Could donated sperm be the answer to wannabe mothers?

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Pick and I drove across the US in a whirlwind romance. Then he slept with my university housemate and denied
I had ever been his girlfriend. James – he of the multiple guitars and no pay packet – declared his love, then moved 600 miles away. Adam gave me the key to his flat, wrapped with a ribbon, said he wanted to marry me, and changed his mind a few months later.

I was 37 and wanted a baby. Clearly, things were not going to plan. My strategy for Getting a Life had morphed into Racing the Biological Clock. But I didn’t have to look far to see what was still possible.

My close friend Carey, a fellow journalist, was lucky at work and unlucky at love. Like me, she was better at navigating hurricanes and crime scenes than blind dates. Single and on the brink of 40, she decided to take motherhood into her own hands and bought eight vials of anonymous donor sperm through a fertility clinic. It was biological midnight, she concluded. Time to give up on romance and sign up for nappies before it was too late. Sod marriage.

Yet what Carey found with Donor 8282 was not a father in a vial, but a sort of magic potion. No sooner had she ordered the sperm than she met a towering mountaineer named Sprax online. Their first date took place on the very day the vials arrived at her clinic, followed by a second date, and a third. Weeks passed.

‘He knows I’m going to try to have a baby, and he’s OK with it,’ she told me one night.

‘You are? He is?’ I asked. ‘What do you mean, try to have a baby? With him?’ I sensed relief and purpose in Carey. She had in essence met two men, each with their own promise. The urgency that so many of us experienced in our desire to make a new relationship work so we could have children was largely absent in her now. ‘You know,’ I said, ‘it seems like Sprax and Donor 8282 are oddly similar: tall, fair, intellectual science and technology guys.’

‘You’re right!’ she gasped.

‘So,’ I ventured, ‘you’ll see which one takes first?’ We laughed. ‘Yes, I guess it comes down to that.’

Sprax eventually took, despite hurdles that made some of us wonder if men are, in fact, genetically programmed to avoid commitment. When Carey became pregnant by him and had their daughter, eight vials of donor sperm remained in the clinic freezer like a carton of UHT milk – you only use it when you run out of the fresh stuff.

My friend Beth, it turned out, needed some luck. More precisely, her heel of a husband had left her for his 20-something personal trainer when she expected to start a family. Beth had barely entered their flat on a cold winter’s night when Russell offered her a scotch, asked for a divorce, and handed her a sheet of paper with two columns listing the positives and negatives of their marriage. Under the heading ‘Minuses of my Marriage’ he’d listed ‘different personal interests’, ‘sex not fully satisfying’ and ‘incompatible spare-time activities’. Under ‘Pluses of my Marriage’ was ‘excellent senses of humour’, ‘both physically and emotionally capable’ and ‘we have interesting jobs’. Then he ushered her to the fridge, newly stocked with gourmet food. ‘I got all the things you like, even the tangerine juice, and the shop doesn’t always have that,’ he said. His hand moved across the shelves like a game-show host displaying prizes.

‘What am I supposed to do with all this?’ Beth asked. ‘This isn’t what I want.’ It was absolution via smoked salmon and champagne.

One therapist and divorce lawyer later, and Beth was on her own. My glamorous friend, with her stylish cropped hair and toned legs, took it all heartbreakingly in her stride. She got a tattoo, learned how to ice climb, and had exciting and shallow flings, making her friends wonder whether singleton life was not, in fact, underrated and perhaps a more highly evolved state of being. Yet for all the fun, she wanted a child and had thoughtfully considered single motherhood, its responsibilities and challenges. Her time, too, was running out.

Beth asked several male friends if they would be interested in parenting a child (as one does!), but there were no takers, so she began scanning sperm donor registries for the perfect match. The choices were overwhelming. I took it upon myself to do some matchmaking: Carey, meet Beth. Beth, meet Carey.

Donor 8282 didn’t meet Beth’s criteria. She wanted dark hair and blue eyes; he was blond. She wanted tall, but not six feet five. But Beth liked Carey, and Carey liked 8282… Carey offered the vials, and Beth accepted. And as if Paul Daniels was shuffling the card deck of our lives, magic struck again.

Soon after taking ownership of the donor sperm, Beth went on an ice-climbing trip and met Phil, with a rakish wool cap and goatee. One evening at the bunkhouse, he patted the spot next to him on a bench and offered her a bite of chocolate cake. She went for the seat, the cake – and the man.

