Why are more people choosing to become solo parents?
Airdate: 
Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - 20:30
Channel: 
SBS

More and more single women are making the choice to become solo parents. As fertility deadlines approach, a new generation of women aren’t prepared to wait forever for 'Mr Right' to come along and risk missing out on the opportunity to have a child if a partner doesn’t arrive in time.

So Plan B is now a popular option: to go it alone with the help of a sperm donor. IVF clinics around the country are reporting the demand for donor sperm by single women is soaring as women are taking things into their own hands and fulfilling their dreams of being a mother.

Forty-one year old Anita Fox is typical of a number of professional women who've decided in their late thirties to have a baby without a partner. After a divorce, Anita didn’t want another relationship - but did want a baby - and she’s now a proud mother of two year-old Grace.

Amanda Hendren decided in her late thirties that she wanted to become a solo mum, and soon after gave birth to baby Elijha.  But in the first few years she was hit with depression and discovered, much to her shock, that motherhood “didn’t give me any value”. It took her several years to really settle into the role.

Stephanie Holt, at 26, has decided that she doesn’t want to wait to meet the right man to be the father of her children, and is currently embarking on IVF treatment to try to become a solo mum.

We speak to a number of women like Anita, Stephanie and Amanda who’ve chosen the donor sperm path, about the joys and challenges of solo parenting. We also speak to those in the process of trying to become solo parents via IVF and the children of single mothers by choice to reflect on the long term implications of being brought into the world via donor conception. 

And it’s not only women choosing to solo parent. A growing number of men are also choosing pursue parenthood alone, like Anthony Stralow, a single dad of three children who used two overseas surrogates and an egg donor to create the family he’d always wanted.

On Insight this week, we examine the growing child-rearing trend of solo parenting by choice. 

 

Credits

Transcript

 

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CARRIE:  Today I am going to be artificially inseminated with donor sperm, hopefully as a result I will become pregnant with my first child. This is absolutely plan A, this is not a back-up, this is not me being desperate and it's not me being lonely.

It's not, I guess, the old-fashioned way of doing things but I am very much a 21st century person.  I'm so grateful for all these advances in technology that I can actually do this. I can be a single woman and choose to have a baby on my own.

I'll in the clinic for all of about half an hour because I'm, it's just artificial insemination. It's quick and painless.

DOCTOR:  Alright, I'm just going to get everything positioned, alright, and then we'll put the sperm in.

CARRIE:  Okay.

DOCTOR:  Alright, right to go thanks Lisa. So try and relax as much as you can. Have you got much on for the rest of the weekend?

CARRIE:  No, not really.

DOCTOR:  No?

CARRIE:  Do some reading and, yeah.

DOCTOR:  Just going in now. All done.

CARRIE:  Wow, really?

DOCTOR: Yeah. So you can just lie there for a couple of minutes.

CARRIE:  Okay. I think my chances of success are really high and I guess I'm just contemplating how I'm going to be feeling in the coming months and I guess just after this moment my life as I've known it will probably never be the same again.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Carrie, thank you so much for letting us film that. That was two weeks ago. Have you found out yet whether you're pregnant, any idea?

CARRIE:  It was not successful this time around unfortunately. But I did know my odds going into it with the IUI procedure, my chances were around 10 to 20 percent falling pregnant, but it hasn't turned me off it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're going to try again?

CARRIE:  I will try again, yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old are you?

CARRIE:  36.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that process like for you?

CARRIE:  It was easy, it was completely painless and easy and there was no hard work on my part, it was all in that surgery there.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You said there, you said there that it was your plan A?

CARRIE:  Mm-mmm.

JENNY BROCKIE:  To do it that way, to choose to have a baby without a partner. Why?

CARRIE:  This has been a good two, maybe three years in the planning that I thought I want to have a baby, but I don't want to do it with a partner because I, I really want to do it my way and I don't want to end up in an unhappy relationship. I want to be a happy mum and I want to raise my child feeling confident and feeling like I can do it the way I see fit.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you think you might be in an unhappy relationship?

CARRIE:  I think from past relationships it was a good indicator that I, I perhaps am not very good at attracting the right person. So I just know I feel happier when I'm single.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Anita, you're 42 and a single mum to Grace who is two years old.

ANITA:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me why you chose to go it alone?

ANITA:  There's some similarities to Carrie, I've had not much success in the relationship space, it hasn't been my strongest gain and, and like Carrie, I'm at a stage where I'm not looking for that and being not in a relationship meant that I had to go looking at other options and I'm a bit of an investigator so I went looking.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did you go about getting pregnant in the end?

ANITA:  So it started in a pretty confronting way, when you are a single person and you want to access IVF, you have to be deemed medically infertile in order to be able to access the Medicare benefits and to be able to access IVF.  So they classify you as something called 'socially infertile' which is a pretty confronting term, or it was for me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Socially infertile?

