This is a record of my experiences of (hopefully) conceiving, carrying, birthing and raising a child as a single mother, using donor sperm in New Zealand. This is a difficult and expensive journey, and I have found that there are few (if any) personal stories out there about the highs and lows of going through this journey alone (aside from the general support group of family and friends). So I thought I would start a blog outlining my experience, in the hope of providing information for prospective single mothers by choice (SMBCs or Choice Mums) in NZ. And to let them know that they are not alone in this endeavor – it is more common than one would think (FA told me once they get 3-4 new single women or lesbian couples through their doors per week). We just need to make it more talked about.
I have known my whole life that I was going to have children. This has been an important part of my personality and goals for as long as I can remember. So when I reached my early 30s without having a boyfriend or husband who also wanted children, I started to look into other options, worrying that time was running out.
My GP referred me to Fertility Associates, where I went, at the age of 33 (2013), for a general discussion and consultation with one of the doctors there. At the time, I was still hopeful that I would meet someone in the next year or two, so this was more of a gathering-information meeting than a definitely-doing-this meeting. Nevertheless, I found out a lot of information, and decided that if nothing had changed in a year, I would join the waiting list. At this time I also took the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) blood test, and found that my AMH levels were safely in the “good” zone fore my age – a very reassuring finding.
At that stage, the list was apparently only about 12 months long.
After a year, when I actually applied to join the list (May 2014), it had lengthened to 18 months, although they told me at the time that it might be less if there was a sudden glut of sperm or dropouts (or if I needed IVF for some reason).Donors are permitted to restrict their sperm, so single women and lesbian couples often have to wait longer than straight couples to reach the top of the list (the top being reached when there are at least 3 donors to choose from).
Before joining the list, I had to see a counsellor (normally I would also have to have an introductory doctor’s appointment too, but I had already had mine a year previously, so I didn’t need another). The counsellor’s appointment went smoothly, although nothing was really discussed beyond what was available in booklets and on the FA website, and at one point I accidentally used the word “father” instead of “donor” and was made to feel like an idiot (it was as though she thought thought I thought the donor would be an active father or something), so that was frustrating.
The counsellor did recommend some books – neither of which I ended up reading.
- Knock Yourself Up
- Single Mothers By Choice
- There is also a reading list on the FA website
I think the reason I didn’t bother with them is that they sounded like they were just anecdotal experience of the procedure, written by Americans – I have a scientific bent, so anecdotal experiences don’t really help me that much, especially if they are written about a different country with different rules and culture. I ended up buying two books:
- The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy – this is great for the scientific information; the Mayo Clinic are world-reknowned for their excellence
- The New Zealand Pregnancy Book by Sue Pullon and Cheryl Benn – this is great for NZ-specific information, and is still very informative with regard to the science
The counsellor also put me in touch with another woman going through donor insemination in vitro fertilisation (IVF) [as she was older, she would be skipping the intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycles that I would be starting with, and jump straight to the grown-up fertility treatment – and she would also skip a lot of the waiting list, as time was more sensitive for her]. We exchanged a couple of emails, but it fizzled out. My theory is that we were in different places in this journey, and thus it was difficult to bond. I have been meaning to get back in touch lately – she would surely have gone through everything by now…
One important thing I found out (that I was a little worried about) is that one can still go on the DPB (or whatever it is now known as), even if this was a planned single-parent pregnancy.
She also told me about various books that are available to discuss the conception with the child, when it came up
- Donorconceptionnetwork.org is what I have written in my notes
- “Let me explain” is a book for children about what happened
So the next step was to officially join the waiting list, and save save save (in case you were unaware, fertility treatment is EXPENSIVE, and is not covered by medical insurance (at least not by mine).