a smaller nose than you. Someone with light eyes and hair like yours. You have that going for you, at least.”


Donor 4470 is a hospitality student. Most of these sperm donors are college kids. They’re boys who do what boys do to get fifty bucks here and there for date money and Taco Bell. They could all be Prince Williams and it would still creep me out. Midnight burrito cravings buy me my singledom. No marriage, divorce, custody battles. All the things my mother talked to me about on the long drives we went on when I was twelve just before my parents’ divorce. We’d go nowhere, just drive around town in circles or along the coast. My mother was usually quiet on these trips, but sometimes, usually after she had smoked half a pack of cigarettes, she would start philosophizing.

“I was beautiful before all this,” she said on one of these occasions. She was looking in the rearview mirror, pulling the wrinkled skin around her eye taut with yellowed fingers, a cigarette dangling between them. “Men used to stop in their tracks just to compliment me on my legs, you know.” In that moment she was wearing flimsy bohemian styled pants that rode up too much in the crotch to hide smashes of splintered stretch marks. “If I could live my life over,” she said, “I don’t know if I’d get married again. Maybe, if I could find a rich man.” She blew smoke out of the corner of her mouth. “I’m not sure I would have kids either.”


Donor 2412. The staff regards him as broad shouldered, reserved. There’s no baby picture of him, only a voice recording. His voice swings in baritone octaves as he talks about his work in construction, how he likes to build things out of wood. He’s good with his hands, he says. I imagine him to smell like warm, rained-on pine and to be covered in dark hair all over his body like an Eastern European man. He wouldn’t be beautiful or rich. His nose would be colossal, his eyes an unfathomable black. In the wilderness, he’d build a house for me – a dingy cabin where he would show me how good he could be with those hands. I would mother his children, become a shapeless vessel with hanging, depleted breasts. Yellow milk and sweat stains would cover my blouses. We’d parent our ugly, poor children with their big features and empty stomachs in the middle of the woods out of sight from man and God. But mostly we’d fuck. We’d fuck, and we’d fuck, and we’d fuck.

Jillian Quinn is a graduate of Florida State University’s creative writing program. She lives in Sarasota, Florida where she works as a freelance writer.