ANITA:  Yeah.  So if I was a part of a couple and I'd gone to the doctor and said we've been trying for six months and it's not working they would have said well go for IVF.  Not that simple obviously but that's essentially how it goes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How much has it cost?

ANITA:  I've spent about $35,000 getting to the point where my daughter was born.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So tell me about Grace and we've got a photo of Grace.

ANITA:  Okay, so that's my little girl, that's the morning after she was born and I can with confidence tell you that that's the happiest moment of my life.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that a selfie?

ANITA:  That's a selfie and I've got to tell you something particular to single people who have children, it's all about selfies, there's no one else taking the photos.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was the moment of conception like for you because with your, we saw it before.

ANITA:  My aunt was holding my hand so I never really pictured that happening. I'm lying in the chair, and your legs are up and there's people asking you about the weather. And then someone says we're ready, would you like to see your embryo? I'm like I didn't, what? Okay, yes, and you're lying there and there's a TV screen and suddenly you see these four circles appear on the screen and you go that could be my child and it's one of the most profound moments of my life. I felt like I met her then, I know that sounds kind of crazy.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you choose the sperm donor?

ANITA:  Oh, well, probably with a lot more care than I chose my ex-boyfriends - Certainly my husband. I went looking for someone who was physically similar to my family.  I thought we're going to have enough to explain without having to explain significant physical differences. Assuming that my child would want to meet him one day, I went looking for someone who I thought I could have a conversation with and not have a relationship with but I could explain…

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you work that out?

ANITA:  Well, the donor that I chose described his personality the same way I would describe mine so that was a really good moment for me and I really liked in his reason for donating, and he didn't feel the need to define what that family looked like. And of the two donors that I had, both of them were gay and, not because I went looking for a gay man but because both of them wrote so beautifully about their motivation being that they just wanted to help someone start a family who was having a tough time and Grace's donor is Kiwi George.

I have no idea if his name is George but I know he was born in New Zealand and I don't know, it's nice having a name for him. I think I'm really open with my little girl, she's two and a half now, Grace, and she knows how to answer the question about do you have a dad? She says, no, mummy, I've got you. And it's, it's nice and I don't ever want Grace to feel ashamed of how her family started. I don't think there is any shame in it and I don't think it's the only way forward or the right way forward for everybody. But for me and for our family, this was really right for us and it really works for us.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And when you say we chose, who do you mean?

ANITA:  I'm talking about Grace and I because I always say we now, but no, you're right, it was me.  It was just me making that decision.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Rachel, you have a three year old son, Noah. Were you in a relationship when you got pregnant or not?

RACHEL:  I was, yes, I was.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what happened?

RACHEL:  There was a lot of discussion within that relationship about whether we would go forward and have one together and we had some significant differences about that. So he was at best ambivalent about having a child and probably at worst just simply didn't want one. And I guess in the end I ultimately came to the conclusion that if I were to give that up for this relationship, the resentment that I would feel as a result of that would probably ultimately tear us apart anyway.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you decided to have IVF on your own.

RACHEL:  I did, yes.  I only had one round of IVF, and Noah was the second embryo implant.  My son was the second embryo implant.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you were still in the relationship?

RACHEL:  I was still in the relationship.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What happened to the relationship once you got pregnant?

RACHEL:  It ended.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How soon?

RACHEL:  It ended, it didn't end straight away. So we were, we were an unstable couple, I think that's fair to say, but I saw the writing on the wall late in my pregnancy and made the decision to not only get out of that relationship but to leave Melbourne where I was living, leave my work, return to Perth so that I could get some family support.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Desa, can you relate to any of this?

DESA:  Oh, all of it, all of it.  Relationships, going on your own, doing it, the whole, it's all, we're all in the same boat, all of us.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you your family react when you first raised the idea of doing it?

DESA:  Well, being from a European background, not well. My mum said she'd disown me and she would never want to see the child and I said to her ‘don't be ridiculous, this is going to be your grandchild.’ “No, no, no, you can't” and you know, the shame and everything like that. You know, for ten years I was hoping to find the one and I remarried again for some silly reason because I was at that point probably desperate to have a child and this was our, I was 39 when I met him and we did try.  Went to the IVF specialist and whilst I was sitting in the office, he, pardon the pun, pulled out on it. He didn't want to go ahead with it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  On the spot?

DESA:  Yep, right there at the doctor's surgery, it was a very emotional time for me and he was also an ethnic person and he was just no, I want it to be natural.  I said well obviously I'm too old to have it natural so we've got to do and he said yes. And then it was no and then I was 40 and we split up and then one day I was driving with my mum from a long drive and she said:  You know Desa, why don't you have a baby on your own? And I nearly crashed the car because she, I said what are you talking about? She goes oh, you know, I read in Women's Day a story about a woman who went and had a baby on her own and I said oh. 