As the relationship grew more serious, girlfriends who knew Beth’s single-mother agenda asked if Phil wanted to have children. ‘I barely know him,’ she’d reply. ‘I’m not really sure. I haven’t asked.’ Phil’s bachelor lifestyle appeared to rule out children. But he was fit, cheeky, and sharp as a pin, and love (sometimes) has a way of making room for more than anticipated. Ups and downs once more ensued, but Beth and Phil eventually had a son. Donor 8282’s sperm again sat in the clinic freezer – like the three of us at times, unwanted and unloved.

I watched all this unfold and was happy for my friends. I had always expected to have children myself, and assumed I would be married by 35. Only how to get there eluded me. Do you make love happen or does love happen to you? How much was beyond my control, no matter how many blind dates I went on, or wine tastings I signed up for?
In each other’s down moments, my girlfriends and I got out the Hat of Hopeful Stories – the work colleague who met her husband on the commuter train, the neighbour who had her first child at 44.

I tried to make it happen. I really did. I tried to marry men who didn’t even want to live with me. Blinded by determination in my mid- to late-30s, I couldn’t see the red flags flapping in my face.

Beth was the kind of woman who would never tell me outright to chuck a boyfriend. She would just let me read between the lines by saying things like, ‘I hope it works out for you the way you want,’ then wait for me to come to my senses. One day, after one of my break-ups, she surprised me. ‘Look, Carey met me the same day she gave me 8282, and she probably had no idea of the magnitude of her gift,’ Beth said. ‘You’re one of my best friends, and while
I can’t give you a new boyfriend, I can give you this.’

Motherhood could be mine. ‘From Carey to you to me,’ I said. Beth replied, ‘Precisely, because you know you can have it.’ She snapped her fingers. ‘Just like that. Voilà.’

The decision was simple. Yes, I didn’t believe these were magical vials of sperm, but I was beginning to think
there was some magic in the bold act of committing to have a child. Of taking control of my life instead of waiting for
a boyfriend or husband to make my dreams come true.

If parenting is about wanting to responsibly devote your life and love to a child, nothing seemed to me less selfish. And in my mind, I wasn’t ruling out finding romantic love, merely postponing it.

You can guess what happened. Once I accepted Beth’s offer of 8282, one of my best friends offered to father a child with me, and I met my soulmate, an expat Welshman named Mark. Like Beth and Carey, I, with Mark, had devastating setbacks and disappointments. Still, I got to love and motherhood my own way, on my own terms, and with their unyielding support and encouragement.

Carey and Beth are now married. Carey has two children, Beth has one, and I am about to get married after eight years and one child, with a second on the way. It sometimes strikes us as comic that we are women who wanted conventional love and found it in an unconventional way. But happy outcomes are not necessarily tidy, especially when they involve one dream, three friends, and eight vials of donor sperm.

Source: Pamela Ferdinand Daily Mail 7th May 2011


I slept with my sperm donor

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted a big family. I’m from the UK and my parents split up when I was three and I was an only child until I was 11, when my first half-brother was born. I’d always had this fantasy that having lots of children would be wonderful.

I married when I was 24 but as time went on, our relationship deterioriated and I left when I was 30.

Unfortunately my second marriage also broke up within a few years, before we had a chance to have chilren.

I hoped that I would meet someone else but, with time ticking by, I started to panic that I was heading towards the end of my fertility, so I began looking into various options.

Egg freezing was too expensive and had limited success, andIVF seemed too dramatic, with all the drugs involved. Then in 2006 I got into another serious relationship and assumed this to be the man I would have children with. When it suddenly ended, I felt as though the ground had been ripped from beneath me.

Eventually I found a fertility clinic willing to treat single women. In 2008 I had my first attempt at IUI (intrauterine insemination) using donor sperm, and was thrilled to become pregnant. I never expected it to go wrong, but soon after I had a miscarriage.

I was devastated, but my way of coping was immediately to try again. I had three more unsuccessful sessions of IUI at the clinic, but I was so uncomfortable with how little information they could give me about the donors that I started to wonder if subconsciously this was stopping me getting pregnant.

By this point I had spent more than €12,000 on treatment. Despite being 45 at the time, the specialist said that my eggs were better than many a 35-year-old.

At first I had no idea that there was an alternative to the clinic, but then in September last year I came across a website that offered to match women with potential sperm donors.

