Recently friend of mine confided to me that she has made the huge decision to become a single parent. Having waited and waited for her Ms Right to come along, she has grown tired of waiting and made the brave decision to fulfil her lifelong dream on her own.
She is 42.
While she is well aware that she has left her run quite late, and her chances of successfully conceiving and carrying a child in her 40s are considerably lower than those of women younger than her, she is realistic in her expectations. She knows it may well not happen, however she has sought advice and both she, and her doctor, feel it is worthwhile trying.
I remember when I asked my own beloved fertility guru, Dr Keeping, if I was ‘too old’ to conceive Miss L at age 37. In his typical reassuring way, he affectionately referred to me as being in the ‘Silver Star’ category given I was above the age of 35.
In other words, it would be better if I was younger, but falling pregnant at my age was not out of the realms of possibility.
As it happened, he had been right.
This friend of mine has had good results from her AMH test and currently has several mature, viable eggs ready to harvest, so fingers crossed all is looking good for her. Given she is realistic about her chances, she didn’t bother going through the ordeal of choosing and paying for a donor before now in case her body decided not to play ‘ball’ and her cycle was abandoned.
So on the weekend, after hearing the news that all is going ahead with her IVF cycle, she took her first step into the cloudy waters of donor selection.
Already having decided that the easiest and safest option for her was to purchase imported US sperm through the clinic, she assumed that she would simply peruse a heap of profiles and just pick out the one that she liked the best. Simple, right?
It surprised me somewhat when I received quite a concerned message from her after she perused all of the nine donors available to her, and realised that only one of these is Caucasian, as she is.
Now let me be very clear here that my friend is not the slightest bit racist.
She is intelligent, well-educated, open-minded and easy going. She works as a professional in the health industry and has friends from many different ethnic backgrounds.
In saying this, however, she had not anticipated having to make such a huge decision as to whether or not she would consider raising a bi-racial child in a single parent household with a lesbian mother.
To be honest, I don’t blame her. Life can be hard enough when you are part of one minority group, such as being raised by either a single, or a lesbian mother, without having to add additional complexities to the mix, such as a different ethnicity. For a first time parent, let alone any parent, this would be incredibly daunting. Ideally, she was after a donor who was Caucasian like she is, because that is her own life experience.
The one Caucasian donor available, for whatever reason, did not appeal to her at all.
It is a common misconception, I think, that many women selecting their donor believe that they will get to choose from massive ‘banks’ of donors, and a multitude of options. I recall a scene from the American movie ‘If these Walls Could Talk 2’ with Ellen De Generes and Sharon Stone, where these women pore over dozens of profiles, agonising over which choice would create the best child for them. I think many people believe that this is the reality of the situation: that it truly is a case of ‘designing’ their prospective baby.
The reality of the process here in Australia is not actually like this at all. Not in my experience, or those of others I know.
Donors are not only costly, but also rare as hen’s teeth. If they are imported by clinics from the United States, there is no guarantee that they will not have been used dozens of times by other families, meaning there could literally potentially be hundreds of donor siblings for your child scattered around the world. Many women opt for a sperm donor through a clinic to avoid the legal minefield that can arise from using a ‘known’ donor. Custody issues, agreements gone awry, health issues and subsequent partners can add variables that many women do not wish to have to face in their bid to become parents.
Yet the path through the clinic, as my friend has discovered, is not without its myriad of issues too. In short, there are no easy answers when deciding on the best donor for your child. Whether you decide to go the known donor route, or the anonymous donor route, there are very real issues with long term ramifications that need to be carefully considered.