So it was like my mum and dad's blessing for me to start and at 42 I started. I didn't expect to fall pregnant because I'd heard the stories. They go IVF doesn't always work and I just thought I'll be in that, and I miscarried and then I said why did I care about everybody else when this is what I wanted? And it took me another four goes to have my son, so he's my fifth go and then I tried again which was a surprise to a lot of people and I now have two boys.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old are they?

DESA:  So Jacob is eight and Isaac is six.

JENNY BROCKIE:  In choosing the donor, I mean you're part Greek, is that right?

DESA:  I'm half Greek.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you look for a Greek donor?

DESA:  Yeah. Greek guys aren't going to give away their sperm. I don't think the Serbs are either because I'm half Serbian as well.  So I did look for a European, and I'm also born in New Zealand so I have a little bit more open minded thinking, and there was a New Zealander in there and he was the second choice but I'm sorry to any redheads but I didn't choose him because of his red hair, because with my skin colouring and red hair, I don't think it was going to be a good match. But it was what the original, the donor that I chose, what he wrote was the most important thing in the end.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Stephanie, you're 26 and you've decided to go it alone with IVF. Why are you doing that at 26?

STEPHANIE:  I think having a family is really big for me. My mum and dad split, so my dad away was in the army and he was overseas a lot and I left my mum when I was about fourteen.  So my twin sister and I we were in and out of foster care and staying at places and I just knew that I needed to have a family to fill the whole that I missed out growing up in. In 2011 my twin sister, then she got really sick with epilepsy and she almost died so spending that time with her in the hospital just made it more apparent to me that I needed to start a family.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And so you've decided to go it alone?

STEPHANIE:  I have.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long have you been trying with IVF?

STEPHANIE:  So IVF, this was only my second attempt.  So I did six IUIs and they all failed with two different donors and then I did one round of IVF but didn't go ahead because I got OHSS which is common in under 30 year olds to get. So that's ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome.

JENNY BROCKIE:  This is from your ovaries being stimulated for the IVF procedure?

STEPHANIE:  Yes. Over stimulated and I ended up in hospital for a week and I was like this is not good. Like I give up, I'm not doing this anymore. Once I got over that I was like okay, I can do it again. So I just had my second transfer a few weeks ago.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how's it going?

STEPHANIE: Good, I just found out that I'm expecting.

JENNY BROCKIE:  When did you find out?

STEPHANIE:  On Monday.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Oh, so really recently?

STEPHANIE:  Yeah, so still super early and I do know like anything can happen but I've been so open about my journey and miscarriage is part of that.  But I just know that people will support me if I lose the baby or if I have the baby, so.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you react when you found out that you were pregnant?

STEPHANIE:  Well, I actually said shut the front door, I was like is this real?

JENNY BROCKIE:  Were you tempted at 26 to wait and see if you you'd found a partner?

STEPHANIE:  When I first went to the doctor and said to them that I want to have a baby he looked at me and said you're crazy. You have so much time up your sleeve, I can't give you a referral for that, I don't think it's the right decision. So left that doctor and I went to a new one and I said the same thing.  I said I want to have a baby and I gave them my reasoning and he was more than happy to sign off with it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was your reasoning to do it now on your own?

STEPHANIE:  I think I just, I need to fill the void that's missing, I feel like there's a missing puzzle piece from my childhood and I feel like a baby will help to heal that missing piece.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you get counselling at all?  Did anyone suggest that you talk to someone about that?

STEPHANIE:  Yes.  So the whole process for me took about a year and had multiple counselling sessions so that they knew what I was getting into, and once I was finally cleared by the counsellor, then I did my first IUI.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How have other people reacted to you making that decision?

STEPHANIE:  I think it's been a mixed bag.  A lot of my friends think that I'm crazy.  But I guess they've accepted it, they know this is something that I really want and they know that it's not for them. It's not for everybody, so they're being really supportive now which is good.

 

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ANTHONY: You can get dressed for school once you finish breakfast.

The morning routine involves getting up at - so my morning routine normally involves getting up at about 6.30 sometimes later if I'm not working that day. Usually the babies have their bottles while I get Asher's breakfast ready, pack her lunch and the babies have breakfast and get changed for the day. I think I've had like .75 of a weekend off with two nights and one and a half days, which was nice to sleep.

Do you want that now?

ANTHONY: People say to me oh, you must be exhausted and I'm not, I don't describe myself as being exhausted.  I'm tired but it's not a stressful tired.

ASHER: I was born in India.

ANTHONY:  You were born in India, how did that happen?

ASHER: A different tummy's mum.

ANTHONY:  A different tummy's mum, yeah?

ANTHONY: Always been open with Asher about having only one dad and different ways that children can be born and different types of family. Considering I thought I would never have kids at all so suddenly now I've got three, I've got to be happy with that.

ASHER: Bye bye.