I have done a lot of internet dating over the years so, although this had an entirely different purpose, I put up my profile and photo. I discovered that some donors offered artificial insemination (AI) — the syringe method — and others “natural insemination” (NI); in other words, sex.

My immediate preference was AI: it seemed neat, clean and clinical, but as time went on I became more open to the idea of NI. From researching the subject, and from the donors’ stories on the site, I believe that you are far more likely to conceive that way. But I knew I’d have to meet the donor first to decide. All of them claimed to be doing it for altruistic reasons, but I’m cynical enough to realise that many simply wanted free sex.

One guy I met, Seamus*, wanted to be a full co-parent. He was fairly attractive in his photo and seemed intelligent, so I agreed to meet him. I met him three times before we did the AI. He came to my flat six times over the five days I was ovulating.

I found the whole experience traumatic. It was weird having this guy masturbating in my bathroom. He didn’t feel comfortable doing it with me in the flat, so I’d have to walk my dog around the block about 300 times until he texted me to say that he’d finished. Being handed this specimen pot was disgusting. I did conceive, but immediately miscarried. In a way it was a relief, because I never wanted to see him again.

After that I was reluctant to do AI again and started to move towards natural insemination. I reasoned that sex is the natural way and for animals the purpose of having sex is procreation rather than pleasure.

Then in October last year I found the website, which is for women looking for sperm donors or co-parents.

I received 50-100 messages from potential donors, but I replied only to seven. Some sites ban all mentions of NI, but with this one you are allowed to tick it as a preference, although it recommends taking your donor to a licensed fertility clinic.

One donor who stood out was Paul*. He was 33, single and had joint residence of his two children by a past girlfriend.

I liked that he was an involved parent and he said that he wanted to help others who couldn’t have children. Over several emails I made it clear that I couldn’t decide about NI until we met. I bought an AI kit just in case. Paul met me in a pub. We spent three hours talking about ourselves.

It felt partly like a date, partly like a business meeting. Eventually he said: “OK, I do have to go back to work soon, so what’s the verdict?”

I told him that I still didn’t know if I could go through with it, but that we’d go back to my flat. I’m not sexually promiscuous and even on a first date with someone fantastic, it’s unlikely I’d sleep with him straight away, so this was a big deal. But once we got to the flat I thought: “I’ve come this far, NI is so much simpler and more likely to work than AI.”

Of course, it still felt odd to have sex for the purpose of getting pregnant with someone I had just met. Until the last second I wasn’t sure if I could go through with it. I was battling my own desire to say no with my goal to become pregnant.

Sensing that I was still unsure, he said, “Let’s make it like a normal date”, and then I kind of relaxed into it. I was on autopilot at first but, surprisingly, the sex turned out to be quite good. It was a bit like having sex with a friend.

Afterwards, he quickly showered and put on his suit and we thanked each other profusely, which I found funny. After he left, I felt euphoric, thinking: “That was so easy.” I invited him back the following night, just to make sure that it worked. It was still pretty awkward the second time.

When I found out a few days later that I was pregnant, I was thrilled. To my amazement, an early scan showed that I was expecting twins. Then at eight weeks I had a miscarriage.

I focused on this being the farthest I’d managed to get in a pregnancy. To make it to eight weeks felt like a big step forward. When I emailed Paul to say that I’d miscarried, he replied saying: “Sorry to hear that, good luck.”

I’ve had a few months off, and now I’m emailing two other donors. Once I’ve met them, I might consider NI with them. One is a blond, blue-eyed man who lives in Montreal.

The other is a Danish guy in his twenties, 6ft 4in, and seems articulate and intelligent. I’m prepared to travel to meet them.

I still hope to meet Mr Right and have children with him. I’ll be honest about my experiences and if he’s the right man he’ll understand. I’d be honest with my child, too — children appreciate love and honesty.

I know that some people might find it hard to understand what I do. My mother was shocked when I first told her. My father doesn’t know. I do care what others think, but I won’t let that govern my decisions.

Not having a child, when all your friends are married with children, can be socially isolating. I just hope one day I can become a mother too.

* Some names have been changed

Source: Emma Elms The Independent

Check out the sperm bike in Denmark reports on the sperm bike that carries donor sperm samples to fertility clinics around Copenhagen.

The custom made sperm bike is specially built to enable frozen sperm samples to be transported to sperm recipients for the European Sperm Bank.

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