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Donor sperm and me: a love story

By Margaret Ambrose

Journalist and YWCA Victoria supporter

It was six years ago that a relationship break up, a law change, and a ground-breaking doctor culminated in my life taking a change of path I could never have imagined: into single motherhood.

I was in my late thirties and my long-term partner and I were about to start IVF after over a year of trying to fall pregnant naturally. Fertility treatment, as anyone who has undergone it will tell you, is painful and stressful and more than anything, you have to want it bad.

While I desperately wanted to become a mother, my partner was less keen, and we ended up splitting. I was devastated and terrified at the prospect of never having children.

That’s where the law change and the revolutionary doctor come into the story. In Victoria, the law had just been changed to allow single women access to the donor sperm program.

My doctor sorted out my fertility issues, and just like that, I become amongst the first group of single women to deliberately become single mothers thanks to IVF and a sperm donor.

The idea of becoming a single mother didn’t scare me. I grew up in a single parent family and we are a happy, close family. Anyway, I was just so thrilled that I was finally going to become a mum – even though I didn’t have a man.

After three embryo transfers I became pregnant with my first daughter, Greta, and 21 months later, she was joined by a sister, Rori.

Of course – as every new mother will tell you – the reality of motherhood is often very different from a Johnson & Johnson commercial. Being a single mother to two kids is utterly exhausting. Twenty-four hours a day, every single day of the year, I am everything – breadwinner, cook, housekeeper, nurse, sole point of comfort and encouragement.

“I don’t know how you do it” is something I hear frequently. It is difficult, no doubt about it, but as with so many things in life, it’s a case of swings and roundabouts. There are some really crappy bits about being a single parent (the relentless exhaustion and the constant weight of financial pressures being two of the big ones), but there are also some amazingly wonderful bits.

I love that at the end of a busy day, my daughters and I can sit on the couch in our pyjamas with toasted cheese sandwiches and call that dinner. I love that the kids can sleep with me when they want. But most of all I love that feeling of being a little team working it all out together.

After I had Rori, I started an online magazine, The Baby Project, which is on online community of singles and couples undergoing or considering IVF. Every day I come into contact with women who are going through what I was five years ago, and I can only tell them this: even on my hardest day, I still feel like I am living the dream.

A reader once responded to one of my articles by calling women like me revolutionaries. It was flattering – and absolutely true. I was one of the first single women in Victoria to legally conceive a child through IVF using a sperm donor.

While so many men and women before us saw single parenthood as something to be avoided, something that would ruin their lives, we marched right into it with courage and a determination to create the lives we wanted without being reliant on a man.

There are some who will think we are foolish or selfish for depriving a child of a father, and if some shock jocks are to believed, we should all be scared of this Brave New World, where men are no longer required for anything, not even reproduction! Time will tell us how much of this is true, but for the moment I know only this to be true:

My daughters are being brought up surrounded by love, with the support of a large network of extended families and friends. And they know how much they are loved and wanted, because of what their mum did to have them with her.