If you're a regular around here, you'll know that this is a lot different to my usual content. But as I share most aspects of my life on my platforms, I couldn't not share a journey as big as this. I'm currently on a fertility journey to conceive a baby as a single parent, using artificial insemination with donor sperm. The real term is intrauterine insemination, also known as IUI. This is something that I barely knew anything about until a few months ago, and now that I know so much about it, it's also something I want to normalise as I can imagine many others don't know an awful lot about it either.
I've been a single mother for over three years now, I will have a four year old come October, and earlier this year I decided I wanted to give him a sibling. I'm not in a relationship, I have no plans to look for someone or settle down with someone - but I would quite like another baby if I can make that possible. So come February/March time, I started my fertility journey to conceive a baby using a sperm donor.
Once you start looking into this, you actually realise that it's not as uncommon as it might seem at first. There's loads of articles and other things online, there's women on instagram who share their journey, and most importantly - there's support groups for single mothers by choice on facebook full of women who have been or are going through this exact same journey - which is everything for a bit of support, advice and reassurance!
starting the journey...
I get asked a lot how I started this, and there really wasn't a lot to it at all. Once I had decided that I wanted to use a sperm donor and go on this journey, figured out how much it was going to cost and how I was going to pay for it, it was a simple as googling fertility clinics near me and making a few enquiries. I mainly based my clinic of choice on the cost, one that wasn't too far away but had a good package deal which cost a lot less than most of the other clinics. I went with Manchester Fertility which is about an hour and a half away from York, so not too far away, and they had a really good price for three cycles of IUI. Once I rang them, they booked me in for my initial tests pretty much straight away, I think my first appointment was within a couple of days of me ringing. Private healthcare is crazy - everything happens so fast! Once I'd had my tests done, which were really simple (just a urine test, blood tests and an internal scan of my ovaries) it was just a case of booking me in to see the doctor a week later to discuss my results and the best course of treatment. I also had a counselling session which I believe was mandatory when using donor sperm, but I had this via video call and it only took around an hour or less.
I'm only 25 and already aware that I'm fertile, so all of my tests came back fine and the doctor said the best course of action for me would be IUI (intrauterine insemination, aka artificial insemination) unmedicated, so completely natural. If you need help you can also do medicated cycles, but generally this is for women who have bad quality eggs or don't ovulate regularly. The percentages of this working are very similar to conceiving naturally, for a woman with no known fertility issues I think the chances are around 15-20% of conceiving per cycle. The clinics actual percentages of success were lower than that but I'm guessing that's because most of their patients actually do have fertility problems, therefore making that % a lot lower. So overall, the chances are not overly high, but you won't know until you try and going from the groups on facebook... so many have success, even first time.
using donor sperm...
If you choose to go on this journey, you have to know what you're doing and be okay with it. Using donor sperm is completely anonymous, I think the child is able to find out who their donor is by the age of 18 but you will never have your donor involved in any shape or form. You won't know their name or what they look like, your child doesn't have a father and they need to be brought up aware of that, knowing how they were conceived. The consensus is to be honest from the get go and not hide it from them which I completely agree with. Having had a baby already and having raised him completely solo, I know already what it's like to raise a child without being in a relationship or having a partner involved. Ru's dad is in his life now but I still raise him on my own so it's not really going to be that different with a donor conceived baby, just that I will have to explain to them why they don't have a dad and that they have a special donor.
How was the procedure itself?
The procedure and the process for IUI is really straightforward, particularly if you have an unmedicated cycle like I did. I started my period, I rang the clinic to let them know, then I was emailed some sperm donor profiles and I picked the one I wanted to go with. Once I came off my period, I had a rough idea of when I ovulated due to my ovary scan (they told me I'd very recently ovulated) - but it would have been fine if I didn't - as I was tracking it regardless. I used digital ovulation test kits and every morning I had to wee on the stick, just like with a pregnancy test and wait to hit my peak. My clinic advised me to use the clearblue digital so I got a smiley face when I'd hit my peak. Once I had it, I rang my clinic to let them know and they booked me in for my IUI the next morning. Once an egg has been released it only has a day to live to be fertilised so they always time your IUI for the day after. I actually felt myself ovulate the previous afternoon so I'm not convinced the timing was right as I had my insemination quite long after ovulation, but realistically there should have been enough time.
The whole process was a bit different due to Covid-19 but just in the sense that there was barely anyone at the clinic, I had to have my temperature checked on arrival and I had to wear a mask. I had to have a full bladder for the procedure too so that wasn't great, but I've had this before with ultrasound scans and things so I'm used to it. I was taken to reception where I checked the code on the tube of donor sperm to double check they were using the right donor, and then I was taken into the room to have it done. I stripped off from the waist down, sat in a chair and then they tilted it back and I had to flop my legs open as you do to make a baby. If you've had a smear, it's very similar to that, they use a speculum to open up your cervix and then a small tube is inserted through and the donor sperm is injected through the tube so it goes right up into your uterus. It's a bit different from conceiving a baby naturally in the sense that the sperm is basically put right next to the egg and doesn't have far to swim. I don't know if this increases your chances though I guess it's supposed to? Once the sperm was inserted, everything was removed and I was left lying with my legs up for a good 15-20 minutes to let things work, then afterwards I just left and went home!
I actually found it to be really uncomfortable, it's not supposed to be painful and I guess it wasn't overly painful but I had to do deep breathing due to how uncomfortable it felt. The painful part for me was mainly when it was removed but it was only a few seconds, if that. The whole process was over really quickly and it really wasn't that bad all in all. I am a bit sensitive downstairs already so it definitely depends on the person. I paid for three cycles and it was the first of three that I had on Sunday. I obviously hope it works first time but I'd be one of the very lucky ones if it did. Even when conceiving naturally it takes most women numerous cycles before it works. I'm currently on day 5 post IUI and my period is due in a week, so we'll see what happens. I do feel really relieved that I've finally got cycle 1/3 over and done with to be honest, after it got cancelled due to Covid-19, it was only a couple of months until the fertility clinics eventually reopened again but it felt like forever! It's just nice to finally have been able to get the chance to make a baby. Now it's just a case of waiting for test day...
For any woman (or man!) who is reading this and wants to start a baby without being in a relationship, I say go for it. There are so many ways these days, adoption, surrogacy, donor eggs, donor sperm, IUI, IVF... the list goes on. We are in 2020 and families come in all shapes and sizes, don't let what other people think stop you from living life how you want to live it, and if you want children or a family and aren't interested in meeting anyone or haven't yet met the right person for you - then just go for it. If you're a woman and want a child of your own, the facts are that time isn't on your side either. Every month (particularly 40+) your eggs decrease in quality, so if you already know what you want, don't hang about waiting for the 'right time' because in my opinion there isn't one. I hope this inspired anyone who wants to go on the same journey 🙂