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Anthony, thanks for joining us.  Now that's you with the three kids, Asher who is five?

ANTHONY:  Yep.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Fourteen month old twins, a boy called Mallakeye?

ANTHONY:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE: And a girl called Mischka?

ANTHONY:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you choose to be a solo dad?

ANTHONY:  I guess I'd had a series of relationships that didn't work out and I turned 40 and I'd been investigating different options for a long time. And being a gay man you have to, you know, think about having, if you want children you have to think about it in a different way I guess than heterosexual people might, or a woman might as well.

When I turned 40 and I was single and I thought well, if I'm going to do it I need to do it soon because I'm not getting any younger, like you guys were saying. And surrogacy just seemed to be where it landed for me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how did you have the kids?

ANTHONY:  So Asher was born in India with an egg donor from the Ukraine and a surrogate, so it was an IVF procedure.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And with your sperm?

ANTHONY:  With my sperm, yep, and the twins were born in Nepal through the same process, with the same egg donor.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You talk about being 40?

ANTHONY:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And thinking about that but you haven't got the biological clock problem the way the women do with their eggs. You could have done this any time. Why didn't you wait and you know, maybe do it with someone else?

ANTHONY:  Um, look I guess I'm a type 1 diabetic so I didn't know what my life span is going to be so, and I want to have lots of energy for the kids.  I don't want to be an old dad, you know?

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how are you managing?

ANTHONY:  Alright.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you work full time?

ANTHONY:  I've just gone back to work full time six weeks ago, it's what our routine, we just do our thing and it kind of all works really.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And are you open to the idea of a relationship now that you've got those three?

ANTHONY:  Yes, please, I've got three kids. Maybe I've lied about not being exhausted, maybe I need a little bit of a hand around the house.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Would you have preferred to have a child with a partner, if it had been possible?

DESA: Yeah, I got married the first time.  I was 24, that was what I thought, I was going to married, we built a house, the kids come along and that all changed.  You know, I ended up being single at 28 and at that time I actually thought the world had come to an end. And, you know, some of us don't, you know, go out and pick up men all the time. We just, you know, cruise along in life and hopefully meet another partner but it took me ten years to meet the next guy and I was very lucky to be able to use my eggs at 42 and have two healthy children.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And now how do you feel about raising them by yourself?

DESA:  Look, it's been hard for me because I ended up becoming a carer for my parents. My dad passed away nine months ago with Parkinson's.  My mum has dementia and I'm running constantly to the nursing home.  And my eldest has high functioning autism, so I've also got to run to social groups and speech therapists.  I am pretty much on my own and I have to rely on friends.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So any regrets?

DESA: No, no regrets.  The only regret I have is that I didn't do it sooner because I am tired. I am exhausted.  And I don't go out to meet anyone either. But then again, I don't know if I want, my kids come first, you know? The person I would have to meet would have to go by my rules.  I went by the two rules of the other two men I married and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were those rules?

DESA: Well, one, they weren't allowed to speak Greek. They weren't to be christened Greek Orthodox.  One wanted Serbian Orthodox the other one was Muslim and he didn't want our children to be christened, and they both wanted to name them. I was to carry them but they were to have everything said and this way I did what I wanted. They were christened Greek Orthodox, they got the names that I wanted and felt they were right and I do, it's hard sometimes, you have to make these decisions on your own and you wish that there was another person to help you.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Amanda, you went solo to have your son Elijah who is now five?

AMANDA:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were the early years like for you?

AMANDA:  Horrible. Absolutely horrible.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How?

AMANDA:  Um, I think, I've thought a lot about this around, I guess, how I ended up in my mid to late 30s single and very headstrong, very driven with my career, wanting to do what I wanted to do all of the time. Not being particularly interested in compromising for anyone else and I decided I wanted to be a mum so I went and did that and I was lucky, a lucky first timer with IVF. Had a breeze of a pregnancy, everything was wonderful and then I had a baby.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What happened, what happened when you had the baby?

AMANDA:  What happened when I had the baby? What happened? I was depressed, I was anxious.  In hindsight I've probably been depressed and anxious for the majority of my life but kept moving and then all of a sudden I couldn't run anymore and I was stuck at home without a job and I think I had to admit that motherhood didn't give me any value and that was really hard because you pay a lot of money and you go against a lot of social norms and then to actually say yeah, well, I don't love it and I want to go back to work and, um, yeah, it was really quite hard.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you weren't feeling the mothering kind of feelings that you'd expected you'd have?

AMANDA:  No, no, God no. I hated it. I hated everything about it and I felt like I couldn't tell anybody that I really, really hated it because I'd done it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Because you'd been through IVF and were doing it on your own?

AMANDA:  Yes, and there are no excuses.  I didn't get drunk, I, you know, didn't make a mistake, I, you know, like I, I literally went out and got a big old personal loan and paid for it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you, how did you get through that?

