'It was like a strange version of Tinder': One Irish woman on having a baby by sperm donor
"The more I searched, the more sure I was."
You see it on TV and in films, but what's it really like to have a baby by a sperm donor?
We spoke to one Her reader about her decision to become a mum in this way
Claire* is 31 and from the North of Ireland. She has recently undergone insemination and is waiting to find out whether the process was successful.
How and why did you come to the decision to have a baby via a sperm donor?
"I've always known I wanted to be a mum. Although I was never very clucky towards other parents' babies, everything changed when my niece was born four years ago. Watching my sister-in-law learning to become a mum; the bond between mother and baby seemed liked life's ultimate goal.
"I was never very lucky with relationships but two years ago, I met a guy who became my first real love. He was a lot younger than me and I thought it would have just been a bit of fun but it turned into something more serious and meaningful. We broke up a few months after I miscarried our baby. Like most men, he hid is feelings from me, bottled things up and they ultimately broke us.
"Losing a baby, no matter how little of life they lived, was the hardest thing. Everywhere I went there were pregnant women. It physically pained me. I knew I wanted to be a mum more than anything but I didn't want to wait. I didn't want to waste time and force a relationship with someone new; to be in a relationship for all the wrong reasons.
"I did think about asking a friend to be a donor but I could see the more he thought about it, the more unsure he was. I wanted to have a baby for the right reasons; to have a positive story to tell my child when they ask who their father is; that they weren't abandoned, that they were loved and wanted. A sperm donor was that positive solution. The more I searched, the more sure I was."
Did you consider anything else before arriving at this decision, e.g. egg freezing?
"It's hard to explain but I know it's the right time for me. Being a single mum doesn't scare me; I'm so excited for the challenges and rewards ahead. I know it will be tough but for me it's one of life's greatest achievements."
How did you go about the process – researching, choosing a clinic?
"I read a few stories about women who had a similar story to myself. I also watched a few documentaries about same-sex couples and single women who used social media to find their donor. After losing a baby and being in my 30s, I wanted to make sure I did things properly, safely. In Ireland there aren't many fertility clinics to choose from. I choose a clinic that was local to me and attended one of their information evenings to verify my decision."
How did you choose your donor? Were you looking for anything in particular from your donor?
"The clinic recommended three sperm banks whom they had a good relationship with. I viewed their websites and choose a leading clinic in Europe. They offered recipents more detailed profiles and information.
"I wanted to search for a donor who physcially resembled me. It was important to me that my child looked similar to me and my family. I choose the same skin tone, hair colour and eye colour. This was the initial basis of my search.
"My search was further narrowed by looking for a donor who was CMV negative. The clinic insisted that I was tested for CMV (cytomegovirus) which is a common virus that you may not be aware of and is usually harmless but it can cause problems with a baby's development if caught during pregnancy. "
What do you know about him?
"The sperm clinic gave you a choice if you wanted limited access to their profile in which you knew the basics of his medical history and physical appearnance.
"However I chose to view extended profiles that provided you with the same basic information on their physical attributes and medical history but was accompanied with a generic Q&A so that you could get a sense of your donor's personality, hopes and dreams. You also got to see a baby picture that they submitted, hear their voice, get a sense of their family tree and read a letter as to why they choose to donate. It was like a strange version of Tinder."
How has process been for you emotionally?
"The whole process has been a rollercoaster of emotions. It started with basic fertility checks and a consultation. The consultant discussed all the treatment options that were available to me and, because all my results were normal, he recommended the least invasive treatment of unstimulated IUI (intrauterine insemination).
"As part of their ethos of good practice, the clinic encourages all patients to attend fertility counselling. I was quite reluctant as I knew my own mind but my mum strongly urged me to go. I was glad that I did as they informed me of some of the support resources that would be available to me and my future child if and when we needed them.
"My journey has only taken me three months from my first treatment to the day that I was inseminated but it has felt so much longer. I know that this is a selfish decision but it's something that I've longed for and wanted most of my life."
Has the experience been what you expected?
"Some people want to travel, find love or conquer the world.... Taking control of my life and making my dreams into a reality has made me so happy."
Do many people in your life know? What reactions have you had?
"My immediate family and close friends know and they have been really positive and supportive. I'm reluctant about telling some of the older members of my family and strangers as I don't think they would be very accepting."
How are you feeling about the future? How open will you be with your future child about their father?
"I feel that my journey is just beginning. Until my baby is safe in my arms, I don't think I will relax. I'm scared to lose something I so desperately want but I'm hopeful that everything will be alright; I've done all that I can to make my dreams come true.
"I plan to be very open with my child about where they come from. It's so important to me that my child knows that they are very much loved and wanted; that they weren't abandoned or forgotten.
"If they decide that they want to look for their father, I would be supportive of that. Their father opted to be non-anonymous, meaning that they can contact him when the child reaches the age of 18. I will also support my child if they decided to search for any siblings.
"Everything I know about my donor, I have kept for them. The HFEA (the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) website is an amazing tool for fertility information and resources to help you explain and guide your child throughout their life."
This October is Fertility Month on Her, when we’ll be talking all things reproductive health and having babies.
You can check out all of our Fertility Month articles here.
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*Name has been changed.