Having been raised in a traditional Mediterranean family, it was expected that one would finish school, find a husband and have kids. I had reached my shelf life in terms of the cultural expectations in my late twenties, but I decided that as child of immigrants, I would seize the opportunity that my parents dreamt of for us – to study, and have a career and have a better life in a new country. I hope that by telling my story that people will realise that the journey to parenthood can be off the beaten path, but still rewarding. It is possible to “have it all”, just not in the timelines or patterns prescribed by any society and in my view, the path that was destined for me. My path was a single mother by choice, using IVF with donor sperm.
Having first considered the adoption route, as it seemed the sensible thing to do as a single woman, it became clear that although open to single parent adoptions, the application of that policy was not always the reality. Ten years down the line I decided that there should be no reason not to have my own natural child.
My journey started at the age of 43. By all accounts, not ideal on various levels due to all the risk factors involved. After 3 failed intrauterine insemination attempts, as this was the most economical option, and the fact that I was not aware of any fertility issues, I was referred to the fertility clinic. Having done my research, I thought I had all the bases covered, but nothing prepares you for the emotional rollercoaster that was just beginning. I was overwhelmed by the volumes of information and blogs available on the internet. I decided to stop researching once I made my appointment at the fertility clinic. My visit at the clinic just confirmed my greatest fears. According to the stats available, my advanced maternal age was a huge factor, but nevertheless, with no guarantees and a poor outlook, I decided that I would proceed with the IVF process and all the testing and procedures involved. I was told that there are still exceptions, and that the one unknown factor in all the stats, is how every woman’s body will react to the IVF process.
Selecting the donor was the easy part. I used the clinic donor bank. My specification – similar hair and skin colour. That was it. I figured that it was a lucky packet in any event. The donor is now referred to as the “banker”.
My journey started counting the days from appointment to appointment. Sitting in the waiting room and watching everyone in the rooms with similar expressions.
The best advice I got at the clinic was take one day at a time and cross every hurdle as you get to it.
After a cancelled first cycle due to a poor response, I decided to get back in the saddle immediately. My second cycle produced only one follicle. After consultation, I decided to go ahead with the retrieval and fertilisation. The time felt like an eternity. Calls to the lab during the 5 days confirming that everything was looking normal, I started wondering if this could really be it. On the day of the transfer, I was lying in the ward watching people go in and come out with the picture of their multiple embryos. My turn came and was I wheeled out with my single picture of the fertilised embryo, so excited. The nursing staff encouraging everyone that came out asking whether they thought it would be a boy or a girl. I just smiled.
After my transfer, I tried not to think about the waiting period until the pregnancy test. This is humanly impossible. The one thing I didn’t do was take an early home pregnancy test. Receiving my positive results from the IVF sister and Doctor was well worth the wait.
Just over a year after my first visit to the fertility clinic, my miracle baby girl was born on 19 February 2014, by caesarean section and weighed in at 2.56kg and 41cm. I was truly blessed to have my mother with me during the delivery. Life changing does not begin to describe this journey.
Dealing with the reaction of strangers to the fact that I am single mom has been hilarious. From comments ‘your child looks so normal’ – did they expect her to be an alien or to ‘oh shame never mind that you are a single mother’.
One thing I am sure of is that there are that many challenges that lie ahead, but I have no doubt that we can face them together and I have never once questioned my decision. I have been blessed in so many ways. Having the amazing support of my family, friends and staff at the fertility clinic has cemented that.
I hope that by sharing my story that it will give hope to people going for IVF or to potential single parents. IVF success isn’t always guaranteed, the Drs aren’t God, but I do believe that a combination of faith, a positive attitude, and the advice, assistance and expertise of the IVF doctors and staff, that miracles do happen.