AMANDA:  Being stubborn, I think, determined, and just, it's always been the way I guess, you don't give up. And I think my doctor actually laughed at me because I'm a psychologist which is kind of the irony of the whole situation, and he just looked at me and he goes you're a psychologist, like what's going on? I said I know what I need to do, I just can't do it because I am so angry and that was what depression was for me, it was anger and resentment. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you feel about that decision now five years on to have Elijah?

AMANDA:  Yeah, God, I can't imagine a life without him. Yeah, and we're good, we're really good and I actually got to a point a couple of years ago where if I'd been younger and it wasn't so expensive, I  probably would have gone back for another.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Holly, you have a fifteen month old son Nara, why did you decide to go it alone?

HOLLY:  So I just happened to be single. I'm queer so I was always going to need to use a donor anyway so it wasn't a really big leap for me to have to do it on my own.  I was raised by a single mum for most of my life and I'd seen her do it quite successfully and it felt like a really viable thing for me to do.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you choose your donor?

HOLLY:  It was a little bit like dating. I really wanted to use someone that I knew because I wanted my child to know who they were related to. So yeah, that's a good friend of mine.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So is this person present in your child's life?

HOLLY:  Yeah, he plays an uncle role, him and his partner, they're both gay, of course they're gay, I hope, they're gay, and they're both sort of uncle figures in Nara's life.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now you took to a caravan when Nara was three months old and you drove around Australia with him?

HOLLY:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why, why did you do that?

HOLLY:  I guess partly because I was really determined for my life to not change completely. In the first five weeks I wasn't very happy at all. I didn't really connect with my child and then that shifted. I don't think that you need a lot of money to do this. I think that you just need to think outside the box. I'm, I'm currently on the single parent pension but I went around Australia for six months and we had an amazing time. I'm an academic and a writer so I write from home and I want to go back to work in a year or so but I'm not really ready yet. I want to spend as much time with him as possible.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you feel about being on benefits?

HOLLY:  Um, I, there are times when against my better judgment I feel a slight amount of guilt, I feel like I intentionally became a single parent and you know, I've intentionally put myself on welfare. But then this other part of my brain says that's ridiculous, I mean people in relationships split up unexpectedly all the time and need to use, you know, the Social Security system and it's a right in Australia to have access to that. And I'm doing so much work at the moment, I'm working, you know, 24/7 raisings my child and that's a valid occupation and the government's just helping me to raise a child. It's valid work.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Desa, would you like to be in another relationship?

DESA:  Um, sometimes, yes, and then I think about what I went through and then I think no, and the person would have to be on my terms. I'd like them to have their own home, just like I have my own home.  I'd like them to have a job, I'd like them to be independent of me and we just meet up for, you know, going out and that too…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Maybe staying home?

DESA:  Staying home. I don't get to go out much because I don't have that, and I do have.

JENNY BROCKIE:  This is very, very interesting because there are big fat boundaries around what you're talking about what you would want if you had a relationship.

DESA:  I know.  That's probably why I'm probably going to stay single and my children when I ask them would you like a daddy, they go no. So they say, but …

JENNY BROCKIE:  Would you like them to have a father, or a father figure?

DESA:  A father figure yes, because we don't have one. And you know, my girlfriends who are with partners they've got their own kids to worry about. You know, they're pretty good with my kids but they're not the father figure they need. I'm that, I am the mother and the father, I make all the decisions, I pay all the bills and I have all the time. So it would be nice to go out.  I have been on two dates in the last twelve years, that's it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do any of you miss the intimacy that comes with a close relationship?

DESA:  Yes, I do, you do. But you know, you learn to live without it.

ANITA:  See I thought I would but I don't at this stage. My daughter's only really young but there's an intimacy with my daughter and there's something about it just being the two of us that is so, it's intoxicating.  We're so close that that relationship, and I need to be really careful of this, I'm mindful of this of needing her too much. I don't want that relationship to replace other things that I need in my life. But I don't, on the other hand, want to rush into a relationship with someone because I think I should, either. Right now if you ask me if I want it, I don't.

DESA:  Your daughter's still.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Stephanie, you are open to the idea of relationships?

STEPHANIE:   Yeah, definitely, I think obviously I'm only 26 so hopefully that's going to come down the track where I do meet someone. But hopefully they're going to love me and my child.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you had boyfriends in the past?

STEPHANIE: Yeah, definitely, I've had boyfriends in the past. They haven't worked out.  Like I feel like this is the more dignified way of doing something, like I could go to a pub and just have a one night stand and end up knocked up, but then I'm not going to know who my child's father is or what they're worth were or what interests they have. So I am definitely open to it. I would hope that I will find someone and do the whole marriage thing and will have more kids but for now I'm solely focused on having this child.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you trust relationships?

