Emma Wood recently became a mother for the first time at 40 on her own using a sperm donor. Her journey to motherhood was long but worth it and now she’s sharing her story to help others.
As told to Susan Taylor.
My motherhood dream
Even as a little girl I loved babies and dolls, and always had a strong desire to one day be a mother myself. But in my 30s after I married and spent two years trying to fall pregnant with my husband, my baby dream began to feel less obtainable and I found myself for the first time questioning whether it was actually possible for me. Maybe I wasn’t going to be a mother after all? Emotionally this was very difficult to deal with and then my marriage broke down. Left with no partner and no new soulmates on the horizon, motherhood suddenly became a huge question mark in my life.
Considering a different path
The years began to roll by, I was getting closer to 40 and a new partner hadn’t come into my life. It was a few years after my marriage ended that I began to think about the possibility of going it alone and using a donor. Mentally it was quite a hard notion to get my head around. As a child I had grown up with the idea that you meet someone, get married and have children – creating a family similar to the one I grew up in. Of course some people are different and don’t aspire to have children or a marriage, but for many this is the basic model. But now I had to think about another path. Every night before I went to sleep I would imagine myself as a single mother (with no father in the picture) in everyday situations to see how it looked and felt physically, emotionally and financially. It took a while for me to get my head around it but after a while it felt quite clear and comfortable, and I knew that I could do this.
Taking the next steps
I spoke with my gynaecologist who referred me to IVF Australia. I had read that waiting lists for donors could sometimes be long so I decided to get on the list to keep my options open. Gradually I got to the top of the list where I could access the database, yet even then I was still holding on to the hope that I might meet someone. It didn’t happen and that’s life, and so when I turned 39 I decided that if I really wanted a baby then it was time to get on with it.
Selecting a donor was trickier than I thought. I had a bit of anxiety around choosing ‘the right one’ and found the process very similar to looking for a partner online with details given about their ethnicity, height, weight, hair colour, religion, work and interests; along with a photo of them as a child. My clinic offered sperm from Australia and America, but not all were available to me as a single woman (some donors specify they only want infertile or homosexual couples to use their sperm, or even those with specific ethnic backgrounds). After a while I found one I liked and then booked myself in, telling no one but my sisters and mother.
Journey to a miracle
Initially I tried insemination (IUI) which I found quite stressful and emotional as I was working that day (a bad idea) and it felt very much like a clinical procedure. It didn’t work so I moved on to IVF doing the injections and appointments myself, with the support of my mother. I just kept thinking “suck it up and be strong” and in the end I overcame my anxiety and it became quite an easy process, with the clinic and my doctors also being very supportive.
I found out I was pregnant just after my 40th birthday. I couldn’t believe it when they rang to tell me, it was a total miracle and so surreal. The journey had been so long and I had no pregnancy symptoms, so I didn’t initially believe that it was true. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and it was only after I started to hear my baby’s heartbeat and see his tiny body in ultrasounds that I realised my motherhood dream could become a reality.
My son arrives in the world
My baby, a son named Jack, arrived safely with my two sisters in the hospital room with me. Seeing him for the first time was overwhelming (as any new mother would say), yet particularly exciting for me given the journey I had taken to get there. Motherhood is incredible and everything I thought it would be – dealing with the trials of a newborn is nothing in comparison to the joy of looking at my son and watching him grow every day.
When he starts to communicate I will tell him about his donor dad and share with him the photo and information I have, including the personal messages he provided to any children born from his donation. And when Jack turns 18 he will be able to meet his father, if he wishes to do so.
You are not alone
My advice to other single women wanting to be mothers is that you’re not alone. There are a lot of children out there now conceived through donors and it’s very accepted, even by older generations. I personally didn’t experience any negative reactions, so if you’re thinking about doing it don’t feel frightened or alone, there is a lot of support out there. Be sure to do your research, use a clinic you feel comfortable with, save some money, get support from family or close friends, and avoid telling too many people until you’ve been successful (to help deal with any disappointment).
Although challenging, my journey to motherhood has been great in that it gave me strength I didn’t know I had for things I never prepared for. So when the life you know blows up in your face, know that you are actually strong enough to deal with it, and you just never know what a new life will bring you.
Have you used, or are you considering using a sperm donor? What was your motherhood journey like?