Nicky Smith figured she had everything an aspiring mother could need: a solid community, a great job, a stable financial situation and a strong desire to become a parent.
At age 35, just one thing stood in the way of her realising motherhood: she was single.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I mean, he might show up, but good options aren’t plentiful.’ There weren’t heaps of options.”
Smith decided she wanted to become a mother anyway.
The Calgary-born teacher visited a fertility clinic where she lives in Melbourne, Australia and decided to undergo intrauterine insemination using donor sperm.
“I want to clap eyes with my donor and make sure I want to share genes with him,” Smith said. “I have a lesbian friend who has a donor baby, so she directed me to the website.
“I found the website. I found three donors. I went for coffee with all of them. The two that were possibilities I went for a second coffee with. And then I picked one.”
The sperm sample was quarantined for three months and doctors scanned Smith to see when the eggs were ready.
“They were like, ‘Oh, you have two eggs maturing this month. That’s an eight per cent chance of twins…
“In my head I was like: ‘I don’t want twins.'”
Life had other plans. Intrauterine insemination was successful on the first try and Smith found out she was expecting two babies.
“I remember that bike ride from the appointment to the train station and I was like: ‘Do you think, is it bad to adopt out one? Or if I have another single friend who wants… Can I give Cath my baby? Like one of them?’
“And so, by the middle of the day, I’m like – No. I’ve got two.”
Single women who want to be parents on their own and same sex female couples are the largest users of donor sperm at the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) in Vancouver.
Dr. Caitlin Dunne, a physician at PCRM, says donor sperm is used in about 17-20 per cent of the clinic’s cycles. That’s been consistent for more than a decade.
Dunne says she notices women who choose to become single parents via fertility treatment typically have strong support networks and are at a similar stage of life.
“They have supportive family members, be it mother, friends, brothers and sisters that are going to help them through the journey.
“And just being in an urban centre, we see women who are waiting longer to have children. So we do see women who have taken time to, say, achieve career goals, educational goals and just haven’t met the right person and that’s why they are pursuing the donor sperm route.”
Smith’s twins, Hugo and Zoe, turned two years old last month. She still experiences tough moments – mostly sleeplessness or toddler defiance – but says her supportive parents and network of friends have made it possible for her to thrive as a single mother by choice.
“I will say, unequivocally, it is the best decision I ever made.”