When I was a little girl, I saw my future life much differently than this. I was going to travel the world, dance on every stage, be a teacher and a mommy all at the same time. Doing everything at the same time seemed very logical, but when you get older you realize that you can’t do everything well at the same time.
Yes, I waited too long to become a mother using my own body, but I don’t regret doing so. After high school, I went directly to college. My mother did not go to college. She relied heavily on the men in her life to take care of her and that ended badly. Working for one year after college graduation told me quickly that I needed more education to stand apart from my peers, so I enrolled in graduate school. After graduate school, I wanted to see more of the world. So, I got a Rotary scholarship and lived in Australia for a year. After that, I worked assorted jobs to both find my true career calling and travel with friends to Europe, South America and Canada.
Once I reached my mid-30s, I realized that while this was happening, something else was not happening. I was so determined to take care of myself and be self sufficient that I forgot to place any importance in any kind of romantic relationships. Honestly, I thought that aspect of my life would just happen without any specific effort on my part. Yes, I had a few dates and suitors, but nothing viable for the long haul. I was stuck in my ways or he was not the right fit or something that I told myself to explain what was not happening.
So, by 38, my plans of becoming a mother and experience pregnancy seemed out of reach. I had to change course radically to get this show on the road. I would have to go through this alone. It took some time to come to terms with this. Before any person takes on the role of single parent, I highly recommend serious moments of reflection and some chats with a counselor to ask the tough questions.
I talked to my gynecologist about insemination and what was involved. Don’t let my story be your sole education on this topic if you go this route. Every body is not the same. My body, for example, was starting the shutdown process on reproduction. My 28-day cycle was now closer to 52 days. Before my gynecologist could do anything, I had to go through months of tests and drugs just to normalize my cycle.
Before any inseminations happened, I decided that I needed to tell my family and close friends what was happening. I did it differently based on the person. For my parents, it was an one-on-one process. My mother was thrilled mainly because she wanted to be a grandmother and have a grandchild living in town. My father was worried about losing my job and everything that I worked for. My brothers were agreeable but confused by the timing and process. My close friends, most of them childfree by choice, were supportive yet they reminded me of the difficult journey in front of me.
While my gynecologist was preparing my body for pregnancy, it was my task to find a frozen pappa. This means visiting a sperm banks online, researching donors, making a payment and having it delivered to the doctor’s office at a specific date to place the contents in my uterus. Sounds romantic, huh? Not quite, in fact, this is literally as cold and heartless at it gets.
The sperm donor websites were entertaining. You ticked boxes for specific criteria that you were looking for like race, hair color, eye color, education, etc and the bank will pull up a list of candidates for you. Certain features were free with purchase of the sperm like basic medical information, but with additional payment you could download baby photos, hear clips of audio interviews with the candidate and detailed medical background information.
At first, looking for a donor was fun, like dating without the rejection, but all too soon, it was overwhelming. I found myself emailing close friends stats on various donors to help me decide. Then I realized that I needed more than advice via email, but I needed a village of women to see the details and help me make a decision.
So, I threw a sperm party. Yes, it is weird, so is insemination. At times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the weirdness of the situation. If you get overwhelmed, step back and take a break, but in order to get through tough situations, you have to embrace the weird, lean into the weird and celebrate the weird. My version of celebrating the weird was a sperm party.
A sperm party is when the host narrows down the top candidates to a top chosen few. She frames baby photos of the candidates and posts details about them in her living room for a group of women to decide. These women are people who I trust who will play an important role in the life of the child. For a comical touch, I had a pin-the-sperm-on-the-uterus game board hanging up on the wall and a cartoon sperm on the front door thanking everyone for “coming”. There were popsicles in the freezer and wine in the glasses.
It was the strangest party I have ever thrown. It was fun and stressful at the same time. You learn quickly in situations like this how comfortable people are with this process. Several of my religious friends were obviously caught off guard by the conversation of others. My aunts had to keep explaining things to my grandmother. The people that love you ask tough questions like Why are you going through this? Why not just adopt? Good questions, but it’s hard to explain to others that the heart (or uterus) wants what it wants.
By the end of the party, a final candidate was decided. Once my gynecologist gave me the go ahead to place my order based on my ovulation schedule, I used my credit card to place my order. For a thimble full of sperm and special frozen shipping, plan on spending at least $500-700 per order. If you have to cancel last minute because your body does not cooperate, plan on a hefty frozen storage fee that can cost several hundred dollars a month. (There is no return policy for “sperm”.)