IVF Babble
single woman uses donor sperm

How a woman who had wanted a child of her own for ‘as long as she could remember’ took matters into her own hands

Despite being in a long-term, happy relationship Nancy realised that she and her partner wanted different things and knew if they stayed together, she would not be able to fulfil her dream of becoming a mother one day

“I’ve wanted to have children of my own for as long as I can remember,” said Nancy, a research administrator at Bristol University. “Even when I was five, I used to go through Mothercare catalogues looking at the prams and imagining having a baby of my own.

“I always assumed that would be through the traditional route with a partner and that it would somehow all magically happen. So, even though I was in a great relationship, not being able to become a mother was a dealbreaker, and I decided to end the relationship.”

Nancy left Switzerland where she had lived for a number of years and came back to Bristol at the age of 35 to pursue her journey to motherhood using donor sperm.

After spending more than a year coming to terms with the end of her relationship, Nancy began researching fertility clinics and decided that the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM) was ‘a really good fit’.

“I went to an open evening with my mum. It was so exciting. Meeting the staff, I felt so welcomed and accepted and ready to start my journey to have a baby of my own.

“The first part of the process involved lots of tests because, quite rightly, the clinic doesn’t want you to part with money for specific fertility treatments if they go on to find an issue. Luckily (after a few hiccups and stressful delays) all the results came back fine, and the consultant gave me the go ahead.

“The next step was counselling to check I understood what I was entering into; that I was ready emotionally – and practically too – to embark on that journey. We discussed my support system and my financial situation”

Nancy decided she was going to source her donor sperm from the United States

“I decided against using a sperm bank in the UK because you don’t get to see photos of your donor here which is a shame. It was important for me to be able to show my future child what their donor looked like if they expressed an interest later on. And for me to see what physical traits they got from the donor. Scandinavian sperm banks give you a baby photo but the bank I went with provided me with a selection of five photos spanning the donor’s life.

“Shopping online for sperm was a surreal experience but very exciting. I bought myself a bottle of champagne and poured a glass and browsed the various sperm banks, approaching it as if I was doing online dating. Someone I would choose to date myself. I didn’t want any outside influence (eg from family or friends) just wanting to go with my own intuition.

“I was thrilled when I found a donor – a young man of 24 – who immediately leapt off the page at me. He’d written a piece about himself which I really liked, and I thought ‘yes, this is the one, this is who I want to be my donor’.

“I got a description of his maternal and paternal grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins which I found reassuring. In fact, I knew far more about the donor’s family medical history than I did my own.”

Nancy was advised to order three vials of sperm – giving her three chances of getting pregnant – but decided to order six in case she needed a fourth round or wanted a sibling for her child. Something she was later to be thankful for.

Once the frozen sperm arrived in the UK Nancy underwent intrauterine insemination, known as IUI, at BCRM and became pregnant straight away.

Sadly, she had a missed miscarriage – where the foetus has stopped developing but this is not apparent at the time – at 11 weeks, and a second round resulted in another first trimester miscarriage.

“It was obviously a terrible blow. But I knew that at least I was getting pregnant which gave me hope. To keep my spirits up, I took myself off to New York for Christmas and had an amazing time – drank cocktails and made the most of the fact I wasn’t pregnant or even trying.”

A third round of IUI in the New Year also failed. But shortly afterwards, and after a fourth round of treatment, Nancy became pregnant. Baby Arlo was born in 2017 almost two weeks post-term, weighing in at 3.2kilos.

“It wasn’t a straightforward birth – Arlo was born by forceps after a 52-hour labour and was whisked off to get help with breathing initially – but I was absolutely delighted. I couldn’t believe that after so many years of dreaming of having a baby I was now holding one of my very own in my arms.”

Arlo is now four and a half and goes to school

“He’s an utter delight, a real character, and brings so much happiness to me and my family.

“Being a single parent is often really hard. I haven’t had a night away from him since he was born and knowing that you’re the sole breadwinner can feel scary, but I have a great support system, including an absolutely amazing mother and a family-friendly employer.

“And, as one of my friends recently said, ‘motherhood is hard but not being a mother is harder’. And that’s exactly how I feel and try and remind myself of that often. This is still a better life and it’s the life that I wanted.”

Nancy says she has told her son how she used a sperm donor to conceive

“I only ever explain things that are age appropriate. As he gets older, I will let him know more. He’s got a book called Our Story about a mother who follows the same journey as me, which he’s really proud of and is taking it in to school for show-and-tell, telling me ‘It’s a beautiful story and it’s our story, full of love’.

“When he’s 18 (or 16 with my permission) he’s allowed to get in touch with his donor if he wishes to. He might also want to contact his ‘diblings’ – siblings conceived by the same donor – at some point. I would never stand in his way and will help him do whatever research he wanted to do. But I will also be very careful to manage his expectations”

Nancy says she is so grateful to the amazing donor and thankful she ordered the extra vials from the donor bank since without the fourth sample Arlo would never have been born. If you would like to follow Nancy’s life with Arlo, find her on Instagram as @nancyandarlo.

BCRM has a stock of donors ready to use that meet all the requirements the Clinic recommends for treatment and which are fully compliant with HFEA regulations.

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