STEPHANIE:   I don't. So my mum mistakenly married a paedophile from America when I was younger and then she chose some really not great relationships after that and it's made me really reluctant that there is good people out there and there is good guys out there. Like I'm very insecure, I think, when I do find someone. I'm like well, what if they're this or what if they're that or what if they do this to me? Is it going to be like what they did to my mum or things like that?  So I am very like projected I guess.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about consciously deciding that your child is only going to have one parent, making that decision?  Do you reflect on that?  Do you all reflect on what that means for the child? What sorts of things have gone through your head about that?

STEPHANIE:  I feel like my child is going to know how loved they were and how wanted they were from the start. 

RACHEL:  I really think we need to question this notion that children do need, only two parents is the right way to have a family. I think families, you know, as Amanda said, come in all shapes and eyes sizes and there's some fundamentals around how children thrive in terms of needing a safe, loving relationship with one primary care-giver and that can be anyone, mother, father, grandparent, whatever, and then having a strong network of community support that families sit within. I mean there are many abusive and neglectful families that are mothers and fathers.  That in and of itself is not a sufficient condition to say that's the only way a child can thrive.

 

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AMANDA:  When I thought about having a child I'd always imagined myself with a boy and in my imagination he was always about six or seven years old and I always thought about doing stuff like bike riding or at the beach or mountain climbing or bush walking.

What's this book about?

ELIJHA:  Me.

AMANDA:  It is.  What's that say?

ELIJHA:  Elijah Daniel is loved.

AMANDA:  Is loved.

ELIJHA:  Loved.

AMANDA:  The book was something that I learned about or knew about, thought about even before I'd started the process of IVF.

"She searched for years for a husband to be the father to her child but she couldn't find the right one. Mummy really wanted to share her life and love with a baby so one day she decided to have a baby without a husband."

So what's this page about?

ELIJHA:  The donor.

AMANDA:  The donor, so he has blond hair and?

ELIJHA:  Blue eyes.

AMANDA:  Yeah, and?

ELIJHA:  And a smile.

AMANDA:  A sweet smile just like?

ELIJHA:  Me.

AMANDA:  Just like you.  Yeah.

 

 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Amanda, Elijah is five, how long have you been telling him the story of how he was conceived?

AMANDA:  It's been a constant in our life since, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  There's a picture of your American sperm donor in that book?

AMANDA:  There is.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Does he ask many questions about him?

AMANDA:  No.  It's something that I have a conversation with him about but he doesn't actually ask a lot at all and I don't know whether that's because everything that there is to know he already knows through conversations.  So the donor's name is Carter, I'm assuming that's not actually his real name, so, but we know everything about Carter.   Like that his favourite colour's green so Elijah's favourite colour is green.  We know that he loves sports and football.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are you in touch with the donor?

AMANDA:  No, no. I am on a website, international website, the donor sibling registry and the donor, if he ever wanted to, would be able to join and see and connect earlier if he wanted to. I know he hasn't actually joined but I don't know if he's looked at it but we've connected with quite a few diblings through that website.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Diblings, explain what diblings are?

AMANDA:  Donor siblings.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Most of you have used your own eggs with IVF, not you Anthony, I'll get to you in a moment.  Will your kids get to know the sperm donors?

DESA:  I actually contacted the sperm donor back in 2010 when I was actually pregnant with my second and I wrote a letter to say thank you. He actually did respond with a letter and said that he now had children of his own as well. He said, you know, if we could keep in touch like every twelve months and send photos of each other's children, so I replied and I never heard from him again, probably didn't like the look of my child, but he, I haven't had any more contact.

But I haven't put myself on the donor registry.  I'm, I'm happy to know the donor but I'm, I'm at a point where I'm not interested in the half siblings of my children.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about your children though, do you think they might be?

DESA:  That to me is for them to decide but I'm not happy yet to put myself on the registry to find half siblings.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why don't you want to know?

DESA:  I don't know what it is with me that I don't want to know. I'm happy with my children and we've got my friends' children that are like relatives to us.  If they at a later date say to me mum, I want to go on the registry then I'm happy to do that for them but at the moment I'm not. I'm happy to not know.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Anthony, what about your egg donor, do the kids have contact with them?

ANTONY:  Yes, when I arranged for my egg donor who is from the Ukraine to fly to India, I asked the agency whether, you know, I could have some sort of contact with that person after the donation, just in terms of medical or genetic reasons.  And then eventually like she gave me her email address, I sent her a Facebook invitation, eventually she accepted it and we started communicating quite regularly and then she agreed to donate again which was amazing and then we spent two weeks in a serviced apartment overseas in Nepal while she did her egg donation with me.  So we got to know each other really, really well and I got to learn about where some of my daughter's characteristics have come from.

