The challenges of becoming a solo mum by choice


Fiona, 40, on choosing donor sperm & her journey to being a solo mum by choice.

I have always wanted to be a mum and I thought I’d meet someone in my twenties, get married and have children. However, I found myself at 36, single and childless. People’s comments were: ‘The clock is ticking’, ‘You will meet someone’, ‘Lots of people your age don’t have children’.

I never have been one to follow the norm, so I made the decision. I was going to be a mum on my own – an SMBC (solo mum by choice).

The first hurdle

After reading books about being a solo mum and chatting to my doctor, I was referred to the fertility clinic. There was a six month wait to have the initial consultation and then came the first hurdle. I was overweight: I needed to lose two stone.

I only told a handful of friends and my parents what I was doing the weight loss for as I wasn’t ready to answer all the questions. Their support was vital in my journey along with the Scottish group of The Stork and I – all solo mums at various parts of their journeys.

All my tests for my fertility went ok, which I expected. My issue is the lack of sperm. I ordered my sperm from London Sperm Bank. I expected to get the girls round for wine and it to be a bit like looking at online dating profiles.

However, when it came down to it, I wanted to do it on my own as it was personal. I was choosing the father of my child and with limited information! I went for someone with the same features as me.

First round of intra uterine insemination (IUI) and I had only three mature follicles so that got cancelled. Next round, six follicles with only half the medication. This was looking promising that my egg supply wasn’t running low! However, I did feel like it was never going to happen; I spoke with the centre’s counsellor for reassurance. I was nearly a year down the line and no sperm anywhere near my eggs!

A heartsink moment

A few months later and I had my first IUI. But when I went in to get ready for the treatment, there were scrubs for a partner. As a solo mum, things like this make your heart sink: forms with spaces for your partner to sign, being asked if it was just you for appointments.

I needed to start taking someone with me if I was going to get through the emotions of all of this. Two weeks later and the test showed negative. Then two months later, another failed IUI. That was two failed IUIs and only one straw of sperm in the freezer!

IVF made sense for the last straw. I assumed, due to the number of eggs maturing with IUI, that I’d have lots of eggs. After days of injections and scans, only six eggs were retrieved, four fertilised, and only one made it to blastocyst. Sadly, this little pip wasn’t meant to be either when my periods arrived ten days into the two-week wait!

Giving it another go

After many counselling sessions and lots of thinking I decided to give it another go. I had to know: would I get pregnant with a different donor? Two years, and in the middle of a pandemic, I ordered more sperm, this time from the European Sperm Bank.

Sperm costs anything from £500 to £2,000 a straw. However, there was a small thing called Brexit and in January 2021 I had to pay VAT, another £360 and another delay.

In March 2021, medication, injection and egg collection. So many things not in your control but something so wanted. Just one blastocyst but, hey, it only takes one. In July that blastocyst was transferred, and we succeeded. Grace was born in March 2022, a couple of months before I turned 40.

I’m so glad I started the journey when I did because if I had left it my weight and age would have been an issue to even have treatment. Had my eggs not been suitable then double donation might have been the journey.

Trying to be a SMBC has its challenges, the cost of sperm and IVF (you get no NHS funding) and I look forward to the day that being single isn’t a barrier. Although you can’t put a price on getting something you have always wanted. If I hadn’t been successful in having a baby, then at least I tried and I think life is all about having no regrets.

If you are considering becoming a solo mum by choice or are currently going through treatment to become a solo mum, why not join our Single women online fertility support group.