So now, so now we have an on-going relationship where we communicate via WHATSAPP, so we send voice messages, videos, messages via that relationship. And so now we all Skype with her parents as well. So it's a really nice, nice relationship and Asher knows who the egg donor is the egg donor and the whole process how she came about.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Caitlin, you're ten, when did your mum Catherine tell you that you were donor conceived?

CAITLIN:  Zero.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Zero, when you were first born?

CAITLIN:  Mm-mmm.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did mum explain it to you as you were growing up?

CAITLIN:  She just said that - what did she say?

CATHERINE: That a kind lady gave her egg because mine didn't work and a kind man gave his sperm, then the doctor put them together.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that like for you?

CAITLIN:  It was just normal and I was just used to it.

JENNY BROCKIE:   From the time that you were little?

CAITLIN:  Yeah, and I just knew that that's how I was made.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Catherine, you had Caitlin when you were 45 after six years trying to become a solo mum?

CATHERINE:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You had egg and sperm donors?

CATHERINE:  I did, yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you had any contact with them?

CATHERINE:  With the egg donor, yes, I actually met her at the egg donation and then we were supposed to be able to keep in touch but the agency refused to pass on my letters or notes or a card when Caitlin was born and eventually I decided to track her down myself from the information I knew from the profile. It was more important for Caitlin to know some of her ancestry because she's quarter Native American but we didn't know which nation so that was the big question at the time.

And then together Caitlin asked me if we could maybe get in touch with her and so I sent a message, and we heard nothing for probably a good six months. And then one day I was just about to go and pick up Caity from school and I got this video call that said I've just got a new phone, I've got all these messages and I've seen yours and I'd love to talk to you and talk to Caitlin.  It was like I spoke to her as I was walking to school and then said well, can you call back in about fifteen minutes and speak to Caity?

CAITLIN:  And she just told me oh, guess what, you're egg donor's going to speak to you after school and I was like really?

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was that like?

CAITLIN:  It was like a really big surprise and it was like oh, my gosh, I need to wash my hair, what do I wear?

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you want to meet her?

CAITLIN:  Just to know my ancestry and just to know what she looked like and just kind of, just what did she do when she was younger?  Just to see if they were the same and it was just an interest.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was it like when you did meet her on Skype?

CAITLIN:  It was really nice and it really just let me, let me know like why I'm, why I look like me and why I like some things.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what did you discover?

CAITLIN:  Well, I discovered that she likes being a cheer leader and she likes surfing and I like surfing and she had a bit of brown hair, she also had blond hair but the same coloured brown hair as me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you have donor brothers and sisters?

CAITLIN:  Yes, I have five that we know of and I've met one in person.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was that like for you meeting them?

CAITLIN:  It was just amazing and it was just really cool to see someone who I'm actually related to.

JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think of mum's choice to become a solo parent?

CAITLIN:  I think it was a very good choice for her.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why do you think that?

CAITLIN:  I think that because she really wants to be a mum and I was the only way she could do that and she's really good at being a mum. She really suits it and, yeah, it's just how it worked out and I like the decision.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what's it like for you?

CAITLIN:  It's normal and it's just nice and, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Catherine, what do you think it's like for Caitlin?

CATHERINE: I think it has its pluses and its minuses, you know, one thing is you know, we're buddies, we get along, you know? And, yeah, I think we have fun together, don't we?

CAITLIN:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are there difficult things?

CATHERINE:  Sometimes.  I mean sometimes being the sole parent is hard, you know, everything's on you and I think sometimes Caitlin does wish she had a dad around in particular. Or you know was able to see her brothers and sisters more often. But there's other times, you know, we look at other families and we think oh, my goodness, I'm glad I don't live in that household, the strife that's going on there.  She doesn't have that, she doesn't have parents arguing, she doesn't have parents disagreeing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Caitlin, do you think about the idea of having a dad?

CAITLIN:  Yes, sometimes, and sometimes it's sad being like especially around Father's Day it's really hard because like it's really like, oh, love your dad, things like that. I'm also kind of glad because like what my mum said, two parents can sometimes be hard.

JENNY BROCKIE:  India, you're 14?

INDIA:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Your mum Fiona chose to have you on her own in 2003. How long have you known that you're donor conceived?

INDIA:  Forever.  You know, you grow up and you know it. Like it's not something that I've not known, I just feel like I've known it my whole life basically, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you feel about it?

INDIA:  It's normal to me. It's normal, like I feel fine about it. It's nothing wrong, nothing weird or strange, it's normal.

JENNY BROCKIE:  It's just what you grew up knowing?

INDIA:  Yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do you know about your sperm donor?

INDIA:  I know that he's South African, I know his name, I know a few other things but yeah, that's.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And have you had contact with him?

INDIA:  I have had contact with him, as mum used to email him and stuff like that and then mum met up with him.

FIONA:  I met up with him for a couple of years.

INDIA:  Mum met up with him.

FIONA:  I met him and then India.

INDIA:  Then I got to meet him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that like when you met him?

INDIA:  I think I was five years old, it was really exiting, you know, you get to have a hot chocolate with your biological dad, like wow. Like to me at that age it was like oh wow, I don't think I really thought it through, like.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Well you were five?

INDIA:  I know.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And have you had contact with him since then?

INDIA:  No, no.  So lost contact. Hasn't replied but you know, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you feel about that?

INDIA:  Um, not very happy, um, but yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Fiona, you're India's mum?

FIONA:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you want to comment on this?

FIONA:  I thought I want to write a thank you letter to our donor but I don't want them to be, to drop out of sight. My donor, I conceived at a time when anonymous donation was the only option in Australia. It changed not long after, so I sent, um, a letter with an anonymous email address, or a non-identifying email, sorry, not anonymous, and I corresponded with the donor for a couple of years and then met, suggested that maybe we could meet after India had expressed an interest in maybe meeting in person and I went and met him, had a coffee. 

And then I sent an email or a Facebook message to say, you know, hi, how about, you know, organising to catch up and didn't get a reply and then realised after some time that they weren't responding to emails at all. And I suppose I've tried to explain that I'm sure it's nothing that we've done, or I hope it isn't. I know that that has a big impact on her and how she feels about it.  You know, I think it may have even got harder as she's got older.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Surely it's not something you thought of fourteen years ago?

FIONA:  It's not something I thought of fourteen years ago.  We're also, we know how many other siblings there are and how many other families used the same donor and we're in touch with, connected to one other sibling.

INDIA:  Yeah and I even saw her like on Instagram.

FIONA:  So we live in the same city but we, the donor was also in touch with them and at the same time that we were not getting any contact, neither were they. So it's, in that way it's like okay, it's not just us.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, it's not about any particular.

FIONA:  For some reason or other, he has children of his own.  They may have, you know, there may have been some impact on them and he chose not to, not to respond. If I really wanted to I know I could contact him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  India, what do you think about mum's decision to have you on her own?

INDIA:  Well, obviously it worked for her, like I'm pretty awesome, not to be self-centred but like …

JENNY BROCKIE:   No self-esteem problems here.

INDIA: Yeah, but it's like a good decision for her and obviously it worked out for her and if it suits her, then it did suit her.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what about for you though?

INDIA:  For me I personally wouldn't do it. The reason being just because of my personal experiences and stuff like that, but yeah, I wouldn't do it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you, do you think that you'll want to look when you're older for donor siblings and people like that, the kids?

INDIA:  Yeah, definitely. Like I'd love, like I know one of my sisters, half-sisters I like to say, but like I would love to go see like what do they like, what do they look like, what do they enjoy and stuff like that, just to see if any similarities and stuff like that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Caitlin, what about you?

CAITLIN:  Definitely. I definitely want to, want to know any half siblings or donor siblings that there are and I want to get to know them and I don't care how many there are, I just want to know every single one of them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Every single one. Anita, I know that you have embryos left at the IVF clinic, are you considering a sibling for Grace? And would you approach it any differently?

ANITA:  I'm considering it and at the moment my donor has reached his capacity so donation is not an option at the moment. So at the moment using them or destroying them are the options on the table for me and I can't get my head around either of those honestly. It's the most distressing part of the process for me and something I wasn't nearly prepared for. I think of them as Grace's brothers and sisters and they're just little cells and I know that that's not how everyone thinks about it and that, I'd love to try and get my head into that space, it would make the decisions a lot easier.

DESA:  See I'm there that process right now. My time has come up, I've got to let them know by July, though I'm not going to have any more as I'm 52 now.

JENNY BROCKIE:  But the embryos are there?

DESA:  The embryos are there and I've already them stretched out five years, this is the tenth year of them, and I can't let them go because I, when I first applied and said do this and they said what do you want left, done with the embryos that we have left? Do you want to just let rid of them or donate them to science?  At the time I said donate them to science but once I fell pregnant and actually had a physical baby, those embryos became children. They didn't, they no longer were an embryos to me, they were siblings for my children and I'm now stuck at, I know I'm not going to have any more but I can't let them go either.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Anthony, what about you, anymore?

ANTHONY:  Triplets, Jenny, triplets is next. No more, no more.

JENNY BROCKIE:  No more?

ANTHONY:  No more.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Carrie are you going to keep trying?

CARRIE:  Yes, I will. I think now I have a lot to think about now being here and listening to all of these stories. At first, I was saying with certain decisions I might just cross that bridge if and when I come to it, but I have certainly changed my mind about that now. I think that I will be going back to really think very hard about what I would do with things like extra embryos and big decisions like that. But I will keep pursuing getting pregnant, absolutely.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Thank you all so much for joining us tonight. Really great for you to share your stories with us and a special thank you to you two as well for sharing your stories. We really appreciate it. That is all we have time for here. Let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook.